Eddie and Sue Arthur

Mid 2019 Mission Agency Statistics

I’ve spent the last couple of days looking at the Charity Commission reports on the British mission agencies that I’ve been tracking for a few years now. It’s as exciting an occupation as it sounds! However, crunching the numbers through an Excel spreadsheet is always an interesting occupation.

There will be more results to come over the next few months, but I thought I’d share a little of what I have discovered. I now have income figures going back to 2015 for 80 different agencies, which allows me to note some interesting trends.

The first thing to notice is that inflation over the period 2015 to 2018 was 8%. That means that agencies needed to see an increase in their income of 8% if they were effectively to stay still. 47 of the 80 agencies saw their income increase at less than that rate, which means that the majority of agencies in the sample have seen an effective drop in their income measured against inflation. Not only that, but 41 of the agencies saw an actual decrease in their income, that is they received less money in 2018 than they did in 2015.

These figures have to be taken with a degree of caution. Some individual agencies see fairly dramatic swings in their year on year income and the difference between 2015 and 2018 might just be a blip. However, as a trend across the board, this is obviously concerning.

Overall, the income for these 80 agencies increased from £171M to £186M an inflation-equalling increase of around 8%.

However, most of this increase can be attributed to two agencies, one of whom had a relatively poor year in 2015 and the other which received £4M more in 2018 than in any previous year (they had never received more than a million pounds before this). If these two agencies are excluded, the remaining agencies actually show a slight decrease in their income.

In terms of specific areas of ministry, the following trends can be noted.

  • Agencies involved in proclamation saw a slight decrease in their income (£55.2M to £54.8M)
  • Agencies involved in evangelism saw a bigger decrease in their income (£34.9M to £33.3M)
  • Agencies working with UPGs saw a slight decrease (£18.2M to £18.2M)
  • Agencies involved in social action saw an increase in their income (£134M to £149) (This includes both agencies mentioned above)
Between 2015 and 2018 a sample of British mission agencies working in evangelism saw a decrease in their income from £34.9M to £33.3M Click To Tweet

(For definitions of the terms used, see the document linked to in this post. It is important to note that working with UPGs is a subset of Evangelism, which is, in turn, a subset of proclamation, so these figures cannot simply be added up to obtain the total).

With regard to agencies which send missionaries, the following can be noted:

  • Agencies which send long-term missionaries saw a slight decrease in their income (£38.0M to £36.9M)
  • Agencies which send short-term missionaries saw a similar decrease (£39.3M to £37.8M)

These two sets of figures accord with the findings in my earlier report that those agencies which are involved in proclamation and evangelism are the most likely to send missionaries.

At this point, it is important to issue a caveat. These figures indicate income received by the agencies. They do not take into account missionaries who are sent overseas without the intermediary of an agency, nor do they account for missionaries working with an agency but who are in receipt of funding through an alternative source. Without additional sources of data, it would be difficult to draw conclusions about the numbers of missionaries sent from the UK.

However, what these interim figures do show is that, with a few exceptions, there is a broad pattern of British missionary agencies seeing their income struggle to meet inflation. There also seems to be a shift in funds towards social-action focussed agencies and away from those involved in evangelism.

Over the next few months, I will continue to gather this year’s income reports from the agencies which have not submitted them. I’ll also look at a few case studies to see what, if anything, can be learned from the fluctuations in income reported by individual agencies over the last few years.

4 Comments on “Mid 2019 Mission Agency Statistics

  1. Eddie
    Useful as always. You are probably there already, but in addition to inflation we need to think of exchange rates and the lower purchasing power of the pound overseas.
    Blessings Ray

    • Yes, I agree that this is an issue, but it’s a. complex one that I don’t really know how to address. It is relevant to the money that agencies send abroad, but not to any spending in the UK and this varies from agency to agency. In addition, the exchange rate varies according to country. The pound has fallen dramatically against some currencies in this time, but has actually climbed against others.

      That being said, for individual missionaries this can be a massive issue and those who are involved in their financial support should consider this. It is an unfortunate consequence of the “faith mission” system that missionaries tend to be hit by exchange rate problems at the same time as their supporters face financial hardship at home.

  2. Great piece of research Eddie.
    I’m wondering what impact the tightening of regulations on charities has on the matter, and whether the potential knock-on affect of that in financial terms has on the overall figures?
    Another thought that crossed my mind was whether the balance of missionaries sent overseas compared to those working among diaspora in the U.K. was also a factor? My gut feel, and personal experience, is that it is still more difficult to raise funds for the latter. Would you agree?

  3. It is my impression that the level at which the regulations that charities face has an impact on mission agencies is that their boards often don’t have the time and space to reflect deeply on the issues that they are facing. I think this means that they end up being reactive, rather than building for the future.

    The issue of working with diaspora is a complex one. Many of the agencies that have a diaspora ministry, like, say WEC, are traditional agencies and my work has no way of distinguishing between missionaries in the UK or elsewhere. There is no agreed on way of accounting for these things between agencies and it is beyond my resources to dig right into the details.

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