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  • Garth Leno

5 ways to ruin a partnership

WINDSOR, ONTARIO – Many of our churches will “go on mission” over the summer, and some are welcoming teams from other states to help them reach their communities. Opportunities like Vacation Bible School, neighborhood clean-up, or a yard sale for low-income families help churches penetrate lostness.

The story of every church is the story of partnership. New churches get their start with the prayer, personnel, and financial support of other churches, often called “sending churches” or “supporting churches,” and their partnership is vital. Established churches need the goodwill, intercession, and camaraderie of other churches to help them stay focused on the mission of God, living in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God.

Every church and every pastor needs to think about partnership.

In the years we were immersed in the world of church planting, the Holy Spirit impressed upon us the critical and dynamic nature of developing successful partnerships with senior pastors and churches who have a heart for the gospel and the multiplication of disciple-making, gospel-saturated, mission-focused churches (Acts 9:31).

But like every church planter, I learned some painful lessons along the way, and after talking to other planters with horror stories of their own, here are my top five suggestions on how to ruin a church partnership.

5. Set expectations they can’t meet

In church planting networks, we talk much about raising up partners who will Pray, Participate, and Provide. You want and need partners at all three levels. If you expect a new friend or a supporting church board to provide funds without questions after only your second conversation, you are going to be disappointed, and the pastor will likely avoid your next call or text! Slow it down. Be patient. Develop the relationship first. Lower your expectations.

4. Be fuzzy about your vision

Every partner and potential partner we’ve been graced with has asked me the same question: “What is your vision?” Their eyes glaze over in about 30 seconds if you waffle and vacillate and beat around the bush. Give it to ‘em straight. Share your vision with fire.

On his blog, Pastor Danny Wood (Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama), wrote, “Help me see the grander vision God has placed on your heart and in your mind. Let me step into your world and see through your eyes the work that God is doing and can do in your part of the city. Vision not only inspires and motivates the members of the church, it does the same for potential partners.” So do not be fuzzy about your vision!

3. Do not share your needs

I once had an interview with the Senior Vice-President of one of the largest companies in Canada. I was there to solicit his help on an international relief and development project I was working on. After three minutes of my finely tuned presentation, he interrupted.  “Garth, what do you need from us?” I jumped into an interminable explanation of our approach to fund-raising. He interrupted again. “Garth, when you figure out what you need from us, contact my Executive Assistant, and we’ll see what we can do.” Ouch! That day I learned to share my (our) needs quickly, concisely, and honestly. You should do the same.

2. Delegate all the responsibility

Initializing and maintaining church planting partnerships is a lot of extra work for busy pastors. But consider the alternative – going it alone – and then get busy. Don’t delegate all the responsibility for communication and partnership development to an elder or someone in your church who happens to be computer savvy. You are the pastor. You’re the vision-caster. You may need help on this, but you are the one person partners want to hear from. Do not delegate the crucially important role of partnership development to someone else. Lead the charge yourself.

1. Don’t communicate

The number one reason great partnerships die is lack of clear communication. If you want to ruin your friendship with a supporting pastor or church, do not reply to email, do not engage in social media, don’t respond to texts, and don’t return phone calls. And believe me, it happens every day!

Planters are busy people, I get it. But if you get so busy that you do not communicate effectively and efficiently with churches who care about you, then you will soon find yourself with no prayer, no participation, and no provision.

Several years ago, I developed a deep and meaningful relationship with Brian Bloye, senior pastor at West Ridge Church in Dallas, Georgia. Our church nurtured a partnership with West Ridge that continues to bear fruit ten years later. Brian often called me, texted me, and prayed with me over the phone. He and a few staff members visited our church in Canada more than once. They provided generously so we could engage our city, make disciples, and plant The Gathering Church. This fruitful gospel-saturated relationship was built on good communication, and we still connect regularly, ten years later.

Ed Stetzer once said, “If a true multiplication movement is to take place, it will require reconsidering the ways in which we cooperate.” The context of his comment may not be your context, or mine, but it fits. We must consider carefully and prayerfully how we work with our partners, current and future, for the glory of God!



Dr. Garth Leno is the Pastor/Planter Care Specialist with the BSCM. He serves in a similar role with the Canadian National Baptist Convention, and he is the founding pastor of The Gathering Church in Windsor, Ontario, a church he planted with his wife, Patty, and a few of their friends.


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