At the Global:Church Forum, the pre-conference also hosted a panel discussion with ministry leaders featuring Menchit Wong of Compassion International, Stephan Baumann of World Relief, Sarah Davis of Ravi Zacharias Global Ministries, Jeff Lee of Wycliffe Bible Associates, Ajith Fernando of Youth for Christ, and Oscar Muriu of Nairobi Chapel.
From a ministry leader perspective, what does partnership with donors look like?
Fernando: There are different levels of partnership. Ideally, it is a spiritual fellowship where there is an interplay of each one giving from their riches to another. You may give to the poor, but they may teach you about prayer because they tend to be good at it.
Davis: Alignment is key to good partnership. Ideally a donor gives to something that matches their passions.
Wong: Partnership is a relationship not a transaction. We realized that for it to be genuine, it must be a relationship. If we have a common vision that God has given us, we must stretch ourselves together. A partnership must be mutually respectful.
Baumann: Partnership in its fully iteration is very messy if it is relational. At the same time, some partnerships are meant to be just transactional, and that’s okay. We’ve chosen to get messy with specific donors.
Lee: Transformational partnership is like a marriage. You aren’t always going to like each other. Time equals intimacy. It takes time, builds on core values, educates, and leads to participation. True partnership happens when everyone involved is changed.
Muriu: As a local pastor in the middle of Africa, I would define partnership as against the paradigm of 1 Corinthians 12. (1) Partnership is a relationship where we are one. How do we build trust? Trust becomes the fuel that lets us move forward. (2) Partnership is also an interdependent relationship that brings different types of equity to the table – financial, spiritual, relationally, etc. We must value what each person brings to the table. It will not be healthy if one equity is esteemed higher than another. (3) A partnership must build reciprocity into it. If one partner receives, receives, and receives and never has an opportunity to give, it will lead to co-dependency. It creates entitlement. (4) We must allow the receiver to have some way to give back. A partnership must not be built upon guilt. (5) A partnership must have humility that postures itself to learn before it offers to teach.
What does the West need to learn in building partnership?
Fernando: Funding is easy to find for things that pull at the heart strings, so there is a great fear that what people like to give is what will be given regardless of if it meets the biggest needs. Fighting hunger often trumps spreading the gospel.
Wong: The people in the West have watches, but they don’t have time. People in the West are in a hurry for results, but transformation cannot happen overnight. We destroy the integrity of a person’s life if we demand for change overnight. We would not demand that our own children develop so quickly, but we expect ministries to produce impossible results. Even when the money is gone, the fruits of the work are in the people resources.
Muriu: People in the South want to spend time on relationships and the Northerners want quick results. We need to learn from each other. You don’t do real transformation by tomorrow. Child trafficking is not going to go away overnight. If you want to stop it, it will be a 50 year program. If you want to reach people groups, you are in a 100 year program. So just relax and recognize that it will take time, but also recognize it is about an agenda and not just relationships.
Lee: People from the developing world don’t say, “We don’t have what they have!” They just have fun and make the most of what they have. You have to spend time in culture. In Korea, white American men have the hardest time adapting because they only try to adapt for a short while before going back to their habits. Don’t give up. Keep adapting.
Baumann: When my family learned to create relationships without agenda while living in Africa, I learned to lay down the dominance of my culture (white Westerner) and embrace repentance. I think it is time for the global South to rise to greater heights, but it is not an either/or. It is God’s Kingdom.
What is the one thing you want to tell people who want to work towards better global ministry?
Wong: It is an exciting time for donors to get out of a checkbook mentality and look to get engaged. That’s really where the transformation and epiphany happens. Donors make us more accountable.
Lee: Leave room for the mystery of God to speak to you. Be vulnerable. Vulnerability is attractive. Vulnerability will create grace for our faults.
Fernando: Strategy is a wonderful idea, but define strategy biblically. What is strategy biblically ca seem the opposite to society. Very often when we are thinking of strategic initiatives, it often involves taking people away from their role and placing them in a strategic job. But this doesn’t reflect the Kingdom value of commitment. We need to model commitment.
Muriu: (1) It was hard enough doing mission and partnerships when they were just generous. But now that some want to be strategic, who decides what is strategic? It can lead to power struggles. The one who holds the purse strings decides what is strategic. (2) The most effective transformational movements I know are very small. And one of the dangers of working with Western donors is they want to scale things up. When you scale some ministries up, you destroy them. (3) Fifty years from now what will be left? What will be left standing? I am keen to ask what can we do that will continue to be a blessing to the Kingdom 50 years from today.
Davis: The shift of donors becoming is strategic is exciting as long as it keeps you on track with your vision and your mission.
Baumann: Set the agenda together, but let the local leaders lead that conversation.