The Stewardship of Partnership: Local Associations
As a church planter in Boston, if there’s one thing God has taught me it is the stewardship of partnership. Every planter looking to take back enemy territory for the kingdom of Christ knows the battle will be intense. Only a fool would fly solo. Church planters must rally other people to support them through prayer, shared wisdom, as well as ministry and financial investments. Because of this, much of their time in the early days is spent cultivating partnerships. Casting vision, sending support updates, visiting individuals and churches is all part of the partnership game. One of the most encouraging trends I see across North America are church plants with a self-giving, rather than a self-seeking mindset. Rather than simply sticking their hands out asking for more, they are extending their own resources in order to be a part of God’s mission through planting more churches. But here’s the deal: time is short and resources are limited. That means church planters will necessarily be selective with whom they partner. It is a matter of stewardship. If a church plant can only give x # of hours and x # of dollars, how will they allocate? What percentage will they invest in their own efforts, in church planting networks, in denominational efforts (local, regional, national)?
At Redemption Hill, we have chosen to invest as much as possible as a young church. This is includes an annual amount toward our local association of churches in Greater Boston. Here’s why.
Why We Partner with our Local Association: Four questions
What is the measure of our gratitude?
When we have received so much through denominational affiliation, it would be ungrateful for us to not recognize that and give back what God has entrusted to us. As a child does not boast of how great they are apart from the help of their parents, so a young church should not forget those who first provided for them and helped them learn to walk.
What do we have to give?
If we’re being honest, it is tempting to enter into partnership more for what we can receive than what we can give. To our surprise, we already have more people and financial resources as a four-year old church plant than the majority of churches in our association. Many of them can benefit from us sharing our resources.
How much do we love our city?
The natural affinity we have for the 5,000,000+ Bostonians who need Christ strengthens our love for one another and desire to work together. Being a part of the Greater Boston Baptist Association means we are helping strengthen churches in Boston, who we hope will in turn, be ready to partner together to plant more churches. We can help penetrate neighborhoods where our feet will never touch the ground.
What can we gain by collaborating with this unique group?
The issue is growth. If we are going to give such a significant percentage of our time, gifts, and dollars to Boston, we should look to collaborate with those who get the unique challenges of ministry here. We benefit from the wisdom of churches that have gone before us. We regularly and readily exchange resources and best practices to help us grow and reach more people with the gospel.
Leading Your Church to Partner Locally: Three Cautions
Who is Leading the Charge?
Though we have had some great people working in the areas of church planting, ministry to internationals, leadership development and collegiate work, our local association has suffered from stability in leadership. Until two months ago, we had three consecutive interim directors of missions. Though they all served nobly and effectively according to their capacity, our local association is in a greater position to flourish because of new leadership.
What is their Sense of Mission?
Like a local church, every association has collective strengths. We should not expect omnicompetence, but neither should we settle for good intentions. What is the focus of the association? How are they getting things done? And quite frankly, what are the results? Are people encouraged through collaboration? Are churches persevering, growing, and planting more churches?
How are they Stewarding their Dollars?
There is wisdom in the old adage: “If you want to discover a person’s heart, examine their pocketbook.” The same is true of churches and associations of churches. Ask to see previous budgets. Have conversations about how decisions are made. Examine the why behind the what. Decision Time
At the end of the day, every pastoral leadership team must decide with their congregation where to invest on a case by case basis. What is a good investment in Boston may not be a good investment in Sacramento. In fact, we review our missions dollars every year. Why? Because it is our responsibility to steward our partnerships with precision and care.
And one final word: guard against a critical spirit. No association is perfect. The only thing worse than harshly criticizing our brothers and sisters in Christ is criticizing them and not being willing to lift a finger as an agent of change. Let’s be part of the solution and steward our time, people, and financial resources well for Christ’s glory in our cities.