14 Ways to Collaborate & Partner in Christian Mission

14 Ways to Collaborate & Partner in Christian Mission: An Annotated Bibliography of Recommended Articles, Books, Websites, and Videos

Compiled by visionSynergy staff with input from International Partnering Associates (IPA)


Collaboration has a strong biblical basis, but collaboration is also an intensely practical topic and not just a matter for theological discussion. For that reason, most of the resources recommended here emphasize the “hands-on” or “how-to” aspects of what it takes to form a viable, healthy, and effective collaborative initiative for ministry and mission. This bibliography, in line with common usage, uses the term network or networks to refer to a wide range of initiatives from alliances and coalitions to networks and partnerships.

Disclaimer: While we believe that this list of recommended network resources offer significant contributions to the field of network development, we do not necessarily endorse all approaches, models, or points that are discussed in these resources.

Foundational, Must-Read Books

The three books in this group by Addicott, Butler, and Rickett are some of the most practical resources currently available that focus on the topic of partnership in Christian mission.

Phil Butler’s book, Well Connected: Releasing Power, Restoring Hope through Kingdom Partnerships, is the most recently published of the three and is the most comprehensive in content. In this book, he writes for an audience of reflective practitioners who want to understand the “why” of partnership development as well as the “how” of partnering well.

Ernie Addicott’s book, Body Matters: A Guide to Partnership in Christian Mission, provides a very readable introduction to partnering in Christian mission. The book centers on the theme of relational health in the context of missional partnerships and makes the clear point that partnership is not just about the “mechanics” of working together; it is fundamentally about trust.

Daniel Rickett’s book, Making Your Partnership Work, is the earliest and most condensed of the three in this group. Rickett’s book includes a number of useful resources and checklists to help readers evaluate the potential fit between partners, develop a common understanding, and evaluate the partnership itself.

Cross-Cultural Dimensions of Working in Partnerships

The seven books in this group by Birmingham and Todd, Lederleiter, Mischke, Rickett, and Shreve, Toyama-Szeto and Adeleye, and Cueva address key issues in cross-cultural networks such as equality, dependency, accountability, and more. The topics and issues discussed in these books are relevant to the current global mission context as the center of gravity continues to shift from established Western mission outreaches to Majority World ministries.

Werner Mischke’s workbook, The Beauty of Partnership, and Daniel Rickett’s brief guide, “Building Strategic Relationships,” help readers understand some of the essential components of healthy cross-cultural networks. Beth Birmingham and Scott Todd provide an edited collection of topics more specifically focused in the area of relief and development work in Shared Strength: Exploring Cross-Cultural Christian Partnerships. Mary Lederleiter’s book, Cross-Cultural Partnerships: Navigating the Complexities of Money and Mission, directly addresses the highly charged issue of money and partnering. Kenneth Shreve’s book, Partnership Theology in Creative Access Regions, sets a “partnership theology” where mission operates under extreme conditions. Both Nikki A. Toyama-Szeto and Femi B. Adeleye’s book, Partnering with the Global Church, and Samuel Cuevas’ book, Mission Partnership in Creative Tension, provide an invaluable Majority World perspective on cross-cultural Christian collaboration.

Church / Community Collaborations

Perhaps one of the greatest areas of untapped potential in collaboration around the world is in the context of local churches working together with others to reach and transform their cities. The four books in this group by Rusaw, Swanson and Williams, Sweney, and Bruno and Dirks provide very practical introductions to church / community partnerships and networks that can dramatically impact the rapidly expanding cities of the world.

The Externally Focused Church by Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson.

To Transform a City: Whole Church, Whole Gospel, Whole City by Eric Swanson and Sam Williams.

A New Kind of Big: How Churches of Any Size Can Partner to Transform Communities by Chip Sweney.

Churches Partnering Together: Biblical Strategies for Fellowship, Evangelism, and Compassion by Chris Bruno and Matt Dirks.

Church / Agency Partnerships

Ivan Liew’s book, Churches and Missions Agencies Together: A Relational Model For Partnership Practice, explores the nature of Church and Mission Agencies relationships. As the editor, his book contains articles written from both perspectives. This book proposes moving from transactional relationships to a relationship-focused partnering practice that opens the door to collaboration and engagement.

