The story of every church plant also is the story of partnership. New churches get their start with the prayer, personnel, and financial support of other churches — sending churches or supporting churches — but their partnership is vital.
In the four short years we’ve been immersed in the world of church planting, the Holy Spirit has impressed upon us the critical and dynamic nature of developing successful partnerships with senior pastors and churches who have a heart for the gospel and the multiplication of disciple-making, gospel-saturated, mission-focused churches.
But like every church planter, I’ve learned some very painful lessons along the way, and after talking to other planters with horror stories, here are my top five suggestions on how to ruin a church partnership:
#5 – Set expectations they can’t meet
In NAMB circles, we talk about raising up partners who will pray, participate, and provide — the Big 3 of church planting! You want and need partners at all three levels. If you expect a new friend to move to providing funds after your second conversation, you’re going to be disappointed and he’s going to avoid your next call! Slow it down. Be patient. Develop the relationship first.
#4 – Be fuzzy about your vision
Every partner and potential partner we’ve been graced with has asked me the same question: “What is your vision?” Their eyes glaze over in about 30 seconds if you waffle and vacillate and beat around the bush. Give it to ‘em straight, assuming you have a clear and compelling vision in the first place. In a recent blog, Pastor Danny Wood (Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama), wrote, “Help me see the grander vision God has placed on your heart and in your mind. Let me step into your world and see through your eyes the work God is doing and can do in your part of the city. Vision not only inspires and motivates the members of the church, it does the same for potential partners.” So don’t be fuzzy about your vision!
#3 – Do not share your needs
I once had an interview with the senior vice-president of one of the largest companies in Canada. I was there to ask for his help with an international project I was working on. After three minutes of my finely-tuned presentation, he interrupted. “Garth, what do you need from us?” I jumped back into a interminable explanation of our approach to fund-raising. He interrupted again. “Garth, when you figure out what you need from us, contact my executive assistant, Anna, and we’ll see what we can do.” Ouch! That day I learned to share my (our) needs quickly, concisely, and honestly. You should do the same.
#2 – Delegate all the responsibility
Initializing and maintaining church planting partnerships is a lot of extra work for busy planters. But consider the alternative, and then get busy. However, don’t delegate all the responsibility for communication and partnership development to an elder or someone in your church who happens to be computer savvy. You’re the planter. You’re the vision man. You many need help on this, but you are the one the partners want to hear from. Don’t delegate the crucially important role of partnership development to someone else. Lead the charge yourself.
#1 – Don’t communicate
The No. 1 reason great partnerships die is lack of clear communication. If you want to ruin your friendship with a supporting pastor or church, don’t reply to email, don’t engage in social media, don’t respond to texts, and don’t return phone calls. And believe me, it happens every day! Planters are busy people, I get it. But if you get so busy that you don’t communicate effectively and efficiently with churches who care about you, then you soon will find yourself with no prayer, no participation, and no provision. (The Big 3, remember?)
Ed Stetzer once said, “If a true multiplication movement is to take place, it will require reconsidering the ways in which we cooperate.” The context of his comment is not our context, but it sure fits. We must reconsider how we work with our partners — current and future — for the glory of God!,