Wednesday, December 12

Effective Partnerships

Effective Partnerships
By Jay Lorenzen on Nov 29, 2007

I see it over and over. Movements that bring change depend on partnerships. Working together is a Trinitarian expression. God lives in community, in relationship, in a heavenly dance–modeling the cooperation he intends for us as families, as churches, as organizations. Satan’s strategy is always to divide. Unfortunately, over the last 200-300 years, the intense individualism of Western societies has made the journey toward wholeness, relationship, and cooperation much harder. Personally I’ve been driven so often by building my particular organization rather than building the kingdom. I’m beginning to repent.

Phil Butler, in his book Well Connected, argues that “individualism has inflected our lives, our theology, our churches, our educational paradigms, and the fruits of the missionary movement.”

In his book, Phil identifies some of the key issues and principles of effective partnerships...The following principles will help us build such partnerships.

1. Effective partnerships are built on trust, openness and mutual concern. Partnerships are more than coordination, planning, strategies and tactics. The heart of Gospel is restored relationships.

2. Effective partnerships need a facilitator or coordinator — someone who, by consensus, has been given the role of bringing the partnership to life and keeping the fires burning. This “honest broker,” usually loaned or seconded from an agency committed to the task, must be a person of vision who will keep on despite all discouragement. Prophet, servant, and resource person — this individual has to be trained and nurtured. Serving everyone in a partnership is a lonely task.

3. Effective partnerships have a partnership champion: inside every partner ministry — a person who sees how their individual agency can benefit from such practical cooperation: an individual who will sell the vision to their colleagues and keep the partnership focused to realize those benefits.

4. Successful partnerships develop in order to accomplishes a specific vision or task. Partnerships for partnership’s sake is a sure recipe for failure. This means lasting partnerships focus primarily on what (objective) rather than how (structure). Form always follows function — not the other way around. Concensus is usually better than constitution!

5. Effective partnerships have limited, achievable objectives in the beginning, and become more expansive as the group experiences success. Though limited, these objectives must have clear Kingdom significance that captures the imagination and provides motivation for the group as well as relevance to each partner ministry’s vision and objective.

6. Effective partnerships start by identifying needs among the people being reached or served. They do not start by trying to write a common theological statement. From these needs, Kingdom priorities, barriers to spiritual breakthroughs, and the resources available or needed, realistic priorities for action must be distilled and agreed.

7. Partnerships are a process, not an event. The start-up, exploration and formation stages of a partnership often take a long time. Call a formation or even exploratory meeting too early and you will likely kill the possibility of a partnership. Ultimately, personal trust is required. Taking time to establish it privately in one-on-one meetings, the facilitator will find that later, in the group, it will pay rich dividends.

8. Effective partnerships are even more challenging to maintain than to start. Making sure the vision stays alive, the focus-clear, communication good, and outcomes fulfilling takes great concentration and long-term commitment.

9. Effective partnerships are made up of partner ministries with clear identities and vision. They must have their own clear mission statements and live by them. Otherwise, they will never understand how they “fit in,” and contribute to the overall picture, or benefit from the joint effort.

10. Effective partnerships acknowledges, even celebrate, the differences in their partner agencies’ histories, vision and services. But partnerships must ultimately concentrate on what they have in common, like vision and values, and ministry objectives rather than on their differences.

11. Effective partnerships serve at least four constituencies: the people they are trying to reach; the partner agencies with their own staffs and vision; the partner agencies funding and praying constituencies; and eventually, the partnership itself with it’s growing expectations. There are many more players around the table than we often acknowledge or remember. Forget them, and eventually the partnership will fail.

12. Effective partnerships have a high sense of participation and ownership. Facilitators need to give special attention to the widest possible participation in objective setting, planning and the process of meetings, and on-going communications — increasing the likelihood of wider ownership and commitment to the common vision.

13. Effective partnerships keep focused on their ultimate goals or vision and are not distracted by day-to-day operational demands. It is often easy to focus on the “means” rather than the “end”. Only constant diligency will keep this long-term view clear.

14. Effective partnerships see prayer and communion as uniquely powerful elements to bind partners together in Christ. Effective partnerships are refreshed and empowered by frequently praying in small groups where individuals can express concerns for each other’s personal needs, and by the group taking communion together.

15. Effective partnerships do not come free. Just participating in the planning and coordination takes times and money. Deeper commitment may take still greater investments. But, the “return on Kingdom investment” through the partnerships should more than offset the contributions a partner agency may make.

16. Effective partnerships expect problems and plan ahead for them. Make sure a process is built into the partnership for dealing with changes, exceptions, disappointments, unfulfilled commitments, and simply the unexpected. A wise man know one thing — the only predictable thing is the unexpected.


“build on trust”
"a facilitator”
"a partnership ‘champion’”
"accomplish a specific vision”
"have achievable objectives”
"identify needs of those being served”
"it’s a process, not an event”
"it’s more challenging to maintain”
"it’s made up of partner ministries”
"celebrate differences”
"serve four consituencies”
"need high sense of participation and owernship”
"be focused on their ultimate goals”
"maintain prayer and communion”


Anonymous said...

I realize this is not your post, but my question is this: after being an IMB missionary for so many years, how do you think the IMB does at partnering?

J. Guy Muse said...

Everyday Christ,

Thanks for stopping by and the question. I personally think the IMB works very hard at trying to do a good job with partnering. Most of the responsibility of effective partnering falls on the local missionary teams that will either be great at partnering, or poor at it. This is not the IMBs fault, rather more the responsibility of the local teams. Our own team places a very high priority on trying to partner effectively with GCCs, national Baptist partners, and to a lesser degree our Stateside partners.