Guidelines for Partnerships with National
Copyright © 2005 by Galen Currah and George Patterson
Jan. 06 version edited by Kerby Rials,
May be freely copied, translated and distributed.
thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of
mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership
in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that
he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of
Jesus Christ. Philippians
National churches and
organizations round the globe form multiple partnerships with foreign
churches and mission agencies. This cooperation proves energizing, leading to
more effective evangelism and development. It can also become a snare,
enticing national workers into garnering foreign resources, when unwise
partnership agreements allow misunderstanding that leads to disappointment
As your church or mission
organization reviews its partnership agreements made with foreign missions
and organizations, be aware of these eight guidelines for successful
partnerships, avoiding very common errors that make many partnerships go
sour. These errors arise from weaknesses in both national churches and in the
1. Make sure you embrace the same
you partner with a national church that has no strategy, help them to develop
one that builds on Christ’s Great Commission and loving obedience to Christ. Allow
their strategy to be different from yours in minor details, especially where
different cultures and economic conditions prevail. Do not enter into
partnership when a co-operating mission’s personnel have a strategy that
differs in its basic thrust from yours, lest you and they become frustrated.
If your strategy includes multiplying new congregations through mentoring
novice shepherds, then make sure that a potential partner shares that
conviction by helping churches to reproduce. Keep your vision clear, your
strategy intact, and your methods current, lest you lose your partners and
stunt your church’s global impact.
2. Beware of competing strategies.
national churches have multiple mission partners from other countries and
A church that partners with different mission agencies can find itself in a
situation similar to polygamy. As multiple wives vie for their husband’s
favor, so partners can compete for their co-operation. In forming
partnerships, your church or mission agency loses something of its autonomy,
and so does the national church. Partnerships become painful when
each partner thinks that it has a superior program that they believe the
national church should adopt. Bear in mind that partnerships, while
beneficial, will make your task more complicated.
3. Promise only what you can deliver;
keep expectations on both sides realistic.
expecting partners to deliver many services at lower cost to your church;
this applies to both ‘sending’ churches and ‘receiving’ churches. Try not to
expect more than what the partnership will deliver. Make sure that your
partner understands any “strings” attached to funds you give. As one national
worker expressed—too late—‘a demon was riding on every dollar we received.’
Make sure that both partners know that research shows that national believers
give much less to their church when they know that foreigners donate funds to
it. Effective partnerships arrange for proportional giving. ‘Parent’ partners
should give only when the national church members give. Partners from parent
churches work only when national church members work, too.
4. Form partnerships only after
careful research, and continue close coordination.
the challenge of assessing potential partners, their capabilities, resources
and reliability. The Bible says, “Let deacons first be tested.” Test
your potential partners. The Bible also says, “Do not lay hands quickly on
any man.” Don’t be in a hurry to conclude agreements or partnerships
with national churches or local churches. Learn as much as you can about them
and take your time before committing, just as you would when considering
marriage. Balancing and accommodating their different efforts, theologies,
personalities and resources will require all the management skill that God
gives to you. Once a partnership agreement is signed, your management task is
only beginning, and will increase.
5. Develop a spirit of cooperation
rather than competition in ‘win-win’ partnerships.
negotiating partnerships, continually follow the biblical guideline of
equality: both partners contribute to the needs of the other. Does your
church need training? Materials? Advocacy? Your partner has needs as well—
maybe legal advice, travel arrangements, simple hospitality, language
helpers, accounting reports? “The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but
the righteous is generous and gives.”
6. If you are a missionary, let
national churches depend primarily on their own local resources, and help
national workers to take your place.
assumption by Western churches that cheap foreign help is the key to fulfill
the Great Commission discounts other important factors. A church should
envision multiplying congregations by continually raising up national
shepherds and by sending its own missionaries to neglected peoples. Look for
partners who have a commitment to transferring your knowledge and skill to
their personnel. The national church should envision sending its own
missionaries to neglected peoples—workers who will not go home on the next
7. Expect changes in your roles and
relationships with national churches.
partners will periodically have to make changes. Enjoy the adventure! All
organizations change, especially those in countries whose culture and economy
change rapidly. New organizational leaders bring changes in vision,
strategies, methods and funding. You might want to form agreements on a
one-year or a two-year basis. Review both your partners and your agreements
regularly and propose amendments when needed. Give your partners time to
think them over, before asking them to confirm the changes. If your partners
cannot change to suit your strategy, then you may have to bless them in
Jesus’ name and look elsewhere. Your partners do not own you; you belong to
the Lord and sometimes must show ‘tough love’.
the skills of your organizational supervisors.
Do not simply assume that supervisory capabilities
necessary to manage partnerships exist in your church or mission agency.
Spirit-giftedness does not come with complete maturity, skill or wisdom. Your
church or mission agency may not yet have people with the skill and
experience to coordinate partnerships. Recognizing this lack early and
teaching these guidelines can lead to growth and competence rather than to
frustration and criticism. You might want to ask the national church to help
train and orient its personnel or to help it get training by other, more
experienced, trainers. Delegate some managerial responsibilities to new
workers. Some may become more competent managers than you are yourself, but
you will find that they also will remain loyal to you if you trust and
find mentoring tools and sites, visit
To obtain information on how to use
Train & Multiply® (pastoral training combined with church
planting), write to Galen Currah <GalenCurrah@cvi2.net>.
To obtain information on how to
procure T&M®, visit <http://www.TrainAndMultiply.com>.
To obtain free, reproducible
training materials for new leaders & missionaries, visit
To download or purchase “Come, Let
Us Disciple the Nations” (CD-ROM), visit
To order the Church Multiplication
Guide in English visit <http://www.WCLbooks.com> or a book shop.
To download the CMG free in
Portuguese or French, visit <http://currah.info/www/cmg/>.
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download earlier MentorNet messages, visit <http://www.MentorNet.ws>.
counsel on severe church planting obstacles and training challenges, write to
George Patterson at <GPatterson@cvimail.net>