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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

17 Oct '12

Partnerships in missions: Five key principles

Posted by T.J. Addington in missions, partnerships
I am a huge proponent of partnerships in mission efforts. One of the guiding principles of ReachGlobal is that "We are partnership driven." Those partnerships can be with local churches in the United States, churches internationally, other ministries and missions and church planting movements. 

Partnerships, however, are delicate things and hard work. Here are five guidelines to consider for healthy partnerships. 

One: Partnerships are worth pursuing when we can accomplish more together than we can alone. The silos that exist in local church, denominations and mission agencies simply because we are focused on our particular brand are not healthy. If we are going to reach cities and regions for the gospel it will be with a coalition of the willing, not by ourselves. 

Often we don't pursue partners in ministry because our own vision is so small we think we can do it alone. That is unfortunate. We ought to have a God sized vision that only He can make possible and which often requires the efforts of several rather than just one party. 

Two: Healthy partnerships are not based on well written MOU's but on deep relationships of trust. When groups move toward common efforts before there is a high level of trust and relationship those efforts are in jeopardy.  In ReachGlobal we are far more interested in relationships with our partners than with MOU's which in the end are only as good as the relationship anyway. While a memorandum of understanding may be helpful for clarity, it is a secondary issue to trusting relationships.

Too often in ministry partnerships there is management of the strategy without adequate management of relationships. When there are tension points in the partnership it is the trusting relationships which help the parties move forward and solve the issues. Thus relationships must be nurtured in any good partnership.

Three: Partnerships only work when there is both theological and missional compatibility. We don't have to agree on all fine points of doctrine but we do have to have evangelical orthodoxy along with a missional mindset to see the Gospel expand in a significant way. We will not move forward with any partner unless there is compatibility in both areas.

Four: Healthy partnerships respect the autonomy of each party. Here is how we define our "Partnership Driven" guiding principle: "We are committed to carrying out the Great Commission in partnership with local churches, national partners and like minded evangelical organizations. Healthy partnerships include mutual cooperation without either party losing its identity or ability to work toward its intended objectives." When either party seeks to control the other the partnership becomes unhealthy. 

This requires a level of humility on the part of both (or all) parties because in healthy partnerships there is mutual collaboration on how we will together reach our intended objectives. Whenever one party tries to impose its agenda on another it is no longer a true partnership. Organizational and personal humility is a prerequisite for healthy partnerships. It is not about us but about the vision that we are pursuing together.

Five, partnerships are based on clear, common objectives that all parties are committed to pursuing. Where there is ambiguity on objectives, partnerships will inevitably become murky and ultimately fail. The glue that unites like minded partners is both trust and a common vision. It may well be that different parties play different roles in achieving that vision but common vision cemented with trust and relationship is a strong combination. In addition, when that common vision is the result of ongoing concerted prayer together it moves from our vision to His vision and captures the hearts and imaginations of all concerned.

We need to think partnerships far more than we do. But, we need to  build those partnerships for health and strength based on these five criteria.