Earlier Days of the Modern “Network Movement”

The 1980s and 1990s saw a growing interest in partnering for world evangelization. At least a hundred multilateral and international networks and partnerships were launched with emphases on specific language groups, people groups, cities, regions, or countries of the world. From the early days of the modern network movement, the three books in this group by Bush and Lutz, Kraakevik and Welliver, and Taylor provide a broad introduction to the field of collaboration in Christian mission. The books cover a wide variety of topics and include a number of case-study models of networks from around the world.

Partnering in Ministry: The Direction of World Evangelism by Luis Bush and Lorry Lutz.

Partners in the Gospel: The Strategic Role of Partnership in World Evangelization edited by James Kraakevik and Dotsey Welliver.

Kingdom Partnerships for Synergy in Missions edited by William Taylor.

Articles on Networks and Collaboration

The articles in this group are only a few of the numerous articles drawing on the wisdom of the last twenty plus years of collaborative practice in Christian mission. These articles are notable for their comprehensive perspective as they reflect on the recent history of collaboration in mission and review some of the foundational literature on mission networks (including a number of the resources in this recommended list).

Aghamkar’s article provides a unique and respected South Asian perspective on the biblical and theological basis for partnership. The April 2017 issue of Mission Frontiers looks back on thirty years of missions and what has emerged from this global movement. It also looks at how networks are reshaping the future of missions.

Atul Aghamkar, PhD, “Partnership in Mission: A Biblical and Theological Perspective,” Synergy Commons Resources (June 2017), https://synergycommons.net/resources/partnership-mission-biblical-theological-perspective-revised/.

Ellen Livingood,  “Better Together? The mutual benefit between churches and networks,” The Missions Mobilizers’ E-newsletter 10, no. 2 (February 2015), http://catalystservices.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Better-Together.pdf.

Mark Oxbrow, “Better Together: Partnership and Collaboration in Mission,” Edinburgh 2010 Conference Paper, http://edinburgh2010.oikoumene.org/fileadmin/files/edinburgh2010/files/docs/Partnership%20.doc.

Enoch Wan and Kevin P. Penman, “The Why, How, and Who of Partnership in Christian Missions,” Global Missiology English 3, no. 7 (April 2010), http://ojs.globalmissiology.org/index.php/english/article/view/61.

Rick Wood, ed., “Networks are Changing the Shape of World Missions,” Mission Frontiers 39, no. 2 (March–April 2017): http://www.missionfrontiers.org/pdfs/Mission_Frontiers_39-2_Issue_3-4.pdf.

Essential Partnership Videos

visionSynergy’s YouTube channel contains a growing library of more than fifty network leader story videos including more than three hours of recordings drawn from interviews with experienced ministry leaders from around the world who share their personal insights on the practice of collaboration in Christian mission. Also available on the visionSynergy YouTube channel is a 12-hour video introduction to Kingdom Partnerships and a ten-part Partnership Essentials video series presented by Phill Butler.

visionSynergy Youtube Channel: https://youtube.com/visionsynergy

Kingdom Partnerships: https://synr.gy/kingdompartnerships

Partnership Essentials: https://synr.gy/partnershipessentials

Ministry Service Organizations

The following ministries work with Christian organizations around the world to develop effective networks and collaborative initiatives:

Catalyst Services: catalystservices.org

Daniel Rickett Consulting: danielrickett.com

Frontline Ministries: flministries.org/about/

International Partnering Associates (IPA): ipassociates.org

REACT Services: reactservices.com

visionSynergy: visionsynergy.net

These sites include a global directory of geographic and issue-focused mission networks (Linking Global Voices) and an online learning community for network leaders (Synergy Commons):

Lausanne Movement Issue Networks: lausanne.org/all-issue-networks

Linking Global Voices: linkingglobalvoices.com

Synergy Commons: synergycommons.net

Secular Resources

Inter-Organizational Collaboration

These books outline comprehensive frameworks for developing nonprofit collaborations. The book from Mattessich complements the handbook from Winer and Ray as an in-depth analysis of twenty research-based factors that lead to success in collaboration.

Leading Across Boundaries: Creating collaborative agencies in a networked world by Russell M. Linden.

Collaboration: What makes it work (3rd edition) by Paul W. Mattessich and Kirsten M. Johnson.

Networks That Work (2nd edition) by Paul Vandeventer and Myrna Mandell.

Collaboration Handbook: Creating, sustaining, and enjoying the journey by Michael B. Winer.

