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Working Together—It's a God Idea | Christian Leadership Alliance

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The following is located at: http://www.christianleadershipalliance.com/outcomes/2008/augsep/workingtogether.html

Working Together—It's a God Idea Trends in Christian nonprofit partnership. Phill Butler, Dave Hackett, and Bill Sunderland | posted 8/15/2008

In a complex world that frequently makes effective ministry complex, there's good news. After centuries of dreaming, trying, and only occasionally seeing any real success, collaboration among kingdom ministries is increasing. This is not just another "strategy of the month" phenomenon. From neighborhoods to cities, local and global kingdom projects, and at points of critical human need that call for compassionate and effective witness and service, ministries are finding new power in actually working together—and staying together to realize otherwise impossible dreams. Some have said that Jesus' prayer in John 17:23 for the church's unity to become a witness to his own credibility was his only truly unanswered prayer. But both the local and global church are increasingly finding ways to come together and do more and better ministry. Scripture is full of God's vision for community, for his people to live and work together as they are set free from sin and brokenness by the redemptive, healing power of Christ. The failure of former ecumenical movements, organizational "turf" issues, personal ministry empires, failed alliances, and the ever-present reality of pride have put many off. "Let's just do it ourselves. It will be a lot simpler." It's that line of thinking that might have been justifiable 20 or 30 years ago. But times have changed. WHAT WE HAVE SEEN What we have seen is that the whole world is talking about collaboration: partnerships, strategic alliances, networks, and coalitions. As is often the case, the business community began to lead the way 30 to 40 years ago with the radically changing globalization of the economy. Today, effective business is effective collaboration. No one goes it alone. It was not long until research entities, scientific and technical communities, health initiatives, and educators began to explore and find success in collaboration. The church, as is sadly the case, was slow to "wake up." But she has. And she is making a difference.

Partnership is a word often used and also misused. Too often it means, "We have an idea; who can we get to join us in our idea?" But those who have worked in the field for a long time know that collaboration can take many forms. It may be two organizations in a bilateral partnership of mutuality, respect, and genuine joint benefit that want to do something in their community. It may be 30-plus organizations in a distant land that want to work together more effectively to reach and serve a large, unreached people group. WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING? As you read this article, there are literally hundreds of kingdom partnerships, networks, or strategic alliances under way. Most of them are multi-agency and committed to long-term initiatives that can only be realized by working together. Here is just a sample of the growing number of initiatives out there. City initiatives: This is happening in dozens of American and overseas cities great and small. These efforts typically bring together local churches with a wide range of other ministries committed to specific initiatives that are part of long-term transformation visions. Hundreds are under way. Country initiatives: These are represented in the field by an alliance of ministries looking at the "big picture" and helping prioritize, focus resources, and facilitate/coordinate joint efforts. These are occurring in several dozen countries. Unreached people groups: This means seeing nationally led, reproducing church plants while holistically witnessing to the love and power of Christ. Usually these partnerships bring together 20-50 ministries, each with a unique contribution but a common vision. Well over 100 such partnerships are happening worldwide. Functional/Activity Focused: Think international sports ministries, refugees, Bible translation, production, and distribution. Think mass media, relief and development, and the use of the Internet for evangelism. The list goes on and on. WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED

