How do you decide if partnering with another church or a parachurch ministry is the right decision for you and your church?
In 'church-and-ministry world', opportunities for partnership abound. A genuine desire to work beyond the boundaries of our individual ministries has opened the door for churches, parachurch ministries and service organizations to stand shoulder-to-shoulder for the sake of the common good. So how do you know when and where to partner with others? Here are two factors that will bring clarity to your decision.
Projects are one-time events that catalyze our work for the common good. A city-wide Good Friday service is a project-based partnership. Annual social gatherings or service days are examples of projects. Projects do not ask any particular group to compromise their core beliefs, philosophy or methodology.
Processes are on-going events that become part of the fabric of each partnering organization. A citywide training event that happens on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis is a process. When a church and parachurch ministry collaborates to make disciples, they are attempting to fuse their processes together.
Project-based partnerships are more easily sustainable than process-based partnerships. They demand less compromise in the beliefs and behaviors that matter most to both organizations. Process-based partnerships can exponentially benefit everyone involved. Shared convictions become a shared life.
But there is a price we pay in claiming the prize of partnership. Philosophical and methodological differences between any two organizations create the potential for relational friction. Jealousy, bitterness, and territorialism can reign supreme when two groups are vying for the attention and focus of volunteers and participants. Confidence in 'how we do what we do' can devolve into a kind of swagger as we talk about 'how they do what they do.' If we're not careful, our involvement in this, that and the other can create mission creep within our church and organization.
Let's Do This. Or Maybe Not.
So how can you determine whether you should enter into a project or process with another organization?
- Make sure to include other leaders in your decision-making process. Give decision-making control to the leaders responsible for the area of potential partnership.
- Clarify the outcome of the partnership. What is the intended result in the life of each person in the project or process?
- Determine whether you can better accomplish that outcome on your own. Does the involvement of another organization with different DNA (theological vision, philosophy of ministry) unduly compromise the vision and mission of your church?
- Weigh the opportunity to give and serve to others. Partnerships rarely take place between equals. Size, maturity, strength, experience - all factors in which one partner has an advantage over the other. There may be times where you do not need anyone else's help but choose to partner because it affords you an opportunity to love and serve another organization.
Partnerships are risky, but great partnerships are extremely rewarding. They benefit everyone involved and make it increasingly difficult for Jesus to be ignored in our cities and beyond. Use the distinction between projects and processes to shape the decision to partner.