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Preventing Relationship Breakdowns between Churches

Preventing Relationship Breakdowns between Churches

Why do relationships between American and immigrant churches sometimes fall apart?  On the surface there may seem to be several possible causes, such as a stained carpet or misconfigured sound system.  But when we look behind the external event to the underlying causes, we discover that the most common reason for breakdowns in relationships between churches is lack of good communication.

What can be done?  The one practice most likely to promote healthy church relationships is that each church select a point person to serve as a Connector who will regularly communicate with the other church’s Connector.

Holding regular meetings between two Connectors is the 2nd of our 7 keys to facilitating healthy relationships between American and immigrant churches.  You can read the entire list in last month’s blog.

These principles are just like those for marriage.  On the surface we can point to multiple areas where marriages have trouble, such as money, kids, sex and in-laws.  But underlying each of these areas is the couple’s ability to communicate.  A husband and wife who can communicate well will be able to work through these issues.  A couple who cannot communicate well will struggle.  My wife Sherry and I have agreed that some of the best times in our marriage were when we drove long distances together.  This gave us ample time to move beyond discussing issues necessary for daily life into things that enriched our relationship.

How should you go about appointing Connectors? If you’re the immigrant pastor, assess your English level.  If you speak good English, in most cases you can serve as your church’s Connector.  If not, your primary translator can serve as your Connector.  If the American church you work with doesn’t have a lead Connector, ask their pastor to appoint one.  If you know a person in the American congregation who deeply loves your church, you might suggest them.  But be careful.  Sometimes individuals in a church have a different agenda than its leadership, and you want to be sure that the Connector is a trusted insider that the church believes has its best interests at heart.

If you’re the American pastor, it’s important that you have a warm, trusting relationship with the immigrant pastor.  You need to assess whether you have adequate bandwidth to be the lead Connector.  In most cases, the lead pastor has too many responsibilities to serve well in this role.  It’s best for the church leadership to assign a trusted insider to serve as Connector.  This person should love the immigrant church and be a good communicator.  It’s a bonus but not indispensable if they also have good cross-cultural skills.

Once each church has selected a Connector, the two should begin meeting at least monthly.  The relationship between the two of them does not exclude others from talking freely at any time.  The two Connectors do not have a controlling or exclusive relationship.  They simply meet regularly to be sure that important issues aren’t dropped because both churches are very busy.

What should the two Connectors discuss when they meet monthly?  It’s important to have both structured and unstructured conversations.  Unstructured communication includes asking “How are you today?”  Sometimes the most critical things in someone’s life at the moment aren’t on the official agenda, and it’s important to deal with them first.  Structured communication entails covering relevant church issues.  As we will discuss in Key #6, we recommend that the American Connector ask at each meeting “If there is one thing our church might change to serve you better, what would it be?” 

Many American Christians do not have a close immigrant friend, and many immigrant Christians do not have a close American friend.   A relationship between two churches is an ideal setting to build friendships across the cultural divide.  When two Connectors build a strong relationship, they can serve as role models to others.  It is a great testimony for the Kingdom when church connections lead to connections between believers of different cultural backgrounds.

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