Church Collaboration

How Congregations Can Work Together for Mission

Option 6:  Service Coalition

What is the definition of "Service Coalition"?

The "service organization" described in this site is like the parish model with one key difference. A service organization serves people outside the sponsoring churches while the parish model supports ministry within the congregations. There is some overlap between the two, of course. The Edmonds-Lynwood Lutheran Parish, for example, started as a youth program for church members and expanded to a community youth center. The New City Parish in Los Angeles also fits in both categories.  Collaborative service organizations are usually organized as non-profit corporations that are controlled by the sponsoring churches but operate somewhat independently.

Inspiring Case Study:  Golden Family of Churches Health Ministries

The 10 largest churches in Golden, Colorado sponsor a non-profit service organization that works for the health of the Golden community. The sponsoring churches include Lutheran, United Methodist, Evangelical, Roman Catholic, Seventh-Day Adventist, Presbyterian and Episcopal. The health ministries include care for homeless people, immunizations, blood drives, health fairs, counseling, and classes. The organization also raises awareness of health issues through measures like a AIDS candlelight vigil and a People's Walk for Housing Justice. Several of the same churches are involved in The Ascent, a joint youth ministry described on the Parish Model page. The Leadership Network booklet on Church  Collaborations (see the Resources page) describes this effort.  The Parish Nurse Perspectives site also has an informative article.

Other Cooperative Service Organization Examples

New City Parish, Los Angeles, CA

CORE-Christians Organized for Relief Efforts, Houston, Texas. This ecumenical 6-church effort was organized by Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in 2005 to provide volunteers in response to hurricane Katrina. CORE provided over 8,000 volunteers who cleaned or rebuilt hundreds of houses. In 2008 Gloria Dei itself was damaged by hurricane Ike, and CORE remobilized to serve its own community.

City South Cluster, Minneapolis, MN. Six ELCA churches formed this non-profit in 2001. It now consists of 3 churches with 5 staff members. Its primary program is La Conexion, which provides information, referral and support to Hispanic and Latino immigrants in South Minneapolis. The Cluster is considering a program for high-risk youth, and in the past has co-sponsored health-related programs. The former director wrote a masters degree paper on Collaborative Ministry that describes the City South Cluster and other collaborations.

Crossroads Mission, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Crossroads Mission is a joint effort of Lutheran, Baptist, Disciples, Bible, and Roman Catholic congregations to provide food, counseling, information and referral in Cedar Rapids, with an emphasis on helping victims of domestic violence.

Faith-Based Community Organizing

Many congregations throughout the United States work together to bring about social change for peace and justice through Faith-Based Community Organizing. The emphasis is to encourage the kinds of changes in government and society that will reduce the need for service organizations. Faith-Based Community Organizing is carried out by member congregations through regional and national networks. Wikipedia has a helpful overview on the subject. A major national organization is the Gamaliel Foundation, also the subject of a Wikipedia entry.

Track Record of Service Organizations

Collaborations that start with an unmet need in their community, like the Golden Health Ministries and CORE, accomplish some amazing things. Organizations that start with a desired to collaborate and then look for a cause sometimes don't seem to do as well. There are lots of organizations, denominational or otherwise, that congregations can connect with to serve others without forming a collaboration with other churches. Our sample of Service Organizations is too small too make a more definitive assessment. Please send a note to this site to share your experiences.

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