In December of 2015 a Watermark team took the final step in an almost four-year journey to develop a partnership with Elam Ministries. Elam works with Iranian pastors, both in the Middle East and otherwise, equipping them to impact their countrymen.
As I mentioned, our teaching trip was the final step in the partnership process with Elam. That, however, brings up an often-asked question: How did we arrive at partnership? What were the steps that led us to lock arms with Elam in a formal way and provide people and resources to help them? Why do we believe that both their mission (to disciple and equip the Iranian church) and Watermark’s mission (to disciple and equip the Watermark body) will both advance through this partnership?
The Heart Behind the Decision
I’ll preface my explanation of our partnership process by saying we know that our members are deeply investing in lots of excellent ministries in all parts of the world. We acknowledge that many of those folks and the ministries they are investing in would like for Watermark to partner formally in the work they are doing.
But it is a core belief of Watermark leadership that in order to best serve our body and our partners well, God would call us to invest deeply in targeted ways (think “a mile deep and an inch wide” rather than the other way around). Because of this we will say No to many more ministries than we’ll say Yes to.
In light of that, here’s a stab at explaining how international partnerships are evaluated. (We’ve written before about how we select local partners.)
Our List of Six Key Factors
1) Member Involvement
Are Watermark members already investing in the overseas ministry in a significant way with their time, talents, and treasures? Elam and another international partner, ALARM, are both ministries that Watermark connected with through members who had been investing for years in those ministries.
Is there geographic overlap with other international ministries we are already partnering with? Often other organizations hear about our efforts in places like Central Africa or Haiti (with ALARM and Mission of Hope) and request Watermark’s help for their ministry. We don’t see it as strategic to overlap geographically with our partners.
3) Gospel Focus
Is the ministry gospel-focused in all that it does? There are lots of excellent organizations doing “good work” all over the world, many of which may have started out as with a Christian emphasis to their mission. But our main mission is not “good works” – it is “good news.” Any organization we partner with overseas must have as a core value the sharing of the gospel.
Is the potential partner one proven to be trustworthy by a lengthy record of good stewardship, Godly leadership, effective and impactful ministry, etc.? Trustworthiness is essential to success in doing ministry. Stewarding the resources of Watermark well requires deploying both talent and treasures with organizations that can be trusted to steward them similarly to how we would ourselves.
5) Their Needs + Our Gifts
Are there unique gifts and skills that Watermark can deploy that are needed by this organization to further its ministry? Watermark’s partnership with ALARM was born from a need ALARM had: to train pastors in war-torn Central Africa in biblical conflict resolution. This need coincided with Watermark’s unique passions and teaching gifts for this topic that Watermark leaders possessed.
Are we able to deploy members to engage personally in ministry, not just provide funds to sustain the ministry? Watermark does not provide financial support to any ministry that we are not also deploying “boots on the ground” to help. ALARM, Mission of Hope Haiti, and Elam all receive financial resources through Watermark’s body – but they also each provide an opportunity for Watermark members to engage through discipleship trips that use members’ gifts for kingdom purposes. (Our fourth international partner, e3 Ministries in Ethiopia, receives direct support from many of our members and likewise gives great opportunities to serve each summer.)
When Partnership Isn't the Next Step
We get solicitations on an almost daily basis to partner with Christian organizations all over the world. Choosing not to partner with an international ministry is not a dismissal of that ministry or the work it is doing, but more a reflection that God calls each of us – individually and collectively – to steward our time, treasures, and talents for kingdom purposes. The challenge for all of us is to discern where and how God would have us make an impact.
The metric you see here is not the final word, but it is another tool to use as we seek to be where God wants us to be.
If you’re interested in learning about or participating in Watermark’s overseas work, visit watermark.org/international.