Monday, May 31, 2010

A Valiant Sixteen - Part 5

Financial Support
“We Friends today need to open our hearts to discern what God is teaching in regard to support for a minister who is led to spiritual work that is recognized by his or her meeting.  This is an unfinished piece of business for unprogrammed Friends.  It is an opportunity to test our theory that God will teach us and bring us into unity if we sincerely ask and humbly listen.”  Martha Paxson Grundy, Tall Poppies: Supporting Gifts of Ministry and Eldering in the Monthly Meeting 
When I started to think about this paper, I was not planning to write about money.  I thought I could just focus on spiritual nurture and support and avoid the question of financial support.  But as I interviewed young Friends who travel in the ministry, money kept coming up.  I also realized as I talked to them that financial support of the ministry is a form of spiritual support.  If a meeting can offer a minister some funding to support her ministries, that shows that the meeting cares about the minister and that the ministry is under the meeting’s care.

Traveling in the ministry is expensive.  Not only does the ministry require money for gas, airplane or train tickets, or bike maintenance, the time the minister spends traveling is time that the minister cannot spend on other, paid work.  The money for this ministry has to come from somewhere, and frequently it comes out of the minister’s pocket.  One young Friend I spoke with said that she had at times been in “dire” financial straights as a result of following her call to ministry.  None of the Friends I interviewed expected to receive a lot of money for their work, but several wished that they could find a way to make their ministries financially sustainable.  Even in those cases where the minister was paid to speak, the honorariums they received usually did not begin to cover the travel expenses and time lost from paid employment.

As I have traveled in the ministry over the past year, I have found that working full-time and traveling in the ministry on the weekends is not physically sustainable for me.  I would come back from a weekend visiting meetings and churches and feel unable to go immediately back to work the next day.  I was fortunate to have understanding employers and generous paid sick leave from my job, but this is not the case for everyone.  After several months of trying to balance full-time work and ministry, I felt clear to lay down my paid employment for a few months to focus on ministry.

Many Friends meetings struggle with the idea of providing financial support for Friends who feel called to ministry.  Young Friends who feel led to travel in the ministry provide an opportunity for meetings to hold these concerns in worship and discern how they feel the Spirit leading them to respond.  One Friend cautioned that if members of a meeting have a concern about providing financial support, they should raise the concern before the minister begins to travel, because it is far more difficult to address these concerns when the minister is traveling.  He also said that it was hard for him when his meeting began to question funding his ministry after he began to travel because it felt like the meeting did not support his ministry.

Large Friends organizations also provide some possibilities for financial support for young Friends traveling in the ministry.  Many yearly meetings have grants and scholarships for young Friends.  Other organizations, such as Friends General Conference and Friends World Committee for Consultation have funds available.  If meetings need additional funds to provide financial support for ministers, they can apply on the minister’s behalf for some of these funds.  The meeting can also provide support by helping the minister find sources of funding.  Because these organizations usually require a specific process and minuted support of the Friend’s ministry, as well as a written report when the Friend returns from traveling, they can also provide another layer of seasoning and accountability.

[From the research paper I wrote for the School of the Spirit on the spiritual nurture of young Friends traveling in the ministry.]

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