Partners are defined as a group of people engaged together in the same activity. For partnerships to be successful, members of the group are like-minded and are working for an agreed upon goal. Even though partners can be a lot alike, diversity within the group often enhances the partnership and provides for others in the group to learn from each other and share resources and talents to achieve a common goal.
The best way to describe ministry partnerships is to give a list of potential characteristics that could exist between churches, church plants, or individuals.
Reciprocity: the exchanging of tools, talents, resources, care, and encouragement for the mutual benefit of each party. Reciprocity is an essential value and characteristic to great partnership. Montana is still considered a pioneer state as far as Southern Baptist work is concerned. MTSBC churches have been richly blessed by partners pouring into our state financially, through mission teams, etc. Many Montana churches still benefit from the blessings given by so many. However, Montana churches desire to give back by contributing to other ministries by taking mission teams, praying for others, or financially supporting, to name a few ways. For many this is an area of growth.
Prayer and encouragement partnerships: Even though it may seem elementary, prayer partners are also encouraging partners. Serious, consistent, dedicated prayer partners require communication in order to lift up specific requests and to celebrate great spiritual victories. When ministry partners communicate, there is an opportunity for sharing ministry, as well as, personal needs. From personal experience, some of the greatest days of encouragement happened when I would receive a card in the mail that came from an individual that dropped a note just to say that they had prayed for me and my family.
As we were in the beginning stages of planting a church in a small rural community of 1,500 people, the phone book was very small. A partner church asked how they could pray for us. I sent them pages from the phone book, and they committed to praying for certain “letters” and the families listed under those letters. For instance, a kids’ missions group decided to adopt the letter “M” and pray for each family listed. What was incredible was how encouraged the church was when, as the planter, I would send them updates of families that had attended Backyard Bible Club, had come to church, were saved and baptized, etc. As a planter, I saw those prayers answered and knew God was at work. There are so many possibilities of how an effective prayer ministry can be developed.
Encouragement: Encouragement seems to be a lost “art.” An encouraging phone call, a handwritten card on a birthday or anniversary (or just any day of the year), a $5 coffee card for a wife, or any number of acts of encouragement can literally turn the course of a day, week, or even longer. These are partnerships that require a short amount of time, can be of very little expense, but can have amazing returns.
Mission teams: for Montana, mission teams are “priceless.” The amazing facts that people are willing to take time off, spend their own finances, travel several hundred miles, to come and serve people they’ve never met and expect nothing in return, is the gospel being lived out in our ministry fields. With small congregations, or for church planting (no congregation yet), mission teams are an extension of the vision and mission of that local ministry. Whether for a few days, a week, or for some individuals who have given several consecutive weeks, mission teams help pastors and planters accomplish a lot of ministry that would be impossible without them.
The following is only a sample of things that teams have done to help connect people with local churches and church plants. Mission teams have helped with Vacation Bible School or Backyard Bible Clubs; sports camps – soccer, baseball, volleyball, cheerleading, football, etc.; mending fence in ranching communities; hosting block parties; volunteering at large community activities like rodeos; hosting big game dinners and fly fishing clinics; disaster relief due to flooding; helping with service projects in communities – washing windows or moving furniture at schools, rebuilding park gazeboes or playgrounds, painting buildings, building training centers for fire departments, picking up trash, removing graffiti, doing housework or yardwork for senior adults…and the list goes on and on. If you have a heart to serve, mission teams provide an opportunity that will bless those being served and those who are serving.
Partnerships start when one party initiates the conversation with another – it’s that simple. Are you interested in partnering with another Montana church or possibly a church from another state? If so, contact William Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.