100% Self-Supporting: Is it the best model?

“Are you worried about raising financial support?”

Does being self-supporting sound liberating to you?

As I have discussed the different BAM models with young people, many of them have shared their desire to NOT raise any financial support from donors. In their minds, the ideal model would be to be 100% self-supported through their business. The question is: “Is it the best business as mission model?”

Over the next few weeks we will look at this model addressing the key advantages and disadvantages. So let’s start with a few question:

Does self-supporting get you to the field quicker?

One of the key arguments from those young people who desire to skip the support raising process is so that they can get to the field faster. They believe that if they need to rely on churches and individuals to provide for them financially, it may take a long time. They have heard the stories of missionaries waiting for years in their home countries because they were short on finances. One thing is true; raising financial support does take time! You could end up spending a full year or more raising the necessary funds.

Does raising support take more faith?

One of the comments that mission agencies have made to me over the years is that they want to remain “faith based”. In other words, they don’t want their people to live on “business generated money” because that is not “faith based”…only donations are “faith based.” I always ask, “Have you ever started a business?”

One could actually argue that living on business profits takes more faith. Why do I say that?

If 95% of small businesses fail in the first 5 years, then the chance of you actually generating enough sustainable income is very low. Sounds like a 5% chance of success! Rarely (if never) does someone’s donation support totally dry up in 5 years.

In my opinion, both are “faith based!”

Now let’s take a look at the self-supporting model.

There are really only 2 self-supporting models: Getting a paying job or starting your own financially viable business.

Getting a Job – “Professional Placement”

Perhaps the quickest and easiest way to be self-supported on the mission field is to get a paid position. We call this a “professional placement“! Professional placements are wonderful because they normally pay excellent salaries and provide for a great professional identity.

There are a few things to remember when considering a professional placement. The first is that you have to be qualified for the job. Although there are lots of opportunities abroad, are you qualified for these positions?

Not only do you need to be qualified, but also you have to be willing to go wherever the jobs are offered. What happens if you are called to a certain unreached area but there are no professional jobs being offered?

Secondly, you need to be aware of the fact that when you get a job, you are under the boss’s authority. You are bound to a work contract! You will need to ask to travel or take a vacation. You may even be told where to live. These are not bad things, but they must be considered before jumping into a paid position.

If you want to learn more on this subject, check out “Job Taking – the Pros & Cons for Business as Mission

Starting a Financially Viable Business

If you are someone who would rather start your own business and be your own boss, you will need to start a business. Although this sounds ideal, starting a business takes a lot of time and energy. The reality is that it normally takes a few years for any business to become income producing. But is it enough to live on?

In order to be 100% self-supported, you will need to raise enough capital for your business to give you 2 – 3 years to get it running.

Not only will you need to raise the capital setup and monthly running costs for your business, you will also need the salary for your family. For even a small business, you are probably looking at $150,000 – $250,000 for 3 years. Where will you get this money? How long will it take to raise this type of capital? Will it be faster than raising donations through churches?

The other thing to remember about starting your own business is the amount of time & energy required. Starting a self-supporting business is going to require at least 40 hours per week & probably more. Are you willing and ready to commit to that time?

Which is the best model for speed?

As we have seen above, getting a paid job is the fastest way to get to the field; however, you may have to make some sacrifices!

Whether you are raising donations or capital funds, both will take time. I would not advise basing your BAM model on the speed of which you get overseas.

There are some more pertinent questions to ask. We’ll look at freedom & accountability in the post to come!

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