By Janie Mehaffey
READ THE MAIN ARTICLE: “Nurturing Missions Partnerships” by Janie Mehaffey
About six years ago, First Christian Church of Canton, Ohio, dismantled its missions board. The church is passionate about pursuing active partnerships, so it wanted to shift decision making and relationship building beyond one team by taking a more universal approach to missions giving.
The church now supports endeavors that allow the entire congregation to serve alongside the missionaries it financially supports. During the time of this transition, Joe Franz served as executive pastor of community impact with First Christian. He says the shift in focus helped missions penetrate to the core of the church, garnering more enthusiasm, buy-in, and participation.
As an example, Franz cites a young couple whose ministry in England the church supports. With the amount they give, the church views the couple as an extension of their staff. By doing so, the church stays in better communication and tends to highlight the couple more in communication tools (e-news, Web sites, weekly publications). “Having a smaller number of missions allows us to give them justice in terms of communicating with the congregation,” he explains. “We can’t do this if we’re supporting 40 or 50 missions.”
Scott Rosen, executive pastor of disciple development, says the shift allows First Christian to zero in on places where it can be involved in the discipleship process. He described a tough decision the church made to cut funding to a camp in California so it could focus on a local camp. The Ohio church worked with the California camp to ensure a healthy transition and encouraged the camp staff to cultivate relationships with local churches.
“The heart of the staff has changed from attractional to missional,” says Rosen. “We’ve rearranged missions into geographic categories. Staff serve with lay leaders to oversee each area, communicating with and helping our partners. We don’t just talk to them; we become a part of what they’re doing.”
Transitioning to this type of missions approach hasn’t come without challenges. Funding reallocations, including shifts to local ministry such as a building project, have forced leaders to make tough calls. “You’re dealing with people’s lives who have counted on you,” Rosen says with pain in his voice. “But it has all been prayed about. We have sought wisdom. When we’ve made mistakes, we’ve revisited and come to better decisions.”
He adds, “We walk by faith that God is the ultimate provider.”
Janie Mehaffey is a communications strategist for Fishhook, a communications and creative services company helping churches and other Christ-centered organizations compete in a crowded culture.