Living within Your Limits: Building Partnerships for Ministry
As you begin working on launching or refining a church benevolence or other community development ministry plan, you’ll quickly discover you can’t do it alone. Your church or organization can’t provide everything that everyone is going to need on this journey, nor should it!
This can be a fantastic opportunity to develop relationships between your church or organization and other community service entities in your area. Our low-income neighbors are often dealing with a complex web of issues—material poverty, lack of access to services, lack of social capital, etc. It stands to reason that multiple resources and areas of expertise may be needed to help them navigate challenges they’re facing.
Other churches in your community may be familiar with some of the same individuals and families you’re walking with. Perhaps they can help provide additional context for people’s lives. You may need to connect people to networks of support for specific needs—healthcare and mental health services, legal help, etc.
Long term development requires coordinating services on multiple fronts. This is sometimes referred to as wrap-around services. So it’s in your best interest as a church or organization to see other churches and nonprofits not as competitors, but as additional places where God has placed people to accomplish his work in your community.
Think about it. God doesn’t give all the gifts and all the resources in your church to just one person, but scatters them around your congregation. Likewise, He doesn’t give all the gifts, resources, and responsibilities in a community to just one church or ministry.
Evaluating and Forging Partnerships
Of course, not every nonprofit or church is going to be the right partner for your church or organization. A healthy church to church or church to nonprofit partnership is going to include several elements:
- A shared sense of responsibility around a holistic approach to poverty alleviation.
- A shared desire to cultivate trust and accountability between your ministries.
- A shared understanding that we serve members of our community better when we work together.
Ideally, parachurch organizations are extensions of the ministry of the local church. They may provide specialized services, but their work should be rooted in and flow back into the local church.
Often, the nonprofits in your community grew out of churches who wanted to create a way to have paid staff carry out a particular aspect of ministry, like case management. And even secular nonprofits might have believers on staff who are driven in their work by their faith. These women and men can provide expertise and services that your church may not be able to offer, such as mental health care, job training, or help navigating government assistance programs.
Identifying Resources in Your Community
How well do you know your community landscape? It might be time to take some field trips and get to know your church and community organization neighbors.
Exploring your community can be a great way for small churches or organizations that care deeply about development—but don’t have a lot of capacity—to launch meaningful ministry programs. Functionally, partnerships are how we can begin taking an asset-based approach to looking at our congregations and communities to see what God is already doing. This helps us do work that is sustainable while being flexible and looking at our own limitations.
You might discover a lot of outreach is already happening in your church that isn’t very formalized that you can build on. You may find people in your church or among your ministry staff and volunteers who know local resources or are already very involved in other ministries.
If you cultivate the habit of being aware of what’s happening in your community, your church or ministry can be a connection-point for people, even if you aren’t providing all the programs or services they need. This can also help you identify gaps in services where you might find your niche, rather than duplicating services. It can set you up to help facilitate relationships all across the community rather than having to offer everything in-house.
Developing processes and partnerships is part of what we cover in our Helping without Hurting in Benevolence Ministry course. This training will:
- Equip you with a biblical foundation for responding to requests for financial help.
- Help you develop the skills and confidence to build a holistic, relationship-focused benevolence ministry.
- Teach you tools and processes to address material poverty in your community in effective, transformational ways.