By Chris Phillips, Journey Point Church, Stapleton, CO
Partner. Co-laborer. Teammate. These are words that come to mind when thinking about church planting and partnership. Let’s start off by stating the obvious, there is in no way a church plant gets off the ground and launched without partners. They cannot fulfill the mission God has called them to do without others walking with them, linking arms together, and pushing for Kingdom advancement above all else! Every church planter would rave about having people that believe in them, care for them, and aid them in their mission.
Even with that being said, sometimes partnerships take work. Just as in a marriage relationship, it takes time, honesty, and hard work to make the partner relationship strong and as useful as it was designed to be. If you’d allow, I’d love to answer a few questions I think are common when finding the right “partner” in a church plant / established church relationship.
1. How does the planter and partner know they’re a good fit for each other?
Kingdom advancement. I believe that above all else, the planter and partner have to be on the same page with “Kingdom” work. When someone is focused on Kingdom work, they set aside their own thoughts, opinions, and traditions, and run hard after advancing the Kingdom, in both the planters target area AND the partners location. This removes the desire to fill one’s own needs, ridding the “planter” and “waterer” mentality, but simply understanding that God grows the Kingdom and His church (1 Corinthians 3:5-7). Neither the planter or partner are just members of a church, but they are residents of a Kingdom expanding all over the world, something Jesus spoke about more than 100 times and in 16 books of the Bible!
2. What makes a “good” partner?
Good partners have no agenda. Almost any planter can tell you a story of the partner church that sends the date they can come, the projects they can do, and the focus they want to have while there, with the schedule they’ve already created. Whereas not having to plan a trip on top of everything else a planter has on their table is a benefit, having projects and tasks that probably do not line up with the mission and vision of the plant is a wasteful use of God’s time and resources. The best partners find out how they can serve the planter and not how the planter can serve their teams and goals. The “good” partners are servants above all else. One of our best partner trip activities was allowing our launch team to go out on a team building night while the team watched the children of the team. Having moved to an area with no family, money, or sitters, that was an invaluable gift to our team. That was not a “sexy” activity on the trip, but their servant heart made them great partners.
3. What can the planter do to enhance the partnership?
Unashamedly, the planter absolutely has to understand that a partnership goes two ways and is for Kingdom advancement. I tell our partners all the time, this isn’t about Journey Point, the city of Denver, the state of CO, or the Western part of the U.S., this is about the Kingdom of God. With that mindset, I do as much as I can to keep the church involved with what is going on. How are their prayers for our church being answered? What are their resources going toward? With this in mind, we send monthly videos to the church to keep God’s movement here in Denver on the forefront of their minds, which reminds them that they also can live as missionaries in their own city. Make it just as much about them than you and your partnership will thrive.
4. What are some tangible things the partner can do to invest in a plant (not just financially)?
One of the greatest needs for every planter is to know that others are there for them, praying for them, and caring for them. Our best partners send text messages letting us know that we’re not on an island all alone. They send care packages of date night opportunities, goodies we like, and things we need as a family. Sometimes the greatest gift is a package in the mail that shows others know our name and are praying for us. Some other things they can do also is focus on the wife and launch team. At times the lead planter is well cared for, but people forget about those that were also called to move and help launch a plant. They matter just as much in the Kingdom of God as any lead planter. Care for them as well!