When organisations, ministries, churches and missionaries start working together and join their networks to accomplish a shared vision, the possibilities for Kingdom impact exceed any and all expectations. In this Elevate Leadership entitled ‘Unlocking the power of partnerships in world missions’, Kärin Butler Primuth of visionSynergy shares about the work they do as an organisation to champion the power of collaboration and multi-organisational networks.
‘Mission networks and partnerships are intentional efforts,’ says Kärin. ‘They don’t just form spontaneously and operate by themselves because someone had a great idea. At the heart of these collaborative efforts are leaders who have realised that their vision is too big for any one person or even organisation to accomplish alone. It’s only going to come to fruition if they can collaborate with others.’
That’s why Kärin leads visionSynergy, an organisation that helps develop and strengthen partnerships and strategic ministry networks for the sake of the gospel’s advancement. ‘We help ministries and leaders accomplish what they could never do alone – in every part of the world where Christ is not yet known,’ she adds.
Kärin explains, ‘Today there are many different types of networks that are uniting the body of Christ for shared action. These networks are operating at global, regional and local levels. At a global level, bringing ministries together from across the world; at a regional level, bringing organisations and churches within a region together to partner around shared strategies; and at a local level (a city or community), bringing local leaders together around shared initiatives.
The stages of network development
Regardless of the level at which a network operates, Kärin explains that the same three stages of network development are at work: exploration, formation and operation. In each one of these stages there are different goals, steps that need to be taken, as well as various leadership competencies needed in order to effectively move the partnership to the next stage.
She uses the exploration stage as an example: ‘We often think that we can just jump into a meeting and try to form a partnership without having done the necessary due diligence – without truly understanding who is already in the same playing field, what they are accomplishing, and what their vision is. The exploration stage is foundational to identifying like-minded partners and understanding what the critical issues are that are shaping your particular field of ministry.’
The purpose of the exploration stage is to meet with individuals who are influential or interested in the ministry area that concerns you. This stage helps to determine if a partnership is feasible. Identify and meet individually with potential partners, discuss a vision for working together, and explore their readiness to at least talk about partnership. One needs to be fully prepared with a good understanding of the most influential people and the most critical issues before moving on to the next stage: formation.
The purpose of the formation stage is not to form a partnership but instead to explore the possibility of a partnership. The goal of this initial meeting is to work toward consensus through a series of key questions and then ultimately make a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decision to form a partnership.
When you get to the formation meeting, you’re able to really identify the challenges that you are facing together. What are the potential opportunities to work together? What are some of the possible solutions to those challenges? And then to begin to prioritise and ask the question, ‘Is there anything that we might do better together that we couldn’t accomplish if we all just keep going to our corners and doing what we’ve been doing?’ That often then leads to the operation stage.
The purpose of the operation stage is to organise this intentional partnership or network for action around your common goals. Begin defining those priorities and map out some shared projects that you could begin working together towards. Develop open communication, broad participation, and a sense of shared ownership. The partnership belongs to all the partners.
Collaboration and networks don’t just happen
Leadership teams are often so focused on their own mission and goals, which is quite normal and not necessarily a bad thing. However, collaboration doesn’t just happen by itself – there are some things leaders can do differently to enable greater collaboration.
The onus rests on leaders to initiate an exploration process to identify these other leaders, organisations and churches that might share a similar vision. It begins with identifying the other like-minded people in your field and meeting with them individually, asking them to share their vision, getting to know them and building a relationship with them. This is the foundation of trust which enables you to explore that possibility of working together. If there is something that you can imagine doing together, then you can begin to explore the possibility of working together. That doesn’t mean you’re making a commitment – you’re just saying you’re willing to start a conversation to build trust, to build relationship and begin the potential of working together.
To learn more about multi-organisational networks, listen to the full podcast here.
The Elevate Leadership podcast series is also available on all other major podcasting platforms such as Apple, Google, Overcast and YouTube.
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