I came across an outstanding blog post from Brad Lomenick earlier this week that I’d encourage you to check out… “7 Thoughts on Collaboration.” My thoughts today will be an expansion of ideas Brad touched on in his post.
One of the most unsettling observations I’ve made (as an unpaid or “amateur” Christian) through my involvement with Key Ministry and experiences serving on church boards is that there’s way too much competition between churches, church leaders and parachurch ministries. The level of politics and competition in ministry makes the competition in medicine look like a joke. I suspect that competition in ministry is one of many reasons why the church is nowhere near as effective as it could and should be in sharing the love of Christ with a fallen world.
From my read of the Bible, we were designed by God to collaborate with one another in our worship and service. No one has all the gifts. Everyone has some gifts. The gifts and talents of God’s people were designed to work in concert with one another. It never made sense to anyone at Key Ministry to build our organization around a single leader or personality because such approaches seemed to run counter to God’s design.
I think I get where the competition originates in the church. Forgive me…I never really slip out of psychiatrist mode when I’m volunteering-making observations about the operation of organizations and systems is second nature after 25 years.
The competitiveness and fear in ministry occur when leaders and organizations perceive a threatened loss of ability to exercise influence on behalf of the Kingdom. Obviously, many other factors contribute to the propensity of churches and ministry organizations to compete as opposed to collaborate…the need to generate adequate financial support to sustain a career in ministry looming as a large concern for many. But most folks in ministry do what they do because they’ve been personally impacted through their faith in Christ and are called to share with as many others as possible. It’s natural for the pastor who speaks in front of 1,000 people each week to desire the opportunity to influence 5,000 people a week. The problem is that it’s far too easy for a leader or church or ministry to become preoccupied with growing influence (or preventing others from gaining influence) at the expense of missing the bigger picture of God’s design for His church.
I’m very fortunate to have Harmony Hensley as a ministry teammate and friend. When our team was gaining experience in observing the less than flattering side of ministry earlier this year, Harmony was very encouraging in reminding me that there’s more than enough opportunity for everyone to build God’s Kingdom even when others block access to opportunities and platforms that offer great potential for influence.
Returning to Brad’s blog post, here are a couple of ideas I’d add that have been impactful in how our Key Ministry team has approached the issue of collaboration…
Collaboration is an imperative for us because it appears to be an essential component of God’s plan for reestablishing His earthly kingdom through the church. I’m convinced that we’ll have more opportunities than we ever dared to ask or imagine to influence churches to reach out to, welcome and minister to families of kids with hidden disabilities if we’re obedient in putting the advancement of larger Kingdom goals ahead of any individual or team recognition.
Collaboration is an imperative for us because of the energy and joy we derive from working with other like-minded ministry leaders, organizations and churches. I’m so encouraged by the successes of our friends and colleagues in the fields of disability and special needs ministry. When we’re working together with others as God intended for us to work, we experience an energy driven by the presence of God’s Spirit…the “it” that Craig Groeschel described in his book from a few years back.
Finally, we need to “be the difference” by modeling the change that we’d like to see in others. We want to be an influence on behalf of establishing a collaborative culture in the DNA of the fledgling disability/special needs ministry movement.
I’m interested in hearing from other ministry leaders…How can we work together to create a culture of collaboration in disability/special needs ministry?
Interested in joining a bunch of folks who are passionate about families of kids with special needs coming to know and love Jesus Christ? An event in which any church leader, volunteer or parent anywhere in the world who shares the same passion and has access to the Internet through a computer, tablet or smart phone can join in? That’s Inclusion Fusion. Register here for the Special Needs Ministry Web Summit, coming this November 3rd-5th.