As your church considers some type of action to engage with others (churches, organizations, community entities, etc.), here is a simple check list to help we think through and, possibly, strengthen your initiative. We —
- Have identified, as much as possible, the “what” and “why” of the initiative we are considering. The “how,’ equally important, will emerge as further work is done.
- Have identified an “Exploration Team” who will think and pray through, at least an initial list of the key elements of the initiative. And have received at least a medium-term commitment to the vision and necessary related work.
- Have done research on all elements surrounding the challenge we’re trying to address (the challenge in our community or even an “unreached” people group) — using all available resources.
- Have prayerfully identified near and longer-term goals/objectives along with the action steps that will be required (people, money, timetable, other resources, length of commitment, etc.).
- Have identified ‘limited, achievable objectives’ what will allow us to monitor and celebrate progress toward our larger objective.
- Have defined the “what we need to know” elements as we begin to “drill down” regarding our the focus of the initiative.
- Have communicated with the whole church about this initiative and feel they understand they “why” and “what” and support the vision.
- Have identified a committed team to pray for the church’s action in this initiative.
- Have assessed our church’s existing, natural “Bridges of God” that could help us forward the initiative. That is, what people, experience, connections those in our church already have that can be help facilitate implementation of the vision.
- Have identified any other churches, ministries, organizations focused on the initiative we are addressing. Possibly local, regional, national Christian ‘associations” or networks.
- Have taken initiative to be in personal contact with the leaders of these other groups – understanding what they are doing, what we can learn, and how we might most effectively connect or fit into any existing work?
- Have a clear idea of the elements of a healthy, sustainable partnership and are actively working to keep in mind or put in place those elements? (see below)
- Have realistically assessed our previous experience in ministry partnerships; what was good, what wasn’t, and implications for this initiative?
Then, here are eight proven partnership/network principles that make all the difference. Follow them closely and succeed. Ignore them and we are likely to fail.
- Effective partnership/networks have a highly motivating, commonly owned vision that A) Is clearly a God priority B) Is beyond the capacity of any individual or even an organization C) Can be effectively measured and evaluated D)Adds value to each partner’s own vision and purpose.
- Effective partnership/networks break the big vision into limited, achievable, high-value objectives that can be evaluated, reported on, and celebrated! Especially in the beginning we need the encouragement of even small successes. Don’t over organize! Just enough structure to meet wer objectives.
- Effective partnership/networks are built on trusting relationships. Leadership must be very intentional about processes that will build trusting relationships. There must be trust in the vision; in the partners; and the partnership/network process.
- Effective partnership/networks need a committed facilitator or facilitation team, not a boss. Often both servant and prophet, the person must be fully committed to the common vision yet sensitive to the needs of each partner. The facilitator needs a supporting team. Other churches or organizations involved, each should have a “champion” for the partnership/network project.
- Effective partnership/networks are a process not an event. They take time and patience. Doing the research, active listening, getting to know the key leaders, and building consensus before calling people together is like a strong foundation for an important building. Calling a meeting too soon may destroy the chances for success! There are no good shortcuts.
- Effective partnership/networks are made up of partners with clear identities and vision. When each element in wer partnership knows their strengths their contribution will be more effective and satisfying.
- Active communication is critical. Effective partnership/networks are aware of and communicate with four groups: The people we are seeking to reach or serve in the initiative; those active in the partnership/network; the administration of any partner church or orgnaiztion; and those who pray, give, and provide other resources.
- Effective partnership/networks focus on what the partners have in common – not their differences. Effectively evaluating wer progress; communicating consistently with the four groups mentioned above (#7), and celebrating progress with all the partners are all vital.