When talking with people about our financial support, one the questions that I like least is, “How much goes to admin?” It is a valid question, but I don’t like to answer it because there is often an unspoken assumption that paying admin costs is little more than flushing money down the toilet. Everyone knows that some amount needs to go to admin because donations need to be processed and receipted (at the very least). But admin money isn’t “really” used for ministry, but just for someone to push paper (or pixels) in an office somewhere.
For many people, admin fees are an unpleasant reality. They are part and parcel of working with a missionary organization, in the same way that paying taxes are an accepted part of being a citizen of a country (or should be). They need to be paid but there is a suspicion that they are probably not spent well and would largely be better used elsewhere. Therefore, if someone asks me, “How much goes to admin?” I feel like the lower the number that I give them, the happier they will be with my answer. I am not going to doctor the numbers, of course, but I am never sure how my answer will affect the attitude and willingness to give of the person asking.
But the longer that I serve with a missionary organization that assesses so-called admin costs, the more grateful I am for all the people behind those admin fees. All that money that goes to behind-the-scenes admin enables other people to do things that I would otherwise need to take time and money to do myself. And in many cases, those support workers who are in the home office or field office or in cyberspace somewhere are doing jobs that that I am not equipped to do.
I can’t do the ministry that I came here to do…
AND receipt donations for tax-deductible contributions each month.
AND fold and mail prayer letters each month.
AND manage international money transfers.
AND spend days on end filling out forms and running back and forth to government offices to get my visa and work permit processed.
AND interview and process new missionary candidates, never mind entire short-term teams.
AND manage a mission guest house or holiday home.
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