Todd and Jenni have been ministry partners with me from the beginning of my service with Wycliffe Bible Translators eight years ago. What does that mean?
I’ll start with the basics: I serve in an executive leadership role at the Orlando-based headquarters for Wycliffe Bible Translators USA. I rely on on the prayer, relational and financial support of individuals to empower me to continue doing what I’m doing.
Some people choose to simply engage in “ministry support” which generally means that they make a commitment to provide a regular financial donation of a pre-determined amount or give occasional un-predictable donations. It also sometimes means a commitment to pray for specific requests that I share with them through email or mail or Facebook.
In this traditional missionary model, missionaries are “called” by God to the work of a missionary and the church “back home” supports that call by providing funding and through prayer. The missionary reports back to the supporting entities about mission progress.
Ministry partnership is more than that. Todd and Jenni are examples of ministry partners. So you ask again (you are asking, aren’t you?):
What does that mean?
First and foremost, it means that Todd and Jenni have made a commitment to God to engage in the things He calls them to do using the resources (giftings, passions, relationships, experiences, stuff, influence, etc.) He has provided for them to steward. I’ve made that same commitment. [I suspect that they’d tell you and I am now, this commitment will take a lifetime to fulfill both because part of the resource God give is life itself and because learning how to do this is far more complicated than deciding to do it — kind of like all good relationships.]
Now, here’s the cool part [and the part that I don’t think we were aware of early on and that, honestly, I’m consistently growing to understand]: Todd & Jenni’s commitment and my commitment have an area of overlap. A ministry intersection. A place where my calling and their passion and our collective stewardship come together. In that space, we walk together (we partner) in ministry (service to God, often to benefit others and done in God’s name). This is God’s design.
In practical terms, though, what does this partnership look like?
It looks like a relationship.
Because Todd & Jenni live in Indiana and I live in Florida, we connect most frequently through Facebook. This way I know some of the things that are going on in their lives and can pray for them — and laugh with them — and make fun of their goofiness and confirm their sense that their two children are extraordinary gifts from God. And they can do the same with me — though on other topics and for other reasons. Sometimes the requests for prayer are intentional and direct and other times needs are observed and prayer offered without ceremony. Relationship. Partnership.
Todd and Jenni have shared their financial resources to support my ministry. For a season they donated a regular amount on a monthly basis. When that season ended the relationship and the partnership did not. They continue to support my ministry as they share their resources including hosting a gathering in their home in a few weeks.
Last winter Jenni invited some of her high school classmates (and my former students) to her home for a brunch gathering and included me. I loved having the chance to meet a number of young children who call my former students “mommy.” (And I do confess that I was a bit amused when those lovely children were challengingly enthusiastic, persistently inquisitive, or simply uncooperative. I tried to resist saying anything about apples falling from trees.)
Last year when Todd & Jenni and their kids came south for a winter respite in the Florida sun (and perhaps some time with Princesses and Mice), they made time to visit Wycliffe’s office. We had lunch together.
Ministry partnership is a two-way relationship when it is done well. Like all worthwhile relationships, it requires a deeper and broader investment — it “costs” more. However, it also is filled with greater rewards.