Can you really partner with other ministries?

Written by Tommy Lee, Executive Director of the Grow Center

Partnership seems to be a popular term in Christian circles. When ministry leaders get together I often hear the phrase “let’s find ways to partner together.” I hear donors encourage ministries to “partner together” and not reinvent the wheel. Having been involved in ministry for over a decade now, I find that creating partnerships is easier said than done. It’s actually pretty hard. Often once you get into the details it can get messy and complicated. And when ministries do partner together it’s usually for one project and then they never want to work together again. I think that is why so many ministries or even departments within ministries work in silos.

Why is it so hard to partner together?

For one thing, I find that ministries don’t understand the importance of compromise. When partnerships happen, both sides need to understand and respect one another’s goals and then work on a plan to serve the other organization well. But that doesn’t always happen. You will always have that one organization that really believes in their vision and their strategy and can’t compromise on what they believe is the right thing to do. But if they don’t learn to compromise and work with their partner, nothing will ever get done.

Another reason is that the partnership is often one-sided. One partner ends up doing all the work, bearing the brunt of the cost, or sharing all of their contacts. Thus it causes frustration on the other side and they never want to work with the partner again.

Whether we like to admit it or not, competition is a real thing. Some ministries or leaders want to be the leader and come out on top. Partnership for them means that you come alongside their project or you financially support what they are doing. In cases like this, partnership may not be possible or even healthy.

True partnership requires that both partners serve each other. Each clearly understands what the other partner needs to accomplish and does their best to serve them well. Each partner is committed to knowing each together, having tough conversations, and loving each another. When that happens, so much can be accomplished.

At the Grow Center we’ve been able to do a lot in the last ten months in the US and across the globe. And it’s all been because of partnerships. As hard as our team works, they can’t do it alone. It’s only through these effective gospel partnerships that we have been able to expand the work of the Grow Center so quickly.

I think about our work with Rev. Mark Chan and Urban Voice as we seek to train global Chinese leaders around the world. Then there is Mr. D (name not included for security purposes) and the innovative approach he is using to train bi-vocational pastors in a closed country. All of those efforts have required the Grow Center working closely in partnership with these leaders and organizations to engage in the areas that God has called them to. It also includes Seminary Now and utilizing their content to train these pastors and ministry leaders.

In Nairobi we have created Faith and Work Nairobi through the partnership of two churches in Illinois and a church in Nairobi. Through these partnerships we’ve created a working committee of local Nairobi pastors and leaders to develop faith and work curriculum for their local counterparts.

In the US we are launching an African American Christian marketplace gathering and network called the Urban Marketplace Summit with our friends at Urban Outreach Foundation and Urban Ministries Inc. There are many African American pastor groups in the US, but there is nothing for African American Christian marketplace leaders to come together, dream, innovate, and integrate their faith to change their communities. And in Los Angeles we work with TogetherLA to hold a monthly gathering for women of color.

We need to work together. We cannot do it alone. We are best when we learn to work together. Partnership is so key to kingdom work. It creates an ecosystem where groups learn to work harmoniously and in sync to change their community, their city, and ultimately the world. The DNA of the Grow Center is built on those partnerships.

We would love for you to follow us at the Grow Center and consider ways that we might work together. Email me at tlee@seminary.edu; I’d love to hear what you are up to.

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