by Tim Lubinus
On the mission field I learned a principle for ministry partnership that has wide ranging implications. Here it is: effective partnerships should be mutual, not one-sided. Revolutionary?
This principle is really quite simple. The best partnerships are beneficial to all involved parties. It is true in business, in personal relationships; it is also true in ministry partnerships. The opposite of this principle is also true: whenever a partnership is one-sided, it is usually not healthy. All pastors know of people in their congregation that are takers, people who only think of themselves, and don’t even consider the needs of others or giving anything back. These people are not healthy or mature.
A few years ago, a local friend in Africa asked for help in building a chicken coop. By help, he meant that our church pay 100% of the cost. When we offered fifty percent of the cost, our friend canceled the project. If our goal was to provide a chicken coop, we failed. If our goal was to be responsive to our partner’s wishes, we failed. If our goal was to avoid sinking money into a project that had little local support and little chance for self-sustainability, we succeeded. My friend was willing to invest someone else’s funds, but when half the funds needed to be contributed by our local partners, the chicken coop suddenly wasn’t a priority. When information is limited, the fifty percent funding rule helps funding partners discover if a project is really a local priority, because by design, it requires high local participation and investment.
This partnership principle also works for partnerships that form for the purpose of starting a new church. I’m a big fan of denominational funding support for church planting. It is a great way to pool church funds to extend church planting beyond what local church resources can support. I’m not saying that church planters that are fully funded are “takers”, “high risk” or anything other than dedicated, godly people. However, if the funding model is 100% funding from a denominational source, the partnership has a greater potential to be distorted. Distant denominational funding organizations can sometimes be persuaded into investing in low-priority, high-risk ministry projects. The value of ministry projects is usually enhanced with partnership. Like the chicken coop, the ministry idea may only be considered a good one by local decision makers if it uses other people’s money rather than their own.
One way to reduce this risk of funding low priority ministry projects is to ask church planters to do the hard work of earning support from sponsoring churches and local families who will participate in the new church before the new church is launched. As in all healthy churches, the main funding source should quickly become the congregation that is benefiting from the new church.
For the funding of new church plants, I think it is best for BCI to match a sponsoring church’s funding for the first two or three years of a church plant. By then the new congregation should be healthy enough to continue without outside funding. In some more difficult or isolated places, the match may be at a different ratio than 1:1. In other words, the local funding may only be 20% of the outside funding and the funding may last an extra year or two, but even this contribution will help emphasize the importance of local partners.
When you have a great idea for the use of BCI funds for a church planting or evangelism project, you might hear us say, “We’ll match what your church gives. Is it still a high priority for you?”
I value your input. If you have any comments or questions please give me a call at (515) 809-2819 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.