- By Phill Butler
We all know that outcomes are a whole lot better when people work together – whether it’s families, communities, or nations. The nightly news reminds us of the consequences of broken relationships – personally and among nations. It’s particularly true, of course, in Kingdom work.
Working together, our witness and service in Christ’s name is always more powerful. He promised that in Psalm 133 and mandated it in John 17:21-23. Problem is that we don’t see many examples of Christians working together effectively – especially over the long haul.
This brief piece talks about the key principles that have emerged over recent years by people working on collaborative initiatives in over 90 countries. Take the principles seriously and you’ll be amazed at what can happen! Ignore them and court a headache at best, a disaster at worst.
Here are eight time- and field-tested principles for Kingdom collaboration success:
1. Effective collaboration is about a powerful, commonly owned vision.
The vision must be stated in outcomes that are specific and clerly understood by all the participants. At some level these outcomes must be objectively measurable.
2. Effective collaboration has limited, achievable objectives.
These objectives must –
A. Kingdom significance – not a “private” agenda or vision of a single ministry or person.
B. Be something that can only be done by working together – a vision “larger” than any single individual or ministry.
C. Is relevant to each partner ministry’s vision and objective.
3. Effective collaboration is built on trusting relationships.
The heart of the Gospel is restored relationships. Effective collaboration demonstrates of the central elements and is the evidence of real salvation (John 17:21-23, etc.)
4. Effective collaboration needs a facilitator.
This person must have a burning commitment to both the vision and outcomes as well as to collaboration and be neutral — demonstrating a genuine commitment to all participants.
5. Effective collaboration is a process not an event.
Much like building a building where a big one with big capacity takes a long time to plan and execute while a small one can go up fairly quickly. The preparation, planning, and foundation building stages may take a long time with little visible evidence of progress.
6. Effective collaboration is made up of partners with clear identities and vision.
Ministries with a clear vision and identity who fully understand their potential role in any partnership and how they can effectively contribute. Plus they can more readily evaluate the impact or benefit of the partnership to their own organization and its purpose.
7. Effective collaboration acknowledges & meets expectations of key constituencies
All collaborative initiatives have at least four constituencies:
- The audience or group we are seeking to serve and/or reach.
- The active participants in the partnership.
- The administration or leadership of each participating agency or ministry.
- The group that funds, prays, and stands behind the participating individual ministry.
8. Effective collaboration focuses on what the participants have in common, communicates, and celebrates progress.
Always focus first on the vision and purpose that draws ministries together. The “end” (what are we doing) is critical. A primary focus on “means” (how are we doing it), particularly at the early stages can lead to division. Then, celebrating and communicating news of progress to all partner agencies on a regular basis is vital to health, unity, and encouragement for all involved.