choosing ministry partners

some time ago, a friend who leads another ministry asked me how we (ys) considering possible ministry partners. we do this quite often, particularly with our international work, but also with stuff in the states. at times, i’m sure it seems we’re a little picky. we’re willing to try stuff and fail — that’s noble and valuable, imho. but we don’t want to constantly be throwing pasta at the wall to see what sticks.

i thought about my friends’ question, and responded that we use three metrics:

1. cultural fit
2. theological fit
3. opportunity to further our mission

i responded, further, that it’s critical for any possible ministry partnership to have a strong connection on at least two of these factors (if not all three).

i’ll give an example…

ysk_logowe’ve flirted with doing ys stuff in asia for a long time. we did a bunch of contract events in singapore a number of years ago (i think i went four times). but nothing further ever came of those. we’ve had inquiries from several others in other asian countries. but it wasn’t until charles kim came to us with the suggestion of starting ys korea, that things really started to make sense. we know charles, and have found there’s a cultural fit (which is funny to say, given that this is cross-cultural stuff). and we know that there’s a good theological fit (in other words, what’s important to us at ys is also important to charles; and what’s not important to us aren’t a big deal to him either). then we had to consider the opportunity to further our mission (that being: serving, equipping and resourcing christian youth workers). and charles’ suggestion just made sense. he drew up a little business plan, and we batted it around a bit; but we knew in our gut that this was a risk worth taking.

that’s why we’re launching youth specialties korea (YSK). we’re not interested in “bringing our bag of tricks” to another country, as much as we’re interested in coming alongside some likeminded people and serving them in their efforts. we’ll be intentional about korean language youth ministry resources. and, as you may have read on my blog back when i took my set-up trip to seoul, we’re doing our first korean youth workers convention (called “the next wave convention”) in seoul next months. we have an official partnership organization (called “young 2080”), and have a half-dozen staff working in an office there now. we let our partners take the lead on what the event would look like, and they were very particular about having koreans do the seminars, but bringing in americans as the general sesssion speakers. so, we worked with them, inviting people off their “wish list”. we have dave gibbons, len sweet, brian mclaren, mike pilavachi, ralph winters, and myself as general session speakers. we’re hoping for a sell-out crowd of 1800 at this inaugural event, but will be good with 1000. we have a half dozen church helping to “sponsor” the event, and a bunch of senior pastors endorsing it.

anyhow – that was a long example. back to the question of partnership criteria. what do you think of those three considerations? any you think we’re missing?

3 thoughts on “choosing ministry partners”

  1. Marko
    Just responding. I think its great and the principles are good and each needs unpacking. My reflection is that being intentional involves modelling indigenous leadership from the start in relation to your main speakers. Model the diversity and encourage folks to also have 2 of their own people (not one person = tokenism). It is incumbent on you as the dominant partner to let them know. Also what have your Asian Korean accompanists been saying also. They are key also in developing this. Just a few thoughts from across the pond in the UK.

  2. I think these are great qualifiers? I think the only one that may be a slippery slope is number 2. As is often seen in responses to your blog how this is defined is rather broad and for some it may be rather narrow. Finding the balance is difficult. I believe YS does a remarkable job of living in the theological tension.

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