Why Do I Write Missionary Prayer Support Letters? And Why Does “Why” Matter?

Missionaries, I’m sure you already know why to write. Obviously, you wouldn’t send letters if you didn’t have a reason, but when did you last think about that reason? If you eventually get that letter or email out, does why you write really matter?

Benefits of Understanding Your Why

Before we dig into why you should understand the reason you write, let’s think about who gets your prayer letters. I don’t mean the churches or your mission board. Organizations don’t read letters; people read letters. So who are those people?

Think back when you set down the clipboard on your missions display table during your deputation or furlough. Whose names and addresses filled the paper? Most of them are just everyday church members, right? Most of them are, well, people like me! We’re interested in world-wide evangelism, and we’re also bombarded daily with secular messages and advertising. For that reason, communication principles that work for businesses and entrepreneurs can be crucial for your prayer letters, too.

In his famous TEDx talk, business author and speaker Simon Sinek explains that “People don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.” If I could translate that statement for missions, I’d say, “People don’t support what you do; they support why you do it.” What you do – the conversations you have, the buildings you build, the literature you print – that’s not what inspires our support. Why you do it – salvation of souls, changed lives, your ever-faithful obedience to God’s clear call even with no visible harvest – now that’s inspiring!

“People don’t [support] what you do; they [support] why you do it.”
— Adapted from Simon Sinek

So – why does this matter? Because you’ll continue to inspire support when you continue to touch readers with your why. Besides that, when your why is intentional for you, it can help guide what you do and how you do it.

Some Prayer Letter Whys

There are many reasons you may write your prayer letter each month (or week, or quarter). Here are some common motivations that I’ve read or heard from my missionary friends and family:

Fear

  • My supporters may criticize me or drop my support if I don’t send letters.
  • My missions agency director may ask me to resign if I never write.

Practical Benefit

  • My readers may pray for my personal or family needs.
  • My supporters may be encouraged to increase my financial support.
  • My readers may write back with refreshing Christian fellowship. (On some fields, that’s hard to find!)
  • My readers may give practical or technical advice.
  • Recording events as they happen will help me with my furlough presentation.

Ministry Benefit

  • My readers may pray for my ministry’s specific needs.
  • My readers may organize a missions trip to help my ministry.
  • My readers may give financial support to a ministry project.
  • My readers may introduce my ministry to other churches.
  • Other pastors and missionaries may offer ministry advice.
  • My letters may inspire others to join my team.
  • Regular writing lets me look back on events with new perspective.

Spiritual Benefit

  • Writing openly and honestly keeps me accountable to my supporters.
  • My readers can give me fresh and timely spiritual counsel.
  • Writing regularly causes me to evaluate my own spiritual progress.

Reader Benefit

  • My letters may encourage others to evangelize where they live.
  • My letters may prompt others to go to the mission field.
  • My letters may help others relate to their neighbors from my country.
  • My letters may inspire my readers with interesting or humorous stories.
  • My letters may demonstrate God’s goodness, faithfulness and power.

Can I Have More Than One Why?

Maybe you look at that list and see several different things that motivate you. That’s normal. Maybe you have a compelling reason that I haven’t thought of. That’s likely, too. (And I’ll beg you to share it by leaving a reply in the comments!) When it’s time to write that next letter to your supporters, try to narrow down just one reason. Then write to meet that one goal. You may also meet other goals as a side effect, but choose just one reason as your focus. Let one why guide that one letter. As your focus narrows, you’ll find it easier to write. Your ability to meet your goal will improve, too, as you focus on a single purpose.

Maybe you have several whys that are equally important to you. In that case choose just one this time, and address that one. Then, reach out again soon with a focus on another important goal. As long as you’re not always pleading or hinting for donations, your supporters will not complain about frequent communication from you. We love hearing news from our missionaries – especially when we hear often enough to form a relationship with you.

So yes, you may have more than one why. You probably will. Just focus on one why at a time.

photo credit: peteoshea via photopin cc

Take Action

My why is to help you encourage Christian growth. If you just glance over this article and click away, I won’t meet that goal, so I’ll try to end each post with a specific call to action. Here’s this week’s action:

  • Take out a pen and a piece of paper and write down the one why that you will address next time you contact your prayer supporters. If it’s one that I haven’t listed, leave a reply below to let others know about what motivates you this week.

I hope you’re enjoying the new direction with Edify Hub. I’d love for you to leave a comment to let me know what you think, but most importantly, write down your why for this week, and I’ll be back here again next Saturday with seven different ways to contact your supporters and how to choose the right one.

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