I am an avid runner, and I’m currently training for my first ultramarathon, a 60-mile race that will last me about 12 hours. Why? I ask myself that same question whenever my muscles are throbbing and I feel like I can’t go anymore. I ask that whenever I’ve got blisters on my feet because I’ve been running for 10 hours. I ask myself that because who wouldn’t rather sit at home eating cupcakes instead of throwing up in a trash can knowing I have 20 miles left to go.
You may think the key to running a race like that is nutrition and proper training. While those are critical, the key to making it to the finish line of an event like that is having the right training partner. You need someone who will not only run with you during those long and lonely hours of training but also keep you encouraged when the race starts to get HARD.
What is true in marathoning is also true in ministry. We need partners.
There are partners who help us with the incredible financial burden that can come with church planting, and those partners are vital. But there are also those who can help us manage the length and loneliness of ministry. When you find others to come around you, you can endure when the circumstance seems unendurable. Yes, finding and sustaining partnerships in the busyness of ministry can be hard, but isolation is harder.
Here are three ways to find and keep good partners.
1. Get your senior pastor on your team.
Today, many churches actually want to further the mission of God outside their own four walls. They don’t want to hoard their resources. Many want to find high-caliber church planters who will take their finances and multiply them in a way the partner church would not be able to do. The problem is that they don’t know which leaders to trust. Do you know who they do trust? Your senior pastor.
2. Create systems in your calendar for regular communication.
The value of a supporting church goes way beyond the financial resources they can provide you. They can provide wisdom, encouragement, and marital and emotional shepherding. These partner churches are like parental figures who help you navigate the financial and emotional challenges of independence.
However, relationships between parents and kids can be tricky.
Many relationships between a church planter and their supporting churches have dissolved, sometimes even blown up. These are heartbreaking situations, and they too frequently happen because of a lack of communication.
Church planter, never interpret your supporting church’s lack of communication as a lack of concern. I know you are busy. So is that partner church. Every day they have their own issues to overcome, their own fires to put out, and their own staff culture to maintain. While you may have at one time been jealous of your partner church’s financial resources and facilities, what we fail to see is that the problems they face are also exponentially larger and more complicated than ours. Sometimes the “out of sight; out of mind” principle is all too real for them. So be proactive about your relationship with your partner churches.
If the senior pastor says he has an open-door policy, then don’t be afraid to walk through. If you are having an issue at your church plant, your supporting church has most likely already faced the same issue and has figured out a solution. If you lack equipment, ask. They may have a spare sound board because they just replaced theirs.
3. Find ways to be a blessing to your supporting churches.
The very heart of the gospel itself is that we are givers and not just receivers. Your partner churches have made a sacrifice to support the mission in your local gathering and not theirs. That’s a sacrifice. Reward their sacrifice. Here are some ways to do that:
- Send them regular texts about how much you appreciate their love and sacrifice.
- Send them regular “God moments” and updates they can use with their own churches to show how their sacrifice is making a difference.
- Send them thank you notes with gift cards.
- Ask your partner church if you can serve them by speaking about a leadership principle at one of their staff meetings and offer to do it for free.
- Ask if you can come back and give a missions report.
Try not to ask your partner for something that is going to cause an administrative task that you wouldn’t want to do either! If there is a report to fill out and sign, you fill it out and JUST ask your partner to sign.
The truth is that you need your supporting churches more than those partnered churches need you. Nurture that relationship.
Church planters need multiple churches working together to help them succeed. The North American Mission Board is here to help churches like yours partner together to plant healthy, multiplying churches. Learn more: Mobilize My Church
Published April 29, 2021