Stay focused on the relationship - Partnership is another name for friendship. While little happens between strangers, friends can transform each other. Partnerships start slowly and change over time. Beginnings are often difficult and unsure in new relationships. Just as all relationships go through a process of courtship on the way to authentic mutual appreciation, likewise, organizations form, storm, and norm before they can perform. With each meeting and activity, parishes and their people become more comfortable and confident with each other. And allow the relationship to change over time.
Address the fearful – Many people are afraid of going into a different neighborhood. Offer help in the form of carpooling, vans, security in parking lot, caravan together, provide detailed directions with maps or gps devices.
Think beyond the pews - One of the most unifying and rewarding experiences in parish partnerships is when a commitment is make to respond to needs that are larger than either of the parishes.
Be realistic – A partnership is a relationship and relationships take time. Because time is our most precious possession, leaders must be candid, realistic and focused in pursuing a partnership between parishes. Spending time together is essential for a long-term and mutually satisfying partnership. For that reason parishes benefit from being in close enough proximity to Intentional icebreaking and community building must be facilitated.
Pray through the process – Lift up this effort in prayer and regularly invite faith-sharing as a way to ground the effort in God’s intentions for the partnership.
Encourage mutuality – Don’t let the money or parish size define partnership. Each partner gives and receives. This is sometimes easiest when the partnership has a purpose that is greater than either partner. Common cause that is larger than either partner creates a strong, mutual relationship of care and compassion.
Expect resistance – People are comforted by the familiar and threatened by change. Some suspect ulterior motives while others fear being overworked by changes. Whenever possible diffuse resistance and warm the atmosphere by staying open to different opinions, keeping resisters in the process, seeking feedback regularly, allowing people time to question, disagree and make adjustments to the partnership.
Help the overcommitted - Often the busiest people are the most interested in parish partnerships. Limit new partner events. Once the partnership is established piggyback meetings with regular events, coordinate meeting calendars, encourage joint planning to save time.
Avoid marginalizing the partnership – It is easy for this project to become the work of the steering committee. Push ownership for events and activities to other parishioners. The steering committee should stick to steering and invite others to do the work of the partnership.
Celebrate successes - Celebrating together engenders trust, builds community, renews enthusiasm and fosters hope for the future.
Parish vitality does not just happen. It is enhanced by intentional collaboration between parishes. If this is your goal, contact the Office of Parish Life or call 716-847-5531.