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5 Reliable Steps to Powerful Church-Community Partnerships

5 Reliable Steps to Powerful Church-Community Partnerships

The work of mission “out there” is largely owned and operated by organizations. While there are a small but growing number of pioneering organizations exploring more collaborative ways to partner with the local church, most organizations still want to make a transaction with the church, one built primarily around financial support. The local church is seen as a big wallet, and the goal of the relationship is to open that wallet to fund the organization’s mission.

Often, great work is being done by these organizations. That’s not the problem. The problem is the way the local church relates to the mission. Where does the local church stand in this partnership? The people themselves sit safely in the comfort of the sanctuary, outside of the mission flow.

At worst, transactional partnerships leave us with churchless organizations and missionless churches.

Ironically, many times both the local church and the hired partners are quite happy with this asset-based relationship. The hired organization gets the funding they need to carry out the mission vision. The sponsoring local church gets to take credit for the work that is done without having to do any of the actual work of mission. But we are convinced that this divorce between the local church and the work of mission is not God’s plan A. It’s a poor substitute for the true mission of the church. The local church is God’s plan A, and this means we need a new model of partnership.

Here’s a quick summary of how we engage in direct ministry.

  1. We never pay the pastors or write checks to the churches directly. We seek to enhance their work through resources like training whenever possible. Before we get involved, we want to see a local community and church assess what they can do for themselves. Once they demonstrate initiative to do this, then we can talk about adding further projects that require outside resources. When we fund a project, we always ask the community to bring whatever resources it can, even if it’s a small amount.
  2. We focus on smaller, modular training with ongoing coaching rather than large-scale, one-time conferences and events. Ongoing coaching helps move the knowledge we share beyond just awareness of principles down to the how-to of implementation. Focusing on small projects emphasizes relationship building. These relationships give us credibility and build trust, allowing us to be involved when real, lasting changes take place.
  3. We should not habitually do something for people that they can do themselves. Many well-meaning churches routinely violate this principle, doing serious harm to the development of the very people they are trying to help. Did we approach our ministry with local people in a truly collaborative way? Did we do it with them? Or did we take the easy way out and do it for them?
  4. We see every direct ministry project as a part of a larger process that addresses the foundational problems. Capacity building is a slow, ongoing process of change. Underneath the symptomatic problems in any community are deep-seated foundational problems that are not quickly or easily fixed. The downward spiral that began at the tree in the Garden has created brokenness on a personal and structural level that has accumulated over the centuries. Reversing these patterns and renewing communities takes time.
  5. Every direct ministry project is seen as a “product” in a larger development process for the entire community. A well for clean drinking water, a new church plant, a new house, a new small business, or improved crops are all products of our projects. They are easy to document and photograph. The process used to create these products is just as important, if not more important, than the outcome. Did local people participate in the process in a way that increased their comprehension, abilities, and power?

We pray that God will give you the courage to pursue a new way of forming partnerships and that he will give you the perseverance to stay the course. William Gibson once said, “The future is already here — it’s just not equally distributed.” In transformational partnerships, we are pioneering a way of doing mission. Yet we’re convinced that within a generation, this can become the new normal for churches in the West.

Churches are sensing God’s call to leave the safety of the harbor and travel the seas.

Anchors away. Let’s ride the reverse tsunami together!

— by Rob Wegner and Jack Magruder, adapted from their book Missional Moves: 15 Tectonic Shifts that Transform Churches, Communities, and the World. Read the book to discover the process these authors have developed to implement these steps.

How to Use This Book

Missional Moves will give you a plan of action for your local church to carry out the gospel mission with power – both locally and globally. Missional Moves is one volume in the popular Exponential Series of books. Don’t miss the Exponential Series Complete Set, which will get you these books at an even better value.