The Church as a catalyst for collaboration is one of the four essential practices of what we call a Missions 3.0 church. Along with the practices of Reframing Expectations, Tackling Outcomes and Cultivating Innovation churches that want to make a lasting impact on their communities have to become a Catalyst for Collaboration. Why? Because no one church can do it alone AND because the Church alone can’t do it.
In 2011 Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) introduced the concept of “collective impact” in an article by the same name. It described a form of collaboration that was more structured and disciplined than most collaborative efforts and had achieved substantial impact on a number of large scale social problems in various cities across the country.
It is an alternative to the “isolated impact” model in which churches, nonprofits, businesses, government agencies and other caring souls each tried to address a need independently. In a follow-up article entitled, “Channeling Change: Making Collective Impact Work” they wrote, “The complex nature of most social problems belies the idea that any single program or organization, however well managed and funded, can singlehandedly create lasting large-scale change.” No single organization…or church… can do it alone.
It is also true that the church alone can’t do it. No matter how many churches we get to work together and no matter how disciplined the effort, the church can’t do it alone. It must learn to work with other cross-sector agencies and engage leaders of good faith and good will all along the way.
One of the most helpful conversations in the church today is around the idea of “the common good.” Voices like Tim Keller, Made to Flourish, Q and others are challenging and equipping the church to become better partners with other community stakeholders. How can we bring the resources of time, talent and treasure within our churches to collectively address the needs of our community for the common good? The tangible expressions to that question, more than anything, will help the church regain much of the credibility we have lost.
I see in John 17:22-23 a picture of the church as a catalyst for collaboration and the common good. “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
I’m convinced that when the church serves as a catalyst for collaboration with the kind of discipline and rigor outlined in Collective Impact and when we work with other community stakeholders for the common good we make a difference that others notice. As our “oneness” becomes answers to the questions people are asking and solutions to the problems they are trying to solve we become the visible presence of Christ in the world.