Supporting Overseas Missionaries: Are You Ready to be a Light to the World?

Written by Tracey Perez on Sep 19, 2018 in Outreach

“ I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” - Acts 13:47

As a bookkeeper, I have the opportunity to work with many pastors and ministry leaders every day. I love the passion and joy they have when they support overseas missions that spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Many pastors ask me if there is a right way to support and give aid to developing countries. In Acts 14:47 the Lord commanded us to bring salvation to the ends of the earth. To be good stewards, we must also take into consideration the administrative and legal aspects of supporting overseas missions.

I want to talk to you about what you must consider before supporting overseas missions and how to make sure you are tracking how those funds are being used. 

The one policy every church must adopt before supporting missions

There are three actions that churches usually take when they decide to support missions:

1. They send people.

2. They donate and send items.

3. They donate funds to support missionary activities.

In this blog, I’ll discuss how to account for donated items and donated funds. If you have more questions about how to legally support a missionary, you can read our blog that discusses the differences between supporting a mission and supporting a missionary, or call us at 877-494-4655 to speak more about this topic with one of our knowledgeable representatives.

Many churches participate in annual mission trips in order to serve those in need and to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. At the same time, there are churches that choose instead to donate items and funds to overseas missions organizations.

Regardless of whether your church participates in mission trips or simply donates items to missions organizations, there is one policy that your church must have in place.

Two steps to implementing a sound missions policy

Step 1 - Implement an Anti-Terrorism Policy

Here are a few things to consider:

A church engaging in missions work must limit foreign activities to those that further its exempt purpose. The church must retain control over the use of its funds in other nations. This means that churches should only give funds or donate items towards activities that fall in line with the church’s purpose and mission.

All organizations (churches included), as well as U.S. citizens, are prohibited from making transactions with certain corporations or people who commit, or threaten to commit, terrorism. There are also countries that Americans are prohibited from visiting. (See Executive Order 12947 and 13099).

This means that there are places that US Citizens are not legally allowed to travel, like North Korea and Iran.

Before your church supports any foreign organization, it should look up the entity on the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s list of sanctioned countries, companies, and individuals to be sure it is okay to transact business.

(The “Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List” and the “List of Sanctioned Countries” are specific sections to be checked. These lists can be found here and here.)

This means that there are businesses and individuals with whom US Citizens are not allowed to conduct business.

You want to ensure that you implement an Anti-Terrorism Policy before you begin donating funds or hosting activities in a foreign country. The policy will need to be approved by a board vote. 

The StartRIGHT program offers your ministry an Anti-Terrorism Policy that will be simple and easy for your board to review and approve! 

Step 2: Create guidelines regarding missions

With a solid Anti-Terrorism Policy in place, before supporting a missions organization or traveling overseas, your church should also consider the following:

  1. Know to whom you are giving and why. This is vital because you want to make sure that the church’s funds are being properly handled and that funds are furthering your church or ministry’s purpose.
  2.  Document in your board meeting minutes that you have checked the website of the Office of Foreign Assets Control to be sure you can support the people and send funds to the nation where they are operating. You should take this step each time your church decides to support a mission.
  3. Create an agreement with the ministry that you are supporting. This agreement will outline and detail conditions of how the money or supplies will be used and how it will further the ministry’s purpose. Below is some of the information you will want to have in your agreement.
    • The foreign organization’s name in English, in its native language, and any other identifying information

    • The places where the foreign organization maintains a physical presence

    • Copies of the organization's formation documents as approved by the proper authorities

    • The addresses and telephone numbers for the organization’s offices

    • The organization’s principal purpose

    • The full names, addresses and other identifying information of the individuals in charge of the organization

    • The names of financial institutions where funds will be deposited

    • The names and addresses of its employees, contractors, and subcontractors

  4. Require an annual financial report from the ministry to be sure it is properly using the funds. Keeping financial records of how the money is being spent overseas will help with future budgeting and will be another way to verify that the funds are not being used improperly. If you use church funds to support this ministry, make sure your congregation can also see this report.
  5. Consider sending a representative from your organization to oversee large purchases and verify that the previously sent funds or supplies have been properly used.
  6. Withdraw support immediately if the preset agreement has been violated. 

Bringing salvation to the ends of the earth

The Lord has given us the task of spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth. He also desires that we be aware of the laws of the land and that we abide by them.

With the information given above, you can prepare the church to properly support missionaries that are serving the Lord. 

Our StartRIGHT Program offers your ministry tools to be able to ensure that your organization is in compliance when it comes to supporting overseas missions.

Feel free to give us a call at 877-494-4655 for more information on how to get started!

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