Open-Handed Part 3 - Valuing Partnerships

A huge part of being "open-handed" means valuing partnerships. I already touched on this idea a little in my two previous posts this week, but it is important enough to deserve its own post.

When you think primarily in terms of Church as opposed to church, and are excited about giving ministry away, you don't care as much about which ministry gets the credit for what God is doing. The result of that is that you begin focusing on how you can partner with people doing great ministry rather than simply trying to co-opt good ministry ideas.

In Dallas, there are two crisis pregnancy centers less than a block from each other. One of them is a para-church ministry that has existed for more than twenty years. The other is the ministry of a mainline denomination who saw what the existing center was doing and wanted to replicate it so they could do it "their way." The result? Neither crisis pregnancy center is doing great ministry. The original ministry doesn't see as many clients since they're split between the two. Meanwhile, the denominational ministry doesn't have the knowledge, skill, or infrastructure to effectively operate a non-profit agency as well as the original center. But because they wanted the credit and focused on the church (with a small c), both ministries suffer.

When someone comes to our church leadership with an idea for a new ministry, our first question is "Who is already doing this effectively in our area?" If there is an answer, our second question is, "Is it possible for us to partner with them without compromising their ministry?"

Sometimes that means a public partnership, but sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes we end up helping behind the scenes. When a big church comes in and publicly "partners with" another ministry, it can often have an adverse effect because other churches feel like a need no longer exists.

This isn't just with para-church ministries. Open-handed churches are quick to point people with specific needs to other churches who are better equipped to handle it. For example, our church never got on the Celebrate Recovery bandwagon, but not because we were uninterested in that ministry. We think it's vital. But another solid church just a few miles away got in on the front-end and is doing CR really well. When someone in our church needs that kind of community, we send them to the other church.

Sometimes they come back; sometimes they don't. That's okay; we're not keeping score. We want to encourage the best possible ministry wherever it is happening, and don't see the need to re-invent an already existing ministry just so it has our name on it.

We'd rather partner with someone who is doing great ministry and be an encouragement for them than wade into an area that is not our area of expertise and try to make a go of it. There are plenty of people to go around. We want to focus on what we're good at and partner with people who are better at other things.