In our last post, we talked about how missional engagement starts at your doorstep – but shouldn’t end there. We have a big city with many needs. And we have lots of opportunities for the church to be the church, the hands and feet of Christ, proclaiming and demonstrating the gospel. But how do we do that as a body, when our paths don’t necessarily cross those people in areas of specific need, such as South Dallas, Vickery Meadow, West Dallas, and areas we’re discovering in Fort Worth and Plano?
The nice thing is that we don’t have to create new avenues of ministry in these areas of town, because God has been at work there long before we were! We just have to discern where He is already at work and where it makes sense for us to join in. We do this through ministry partners – organizations, churches, and people that DO live, work, and impact the neighborhoods and communities of our city.
There are literally hundreds of Watermark members serving with many different organizations across our region and around the world. We encourage that and in fact love that the body of Watermark serves as our “missions committee,” while our role as staff is simply to equip, encourage, and coach. Partners “rise up” from among the body, as multiple members decide to invest their time, talents, or treasure in a local ministry. (We’ll take up that topic in a future post.)
After ministries come to our attention in this way, we have several “core values” that help us decide on partnering officially. In fact, every year we evaluate every Ministry Partner, based on these criteria (while always evaluating less formally throughout the year). To be sure, we also want constructive feedback on us from our partners, and ask them for it regularly; we want to be a “great partner” to these organizations as well! Right now, we have about 20 local partners in DFW.
Here are some of the criteria we use when vetting our Ministry Partners:
Trusted Leadership: We want to know the organization’s leadership team – that they are Christ-followers, competent, and committed to biblically-based leadership and ministry.
Alignment of Vision & Mission: We love to partner with ministers that have a strong discipleship focus and have similar beliefs with Watermark in the areas of theology, community, conflict resolution, and the like.
Impact Potential: We ask questions around how a potential partner effectively reaches and engages people. Do they have a track record of truly transforming lives?
Evangelism Opportunity: We are not another social justice organization. We are the church and always want to share the hope that is within us and the reasons that we are loving and serving our community. We believe that the “good news” cannot be separated from the “good works” that God’s people are doing.
Lay Leadership: Our body is our “missions committee.” There is no outreach that is staff driven. We believe that every believer has a God-given ministry (Eph. 2:10), and it is the staff’s job to help the members of our body do that (Eph. 4:11-12). We only partner with organizations who have a dedicated Watermark lay leader / champion.
Deployment Opportunities: We believe that God works in our hearts to grow us as we love and serve others. So, we look for partners that have “boots on the ground” deployment opportunities for our members to meet the people that we are serving, build relationships, and connect long term.
Church Engagement: We believe that God’s church is a primary means of transforming hearts, which in turn transforms communities. We look for indigenous church partnerships or organizations that have a focus on church engagement.
Development over Relief: Meeting immediate needs is important. However, we prioritize partnerships that focus holistically on the array of physical, emotional and spiritual issues at work in people. Over time, these ministries develop people and the systems that affect them, helping people become all that God intended them to be. (This is really at the heart of our External Focus approach, and it might require a little more explanation. So look for that in another post soon!)