Creating Collaborations in Ministry
By Manny Silva
If you were to ask someone what was irritating about grade school, it’s likely that their response would be “group projects.” That goal could range from creating a diagram of DNA to a reenacting a scene from Shakespeare’s Othello. Whatever the task, the pattern is the same: 1. Write out the assignment 2. Assign responsibilities 3. People don’t do their jobs 4. One or two people end up doing the project and 5. Everyone writes their name at the end. This vicious cycle happens still to this day. People would rather work by themselves than work in a group project. That preference likely does not go away just because a person is a pastor or minister. As ministers of God’s Word do we have a responsibility to collaborate? I think yes, and I think reframing how we work together with other ministers will help us overcome the urge to go through ministry in isolation.
When looking at collaboration with others in ministry, I believe looking at Acts can shed some light on where to start. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common.” Acts 2:42-44. There is no secret or new strategy to take from this passage in Acts. It is simple and straight forward – come together with brothers and sisters in Christ and watch a movement begin.
1. Friendships Before Strategy
We see this in that first verse, and the devoted themselves to fellowship and the breaking of bread. These early Christians were not focused on large white board sessions or level up networking, they were friends living life alongside each other. Before we can begin to think about what amazing things can come out of working together, we must prioritize seeing the minister across the table as a parent, spouse, someone who is going through trials just as much as we are. If you enjoy being around the people, you work with the product changes. You’re never going to enjoy being with them if you don’t do fun things together. When we do come together as pastors and ministers, we do not always have to be focused on how we fix church, community, or the world. We need to see fellowship with each other as just as important as the collaboration itself.
2. Celebrate Others and Embrace Your Limitations
It is often when collaborating with others that we feel a pressure to be more than we are. We say that we had 200 at service on Sunday when we really had 115. Our churches are only healthy when we talk about them with other pastors. When working with other ministers, we make sure that they see us as we want them to. This can make it seem like the pastor is arrogant (which there is truth to), but I believe that most ministers simply struggle with embracing the limitations God has given us. In embracing our limitations, we can begin to see the giftings in others. Oftentimes, pastors carry the church on their shoulders alone. This attitude prevents us from seeing that God has gifted others to make up for our shortcomings. Thinking that you must do everything when collaborating with others will only lead to failure. When you live in limits, you truly see how God has prepared a body made of different parts to bring His kingdom on earth. See the giftings and blessings of others and celebrate them. Celebrate their new building, baptisms, growth, and leaders. A win in the church down the road is a win in your church.
3. Speak Life
Gossip is often the death of the life that collaboration brings. If it is allowed to enter into your collaboration with others, your efforts will fall short. There’s a temptation to complain or allow immature language to come through when around people who face the same hardships as you. Yes, that pastor may have the best understanding of your frustrations but that doesn’t mean you have to speak negatively about the people you steward. When collaborating with other pastors, create spaces for hearts to be open, not to be tainted. To fill a room with prayer is to speak the most life into it. At the heart of your collaboration should be prayer. This brings us to the realization that the One who makes all things happen in ministry is God. Any collaboration that takes place should be overflowing with prayer.
4. Know the Need – Create the Mission
Collaborating with others involves opening hands and establishing rules. It is not likely that a group of ministers can reach every community or achieve every goal. A major starting point is identifying the need of a certain group that everyone in the collaboration is connected to. As the BSM director for Hardin-Simmons University, we have a monthly coffee meeting with all the college pastors in Abilene. The need – majority of HSU students are not connected with a local church or Christianity community. Everyone in our group has a connection to the need and is seeking to meet that need on their own. Once you identify the need, you can create the mission. Goals can change and be adapted, but when the need or the mission is lost, the collaboration is difficult. You can be a pastor who chooses to isolate yourself from others and the world will not stop. However, in creating collaboration with other pastors and ministers, you find friendships, co-labors, and advancements in the kingdom. The outcome is what we see in Acts 2:43, “And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.”
*The views expressed are those solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pastor’s Common