Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Ending a Mission Partnership

One of my favorite topics that I blog about, is partnerships in mission. Almost three years ago I posted the following three essays on the topic of partnering in mission:
One of the reasons why I’m positive about a more formal “partnership agreement” is because it leaves room to end the partnership in an honorable way. In Swaziland, in our Shiselweni Reformed Church Home-Based Care, we have a number of “formal” partners and a number of “informal” partners. In the short term “informal” partners are good people to have around. They’re mostly excited about mission in general, they tend to follow a vision easily and they will often set great ideas in motion to support mission. The problem comes when the individuals who had driven the vision within their own church or organization lose the vision or move away. The support can then stop abruptly if there is no formal partnering agreement.
In the long term, a formal agreement works much better. Agreements are made beforehand. The partner may agree to be part of the mission project for a certain time (one year, three years, five years) after which the partnership comes to an end. Or the partnership runs for a year with an option to renew the partnership for another year, depending on certain criteria.
As we entered our new financial year on 1 March, I had concerns about three of our “informal” partners. Because we have no written agreement, I had no idea whether they were intending to continue their support. One of them told me a day or two ago that they have no intention of stopping their support. (Big sigh of relief!) After I contacted the second one, I was told that no decision was made to stop support but it seems that no decision has been made to continue either. So we’re still waiting to see what will happen. Which strengthens my argument. The third partner also made no contact with us, but I did hear via the grapevine that they are stopping their support.
If you’re part of a supporting church / organization / foundation or you’re an individual wanting to help a mission organization, the more formal agreement might in the long run be much more fruitful, both for those giving and for those receiving help.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - Posted by | Home-based Caring, Mission, Support teams, Sustainability, Swaziland


  1. Paul faced a similar situation with the church at Corinth. In II Corinthians he has to send some men over to pick up the money. He even has to tell them how to operate their budget so they can follow-through with their talk. Rather high pressure fund raising.

    Getting comittments in writing is a good plan. We all need structure. I sure do.

    Comment by Roger Perkins | Wednesday, April 7, 2010 | Reply

  2. Arnau thanks for sharing your struggles. This also our experience. On this just a few comments on lessons we’ve learnt over the years
    1) People support a cause (project, ministry etc.) because they share the vision and the outcome. We have to journey with the supporters also and help them to see how it fits within God’s kingdom plan.
    2) As mobilisers we are experiencing that once people are mobilised with a kingdom mindset they do not only want to support with money byt want to be involved more directly.We as the so called workers or missionaries must be aware of these new trends that are going to effect our ministries.
    3) More and more of our supporters indicate that they will only support something if it leads to a self sustainable ministry. People want to see their money work. The challenge for us is to plan and aline our projects and ministries according to a empowering and give-away strategy of people.
    4) I thing the challenge for the future is rather multiple smaller self sustainable ministries than growing a larger ministry mostly depended on outside resources.

    Comment by Gert Roberts | Friday, April 9, 2010 | Reply

  3. The gap between “missions” and “support” is closing. Traditional supporters with a newly found kingdom mindset begin to see themselves as “missionaries”. Traditional “missionaries” with an old mindset will find themselves out in the cold.

    Comment by Gert Roberts | Friday, April 9, 2010 | Reply

    • I get your point, Gert, but in our world, there’s no ‘one way’. I’ve seen it go the way you’re suggesting (the newly kingdom-minded become missionaries), and I’ve also seen that a short-term involvement (let’s say an international visit) leads to a long-term support.

      I think this is about education and expectation management. If you show people what missionaries are doing, and the training, experience, challenges and daily learning that go into it, it’s quite likely that you’ll have a congregation go “Whoa, I’m not about to go and do that, but those guys have my full support!”

      Arnau, you have a strong point. For example, I know that my church isn’t capable of, or willing to make, a long-term commitment. Forcing it to would either mean that we either never get started, or whatever we did would end in certain disaster. But while you’ve got us, you’d have all of us! Even just knowing that up front would be an important component of any agreement, on both sides.

      Comment by brad | Wednesday, April 14, 2010 | Reply

  4. Gert, thanks for sharing that.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Thursday, April 15, 2010 | Reply

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