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Christian ministries can cooperate

Should Christian ministries view each other as competition for a limited pool of donations and volunteers?

We know they shouldn’t. But they do. A lot.

What if replacing this scarcity mindset with a truly cooperative ministry model actually makes all of our ministries more effective?

Thereasa Winnett

Three ministries here in Atlanta decided to make an intentional effort to find ways they could help each other recently.

The ministries:

Teach One Reach One Ministries: I founded this ministry, which is dedicated to providing free resources to other ministries in the U.S. and around the world that help children and teens build stronger faith foundations and reach their godly potential.

Atlanta Inner City Ministries (AIM): an urban ministry program connected to the Lakewood Church of Christ in Atlanta.

Georgia Agape: a faith-based not-for-profit that provides services for foster care, adoption and unplanned pregnancy counseling and assistance.

Although our ministries have similar goals, it would be easy for us to work independently of each other — and compete for the time and finances of Christians in the Atlanta metro.

For us, the cooperation began with Sharalyn Donald, a volunteer who oversees AIM’s Hope for the Family Christmas outreach program for parents in at-risk circumstances. (Donald’s husband is pulpit minister for the Lakewood church.)

Donald reached out to Teach One Reach One to see if we would be willing to provide a class that could introduce the parents to the concept of God as the ultimate parenting expert. The goal: giving attendees practical, research based, biblical things they could do to help their children. We gladly accepted.

Then Georgia Agape hired Donald to serve as their resource development coordinator. With her years of experience working with at-risk parents, their children and our state’s department of family and children services, she was an ideal fit for the position.

“I learned that Georgia Agape had a desire to expand the variety of training opportunities they were providing for current and prospective foster and adoptive parents,” Donald said. “I remembered the response from the parents who attended our most recent Hope For the Family workshops.”

“More than anything, foster parents need practical methods to parent hurting children.”

She spoke with LaQuisha White, director of social services for Agape. They contacted me, and the three of us worked together to see how we could use the talents and resources God gave us to help our community.

The result: a workshop titled “Helping Hurting Children Heal: A New Paradigm for Christian Foster and Adoptive Parenting.”

White recalled, “Our parents were enthusiastic about having someone provide part of their ongoing training who was able to put together research, best practices and, most importantly, the faith piece in ways they could understand and use immediately.

“More than anything, foster parents need practical methods to parent hurting children. Being able to tell prospective foster and adoptive parents they will receive this type of free training increases the likelihood they will want to foster and also improves their retention rate.”

Teach One Reach One, in turn, benefitted from helping both ministries. Providing free workshops gave us an opportunity to reach our ministry goals with parents and volunteers from the other two ministries’ large, local client base.

Too often, the ministries Christians launch or oversee are asked to take on tasks for which God has not really gifted them. Instead of partnering, we try to do everything on our own, and a lot of what we attempt just isn’t done well.

“We believe that our ministries were strengthened — and neither our funding nor our volunteer bases were negatively impacted.”

Changing how we normally do ministry isn’t always easy. It’s best to look for areas of natural overlap when adopting a cooperative ministry model. Then, try to find the strongest areas of each ministry.

Not only does this model help us serve better, it also saves money. In our experience, partnering gave us access to people, skills and opportunities that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. We believe that our ministries were strengthened — and neither our funding nor our volunteer bases were negatively impacted.

In economic terms, you could call it “ministry bartering.” With a Christian mindset, though, the cooperative model views each ministry as a part of the body with specific strengths and needs.

And as we learn from 1 Corinthians 12, Christ’s body is made up of many parts, each with unique gifts to be used to serve the others.

Thereasa Winnett is the founder of Teach One Reach One Ministries. She and her family worship with the East Cobb Church of Christ in Marietta, Ga. Read her blog at www.parentinglikehannah.com.

Filed under: Adoption Atlanta foster care inner city ministry Opinion Views

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