The Dilemma for Christian Ministries
I have encountered several situations recently where it appeared Christian ministries prefer to compete rather than collaborate. They wanted the success of their own ministry or congregation or denomination rather than the significance of kingdom efforts.
One involved a conversation with the pastor of a very large and significant church with multiple campuses. This pastor reached out to another pastor who also leads a very large and significant multiple campus congregation in his same megalopolitan area. The purpose of the conversation was to explore ways the two congregations could collaborate. The two churches had at least one campus within one and one-half miles of each other.
They were clearly swapping members and attenders around various campuses. Both could identify examples of people-swapping. When people-swapping is the focus then preChristians and unchurched people are seldom the focus. There may be some underchurched or dechurched Christians who are reclaimed for active church participation, but not many preChristians and unchurched persons initiated into a community of Christian faith.
The other pastor was not interested. He was afraid it would take the focus off of his church. Growth of his church rather than growth of the kingdom was his stated goal. The first pastor was hoping they could coordinate where future campuses would go so they could have a synergy of efforts to reach preChristians and unchurched persons in their megalopolitan area. “No” was the answer.
The initiating pastor felt a sense of loss. One pastor had a kingdom focus, and the mission and vision of his congregation affirms this. The other pastor had a church focus and his response affirms this.
This is just one illustration of Christian ministries of various types competing rather than collaborating. What is the stance of your Christian ministry, congregation, or denomination? Competition or collaboration? Let’s alter our focus by looking at denominational movements regarding competition and collaboration.
Since my lifelong heritage and connection is Baptist, and since I am the staff person for the North American Baptist Fellowship of the Baptist World Alliance at www.NABF.info, I frequently observe this part of our Protestant movement. However, many of the things I observe have similar illustrations in churches and denominational organizations with whom I consult who are Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Disciples, Episcopal, Wesleyan, Brethren, Assemblies of God, and others.
The relatively new moderate to progressive movement among Baptists that came out of the Southern Baptist movement can count a loose network of around 2000 congregations. This makes it a mid-size denominational movement.
This movement has resulted in the launching of many new parachurch organizations, or auxiliary organizations of existing institutions, including new or newly aligned colleges, seminaries/divinity schools, institutes, learning centers, missional movements, news, publishing, consulting and coaching organizations, etc. It has also resulted in numerous networks, strategic alliances, and partnerships with existing organizations sympathetic with this movement.
The reality is that there are more of these parachurch organizations than needed for a mid-size denominational movement. There are certainly more than can be funded by available sources. It creates a tremendous competition for funds and constituents in an environment that screams for collaboration. Yet collaboration is elusive.
What got me into this subject is that one organization in the network of this movement contacted me recently. They asked about the viability of their future, what mission and vision would appeal to the movement, and what additional funding sources they could consider. They seem to come in second or third on many lists, and seldom first. They seem to have a small loyal support base, but still have identity issues and trouble getting attention among the chatter of so many organizations within this network.
This caused me to renew some personal strategic thinking about various perspectives on collaboration and how it might positively impact denominational movements of all sizes where competition seems to be stronger than collaboration.
Among the questions I think about are these: What is the difference between vertical collaboration and horizontal collaboration? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? What is the role of capacity building within collaboration?
When is collaboration not collaboration, but conforming to one another? Does collaboration ever involve compromise? Is what appears to be collaboration ever one entity co-opting another entity to fulfill their own desires?
Why are businesses, hospitals, and other organizations collaborating, sharing capacities, and even merging, but church-related organizations are not considering this as often as they ought? Is collaboration by church-related organizations a spoke and hub design or a distributive network?
Stay tuned as I think and write about these realities.