The Power of Partnership: Overcoming a Silo Mentality
Have you ever caught yourself thinking, “I will just do it myself”? Maybe you know you ought to be more collaborative but who has time! In ministry where things can get complicated quickly. it can truly feel like collaboration is not worth it. For a variety of reasons, the church is notorious for building silos historically. Some of that between churches could be due to reasonable caution doctrinally or denominational differences. But I want to show you why strategic partnership in ministry is both important inter-departmentally and externally with like-minded churches. You might agree that teamwork and collaboration are good things.
Break free from the limitations of a silo mentality and experience the power of partnership in ministry.
Intellectually you might know partnership is helpful for a plurality of leaders to be effective. But relationally or emotionally you might experience hesitation because trust has been broken before or other leaders have disappointed you. Some of us struggle with fear of man, pride, insecurity and busyness that hinders cooperation. These are among many things that cause church leaders to neglect team building and sharing best practice ideas with other leaders.
Beware the Echo Chamber
Many churches tend to inadvertently adopt a silo mentality where they become an echo chamber for what they have always done, and ministries compete for scarce resources. Internal departments focus on planning independently. Staff and elders don’t collaborate with other churches and ministries in the area. We want bigger impact and more influence but we tend to act like it is more about working harder than smarter. It has been so refreshing to see cohorts of leaders in our network focus on partnerships in prayer, leadership skills, ministry development, and deep accountability and friendship.
Partnership Brings Synergy
The Oxford dictionary defines synergy as the interaction of cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of the separate effects. Synergy is the product of partnership. It reminds me of Ecclesiastes 4 where the Bible points the power of two or more (Eccles. 4:9-12). It’s obvious to most of us that two can do even more than twice as much as one can do alone!
Why then do we work in siloes so often. Let’s face it partnership is not easy. We need to vet our partners carefully, we need to work on partnerships constantly, we have to be willing to be humble, to be generous, and to have a multiplying mentality. How well do we listen to alternate perspectives? How hard is it for you to not be the smartest person in the room? And if in some cases you are, how do you defer so others can contribute? For some it just feels like too much work. Partnering on ideas, projects, and events creates synergy but it does take some initial risk. The investment often pays huge dividends!
Uncover the potential for synergy that comes from working together, where the combined effect exceeds the sum of individual efforts.
It’s not just additive impact it can be exponential. Think about Kingdom impact not just increasing effectiveness of your ministry.
Partnership Breaks Down Siloes
The same Oxford dictionary defines siloes for our purposes as” isolated from others” (one system, process department, etc.). Proverbs 18:1 warns us against isolation. At best it limits perspective, decreases moral, and breaks down unity. At worst it can creates a stubborn resistance to change, a pride of our way or the highway, and burnout. The cost can be counted in HR terms but more than that it potentially hinders Gospel impact! We are to strive together for the faith of the gospel (Phil 1:26). A synergy mindset (we are better together) won’t just help you do what you do better but it can also be transforming. It can change the whole way you do ministry. While that can be a bit unnerving at first if you are in ministry to please God you quickly see the beauty of working together in a way that displays humility, unity, and synergy.
Case in Point
Let me give you an example from my ministry experience. We were doing a lot of counseling at a church where I led a soul care ministry years ago. It was getting overwhelming. It was clearly a “problem we had to solve”. Do you have any of those in your church? Consider this process and see if you can relate. First, we took a siloed approach to solving the problem. We saw the problem as “we need to decrease the waiting list”. You will see later that was a bit myopic and more of a departmental approach. We did not seek outside perspective, we did not think preventatively. We attacked the problem by training more counselors, and creating more appointments. Even after we did the training targeting new counselors we really couldn’t keep up with demand and when we tried we were burning out newly trained counselors. Part of the issue was we did not see the problem fully and we did not seek help from other departments or outside the church.
Step into a paradigm shift and unlock the incredible possibilities that come from stepping out of isolation and into the beauty of partnership.
Thinking Outside the Box
The good news is desperation made us rethink the issue. We realized that our thinking needed to be outside the box or we would end up in the same boat. So, we went back to the drawing board. Literally the white board in a conference room. No idea was too crazy. But this time we asked other leaders from our discipleship ministries and a few biblically counseling experts for their feedback. We began to realize our problem was not just needing more counselors but for some of our “type C counselors “ (type C = I think compassion means never saying no, I like to be wanted, no one else is trained like us) they had trouble admitting they were over extended. A silo mentality won’t often change until you care more about the people than “what use to work” or your definition of the problem.
Others pointed out that our training was excellent but needed to be simplified and shared more broadly. We asked some counselees how we were doing and some said our approach made people felt a bit like cattle in a shoot. They were “being processed as efficiently as possible”. The other thing that let us think more urgently and outside the box was we knew it wasn’t just our problem. At first other departments were like “good luck with that”. But as they were invited in they assumed some of the responsibility for the line outside soul care. Our church wanted to be known for its care and for loving people well. A turning point was when our small group pastors said they needed us to train up small group leaders and flock leaders. They had a problem to solve as well. People did not want to share hard things in small groups because they generally felt small group leaders where not equipped to help. It was a big moment where they opened the boarders to our influence and we acknowledged we needed them to help build the prevention arm of soul care.
Embrace the truth that together, we are better. Join the movement of churches committed to synergy and watch your ministry soar to new heights.
Partnership Can Change Paradigms and Solve Problems
By asking other departments to come to the brainstorming meeting we shifted a paradigm. Soul care was not just for trained counselors. Other biblical counseling churches suggested getting small group leaders certified in biblical counseling. While we did not follow that track it did prompt us to develop our own internal training. We in fact, developed a whole continuum of care from intentional to intensive discipleship. After adding foundational soul care skills and tools to the small group and flock leader training the discipleship ministry felt more equipped, people brought more issues up in small groups, and within 6 months our waiting list decrease by half. We were blown away by the results of what we could not have done if we stayed in a silo or departmental mindset. Not just because it solved our initial problem but it created amazing synergy and solved problems we did not even know we had!
Partnerships are a part of any healthy sustainable ministry. They start with believing that they are worth the effort. What might be keeping you in a silo mentality? Where have partnerships been helpful in the past? Perhaps a partnership went south on you. How do learn from that and allow that to inform a better attempt? We really are better together. I would encourage you to join a cohort, plan a leadership retreat for your staff that includes some team building, set up a benchmarking trip to a like-minded church, or host a prayer time with other pastors. Finally consider joining the GCC or if you have already, take advantage of the network’s resources to strengthen your church.