Principles for offering services in ways that build up local churches or church plants. Here are six tips:
- Ask how you can help, rather than imposing what you think is needed. Explain your group’s range of services and ask in which ways you can help, or offer a specific service. Accept the church’s decision to accept or decline your services.
- Avoid dependency. Don’t do for a local church what it could do itself (even if welcomed). Equip and empower after building a trust relationship.
- Stick to what is sustainable. A local church’s human and material resources are often limited compared to parachurch groups. Parachurch organizations may have resources to do something big for a season. Yet if it cannot be carried on long-term by the local church, it is best to refrain from such activities.
- Be careful with finances and outside human resources so they don’t unintentionally stifle development of (or even weaken or supercede) the role of local churches in evangelism and community service. Provide external resources only for temporary needs at an early stage or during a crisis, and be careful not to do too much or do it for too long.
- Respect the local church’s knowledge, leadership, and judgment. Offer to help in ways that match its perception of the needs, rather than push what the parachurch organization thinks is needed. Understand that a church considering input from an outside group must weigh information from many sources and their own experience to make decisions right for their church and community. Offer advice sparingly and only after first building a respectful trust relationship.
- Seek to work through or in cooperation with local churches. It perplexes and stresses Japanese people when different Christian groups seem to be competing in the same community. In areas with an established church or a church plant underway, the general practice should be not to start another church plant or ministry in the same area unless the local church or church plant can give it their wholehearted blessing, especially in towns and smaller cities. It is best if parachurch organizations either help existing churches and church plants in ways they are open to or focus on unengaged areas.
The above article was a sidebar accompanying the article “Parachurch organizations partnering with local churches” in the Summer 2017 print edition of Japan Harvest magazine.