Six Christian Principles for Fruitful Collaborative Relationships

My wife works for a church. Through her work, she subscribes to the CCCC Bulletin, a periodical publication of the Canadian Council of Christian Charities.  She shared a recent edition with me, knowing it included a worthy piece on collaboration. Thank you, dear!

Christian Collaboration: 6 Principles

In the April 2018 publication of the CCCC Bulletin, Rev. John Pellowe, CEO of the CCCC, wrote a helpful article on “Christian Collaboration: Leveraging Your Ministry’s Potential”. The article included “six Christian principles for fruitful collaborative relationships”. The principles are oriented to x-ministry (x-organization) collaboration. From my lens, the principles are applicable writ large; i.e., even beyond a Christian organizational context.

The six principles, along with my own brief, somewhat related, commentary, follow:

[Credit: The Six Principles were developed by Rev. John Pellowe MBA DMin, CEO of the Canadian Council of Christian Charities. They were published in “The Church At Work” and then in the CCCC Bulletin, Issue 2, April 2018. Both are available at cccc.org. I’ve used them here with CCCC permission.]

1. Mission Alignment

Ministries can collaborate when their mission priorities align. While all Christian ministries are aligned around the mission Christ gave his Church, individual ministries may not have the same priorities as they pursue specific parts of the Church’s mission. When one ministry’s particular focus aligns with another’s priority, their respective missions are in alignment, and they can work together fruitfully.

Commentary – Let’s find our sweet spot of mutual benefit, for working together.

2. Mutual Respect

Mission alignment makes it possible for ministries to work together , and mutual respect makes it likely that they will actually do so. To respect a person or organization is to acknowledge and appreciate their worth, including the differences that distinguish the two parties

Commentary – Appreciation is our greatest psychological need.

3. Mutual Vulnerability

Each ministry must have a realistic assessment of what they are able and not able to do well. They need to share this information with their potential collaborators and trust the others to provide the collaboration project with what they themselves cannot. Trust requires mutual vulnerability which will lead to better mutual understanding.

Commentary – Information is power. Be willing to share it, even if it humbles us, especially if it humbles us.  Demonstrate humility to gain respect from your team.

4. Empathy for Constraints and Risks

Better understanding should be made concrete with greater empathy and more sensitive policies and actions towards each other. Cost-sharing, paying more than your “fair share”, is one way of showing respect for the partner’s more limited resources, and it reduces barriers to participation. Ensure that any cost-sharing is well document, and that you are using your resources to carry out your own work.

Commentary:  Agree on who brings what to the collaborative partnership. Here’s my template for drafting a Collaboration Agreement.

5. Strengthening of the Local Church

Transferring knowledge, skill and vision to the partner can increase its confidence in what it can achieve. This transference can lead to long-term ripple effects as the partners staff and volunteers increase in confidence. They may even start doing additional projects, outside of the collaboration, on their own.

Commentary – Be unconditionally constructive. Leave them stronger, as a result of the collaboration.

6. Personal Relationship

The relationship between collaborating organizations will be no better than the personal relationships of staff members or volunteers from the collaborating partners who actually have to work together. Simply knowing some personal is not enough. Praying and worshipping together is foundational to strong relationships between Christians. The relationship between ministry organizations can then be formalized in a covenant.

Commentary – Relationship before business.

Traditions

I value these principles for collaborative partnering. They speak to me of interpersonal connection, generosity, and practicality.

Now – I wonder what other collaboration principles, associated with different religious traditions, we could learn from?

[Ben provides collaboration and conflict management services for small to medium-sized businesses, nonprofits and local governments. Contact Ben.]

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