In this third and final article, we will continue to discuss the dangers of dependency and paternalism.
We will especially focus on the giving and receiving of large financial gifts; of big things like land, property, vehicles, etc. We will also talk about how dependency harms our ability to hear God’s voice and direction.
Whether we are raising money for someone, whenever a large amount of money is involved, we must be even more careful to avoid dependency and paternalism. The larger the gift we give, the more careful we must be in making sure that we are not controlling, paternalistic or manipulative. We need to "close the door" in those areas so the enemy cannot come in and cause either the donor or those receiving the gift to sin. How do we "close the door" or set up barriers so that we don't fall into paternalism or controlling people we have given large gifts to?
First of all let me suggest that if there are any expectations or strings attached to those gifts or grants, it should be very clear and in writing. The person receiving needs to know this up front before accepting the gift. For example, if you are giving a large donation to someone to use for a particular purpose and your expectation is to receive regular reports about that, it should be communicated to them that those are the conditions related to the gift. If, however, you are making a donation to them that is personal, that should also be very clear and in writing. If you are giving them money to use for the purchase of a house, or car, or for their child's college, then make it clear that this is their money to use as they wish, no strings attached to you or to the organization. Personally, I do not recommend that you make those kinds of gifts directly. It is very hard for them not to feel "indebted" to you. These are situations where an anonymous gift through someone else would be much better.
This is also a case where the setting up of a foundation or trust that they apply to for help removes the "control" factor that leads to dependency and paternalism. If you feel called to help people in these kinds of situations, maybe it's better to think of setting up a filter or a way that you can give but that the decisions about exactly who that money goes to are made by a board or committee and there are certain requirements, application forms or policies. This goes a very long way in removing the temptation to later use your past gift to over influence these people, or to demand loyalty to you and your way of thinking in an issue because they are "indebted" to you. We must avoid that at all costs! This is devastating to our relationships within the mission community or family.
Let me close this series of articles by sharing why I believe dependency is especially dangerous in YWAM and why I believe it threatens one of our most important values- Hearing God's Voice. Faith and Finances are very directly linked to our ability to hear God's voice. Salary systems mean that we have a boss and we must do what the boss says. When we have a job, we don't really have the option of hearing from God for ourselves. If we don't do what our boss says, then they can fire us and we know that. So we do what they say, even if we don't prefer to do so.
YWAM has been built on a foundation of Hearing God's Voice. In my DTS this was the thing that really attracted me to work with this mission. I could see that the leaders truly had freedom to hear from God and that they valued the word of the Lord enough to trust even DTS students to hear from God themselves. The leaders didn't only hear from God and tell us what to do, but they wanted us to hear God ourselves and obey Him. I'm so very grateful that our mission has operated from this principle for so many years and that it has been one of our most central values.
That is why I believe dependency, paternalism, and centralized fund raising is so dangerous. This is why macro business that provides regular support to a group of YWAM nationals is also very dangerous. Let me explain this in a bit more depth. When a foreigner (or South Asian who is good in business or has a lot of financial connections) raises money and then creates a centralized fund to support many workers, that fund has the danger of becoming like a salary system. Not only does that national YWAMer loose the amazing experience of seeing God do miracles to provide for them which builds their trust in God. It also can potentially rob them of their ability to hear from God for themselves.
Think back to my examples in the earlier article. If they are in Frontier Missions for example, and receiving regular support from the FM fund which is provided by a particular macro business and they are getting 5,000 rupees a month from that fund, how much freedom do you think they will feel to listen to God speaking to them about a pioneering a children's home ministry in another area? When we are dependent, we are much less free to listen to God's voice and direction. We also can stop believing God for the impossible, because we are not regularly experiencing His answers to our prayers as we walk by faith. We receive our same support each month, it is guaranteed by the "big leader" (be they Korean, American, or Indian). In order to get that "monthly support" we need to do our jobs, turn up at meetings, etc.
This is not the DNA of YWAM. Our DNA is that we listen to God. He asks us to do crazy, impossible things that are way beyond our own abilities. We step out in faith and obedience. He shows up and does miracles to provide for us and the ministries he has asked us to lead. This is a key reason why we have seen such growth in the past 50 years. It is because this was our value.
What kind of YWAMers do we make when we raise all their finances for them and just supply it to them each month? Are we allowing them the opportunity to learn the same lessons that we had to learn as we stepped out in faith and saw God do miracles? Maybe we don't want them to suffer...even though our suffering led to our own character development and ability to trust God. Maybe we don't believe God can and will provide for them, so we feel we have to do so. This is called a God complex. A God complex is when we step into the role of God in their lives. It shows our lack of faith. I admit it. It's harder to watch others you love struggle in walking by faith then it is to do so ourselves. But we must! Or our "spiritual children" will never grow up to maturity.
I appeal to you, whether you are a foreigner or a national working among your own people. Please consider these issues carefully. Money matters. It matters to God. It matters in His Kingdom. How we handle money can lead to weak and handicapped disciples, or strong and mature leaders who hear God's voice and obey Him with courageous faith. This issue requires patience and much discernment. We have to ask questions and think before we act. We have to pray and listen to God, not just do what seems to be right or helpful but may not be helpful in the end.
I'm still learning, thinking, praying and listening...every day. These situations will not go away but will continue to confront me regularly. Though I have little hope I can completely avoid mistakes in this area, I pray that I will make fewer of them than I used to.
Questions to Discuss:
1) How does dependency affect our ability to hear God’s voice?
2) What are the dangers of raising money for others in a centralized system?
3) With larger gifts or more personal gifts, how could setting up an application system that has a board, help us avoid the dangers of too much financial influence or control over others?