Understanding worker budgets

What goes into a missionary’s budget? Learn about the nuts and bolts of worker budgets here.


When you help support a mission worker, you deserve to know how your efforts are being invested towards kingdom-building. Every EMM worker assignment functions with a budget. This budget is prepared in advance and seeks to accurately reflect the financial needs for the worker to carry out their assignment. A worker’s budget can vary greatly depending on their particular situation.


The information on this page will help you understand how missionary budgets provide security for EMM workers, enabling them to bring Jesus to many people in many ways.


Cost-of-living philosophy

Budgets for overseas workers are based on a cost-of-living philosophy, not a salary. This means that when creating a worker budget, EMM projects, as closely as possible, the exact amount of money that a worker or worker family will need for their life and work on the mission field.


Budgeting according to a cost-of-living philosophy means that a worker budget must include expenses that the average U.S. employee does not see, like health care, retirement plans, and a portion of federal payroll taxes. These hidden costs comprise a significant portion of each annual worker budget.


EMM uses a blended model to support workers: While EMM’s Impact Fund contributes a portion of each worker’s support, the worker/Missionary Support Team is responsible for raising the large majority of total support costs.


Field costs, top to bottom

The highest expenses in a worker budget are usually allowances and health care.


There are two kinds of allowances: monthly and vacation. The monthly allowance is the discretionary income that a worker uses for regular household needs and living expenses on a monthly basis. The vacation allowance funds personal travel and recreation to help worker families rest and recharge periodically.


Caring for workers’ health and planning for any eventuality is a top priority. EMM carefully budgets for each family’s projected health care costs while on assignment.


Besides allowances, day-to-day expenses on the mission field include rent, utilities, home furnishings, children’s education, and local taxes, if any.


Other expenses on the mission field include international and regional travel, language study, in-service training, retreats, passports, visas, and costs incurred by EMM on behalf of the worker and/or costs related to preparing and processing a worker for an overseas assignment.


Budgeting for home leave

Workers periodically travel back to their home area to raise support, receive training, rest, and connect with relatives, friends, and supporters. Related expenses are provided for in their budgets.


Home leave expenses include home leave allowances, rent and utilities, allowances for children in college (if applicable), children’s education (partially covered), development assistance to raise worker support, and baggage costs.


Other expenses for workers on home leave include travel for eligible home leave events, education when recommended and approved, and publicity cards for prayer and financial support.


Training and retreats

Training and retreats are necessary to help workers keep improving in ministry while preserving their well-being.


Worker training includes Launch, a course designed for all EMM workers preparing for service. Workers may also attend pre-service training if their region or ministry focus requires special preparation, such as the Summer Institute on Islam for those serving in Islamic settings and/or courses for learning other languages.


Workers attend periodic regional retreats to rest and connect with other workers in their region of service. The Oasis retreat for workers on home leave takes place for one week in the summer. Workers completing their mission assignments take time to debrief and readjust at EMM’s Reentry Retreat.


Benefits and taxes

Benefits and taxes are less obvious but essential items in worker budgets. Budgeting for these things allows workers to reside legally wherever God has called them, and to plan wisely for the future.


Taxes covered in worker budgets include local taxes in the country of service, Pa. income tax if the worker is a Pa. resident or considered to be “domiciled” in Pa., and Social Security and Medicare taxes (both employee and employer portions).


Budgets include the cost of health care coverage, disability benefits, and survivorship benefits. When needed, budgets include educational loan payment assistance.


Administrative costs

Worker budgets include funds to assist with EMM’s administrative costs, including crisis intervention and well-being care, media production, accounting services, recruitment, resources, training, and more.


Completing service with EMM

Workers must look ahead to the day they finish their assignment or retire. Through long-term planning and budgeting, EMM helps reduce anxiety workers may have about their financial future.


In this regard, budgets include contributions into a resettlement savings account after the worker has served for a year, which means that workers reassimilating into the U.S. have some funds to begin a new chapter. Budgets also include assistance for returning workers’ personal effects to their home country.


For workers serving two or more years, regular deposits are made into a retirement account. For workers in low-cost countries, a Social Security equalization deposit is made into the retirement account to make up a portion of their lower Social Security benefit at retirement.


Journeying together

Creating an appropriate level of financial security for mission workers is a practical and wise way to care for those who are sent to share the gospel throughout the world. Each person who contributes to worker support, whether through finances, prayer, time, or effort, is essential on the journey of taking the good news of Jesus and the kingdom of God to people near and far.


EMM is grateful for all who have walked alongside and supported EMM personnel working around the world.