How partnerships can impact your church

by Kristy J. O’Hara, World Vision on January 27, 2017

Pastor Bob Merritt talking with congregants at Eagle Brook Church (Photo: ©2013 World Vision/photo by Andrea Peer)

There’s a well-known Scripture passage that often gets read at weddings as couples lovingly pledge their lives to each other and God, but Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 can also be applied to the approach your church takes with ministry.

The passage begins: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.”

Is this the approach your church takes when it tries to carry out what God has called it to do — or is your church trying to do it all on its own?

We talked to Bob Merritt, senior pastor at Eagle Brook Church in Minnesota, about how the right partnership can impact your church.

Why are partnerships important for a church?

Mother Theresa said, “I can’t do what you do, and you can’t do what I do. Together we can do great things.” When I bring my specific knowledge, skills, and experience to the team, and you bring your knowledge, skills, and experience, then we immediately double our impact. Partnerships help me get to places that I can’t get to on my own.

How have partnerships transformed your church?

There’s something within every person, church, or organization that wants to stand alone and be recognized for their own achievements. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you cut yourself off from teaming up with others, you will limit your effectiveness and growth. Usually we go into a partnership thinking, “This is what we can do for you,” but they end up doing so much more for us. The wisdom and relationships we’ve gained through our partnerships is one of the main reasons for our growth.

Through our partnership with Willow [Creek Association], we’ve trained 2,500 of our own leaders every year during the [Global Leadership] Summit. Bill [Hybels] has personally mentored our staff, and I’ve been able to be a friend and colleague to Bill and Willow by serving on their board. Our love and support of each other and our two churches has made us both stronger. Twenty years ago, Willow didn’t even know our name.

Our partnership with World Vision helped us develop a love for the poor, provide a vehicle for us to respond, and inspire our congregation to be generous. The day we challenged our church to sponsor children through World Vision was the day our giving increased overall. We now lead the nation in child sponsorship and are as healthy financially as we’ve ever been. We believe God honors a congregation that responds to the poor, and nobody knows how to bring medicine, water, Bible training, and independence to an impoverished community better than World Vision.    

What would you say to others who are considering partnerships?

Help cast a vision for others. You might have to start small with just one, but whatever you do, start! What you will learn and gain from your partnership will far outweigh what you give. Also, you can have a variety of partnerships, and you can have too many. We’ve chosen to invest heavily in a few instead of investing a little with many. We’d rather have a big impact with a few trusted partners who we can get to know and really make a difference. We say “no” to potential partners every week.   

How do you identify a good partnership?

Make sure the partner is aligned with your mission, shares the same values, has a track record of integrity, and wants to make a real difference in the lives of people. We also like to team up with people we like.

Take the Missions Gap Assessment to gain insights into how your church can uniquely create lasting kingdom impact in the lives of your congregation, your community, and the world.

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