What's Up With Partnership?
Along with Preston Trail’s rapid growth has come the realization that many of you have missed out on the vision casting we have done about the mission and vision of our church. As a result, when you begin to read and hear about certain things we do, it doesn’t always make sense. We have heard on several occasions that our concept of “Partnership” is one of those things. So, in an effort to help you understand what it’s all about, I thought I would offer an explanation of why we practice “Partnership” and not “membership.”
Membership is about belonging—Partnership is about becoming.
There is a deep need for belonging in each of us. That’s why we love to join things like Boy Scouts, the French Club, a sorority or fraternity, the Junior League or the Chamber of Commerce. Belonging to a group of like-minded people validates us. We feel important. We find life enriching relationships. Thus the reason many people also want to be a “member” of a church.
At Preston Trail you don’t have to be a “member’ to get a sense of belonging. In fact, our whole church is designed to make it easy for people to belong in meaningful ways. You can join the Men’s or Women’s Ministries, a Life Group, Celebrate Recovery, the Singles group, softball teams, and all but a few Serving Teams without being a “member.” Our feeling is, if you come here, you belong here!
Partnership, on the other hand, is about becoming . . . becoming a fully devoted follower of Christ. Our church’s mission statement is expressed in a single sentence, “We exist to give our lives to help people find and follow Jesus Christ.” In order to help people follow Christ we challenge them to live out the 6 G’s.
We strongly believe that accepting God’s GRACE revealed in Jesus, making a commitment to spiritual GROWTH, living in community with a small GROUP of fellow believers, serving the church with one’s spiritual GIFTS, practicing GOOD STEWARDSHIP of one’s resources, and participating in Jesus’ mandate to GO and make disciples are essential components to growth and maturity. We believe that each one of these “Gs” is a biblical imperative and that they are characteristic of someone who is seeking to become a fully devoted follower of Jesus. Our goal then, is to persuade and encourage as many believers as we can to commit to live out the “6 Gs” and get on the path to full devotion.
Becoming a Partner, then, is a way that people at Preston Trail demonstrate that they are fully committed to following Jesus’ way of life, living a biblical lifestyle, and growing into the person God had in mind when he created them.
Membership is about privileges—Partnership is about responsibilities
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Membership has its privileges.” That’s a clear expression of the consumer mentality prevalent in our culture. Unfortunately, many people bring this mindset into the church. “Membership” can easily become a preoccupation with the rights and privileges that are due to the members. The church with this mindset becomes focused on meeting the demands of those inside the church, and those outside the church who need Christ are quickly forgotten.
On the other hand, the focus of true Christ-followers is serving and giving to others. That’s why Partnership is about responsibilities. When people decide to pursue Partnership at Preston Trail they are saying that they believe so strongly in our mission of helping people find and follow Jesus that they are willing to give their time, energy, spiritual gifts, and financial resources in order to help accomplish this incredibly important mission. The joy of being a Partner isn’t found in always having one’s needs met, but in being used by God to make an eternal difference in so many lives!
Membership is about who is ready to join—Partnership is about who is ready to lead
When most people consider “joining” a church they process through a list of questions: “Do I like the pastor? Do I enjoy the music? Do I connect with God? Do my kids want to go on Sunday mornings? These are all natural and important questions. We believe that if the answer to most of these questions is “yes” for people at Preston Trail, they will continue to come, plug into various ministries, build meaningful relationships, and grow spiritually. This is a good thing and something we strive for!
Partnership, though, is about who is ready to step into places of leadership. Let me explain. One of the things that sets Preston Trail apart is its open invitation to all—seekers, returners (those who are returning to church after a significant time away), and believers. As I said earlier, our Serving Teams, with few exceptions, are open to everyone. There are some teams and roles; however, that require a certain level of maturity and commitment.
The Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 3 is clear that those who have guiding and supervisory responsibilities need to be proven as people of character and faithfulness over a period of time. So, when it comes to elders, members of the Stewardship Team, or group leaders, for instance, it is highly important that we have confidence that they are going to lead with integrity. When people go through the Partnership process and demonstrate that they are seeking to become fully devoted followers of Christ, we then have a pool of qualified people from which to call out key leaders who will help us prevail in our vision of helping thousands of people find and follow Jesus Christ!
My hope is that this exercise in comparing and contrasting “membership” and “Partnership” has been helpful.