Christian living is all about interdependence. Paul uses the analogy of the human body in I Corinthians 12 to explain how individuals are to cooperate within the church. In various places in the New Testament epistles we see the same interdependence on an organizational level. The European churches needed the instruction of the Jerusalem church while the Jerusalem church needed funding from Europe to care for the poor.
For the past year, the McLane College of Business (along with other parts of UMHB) has worked in partnership with Threads of Hope to achieve that same kind of Christian interdependence. Threads of Hope has benefitted tremendously from the relationship. Their sales are up 44%, their mission impact has been statistically validated, and they have access to a small army of volunteers that they are still figuring out how best to utilize. At the same time, Threads of Hope was able to give to the University something rare and highly prized by our College of Business – an actual, functioning business with which to integrate some of our programs.
This partnership didn’t happen by itself. To make it work we had to get over some things, give up some things, and get on with some things:
Key 1: Get over Your Differences
- UMHB’s denominational identity is Baptist
- Threads of Hope is non-denominational but sprang out of the Anglican Church
- UMHB’s mission is Christian education
- Threads of Hope’s mission is empowering poor women
- UMHB’s locus of operations is Belton, Texas
- Threads of Hope operates almost exclusively in Peru
Each institution had to think outside itself and value the identity of the other. It was our differences that made us valuable to each other – one body, many parts.
Key 2: Make Some Sacrifices
UMHB had to make some of its real estate available to Threads of Hope and incur some costs to fit it out in a manner suitable for them. In a university experiencing steady growing pains where classroom and office space are tightly rationed, it wasn’t easy.
Threads of Hope, for its part, had to hire an additional part time employee to staff the office. For a non-profit used to running almost exclusively on volunteer labor this was a big adjustment.
The best interdependence usually requires sacrifice. When one part suffers (or rejoices), they all do.
Key 3: Get Going
All of the new opportunities to work together required new effort:
- None of them were already on the schedule
- None of them had a planning committee already assembled
- None of them had a previous year’s budget that we could adopt
New relationships require energy to break the inertia but only after that investment of energy can we see the kind of synergy experienced by both partners. My father used to tell me that we can only be truly independent when we are interdependent – each of us growing by the addition of the other. That is when the parts become the Body of Christ at work.