How to Form Effective Mission Partnerships

World Mission Report

How to Form Effective Mission Partnerships

Forming effective mission partnerships is not just a matter of picking a country or agency with whom you feel a connection. It's much deeper than that. Here is a list of 16 key components to effective partnerships as found, the News and Issues Journal of the U.S. Center for World Mission. Phil Butler and others at Interdev came up with the list, and it’s included in Interdev’s training material on forming Strategic Evangelism Partnerships. We think it could be very helpful as we form mission partnerships.

Strategic Partnerships: Sixteen Key Effectiveness Principles

1. Effective partnerships are built on trust, openness and mutual concern. Partnerships are more than coordination, planning, strategies and tactics. The heart of the Gospel is restored relationships.

2. Lasting partnerships need a facilitator or coordinator -- someone who, by consensus, has been given the role of bringing the partnership to life and keeping the fires burning. This "honest broker," usually loaned or seconded from an agency committed to the task, must be a person of vision who will keep on despite all discouragement. Prophet, servant, and resource person -- this individual has to be trained and nurtured. Serving everyone in a partnership is a lonely task.

3. Effective partnerships have a partnership "champion" inside every partner ministry -- a person who sees how their individual agency can benefit from such practical cooperation; an individual who will sell the vision to their colleagues and keep the partnership focused to realize those benefits.

4. Successful partnerships develop in order to accomplish a specific vision or task. Partnership for partnership's sake is a sure recipe for failure. This means lasting partnerships focus primarily on what (objectives) rather than how (structure). Form always follows function -- not the other way around. Consensus is usually better than constitution!

5. Effective partnerships have limited, achievable objectives in the beginning, more expansive as the group experiences success. Though limited, these objectives must have clear Kingdom significance that captures the imagination and provides motivation for the group as well as relevance to each partner ministry's vision and objective.

6. Effective partnerships start by identifying needs among the people being reached or served. They do not start by trying to write a common theological statement. From these needs, Kingdom priorities, barriers to spiritual breakthroughs, and the resources available or needed, realistic priorities for action must be distilled and agreed.

7. Partnerships are a process, not an event. The start-up, exploration and formation stages of a partnership often take a long time. Call a formation or even exploratory meeting too early and you will likely kill the possibility of a partnership. Ultimately, personal trust is required. Taking time to establish it privately in one-on-one meetings, the facilitator will find that later, in the group, it will pay rich dividends.

8. Effective partnerships are even more challenging to maintain than to start. Making sure the vision stays alive, the focus clear, communication good, and outcomes fulfilling takes great concentration and long-term commitment.

9. Effective partnerships are made up of partner ministries with clear identities and vision. They must have their own clear mission statements and live by them. Otherwise they will never understand how they "fit in," contribute to the overall picture, or benefit from the joint effort.

10. Effective partnerships acknowledge, even celebrate, the differences in their partner agencies' histories, vision, and services. But partnerships must ultimately concentrate on what they have in common, like vision and values, and ministry objectives rather than on their differences.

11. Effective partnerships serve at least four constituencies: the people they are trying to reach; the partner agencies with their own staffs and vision; the partner agencies' funding and praying constituencies; and, eventually, the partnership itself with its growing expectations. There are many more players around the table than we often acknowledge or remember. Forget them, and eventually the partnership will fail.

12. Effective partnerships have a high sense of participation and ownership. Facilitators need to give special attention to the widest possible participation in objective-setting, planning and the process of meetings, and on-going communications--increasing the likelihood of wider ownership and commitment to the common vision.

13. Effective partnerships keep focused on their ultimate goals or vision and are not distracted by day-to-day operational demands. It is often easy to focus on the "means" rather than the "end." Only constant diligence will keep this long-term view clear.

14. Effective partnerships see prayer and communion as uniquely powerful elements to bind partners together in Christ. Effective partnerships are refreshed and empowered by frequently praying in small groups where individuals can express concern for each other's personal needs, and by the group taking communion together.

15. Effective partnerships do not come free. Just participating in the planning and coordination takes time and money. Deeper commitment may take still greater investments. But, the "return on Kingdom investment" through the partnerships should more than offset the contributions a partner agency may make.

16. Effective partnerships expect problems and plan ahead for them. Make sure a process is built into the partnership for dealing with changes, exceptions, disappointments, unfulfilled commitments, and simply the unexpected. A wise man knows one thing -- the only predictable thing is the unexpected.

For more information contact:

Interdev P.O. Box 3883 Seattle WA 98124-3883, USA, Tel: (425) 775-8330 Fax: (425) 775-8326


Interdev P.O. Box 47 Ashford Middlesex TW15 2LX, England Tel. 44/1784/420 695 Fax: 44/1784-420 696 E-mail:

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