By John Pierce
Independence is a good thing. But it is often wise to use such freedom in cooperation or collaboration.
Those of us who lead organizations that cooperate with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship had such conversations over the past couple of days. They were constructive.
It is naïve, however, to think that every person or group can work hand-in-hand. Sometimes missions and methods don’t mesh. And there are other ingredients for successful collaboration.
The directors and staff of Baptists Today/Nurturing Faith publishing, although fully independent, value collaboration highly. In fact, the various partnerships we are engaged in at this time are too numerous to name easily.
It is the “cooperative” nature, as opposed to a controlling one, that makes the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship a comfortable home for me both professionally and personally.
The challenge of building effective collaborative relationships is in both identifying a good partner and in clarifying the shared mission. Clearly-stated and firmly-held criteria are essential.
Our organization’s partnerships are built on these criteria or ingredients:
TRUST is the first ingredient. Without it, there is no need to move on to another step.
Leaders of the collaborating groups must feel assured that agreements will be upheld and loyalty will be strong. Healthy partnerships cannot exist if one has any fear of being treated unfairly.
I want to partner with those whom I’d trust with a blank check.
SHARED WORK is the second requirement. Collaboration works well when both partners work well — and with different skills in their respected areas of expertise.
Competence for and commitment to carrying out the project (or projects) to completion are needed. A lazy or disengaged partner who doesn’t share the load violates the essence of collaboration.
Partnerships are not designed so one does less. But so that more gets done together.
MUTUAL BENEFITS are why collaboration makes sense. Each organization gets something beneficial from this arrangement that could not be achieved, or achieved as easily, if done alone.
However, those mutual benefits should be tied to shared values — and ultimately result in greater benefit to a shared mission.
In the case of our organization and many others that relate to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, as well as the Fellowship itself, which is designed organizationally on a partnership model, the focus of our collaboration is to provide high-quality resources and services to thoughtful Baptist Christians and churches (and those of other traditions who share the same or similiar values of faith and freedom).
“Who ultimately benefits from this collaboration?” is a good question when considering a partnership. Self-serving cooperation is not worth the effort. There must be an impact beyond what either party sees in an annual report.
Squeezing in several hours of conversation — amid proofreading and making preparations for an upcoming Board meeting —was challenging. But anything that leads to more and healthier collaboration for good causes is worth the investment.
Whether one leads a congregation or other organization, or works independently, it is good to create and clarify criteria for collaboration — and then go find those whose good match will lead to good results.