In addition to the positive feedback in the previous article, I have a few challenges to the design of these church-and-field partnership meetings.
The first one is audience. Who are the meetings for? If they are for churches who are already partners, the information is too basic and normally given in a formal rather than interactive format. Even though there may be some new information, it is mixed in with what a current partner church should already know. It isn’t a good use of a current partner church’s time.
If the conferences are for churches that have little experience with the unreached group, a conference isn’t the best format to engage these churches. Representatives of churches get only a few minutes of interaction with the field personnel and no time to interact with the actual people that the partnership is trying to reach. Specific ministry projects are often only introduced at a surface level among a full menu of various projects and are difficult to understand for a new partner. This format makes it difficult for new partners to know what their church should do next.
The other issue to consider in any event is the time and financial costs. This particular conference had over ten people from the field attend. Not counting the time given to preparing the conference, with travel time, each of the ten field workers spent a week away from their ministry and family.
What is the solution? Whenever an existing partner who comes to the field to do a ministry project, field personnel should actively ask partners to include two or three other churches in the project. Here are the advantages to this approach:
- The best representatives (fully engaged partners) do the recruiting using their existing relational networks.
- This filters out churches that would show interest in a USA based partnership meeting, but not really be interested in going overseas and interacting with the people group. Only the most serious churches will be involved.
- It allows potential partners to consider their partnership on the field, in the context of where the ministry will happen, with colleagues who are friends, and among field personnel who have more time to get to know the potential partners and find the best project fit for their specific church.
- Closer interaction with field personnel during a project allows seasoned partners to go to the next level of understanding of the culture and strategy and at the same time allows new partners to get the basics. This informal interaction is much better than the formal presentations that are given at partnership meetings.
- Potential partners can actually get to know some people from their people group and begin ministry to them. This alone is enough of a reason to have the potential partner church start out on the field rather than at some church meeting room in the USA.
- This requires little time from people who live on the field for either recruiting or hosting a partnership conference.
For me, I’m not going to make it a habit to attend these partnership meetings or encourage others to do so. It is much better to use time and money resources to find someone who is already connected and join them on the field rather than attend a meeting in the USA.