Facilitation and Consensus Decision-Making

All networks involve numerous meetings, and those meetings sometimes involve very complex situations. If those meetings are not managed well—if group process, participation, facilitation, consensus, decision-making, and follow-through are lacking—then it is likely the network will achieve few (if any) results. The books in this group focus on these critical network development process skills.

Facilitation at a Glance: Your Pocket Guide to Facilitation by Ingrid Bens.

Consensus Through Conversation: How to Achieve High-Commitment Decisions by Larry Dressler.

Extreme Facilitation: Guiding Groups Through Controversy and Complexity by Suzanne Ghais.

Consensus-Oriented Decision-Making: The CODM Model for Facilitating Groups to Widespread Agreement by Tim Hartnett.

Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making (3rd edition) by Sam Kaner.

Facilitating Collaboration: Notes on Facilitation For Experienced Collaborators by Brandon Klein.

The Skilled Facilitator: A Comprehensive Resource for Consultants, Facilitators, Managers, Trainers, and Coaches (3rd edition) by Roger M. Schwarz.

How to Make Collaboration Work: Powerful Ways to Build Consensus, Solve Problems, and Make Decisions by David Straus and Thomas C. Layton.

Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There!: Ten Principles for Leading Meetings That Matter by Marvin R. Weisbord and Sandra Janoff.

The Secrets of Facilitation: The SMART Guide to Getting Results with Groups by Michael Wilkinson.

Key Articles, Reports, and Case Studies

H. Brinton Milward, PhD, Gail MacKean, Ann Casebeer, Janice Popp, and Dr. Ron Lindstrom, “Inter-Organizational Networks: A Review of the Literature to Inform Practice,” IBM Center for the Business of Government (2014), http://www.businessofgovernment.org/report/inter-organizational-networks-review-literature-inform-practice.

Diana Scearce, “Catalyzing Networks for Social Change: A Funder’s Guide,” Monitor Institute (2015), https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/monitor-institute/us-monitor-institute-catalyzing-networks-for-social-change.pdf.

“The Rise of the Network Leader: Reframing Leadership in the New Work Environment,” CEB Global’s Executive Guidance for 2014, https://www.cebglobal.com/content/dam/cebglobal/us/EN/top-insights/executive-guidance/pdfs/eg2014ann-rise-of-network-leader.pdf.

Deborah Meehan and Claire Reinelt, et al., “Leadership and Networks: New Ways of Developing Leadership in a Highly Connected World,” Leadership Learning Community (October 2012), http://leadershiplearning.org/system/files/LLCNetworkNLfinal4.pdf.

Susan Parker, “Lessons From a Ten-Year Funder Collaborative: A Case Study of the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa,” Clear Thinking Communications (September 2010), https://www.macfound.org/media/article_pdfs/PHEA_CASE_STUDY_1.PDF.

John Kania and Mark Kramer, “Collective Impact,” Stanford Social Innovation Review 9, no. 1 (Winter 2011), https://ssir.org/articles/entry/collective_impact.

Resources for Network Development and Evaluation

“Network Health Scorecard,” Network Impact (May 2015), http://www.networkimpact.org/downloads/NH_Scorecard.pdf.

“The State of Network Evaluation – A Guide,” Network Impact (May 2015), http://www.networkimpact.org/networkevaluation.

Peter Plastrik and Madeleine Taylor,
“Net Gains: A Handbook for Network Builders Seeking Social Change,” Network Impact (2006), http://networkimpact.org/downloads/NetGainsHandbookVersion1.pdf.

Network Leadership Organizations and Networks

Network Leadership Training Academy (NLTA); University of Colorado at Denver: spa.ucdenver.edu/NLTA.

The International Association of Facilitators (IAF): iaf-world.org.

Collective Impact Forum: collectiveimpactforum.org.

Interaction Institute on Network Leadership: interactioninstitute.org/network-leadership-roles-2-0.

Leading Networks

The Collaborative Leader: The Ultimate Leadership Challenge by Ian McDermott and L. Michael Hall.

Kristin Cullen, Phil Willburn, Donna Chrobot-Mason, and Charles Palus, “Networks: How Collective Leadership Really Works,” Center for Creative Leadership White Paper (2014), https://www.ccl.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/networksHowCollective.pdf.

Recommend Your Additional Resources

visionSynergy welcomes any additional resources that you would recommend be added to this bibliography.

Send your suggestions to: support@synergycommons.net

Download an unabridged version of this annotated bibliography with links: click here.

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