3 Lessons from Partnering with Churches from Other Denominations
I remember when I was in the 10th grade and going to a small church. I was a part of a very small youth group and I had just recently caught a passion to live for Jesus in every area of my life. I was going to this small church, but a lot of my friends were at a different church. So I thought it would be a really cool idea to organize a joint-service project where we shared the gospel with people as we were serving them. This would not only get my friends all engaged in the mission of Jesus, but it would be even more effective because of the larger group we would be able to gather this way. However, when I brought this idea to my pastor, he told me no because “we don’t worship the same way as they do.”
I was crushed. I was hurt. I was disillusioned.
Something just didn’t seem right about that line of reasoning. If what he said were true, it would lessen the effect of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20, allowing for slower progress due to competing worship philosophies. A battle of post-salvation theological distinctions would actually be an appropriate reason to not reach the world as effectively as we could, otherwise.
Not only that, but it would also negate the entire point of Acts 10 – namely that the good news of Jesus is for everyone, even those who come from different worship traditions…or none at all. And if this is true, then it can certainly come from people at churches with different worship styles.
If Jesus is preached, God works…unless there are differing worship preferences at play. Then he might actually be upset with his name being lifted high.
This seemed to be the logical extent of the reasoning I was given. I didn’t think that would actually jive with the message of the Bible. But I was in 10th grade, and he was my pastor. So I just let the issue slide.
But something about that interaction never left me. Ever since then, I have had a passion to see Jesus glorified in the church and in the world…even if that meant that most efficient way to do so was by partnering with a different church or ministry.
In my life and ministry since then, I have had the joy of participating in multiple inter-denominational ministries and ministry experiences. And we have seen so much done for God’s glory that would not have been possible if we stayed in our own holy huddles.
Right now, in our youth ministry, we are in this kind of partnership. During the summer months, we have found that most of the families and students in our area are busier than they are in the school year. With sports camps, band camps, summer camps, summer jobs, dating relationships, family trips, boy/girl scouts, and the like competing for their students’ attention and time, it’s hard for any of the local youth ministries to really get much momentum to make it through the summer. So we decided to partner together to reach the students of our area for Jesus. There are two Presbyterian churches, a Pentecostal church, two non-denominational churches, a Methodist church, and the local Young Life chapter that all take part.
Together, we decided to host “Summer Beach Nights.” These are fantastic weekly events at a beach near us where students are invited to come and play volleyball, soccer, 9-Square in The Air, Spikeball, Kan Jam, capture the flag and a bunch of other fun games. Each ministry chips in to bring the games they have. Because of this partnership, the number of students each of us is able to reach is often five or six times greater than the typical number if we were on our own. And each week, a different ministry hosts the night. This means that they bring the food and give the message for the week. And between the 7 of us, that covers the summer weeks.
This partnership has been such a blessing for so many in our area. Here are 3 things I have learned about partnering with other churches and ministries:
1. Connect with Ministry Leaders from Other Churches that are Also Focused on Jesus.
I think the hardest thing to do, here, is to initiate the idea, or even the conversation about the idea, of working together. But what I’ve learned is that confidence and effectiveness begin with conviction. When you believe something should happen, that will influence how you pursue it. So make some phone calls. Call up other youth pastors or parents or school teachers in the area that are also focused on Jesus and connect with them. Share your ideas with them and listen to theirs. Hear their heart for Jesus and talk about their love for students. Make a point to connect on a relational level before you do anything. But don’t expect it to just happen where it isn’t happening, currently. You have to make the move if you ever want something to happen.
2. Plan an Event or Program That Points People to Jesus.
Once you have made some relational connections that center on Jesus and local students, start talking about ways that you can reach more students in your area and point them to Jesus. Maybe it’s a beach night. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe you plan an area-wide scavenger hunt. Maybe you put on a soccer camp. Maybe you host a concert. Whatever it is, join forces to plan a big event that will gather crowds. Then talk about how you will point them to Jesus.
3. Don’t Take Your Focus Off Jesus.
Once you start planning things, this is where the danger lies. Because you come from different church backgrounds, it can be tempting to turn different things into evil things. Just because it’s different from how you worship or operate at your church doesn’t automatically make it wrong. Consider the possibility that there may be multiple ways to gather crowds and point them to Jesus because remember, it’s not about you or your church – it’s about Jesus. Focus on working for Jesus, point people to Jesus and giving all the glory to Jesus.
When these 3 things can be true of how you work together, you have just partnered with another church, or churches, for the glory of God!
What about you? How have you seen inter-church partnerships done well? What are things to avoid? Let us know in the comments below!
Frequently drinking specialty coffee or eating Doritos’ Locos tacos, Brant Cole is often mistaken for just another student. With his wife Christine, he has been in youth ministry since 2010. Gifted in relational connections and transformational preaching, Brant finds it to be one of the highest privileges to do ministry with and to students. To him, student ministry is extremely important because students are not just the church of tomorrow; they are the church of today. Brant has his M.A. in Pastoral Studies and Congregational Leadership from Moody Theological Seminary, and currently serves as Youth Pastor at WALLOON LAKE COMMUNITY CHURCH in Walloon Lake, Michigan. You can connect with Brant on FACEBOOK and learn more about his church’s youth ministry on FACEBOOK and INSTAGRAM.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.