Collaboration is a buzz word. Cooperation is all the rage, especially among millennials. Collaboraton can be fun. Cooperation is necessary to get certain things done, especially in the church planting world.
Here are what I believe to be the four “C’s” of “Connection in Church Planting.” They also apply in every collaborative effort. I’ve certainly adapted and adopted these ideas from many other sources. The fact that I cannot correctly attribute them is one of the issues with collaboration.
Each “C” is a step on a scale towards complexity, with corresponding potential greater risk and reward. Communication and coordination must increase for progression.
Are we working toward the same end? Does blowing out your candle cause mine to burn brighter? Is it a zero-sum game where for me to win you must lose? Some things are rightfully competitive. Kingdom Expansion and Church Multiplication are not about competition. Our friends at New Thing Network talk about the four “A’s” of Movement: Awareness, Agreement, Alignment, and Accountability. New churches are not competition for one another or existing churches. We need to agree on this before we can align any further.
Every person and organization has a mission, a purpose or objective that drives them. Our missions are like fires we’ve been entrusted to tend. We can add fuel to another’s fire based on our expertise, abundance, and Kingdom-mindedness. Complementing another mission may not cost much and it does not mean integration. In fact, complementary efforts involve strategic alignment versus redundancy where we recognize the value of another person’s work and where we help them do what they do best. To complement is to add value without any reciprocation; it is a gift.
Thoughtfully and intentionally aligning two or more fires can mean situating them closer together so they collectively are more visible, or spacing them out so they can light a longer path. Strategic proximity requires increased communication and coordination, but it still does not necessitate integration. For example, when Stadia helps churches host Church Planting Residencies, we encourage them to cooperate by bringing residents together for strategically shared learning but not to collaborate by sharing or swapping residents. Cooperation is alignment in the same direction without intersection, like rails. It does not even require alignment on distance (where) or speed (when), cooperation is about the way (how).
The high point of connection involves at least some integration of effort and it often requires resources. This is painfully difficult and often why collaboration breaks down early on. Progressing from the relatively low bar of recognizing we are not in competition to the high bar of integration is facilitated by complementary and cooperative intermediary steps. Collaboration involves continual and mutual re-prioritization of the mission. Integration reduces redundancy. It is about stewardship, yet it is often initially inefficient. Time and continual realignment prove collaboration is most effective for long-term initiatives. Ego is the enemy of collaboration.
Trust is the foundation collaboration is built upon. It is developed as we endeavor and experiment openhandedly, as we make adjustments and are graciously moving through stages together. This process can only be expedited through shared liminal experiences. More often it takes time, and in either case, it can be painful. I am convinced collaboration is worth the cost. Nothing is more God-honoring or Kingdom-minded than believers working together. Jesus prayed for collaboration in John 17, asking his Father that his followers would be unified so that the world would know God’s love. What else is worth collaborating for?
Are you ready to start your church planting journey? Stadia is ready to help. START HERE.
Nathan “Chivo” Hawkins
Stadia’s West Regional Executive
As West Regional Executive, Nathan implements Stadia’s overall strategy in the western U.S., focusing on partner development, U.S. church planting, global church planting and Stadia advancement. Before coming to Stadia, Nathan played a key role in our Global Church Planting strategy as a Compassion International Church Relations Director. He also has first-hand U.S. church planting experience, having led in a church plant re-launch in post-Katrina New Orleans . As an adoptee and adoptive father, Nathan is passionate about children who come from difficult backgrounds. Originally from inner-city Minneapolis, Nathan grew up in a Christian home in a culturally diverse environment. After completing his bachelor’s degree in Minnesota, working in sports broadcasting and spending all his free time rock climbing, he hungered for greater purpose. He served a church in Juarez, Mexico for a year and a half, which led him to seminary, where he caught the church planting bug. Nathan and his wife Joy have three young children: Benicio, Taegen and Grace. The Hawkins are a family that welcomes foster children and love connecting with the local church.