Partnering well: Staying connected

I want to introduce you to a church planter that is known for planting 20 churches. These churches had children that had children. This made him a great-grandfather in church planting terms.

I think we can say this was one successful church planter who knew the power of multiplication. How did he do this? The answer is found in the word partnership.

He secured partnerships in a variety of ways. As I studied his methods they have been instrumental in my personal church planting journey. Over the last 8 years as a church planter, I have seen first hand the value and necessity of partnerships and how we create them.

It starts by understanding that partnership is about collaboration and working together. It says this isn’t just about me but it’s about we. We actually care for one another. This is how God has designed His kingdom to advance and how multiplication happens.

In order to do that you must pray that God would show you what He is asking you to do and to show you people, churches and other organizations that you could invite in.

I can’t communicate how imperative it is to stay close to your Heavenly Father and get His heart for your plant, so that you can share what He has laid on your heart with others. It’s during this time that conviction and vision is given.

When we began laying the groundwork of Riverbend in 2008, we started right when the recession happened. Everyone was pulling resources back, understandably so. I got a lot of “we would love to help, but right now we are just barely keeping up with payroll.”

God showed me during that time a way that I could ask people to join us that was practical and specific, as well as a way to cultivate buy-in on a smaller scale, through a campaign called “Sponsor A Sunday.” At the time, our church met in a hotel ballroom. The focus of the campaign was to raise funds to cover the cost of the rent and operating expenses for one Sunday. So rather than sharing monthly or yearly financial needs with potential partners, we were able to provide an option of Sponsor a Sunday for a smaller, specific amount. Within two months of sharing this campaign with others, God provided partners and we had every Sunday covered for the whole first year.

As you work through your partnership process keep these five steps in mind:

Step 1: Pray
Ask God to show you what to ask for, how to formulate a plan around it and who to contact.

Step 2: Plan
As you pray, write down what God shows you and put it into an easy-to-read, one-page document that you can email out. This should include your specific vision, what God has been doing and how the recipient can specifically help. Keep it simple.

Step 3: Invest and invite
Make a list of every person you could contact and ask others to introduce you to key people. Nobody is off limits and don’t limit yourself to only churches or Christian organizations. Consider inviting local businesses to partner with you or friends and family who are already invested and believe in you.

Build the relationship by scheduling a meeting and/or phone call. This may need to first start by sending an email conveying what God has shown you. One week later follow up with a phone call. Don’t just to ask for resources but share what God is doing. Take a genuine interest in the people you’re reaching out to. You want to build the relationship. One of ways you can do this is by sending photos, videos and email updates.

Ask if they would like be part of what God is doing here through prayer and becoming a ministry partner through monthly giving. Don’t leave any conversation without asking this question. Pray for boldness and don’t let the fear of rejection get in your way. The worst thing they can say is NO!

Step 4: Follow up
Make contact with everyone you have invited to partner once a month, this includes those who say no. This should be a time where you share with them how God worked over the month. Look for ways that you could help them to see how they’re helping to push darkness back.

Don’t leave them guessing about how you’re doing, but be proactive with your communication. After all, they partnered with you and your church. This signifies your gratitude for them.

Step 5: Be a good partner
It’s easy when trying to create partnerships, to get so focused on trying to get others to partner with you to help carry out the vision God has entrusted you with. However, it’s essential to be a good partner to others as well and look for ways you can serve others during this time. Take time to ask those partnering with you about their world—how God is working, how you can pray for them. Practice gratitude—send a handwritten card, an encouraging text. Be the kind of partner you would like to have.

By the way, the church planter I mentioned at the beginning was the Apostle Paul. Study how he planted and you will conclude he didn’t do it alone. His success was given as he partnered with God and others. The same is true for us.

As for Riverbend, we’ve had the privilege starting three churches here in the Lehigh Valley and we are working with planters to start two more in the future. We couldn’t do it without partnerships. This is how movements of multiplication begin.

Published February 21, 2017