Deputation-ology (5 of 6) Setup Fund

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Another reason that deputation is a good process for missionaries to go through is because it gives them the time needed to save enough money to properly setup once they arrive on the field. But as with most things, if there is no plan set in place, rarely does a missionary raise adequate funds to buy the things they needed to make life easier to adjust to when on the field.

For example, during language school when we lived in a city father north than we do now, the winters were brutal. We lived on the edge of town, about a 15-20 minute taxi ride away from the church where we attended and went every day for language school. In the coldest of months, waiting outside for a taxi was hard. Just to go from one place to another took everything out of you. We found ourselves struggling to do just the daily things. When we went to the grocery store, we would be waiting outside in subzero weather holding bags of food and a two-year-old trying to wave down a taxi. There would also be several others trying to get taxis. Life in this sense was hard and extremely inconvenient. After a few months of living like this, we finally had enough money to purchase a car and our lives changed drastically over night. We could leave our house and get in our car that was parked in a heated garage and drive to the store. Once we were done shopping we could put the groceries in the car and drive home. It really was amazing how much more stress free (and warmer) our lives were after we purchased the car.

So it is a good idea for a missionary to find out what he needs to purchase when he arrives on the field to start living a normal, convenient life that will help him and his family to thrive and be more productive in the ministry by not getting sidetracked by the inconvenient ways of living. He needs to find out what appliances and furniture cost, what kind of down payments need to be paid upfront, what do vehicles cost, the cost of plane tickets for the entire family, and any other major expenses that one will be confronted with in the first few months. Once a missionary has a total cost, he needs to make a plan to save that amount of money in the recommended amount of time he will be on deputation.

A good thing for a missionary to do is to get a total number he needs in his setup fund and divide it by the months he will be on deputation to see how much he needs to be saving each month to meet his goal (total cost / X number of months of deputation = monthly savings). This number should constantly be a reminder to him of how much he needs to be saving and look at this money as money already spent. It is ministry money that will be used as soon as he gets to the field.

I was blessed in so many ways on deputation. I tried to be a big giver on deputation because of it. Also, I started raising money for our setup fund after we took our survey trip in the fourth month of deputation. People gave generously to our setup fund and we were also able to save some. I didn’t put as much though into saving for it as I should have. As I have been thinking through it recently to help some friends who are trying to save for their setup fund, I have thought of two main steps to help raise/save money and not be wasteful with the abundance given to many missionaries.

First, write a letter explaining the setup fund and ask people to give to it specifically.

I found that people are looking for ways to help missionaries if they knew what their needs are. Sometimes it is easier for people to give to something specifically than to give to something “in general”.

Here is the setup fund letter that we used: Setup Fund Letter.

It is important to note at this point that your setup fund money should not be used for just anything. If you asked someone to give to something specifically, then you should use the money for that specifically. I said the following: “Our Church has put a policy into place that will allow all money designated for the “Mark-China Set-Up Fund” to be placed into our escrow account through Vision Baptist Missions and will be set aside to be used for the reason it was given. If for any reason, we do not make it to the field, you will be notified and returned any money given towards this fund by Vision Baptist Missions.” I would also caution givers to be careful about giving if a missionary doesn’t have a policy like this in place.

I also sent out a letter explaining more about the setup fund in a “frequently asked questions” format. I think it is worth quoting a revised version of it below:

What is a setup Fund?
A Setup Fund includes all the things we would need to get started in China including expenses that come with moving to another country and setting up our home. We had to take into account that we will not be shipping a lot of our things from home or borrow items from our friends and family close by.

How did we estimate the cost?
Expenses vary from country to country. As a result, one of the purposes of our survey trip was to find out all the different expenses that come with moving to China so we would be able to create a more accurate “Setup Fund.”

When are you raising these funds?
In preparation for our departure, we will be raising these funds at this current time. This will allow us to raise the funds in a proper amount of time and be ready to leave when the time comes.

When do you plan on leaving?
Lord willing, we will leave for China on August 10, 2010.

