By Kevin Squires | Senior Director of Church Partnerships
God created man to partner. It’s in our DNA. Better yet, it’s in His DNA, considering His very nature is Three in One.
Despite the common stigma placed on Americans as being self-centered, we are alarmingly drawn into partnerships as well. A 2010 Parade magazine poll stated that 90% of Americans believe it is important to partner with a cause they believe in, whether it be in their local community or the world at large.
Polls aside, it seems as if the need to partner with someone, or something, outside ourselves is almost magnetic. Writer and theologian Frederick Buechner once said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Perhaps, the first step into knowing who or what to partner with is being able to identify that unique point where our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger collide.
At World Orphans, our collision point is church partnerships, for nothing brings us greater joy and gladness than to see two churches, crossing cultures, to partner together to meet the needs of one another. Understandably, however, not all collisions are smooth. For that very reason, we established this list of our Ten Values of Church Partnership to ensure that each partner protects the integrity and dignity of the other.
- Relationship Over Resources
Many people assume the key focal point of church partnership is the transferring or sharing of resources. Although sharing resources is a valued and integral part our partnerships, it isn’t our primary focus. A true partnership implies the building and nurturing of a relationship over a period of time that transcends the collaboration on any particular project. When the relationship is valued above all, it allows for mutual participation, transformation, and equal participation.
- Equality Over Superiority
Many partnerships diffuse over time because of paternalism. True equality in partnerships allows each of the partners to function from a place of strength rather than of weakness. Each partner should feel they have a role to play and a service to provide that benefits the partnership as a whole. Healthy partnerships intentionally incorporate opportunities for dialogue, planning, assessing, challenging, and reﬂecting together, so they don’t fall into the “superior vs. inferior” trap.
- Reciprocity Over Control
True relationship is reciprocal, a constant give and take. It is vital in cross-cultural partnerships to understand that we all have ‘poverties’ that need to be addressed… they just wear different masks. Some poverties are dirty and reside in shacks, whereas other poverties might be overly clean and hiding in mansions. Fortunately, our poverties are an invitation to another to share their gift, thereby afﬁrming their value and contribution. This requires a spirit of humility, recognizing that we are interdependent and in need of each other.
- Learning Over Teaching
If we are conscious to focus on the relationship, ask open-ended questions, and learn from our partner, we will often find that they will invite us in to see and understand their reality, including their joys and celebrations, as well as their sorrows and struggles. These open relationships will often lead us to discover the structures and systems that often trap people in poverty and injustice all throughout the world. Discoveries like that will often challenge us to confront our own role and contribution to injustice, whether through our inaction or more actively through our consumer choices, our levels of consumption, etc. Just as Christ came to make all things new, we too are called to change those systems, and even our own personal habits, for the sake of those we have come to know and love (and others who share the same challenges).
- One Body Over One Part
Church partnerships call us deeper into the image of the Church as one Body united in Christ, with many unique parts offering different gifts. As we come to know our cross-cultural partners, we learn new ways of understanding the Scriptures, and we see new models of participating in community. We experience our oneness in Christ, while simultaneously seeing the world through God’s eyes and our role in cross-cultural community… not only with our church partner, but also with the wide stretched arms of the global church.
- Affirming Dignity Over Serving Needs
Truth be told, serving others is NOT our primary calling at World Orphans; rather, we’re called to follow and imitate Christ, and in doing that, we discover three things: (1) Who am I, (2) How can I best serve others, and (3) How can I best be served? Duane Elmer, author of Cross-Cultural Servanthood, defines serving as the ability to relate to people in such a way that their dignity as human beings is affirmed, leaving them more empowered and equipped to live God-glorifying lives. One of the most vital attributes that drives churches to partnership is the desire to serve those in need. At first glimpse, “those in need” appear to be those living in extreme poverty – the impoverished, the orphaned, the vulnerable. But it doesn’t take long to realize the needs in America as well. Despite severely limited resources, the love displayed by our international church partners on their respective communities constantly inspires our US church partners to love more, worship more, and even serve more locally wherein dignity is affirmed.
- Accountability Over Intentions
Mary Lederleitner, author of Cross-Cultural Partnerships, wisely states, “Good intentions are not good enough to ensure good outcomes in cross-cultural partnerships.” For that very purpose, World Orphans does its due diligence to determine which churches qualify for our partnerships. Building relationships and trust over time, while implementing financial systems to ensure fiscal responsibility, we are able to filter out a lot of the major issues that frequently invade partnerships. In addition, we have many guidelines set up to ensure healthy communication throughout the partnership.
- Healthy Dependency Over Unhealthy Dependency
One of the greatest fears in entering into a church partnership where one church lacks necessary resources is the fear of creating dependency. Unfortunately, that fear often paralyzes the American church and lulls us into a state of apathy where many refuse to get involved in partnership altogether. Martin Luther King, Jr. boldly challenged this state of paralysis by saying, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.” At World Orphans, we have wrestled with ‘dependency’ and, with the help of Daniel Rickett’s book Building Strategic Relationships, have come to separate the issue into two distinct categories:
Healthy Dependency (interdependence)
- Partners understand their reciprocal roles and responsibilities.
- Partners enter the relationship with a clear vision of what each has to offer and gain.
- Partners maintain independence and capacity to instruct, correct, or refuse the other.
- Partners honor and guard the unique, divine calling of the other.
- Partners conduct themselves in a manner that safeguards the other’s integrity.
- Partners understand that the Lordship of the partnership rests in the hands of Jesus Christ and doesn’t seek to rob God.
- Partners miscommunicate expectations, commitments, and goals; have no clear vision.
- Partners ignore reciprocity and responsibility.
- Partners prioritize and emphasize the exchange of funds over the complementary contributions that each other make.
- Partners work with a ministry that doesn’t have a governing body or long-standing credibility.
- Partners send funds directly to an individual without establishing accountability measures.
- Partners give resources based solely on need, instead of building dignity, enhancing responsibility, and expanding results.
- Partners underwrite 100% of the partnered ministry’s need.
- Increase Capacity Over Increase Charity
Capacity issues raise similar dilemmas as dependency, but they focus more on the intent of the US church. John Perkins said, “Acts of charity can be dangerous because givers can feel good about actions that actually accomplish very little, or even create unhealthy dependency. Overcoming an attitude of charity is a difficult task because it requires givers to demand more of themselves than good will.” Robert Lupton, in his book Toxic Charity, warns us of this by saying, “We miss the big picture because we view aid through the narrow lens of the needs of our organization or church, focusing on what will benefit our team the most, and neglecting the best interests of those we serve.” World Orphans avoids this misstep by highlighting the work of the local church, empowering our partners, and improving the life of those we serve.
10. Economic Empowerment Over Project Sustainability
Arguably, one of the most talked about topics in missions these days is sustainability. Sustainability ensures that people are helped for the long term. For that reason, we are passionate about sustainability. However, our model is not conducive to overall project sustainability due to the simple fact that as children leave the program (often due to moving out of the area), they are replaced with other children in need. Therefore, rather than focus our efforts on finding sustainable options for the overall project, we focus our energy and research on the economic empowerment of our caregivers. Through the benefits of church partnership, we are able to work with many people within the US church and international church partners who have special skills and talents in the areas of economics, business, and other methods of development. The challenge is often in implementing plans cross-culturally without forcing ideas on locals. Because of that, World Orphans is sensitive and cautious regarding all economic empowerment projects and requires that all planning be proposed to the Senior Director of Projects.
If you are interested in learning more about church partnership, visit www.worldorphans.org or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. As of today we have partnerships available in Cambodia, Guatemala, Iraq, and South Africa.