Response: October 2014 Issue

Responsively Yours: Good Partners

Responsively Yours: Good Partners
Harriett Jane Olson works with kitchen coordinator Sarah Sloan at Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church in Louisville during Assembly 2014.

What makes for a good partnership? We hear stories about organizations coming together to strengthen their work, and we also see unraveled mergers, partner stress and unfulfilled expectations. Recently we've been thinking about what work we can do better together with partners.

Good partnerships are based on mutual respect. Partners don't need to be the same size, have the same mission or even be organized the same way. Partners need to understand what they bring to the relationship and its value. Whether a congregation, service organization or ministry supported financially, if what a partner values about my United Methodist Women group is that we make cookies or supply volunteers or contribute monetarily, my group needs to understand that. Relationships can be strained if expectations aren't clear. If we want to raise awareness of community issues and consider advocacy possibilities but what our partner really needs is more people at its site on a Wednesday morning, both of us are likely to be surprised (and likely disappointed).

Good partners help each other accomplish important objectives. The best partnerships help both organizations address high-value or strategic work. If a possible partner offers to work with you on one issue or project but you are focused on other issues or projects, your attention and priorities may not line up. It is OK to decline invitations up front and leave the door open for future collaborations.

Finally, good partners are proud to be working together. The work that they do together is significant, is aligned with their purposes and adds to the credibility and respect of everyone involved. You know this is happening when it is easy to remember to enlist each other in planning, when shared roles become routine, and when the shared work is publicly acknowledged. Surprising each other with independent decision making that affects joint work or appearing to "take credit" for each other's work may indicate that the partners are taking each other for granted or are not proud to be working together. Frustration and disappointment will almost surely result and sour any positive impacts.

United Methodist Women has some great partners, and there is room for more when we are clear on our mission and what we bring to the relationships. To have good partners, we must be good partners, which means staying focused on our mission and investing in relationships that make us better together as we follow God in faith and service with women, children and youth around the world.

Harriett Jane Olson
General Secretary
United Methodist Women

Posted or updated: 9/29/2014 11:00:00 PM