What if you donʼt make it to China?
Our church has put a policy into place that will allow all money designated for the “Tolson Set- Up Fund” to be placed into our escrow account through Vision Baptist Missions. If for any reason we do not make it to the field and the money was not used, you will be notified and any money given towards this fund will be returned by Vision Baptist Missions.

What are some specific items you need?
Several items and expenses are listed below and on our website, Feel free to give for these specifically or just a general gift of any amount.

1. Four Airplane Tickets (Price).
2. Rent for a Year (Price).
3. Hotel Cost (Price).
4. Visas (Price).
5. Customs (Price).
6. Basic Furniture (Price).
7. Shipping Expense (Price).
8. Washer/Dryer (Price).
9. Refrigerator (Price).
10.Stove (Price).

How will the gifts be used properly?
All gifts will be used properly. The prices for a specific item are estimates and the real cost might be higher or lower than stated (once it is purchased). For example: If you gave towards an item and it was purchased at a lower price than stated, the extra will be used towards another item and/or in the ministry of Project China.

How do I give?
Send all gifts to Vision Baptist Missions, P.O. Box 442, Alpharetta, GA 30009 with “Tolson Setup Fund” as the subject. Also, please note if you are giving for a specific item. All gifts are tax-deductible.

How can I stay updated with this fund?
Visit our website,, to stay updated. We will list items as they are provided and add new items as time goes by.

Second, I would give myself a fixed income and save everything else.

When a missionary first starts deputation he lives off of his love offerings because he doesn’t have any concrete monthly support coming in. He is force to live a budgeted life. Then as monthly support comes in + love offerings, he has money to live comfortably. It is at this point that a missionary could start saving money very easily, but there is a problem: as his income goes up, so does his quality of life. This is something we are all guilty of. We live on the amount that comes it, no matter if it is high or low, but we never have any left over. This is a problem.

A missionary is usually raising personal support and ministry support, plus he brings in love offerings. If you understand math and some common sense, you know that after he hits a certain amount in his support level, there should be a large surplus of income. But because many don’t live budgeted lives and are often unknowingly in the battle of materialism, they struggle to save money for a setup fund. This shouldn’t be so.

Yes, a missionary on deputation has traveling expenses, but it no where adds up to the amount of money he brings in between personal support, ministry support and love offerings. So I suggest that a missionary set a budget to live on during deputation and save the surplus in a setup fund.

Love Offerings Only – Some people have had success in living only off of their love offerings. They save all the money that comes in for monthly support. This plan is a good motivator to constantly be in churches. I would say most people who are able to do this are young couples without any kids.

A more practical plan for families is the “$2,000 of Monthly Support + Love Offerings Plan.”

Once a missionary reaches $2,230 in monthly support they will follow the following formula:

  1. Take out 10% for escrow.
  2. Deposit $2,000 for salary.
  3. Deposit everything else in a setup fund.

Explanation: This plan is to set your monthly personal income at a max of $2,000 taken out of your monthly support (whatever is sent in to your mission board) plus love offerings. Your income then is the $2,000 plus whatever you need taken out of your love offerings. Anything over $2,000 that comes into your account at the mission board will be moved into your setup fund. Also, any surplus in love offerings at the end of the month can be put into your setup fund. If you do this and raise your support based on the recommended time (post 2 in this series), you should have enough money saved by the time you leave for the field. You savings grows as your support grows. (Note: the mission board shouldn’t be paying any bills out of this money or it doesn’t work. You will pay your bills out of the $2,000 or love offerings.)

The majority of your personal support would come from love offerings encouraging you to schedule meetings and not rely on monthly support. If you aren’t scheduling the recommend amount of meetings per month, you will also struggle. So this plan relies on the fact that you are doing everything you can to be in as many churches as possible.

If you need more money in your setup fund than you will be able to save in this plan, then you can raise it in special offerings through the setup fund letter in step one.

I hope these ideas will encourage missionaries on deputation to live a budgeted life, not waste their money on nonessentials, and save their surplus in their setup fund to help them be ready to leave for the field by saving properly.

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1 thought on “Deputation-ology (5 of 6) Setup Fund

  1. Pingback: Deputation-ology (6 of 6) How to start | China Ramblings!

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