PART ONE: 7 Guidelines for Partnership – Supporting a National or Indigenous Ministry

July 2, 2013

Churches, generosity

A church missions committee leader asked me recently for guidelines for supporting a national worker. I gave a few thoughts and said that I would get back to her. Later I looked on the Internet and didn’t find much so I thought I would create a post.

Churches in North America no longer need mission agencies and missionaries to directly impact the world. It’s much easier to go directly to the ‘mission field’ and connect with local Christians.

Some churches know what they are doing while others don’t. These seven guidelines provide some direction for churches who want to be smart about making disciples around the world.

Meet the Local Christian Leader Face to Face

Before establishing any sort of partnership, be sure to meet your guy face to face. Internet hoaxes abound, so be wary, but the real issue is building a personal relationship with a potential Christian partner.

This will undoubtedly involve a visit to the field or bringing the leader to the USA. You always want to be careful in bringing anyone to North America and a field visit will give you the kind of information you need.

Focus on Relationship Before the Dynamics of Your Partnership

Most non-North American cultures view relationship totally differently than North Americans. Africans, Latin Americans, Asians and many Europeans put people and community before buildings and budgets.

If you move too quickly on the partnership agreement before building a solid relationship, you’ll be making a big mistake. You are going to have many difficulties in your partnership so you need a trusting relationship to weather the storms.

If you are not willing to take the time, effort and emotional energy to build a relationship, then why would you want to build a ministry partnership?

Don’t throw your money at ministry. Place your resources into people.

If you are a female driving this relationship, particularly with a male counterpart, be sure to involve men from your culture. You not only need the male wisdom, you may find it difficult for men from the other culture to take you seriously. Similarly, men: be sure to involve women on your side of the equation. You need their discernment and gentleness and they will make significant inroads with the women of the partnering culture.

Ask Your New Partner How They Best Like to Communicate

If you are an American, your default mode is to be ethno-centric. It’s true of most people. It means that you view the world from your perspective, rather than the perspective of another. But keep in mind that successful missionaries learn how to work in a world different from their own, and so should you. This is especially true when it comes to communication.

As an example, Arab women cannot look men in the eye. What if you, as an American male pastor, look into the eyes of your future ministry partner’s wife? You’ve just created a big offense, one that may not be visible to you, and one from which you may not recover. It’s vital that you learn communication patterns in the partnering culture.

You also need to find out how your partner prefers to communicate. Is it by telephone? Email? Face to face? Hand written letters? If you communicate in the way that is preferable, you’ll be way ahead of the game. If instead, you choose your preferred means of communication, you may be disappointed with a lack of response.

When I left Macedonia fourteen years ago, my partners had neither telephones nor computers. The only way to keep in touch was through the mail delivery system with written letters. My people group had large numbers of people who were illiterate. My handwriting in Macedonian wasn’t the best (Cyrillic alphabet) and took forever to compose a letter. Often, I had no idea whether my letters reached the intended target. I felt like the Apostle Paul.

Recently, however, my partners connected to Facebook. Now it’s a lot easier to communicate with them.

Yes, partnering with someone halfway across the world is hard work.


Read PART TWO now

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3 Comments on “PART ONE: 7 Guidelines for Partnership – Supporting a National or Indigenous Ministry”

  1. Kathleen Sherman Says:

    Brian, thanks for this! Good insight.


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