The latest buzz word from our District Superintendent is collaboration. The dictionary definition that came up from a google search is “the action of working with someone to create or produce something.” As I look at the word itself, I see in it ‘co-labor,’ to work with or alongside another, to labor together.
So much of our society emphasizes competition. Competition can push us to develop our abilities and talents, to work a little harder as we compete with someone else. Anyone who has worked with children knows that making a game of something in which children compete for a prize can focus their energies. “Pick up your room,” is not very inspiring. “The person whose room is the tidiest gets a cookie,” becomes a lot more exciting.
Churches have often become rivals. We compete for the most members, the best choir, the most popular youth group. I’m sorry to admit I can fall into that trap. While there is a lot to be said for striving to be our best, the problem with that is that faith becomes a commodity in short supply, believers become objects to gain, and ministry becomes a competition.
Superintendent Weber suggests to us that we learn to collaborate, to work together, for the benefit of all. By working with each other we all become better. When a visitor comes to worship, of course we want that person to come back and to join our church. Better is to help that person to find a church that meets his/her needs, even (gasp) if that is the church down the street and not Mill Plain.
I am happy to say that we have begun to collaborate in some significant ways. We have formed a partnership with Vancouver First United Methodist Church in two programs. We have merged our youth confirmation classes, alternating sites each week for our meetings. Youth will join their respective churches in early June and by learning together they are forming relationships with each other and we have a larger class than either church would on its own. In addition, Vancouver First is sharing with us in the Safe Park Ministry. They had considered becoming Safe Park hosts themselves but it was determined that Safe Park sites so close to downtown faced complications. So instead, Vancouver First is helping us host Safe Park by paying for our Port-a-Potty.
We began to collaborate with East Woods Presbyterian Church last summer when some of their members volunteered as readers with Project Transformation. This year we plan a joint Vacation Bible School program that will meet at their church and include our children and volunteers. This frees up our building for Reading Explorers (our adaptation of Project Transformation) and gives us a way to try a different format than used previously. In addition, we have agreed to partner with East Woods in Family Promise. As Family Promise begins, they will host homeless families with children in their building for a week at a time for about four weeks a year. That is not something we have the space to do. East Woods has another church that uses their building on Saturday evenings, so we will host Family Promise families at our church for Saturday evening dinners and activities, after which they will return to East Woods to sleep. I anticipate this will be a win-win-win relationship, helping East Woods, Mill Plain and the Family Promise families.
Of course, we have collaborated with other churches for years through the Winter Hospitality Overflow Shelters, and with other agencies through the Faith-Based Partnership with Hearthwood School, Friends of the Carpenter, Babies in Need, and so much more. I am glad to say that we co-labor with