By Kent Fillinger
To coincide with this issue’s focus on global missions, I partnered with the International Conference on Missions to conduct a survey to learn more about our Restoration Movement missionaries. The survey was sent out via ICOM’s email distribution network in August and a total of 118 people completed it.
While the sample size is small, the focus of the survey is significant. To my knowledge, this is the first time anyone has gathered this type of information about our missionaries. I hope we can build on this foundation as more and more missionaries participate in the future.
I sorted the survey responses to include only missionaries serving either part-time or full-time. I didn’t include the survey responses from volunteer or retired missionaries or from missionary recruits preparing to serve on the field (the population size for these groups was too small to identify any clear themes).
I focused on analyzing the results from three categories of Restoration Movement missionaries who all raise their own financial support:
- Independent missionaries serving internationally
- Missionaries with a sending agency/mission organization serving internationally
- Missionaries serving at a mission organization/agency in the United States
Serving Situation, Location, and Duration
All of the missionaries with a sending agency serve full-time internationally, compared with only 85 percent of independent missionaries serving full-time. The full-time rate for missionaries serving at a mission agency in the U.S. was a little lower, 82 percent.
Among missionaries serving internationally, 26 countries were reported as single fields of service. Several of the missionaries noted they served in multiple countries.
The largest percentage of these international missionaries serve in an urban or city setting. Missionaries with a sending agency were more likely to be serving in an urban area than independent missionaries (57 percent to 46 percent, respectively). Likewise, most of the missionaries serving at a mission organization in the U.S.—74 percent—reported the focus of their ministry is predominantly an urban or city setting.
Long-term mission service was the hallmark of the survey respondents: 22 percent of the missionaries with a sending agency reported serving more than 36 years as a missionary, while 38 percent of the independent missionaries have served more than 31 years on the field.
Missionaries were asked to share the approximate amount of their personal total annual budget for the most recent fiscal year. Missionaries serving with a sending agency reported having the largest personal ministry budgets, on average, followed by the missionaries serving stateside at a mission agency.
The average personal budget of an international missionary with a sending agency ($70,871) was 19 percent higher than the average independent missionary serving cross-culturally ($59,454). The stateside missionaries working at a mission agency landed in the middle, with their personal budgets averaging $62,486.
The range of responses included a low of $4,000 and a high of $250,000 for the independent missionaries in this study. The budgets for missionaries serving with a sending agency ranged from $15,000 to $174,300.
Financial Partners and Donors
Not surprisingly, missionaries serving with an agency had more financial partners providing ministry funds. The average missionary with a sending agency had a total of 41.2 partners, which included churches, Sunday school classes or small groups, individuals, and foundations. By comparison, independent missionaries had a combined average of 32.5 financial partners.
Individual donors were the largest source of partners for both categories of missionaries, followed by churches. Despite this, church partners gave the largest percentage of the missionaries’ overall personal budgets—61 percent for both categories.
Individual giving comprised a larger percentage of income for the missionaries with a sending agency (36 percent) than the independent missionaries (32 percent). The independent missionaries received a higher percentage of their total giving from foundations and Sunday school classes or small groups (8 percent) than did missionaries serving with a sending agency (3 percent).
The average size of the financial gifts from partners of independent missionaries ($152 per month) was larger, however, than the average monthly gift from partners of missionaries serving with a sending agency ($143).
The survey included 27 possible benefits for missionaries. From the wide-ranging list of benefits, the following nine benefits were the most common for the missionaries to have included in their personal ministry budgets.
The four benefits that these missionaries were the least likely to receive were: college funds for children, a sabbatical, school fees for children, and disability insurance. Fewer than 20 percent of missionaries received any of these benefits.
More than two-thirds of the respondents in each of the three categories were men. The highest percentage of male respondents were found in the category of missionaries serving with a sending agency, 73 percent.
A veteran group of missionaries completed the survey—60- to 69-year-olds were the largest grouping of respondents in all three categories (ranging from 23 to 46 percent). No one under the age of 30 was represented in either the group of independent missionaries or the group of missionaries serving internationally with a mission agency. Nine percent of the missionaries serving with a mission agency in the U.S. were in the 18- to 29-year-old range.
The majority of missionaries surveyed were married, and most had two to three children.
Ninety-two percent of the missionaries serving at a mission agency in the U.S. had a bachelor’s degree or higher (the national average for adults over age 25 is 33 percent). The “least” educated group were the independent missionaries, with 80 percent having a bachelor’s degree or higher. Overall, 38 percent of the missionaries had a master’s degree compared with only 9 percent of U.S. adults. Nineteen percent of the missionaries have a doctoral degree, while only 2 percent of American adults do.
Kent E. Fillinger serves as president of 3:STRANDS Consulting, Indianapolis, Indiana.