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We have learned three key things: First, effective kingdom collaboration doesn't just happen. It takes long-term, tenacious commitment to both the ministry's purpose and the partnership process. Fail on either of those points and the initiative is dead. Then that good intention is not good enough. There may be a strongly stated will to take action, but are the skills really there to realize success? Perhaps even more important, do we know that we need the skills or have any sense of how much we don't know about building effective, sustainable kingdom collaboration? Finally, we've learned that the skills are learnable—and, good news, success in their use is reproducible. You can learn it, practice it, and see the benefits repeated as you train and coach others. The really good news? Realization of Jesus' John 17:23 prayer is not only possible, but can also become a pervasive paradigm that radically changes the face of ministry—in our cities, in our sectors of ministry, and in churches as they link hands around the world. FOUR KEY QUESTIONS TO ASK There are four key questions to ask. You have an effective ministry but long to do more and have greater impact. It may be that you have a new idea or significant insight that you think could bring much added value to Christian witness and service. Memorize these four questions. Let them become as natural a part of your thinking as is your breathing: Is anybody else doing it or thinking it? "I wonder if anyone else is doing this same kind of work—or even thinking about it?" Should we talk with them? "Do you think there might be any value if we were to sit down with those other folks and learn more about what they're doing—their vision, operations, and whether there might be some potential value in us exploring things together?" Are any special skills needed? "What skills do you think we will need to first sit down and talk effectively with these folks? If we move ahead, what skills will be needed to make the alliance effective?" Where do we get the skills? "Can we get training, get some coaching, or read a book? What can we do to get good at this?" An interesting organizational assessment tool that helps you look honestly at your own ministry is available on the PowerOfConnecting resource website, powered by visionSynergy. See the sidebar to this article on page 21 to learn how to access this assessment tool. ELEMENTS FOR SUCCESS IN COLLABORATION If good intention is not good enough, what are the essential characteristics of effective kingdom collaboration? On the PowerOfConnecting website there's a short list of eight principles that, if taken seriously and applied consistently, can transform your efforts in collaboration. See the sidebar for information on viewing the eight elements for success in collaboration. THE BENEFITS The benefits to collaboration are that you can save money, extend your influence and impact, do more with less, take on new creative initiatives, see more accomplished in a shorter period of time, and can be encouraged and stimulated as you work with forward-thinking, like-minded believers. More people come to Christ sooner, ministry is healthier, our credibility in the community rises, and the sense of accomplishment on your part and that of your colleagues will be greater. The remarkable thing is that ministries are now learning that you don't have to set up a complex structure with all kinds of "rules" for effective collaboration. And you don't have to join some large entity in which your identity and contribution get lost. Working together—it's a God idea.

Phill Butler, Dave Hackett, and Bill Sunderland have been involved in various aspects of kingdom collaboration for over 25 years in the U.S. and around the world. They write from field experience of turning great vision into reality by helping God's people work together for greater effectiveness. They are associated with the ministry visionSynergy at visionsynergy.net. Contact them at info@visionsynergy.net.

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visionSYNERGY MINISTRY WEBSITE VisionSynergy.net RESOURCES WEBSITE PowerOfConnecting.net This site has hundreds of articles, case histories, forums in which to interact with others, plus a range of tools, PowerPoint presentations, and other downloadable resources. WILL/SKILL DIVIDE For additional information on the Will/Skill divide illustrated in this article, see snipr.com/willskill. ORGANIZATIONAL ASSESSMENT TOOL To test your ministry's readiness for real collaboration, you can access the assessment tool referenced in this article at snipr.com/ministryassessment. EIGHT PRINCIPLES FOR EFFECTIVE COLLABORATION To view the eight principles for effective partnership referenced in this article, please visit snipr.com/8principles. KINGDOM COLLABORATION INITIATIVES SUMMARY To view a summary of new kingdom collaboration initiatives, go to netwiki.powerofconnecting.net. You can even list your collaborative initiative for others to see and consider. PARTNERSHIP HANDBOOK To learn more about the book Well Connected: Releasing Power and Restoring Hope by Phill Butler (Authentic/World Vision), go to connectedbook.net. This 340-page hands-on guide for effective kingdom collaboration features theory and practical theology. But the emphasis is on case histories and step-by-step "how-to" tools to make collaboration successful. Available from most booksellers. PARTNERSHIP E-NEWSLETTER This e-newsletter comes 10 times each year and brings fresh examples, ideas, resources, case histories, information on collaboration events, and more. It is free and is currently read by ministry leaders in over 130 countries. See snipr.com/eNLsignup for more details. Send to printer © 2008 Christian Leadership Allianc e · PO Box 4090, San Clemente, CA 92674 · 800.727.4CLA

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Working Together - It's a God Thing