Congregational partnerships can be challenging.

If a congregation needs help with something beyond its grasp, its leaders are often advised to join efforts with another congregation or another group. This is common when exploring community ministry. Partnering comes to mind often when mergers are considered.

Why it’s challenging
The advice to partner can be counterproductive for two reasons.

  1. The partnering requires more skill than going on one’s own. It is typically recommended to congregational leaders who are – for natural reasons – in over their heads. The recommended intervention of partnering is even more beyond the grasp of the leader. It rarely works.
  2. Partnering can often require more resources than originally anticipated. It can take more time. There may be initial financial savings, but the initial savings often disappear sooner rather than later.

An alternative solution
Rather than seeking partnerships, you can right size the project so that your congregation can handle the task without the extra challenge of partnering. Then, once more capacity is gained, move to looking for partners.

If you are entering a partnership, keep this primary hint in mind: Partnerships are most effective between equally yoked congregations or entities.

Tim Shapiro by Tim Shapiro

Tim is president of the Indianapolis Center for Congregations – of which the CRG is a program. He began serving the Center in 2003 after 18 years in pastoral ministry. He holds degrees from Purdue University and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Tim’s interest in how congregations learn to do new things is represented in his book How Your Congregation Learns.