How to select a mission partner

I average one about every other day: someone wants our church to become a mission partner.

By Sam S. Rainer III

The requests come through different means — email, in-person, lunch meetings, over coffee, phone calls, and social media. The asks all differ slightly, but the spirit of most of them is the same: Will you support my ministry? Sometimes they want people resources (“We need access to your volunteer base”). Sometimes they want funding (“We need help financially”). Sometimes they want the church to help raise awareness (“We want to use your social media platform”).

Most church leaders — especially senior pastors — field a lot of requests from ministries wanting to be mission partners. I can’t blame them. If you believe in your ministry, then you should want as many mission partners as possible. Churches are often the first place people seek help, and I understand the desire to raise a lot of support.

The Internet age makes it much easier for independent missions, movements and ministries to raise funding, as well as gain access to the decision-makers in churches. Independent works are on the rise. Expect these types of requests to continue and to increase in number.

How do you begin to select a mission partner with so many out there? What do you say when you’re inundated with requests?

I’ve created three filters that help on the front end. There is more to selecting a mission partner than these filters; however, with three simple requirements, you can eliminate most requests without sounding harsh with a quick “no.”

Filter 1: Doctrine. The first requirement (and in my view, the most important) is a formal doctrinal statement from a potential mission partner. If a group cannot tell you what they believe, then you have no business partnering with them.

Some churches might want narrow doctrinal parameters. Our church has broader doctrinal parameters (we partner with people outside of our denomination). However, I must know what you believe before I ask my church to send people, money and time to support your work.

Filter 2: Vision. The second requirement is a vision statement, or some written document that details the future work of the ministry. If a group cannot tell you where they are going, then you shouldn’t get on board.

In addition to vision, I like to know both direction and tactics. Direction (or strategy) is determined by goals, and the operations of the organization is determined by tactics. I like to know both.

Filter 3: Financial Viability. The third requirement is financial statements. Understandably, some organizations are small. But, they should still show you something that reveals their financial viability. If a large organization is not willing to send you basic financial statements (at least an income statement), then they are hiding something. Don’t partner with them.

In my experience, the best mission partners are eager to share these three requirements. Why? What they believe drives their mission. Their vision is big and excites them. And, they have nothing to hide financially.

While these three filters are not the only factors in making a decision, they will help tremendously on the front end.

Sam S. Rainer III serves as president of Rainer Research, a firm dedicated to providing answers for better church health. He also is the senior pastor at Stevens Street Baptist Church in Cookeville, TN. He writes, speaks, and consults on church health issues. You can connect with Sam at @samrainer or at his blog.


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