As a church and specifically as a student ministry we are blessed to have multiple community partnerships. Throughout our time in Hershey I have made it a priority to reach out to local restaurants, bakeries, community centers, organizations, and product service companies. And through that we have formed some amazing partnerships in which we have clearly seen God work.
We partnered with a local product service company to purchase Christmas gifts for our leaders and through those interactions we saw our contact start attending our church and become a member as well. Last year, we partnered with a local ice cream shop for a student event. The owner is a single parent and she and her team (all high school students) were so blown away by how our students and church treated them that they have offered to help us out whenever. This relationship was truly highlighted when the owner called us because she had a power failure and needed a place to keep her product. She is unchurched and as far as we can tell not a follower of Jesus. But she felt comfortable enough to reach out because she saw our church and our community as a safe and caring space.
But why should we utilize local community partnerships, especially if we can find cheaper options online? Is there a benefit? Is it worth it in the long run? Today, I want to highlight why I think these community partnerships are important and how these relationships can benefit all involved.
Think about who you will partner with.
This is key when it comes to building partnerships and making sure you are highlighting your vision and mission for your ministry. For each ministry or church, the organizations and people you partner with may look different, but there should be a purpose for who you partner with. For instance, we partnered with the local ice cream shop because it resonates with our students and presents an easy invite opportunity which meets a part of our vision. When we partner with local service companies for our t-shirts and branding, it allows for us to support a local organization, build relationships, and provide quality products, all of which are wins for us. So thinking through who you will partner with allows you to have the greatest impact and still hold to your vision and mission.
Always be mindful of follow up.
Sometimes it’s easy to utilize a vendor and after the event or function is done, simply not engage further. I don’t think this is out of any ill-will or malcontent, but because we have been conditioned that once we are done utilizing the service, contact doesn’t need to continue. I mean think about when you last followed up with a gas station attendant or your delivery driver. We don’t often do that, but when we do it shows intentionality and a desire to love and care for your community.
If you utilize a local company, follow up with them in various ways. Send them a Christmas card or show up with Christmas cookies, pop in with coffees for the staff, send them an update on how their product or expertise helped the program or students. If their products benefited others or were used on a trip, send them some photos and an update. Or you could simply show up to say hi and see how they’re doing. You could go to the shop often to just purchase products and say hello. It isn’t about “missionary dating” but instead focused on building relationships and caring for the community.
This is key when it comes to building partnerships. There should be an intentionality and missional approach to what we are doing, but we shouldn’t look at these individuals and companies as projects. Instead we should see this as an opportunity to bless, encourage, and show people who Jesus is. So as you think through your partnerships, think about how you can continue to build relationships. When we partner with different places and people, we think about what we need for our ministry and what would help it be a success. That means when we bring in a local ice creamery to cater an event, we encourage our people to go visit them, we highlight them to our students, we get to know the people serving and the owner, and we actually visit them at other times. You can do this with any partnership. Showing intentionality and engaging in relational community will highlight how important these relationships are, and it will help you build connections and relationships that will allow the Gospel to be shared.
This is a big thing for churches and ministries. A lot of times, Christians and churches garner a reputation for being cheap or poor tippers. If you’ve heard horror stories about tracts being left instead of a tip, they aren’t just stories; they’re true. Instead, when appropriate, it is a good idea to tip and tip well. If you’re using a local delivery service, tip the driver. Utilizing a local food vendor? Make sure to provide them with a generous tip to show them you care. Often times, people’s livelihoods are connected to their jobs, especially small local companies. So tipping well actually could make a huge impact in their lives and will be a welcomed income boost.
Build relationships and invite people into your community.
As you utilize local businesses and partnerships it allows you to build relationships and invite people into your church community. These are moments to foster relationships and show people the love of Jesus. In doing this you are letting them know that you see them as more than just a vendor but as a person that you care about. Pouring into the community should be an opportunity to care well for others and show them the power of the love of God. So invest in those relationships, be a resource and a place of hope, and value the person with whom you are interacting.