Individual congregations often partner with other congregations in a variety of ways:
- If your church is part of a denomination, you are connected to other churches in the denomination.
- If your church is on one of a variety of campuses, you are connected to the other campuses of the main church.
- If your church is part of an interfaith network, you are connected to congregations of other faiths.
These partnerships might result in joint mission, education, and worship experiences. Maybe they even share a pastor.
The truth, however, is that most of our congregations are not as connected as they could be for the sake of more impactful ministry.
Imagine the impact if:
- Your congregation has a vegetable garden and you partner with a church that wants to share your fresh vegetables with the canned goods from their food pantry.
- Your congregation has a preschool and you partner with a neighboring church without a preschool who provides healthy snacks to yours.
- Your congregation partners with another congregation (which doesn’t look like yours) for a Civil Rights trip to Birmingham with ongoing conversations about race.
- Your congregation partners with a non-profit to provide a jobs training course on your church’s property.
- Your congregation partners with a local school for a monthly “Thank You” Party to community helpers. (This month: Firefighters! Next month: Police Officers!)
Most of our congregations, however are Lone Rangers. It’s easier to do mission on our own without the collaborative meetings and extra administrative work. But the future is in partnerships.
By definition, partnerships are about more than perpetuating an institution (like the church.) They build community. They exist to serve people.
So, as your congregation moves into the fall, ask your leaders these questions:
- Are we connected to other congregations and how?
- Are we connected to other faiths and how?
- Are we connected to community leaders and how?
- Are we connected to community non-profits and how?
If the answer is “no” to all those questions, I’m going to venture that your congregation is focused inwardly (and your ability to thrive is stifled.) If the answer is “yes” and your connections are between a single member or two, then how might your partnerships become broader?
The future of healthy congregations will involve partnerships because the healing of the nations requires all of us together: houses of faith, community leaders, non-profit organizations, educational institutions, for-profit businesses. The world needs us to join together. And God calls us to a common purpose.