There is often talk of church partnership. As I have noted before, often partnerships are minister-to-minister in practice. That is to say, two pastors are pals and so decide that they will work together in the gospel. But, when one of those pastors moves on or a new minister comes to one or other church, often the partnership falls by the wayside.
For this reason, we are keen to foster church-to-church partnerships. That is not just a partnership between me and another pastor or even me in particular and another church. Rather, we want our churches to be partnering together as churches. We want the partnership to continue to exist long after I any one of us has ceased to be a pastor. We want the buy-in from the whole church so that the church itself will continue the partnership.
The obvious question is, how on earth can you achieve that? What do we do to foster that sort of partnership? Here are some ways.
Invite speakers from that church
The easiest and simplest thing to do is to invite speakers to come and share about the work of the gospel in your church. This past Sunday, we had a partner church pastor speaking for us. He and his wife (who also works for the church) shared about what they have been doing so we can pray more helpfully for them. They hung around afterwards, not just talking to me, but talking to all different members of the church so that the members of our church will know who they are and can pray more meaningfully for them.
Be available to speak in other churches
Along with receiving speakers who will share in your church, it is good to make yourself available to speak at their church too. As when speakers come to you, make yourself available to the members at the other church so people other than the pastor can get to know you and hear about the work going on in your church. If partnership is ever going to extend beyond pastors, pastors will need to talk to as many people in the church they are visiting as possible.
Take others with you when you preach out
If you are invited to another church – particularly if it is only a little church – why not encourage a few folks from your church to come with you? This will achieve at least two things at once. First, it will let your members see what is going on in another place. This will help their prayers and they can see first hand just what and who they are praying for. But second, it will encourage the church you are visiting. If they are used to seeing the room with 10 or 15 people in it, it is a big thing to suddenly sit in a room – in your church – with 20 or 25 people in it. These may feel like tiny numbers to many larger churches, but to small churches and fledgling plants, these things are massive.
Encourage people to visit when they’re on holiday
If I am on holiday, or I’m passing a partner church on the way or way back, I like to stop in to encourage them. Not just because I’m preaching, but just to go and sit there and listen to some ministry from someone else and encourage them that you are bothered about what they are doing. The smaller church will be encouraged by some more folk in the room, you will be encouraged by some ministry from someone else, and you can strengthen your partnership by hearing about what is going on.
Make prayer letters available (and badger people when you don’t get one)
Rather than just sharing prayer letters in prayer meetings, make them available to as many people as possible so they can pray throughout the month for your partner church. Similarly, if your partner church haven’t produced a prayer letter, or have not put one out when they would usually, go and badger them for it. I have never been upset when people are miffed that I haven’t sent them stuff to pray about for us. It tells me they care, want to pray for us and are disappointed that we haven’t helped them to do that. It is encouraging when people are chasing you so they can pray for you. Never be scared to go knocking and asking for fuel for prayer.
Go and help by serving
This is probably the most difficult thing to orchestrate but it will be well received if you do it. I know most of us are struggling to keep the stuff we’re doing in our own church going. So, the idea of being able to help out another church on top of all that is a tall order. But, here’s the thing, if they’re even smaller than you, just imagine how much harder they are finding it to keep their stuff going too? Just think how encouraged they would be if you were able to send a small team of two or three helpers to serve in some ministry they are doing? if we are looking to build church to church partnership, we should be able to send our people to help too. Though this is hardest to do, it will probably be the way you can build partnership between your members most fulsomely.