by Eddie Pipkin

Image by pixel1 from Pixabay

I was making myself a quick snack-lunch the other day, a banana with peanut butter, when I thought, “You know, sometimes two great tastes really do go great together.”  There are plenty of potent examples of that truism, including the commercial version of the chocolate and peanut butter combo that gave the famous marketing phrase its staying power.  But what’s true for flavor combos can be true for ministry, too.  If you can find the right combination of ministry elements, you can create a memorable end product that keeps people coming back for more.

Last week I wrote about the power of the hype person, and, by definition, that’s a partnership.  The right partnership can pay big dividends (and the wrong partnership can come off as awkward or forced).

There are plenty of pairings that can supercharge local ministry offerings:

  • The right two people paired together to teach a Sunday School class or facilitate a small group.

It’s a tough job, teaching a class or leading a small group.  It’s always a great idea to have a two-person team share those responsibilities.  I know some of you are reading this and thinking, “I can’t get one person to lead, how in the world am I ever going to get two?”  But having a second person actually makes it easier for the first person to say ‘yes.’  It takes the pressure off.  The burden is shared.  The schedule now has room for one person to be away or take a break.  And if it’s the right pair, they play off one another’s strengths in a way that brings delight to all who participate in the programming they lead.

  • The right two people can share leadership of a major project.

The same “sharing the burden” principle applies to heading up a major, time-consuming initiative.  In this case, the stakes are often higher, because you don’t have as much time for making adjustments in the pursuit of success, and the wrong combination of partners can fail spectacularly with a shared leadership model.  If it’s a good pairing with a solid rapport, however, this can be a great option.  To achieve a good pairing, select a leadership pair that benefits from already established relationships – people who have worked together previously with good results of people whose personalities seem to align promisingly – and encourage people to co-lead a passion project in which they have previously invested their efforts.

  • The right two people can solve a problem.

Sometimes when you have a specific, intractable problem, a two-person team with balanced talents can find a solution.  It might be a technical problem.  It might be a creative problem.  It might be a management problem.  It might be a problem that has stumped all sorts of individuals, but put a pair together, able to bounce ideas off each other and able to leverage their individual expertise, and barriers can magically fall.

  • The right two people can explore new creative directions.

Sometimes this is pairing two people with two different creative passions.  Sometimes this involves pairing a creative person with a more practical person, say a person who is an excellent biblical teacher but perhaps a bit staid (maybe even boring in approach).  The practical teacher’s material and scope may be profound, but their presentation leaves people yawning.  Get that person paired with a creative, high-energy type and sparks can fly!  If you put two different creatives together, a different kind of sparks can fly.  Ideas that inspire and energize people can result.  Imagine pairing someone with a love for dance with someone who writes original music.  Or a painter with a storyteller.  It’s a great way to inject classic stories with a fresh perspective.  It’s a great way to prompt people to greater creative heights.

  • Mentors and mentees.

This is one of my favorite pairings.  It’s a biblical model that breeds powerful results, and I wish more small churches used it as a way to promote spiritual growth.  Across generations, across cultures, and across stages of development, people can build strong relationships and learn from one another.  It’s a great way to cultivate future leaders – a need that we do not prioritize like we should.  It’s a way to help people work through the inevitable struggles and setbacks of deep involvement in the nuts and bolts of ministries.  It’s a model that can assist new parents, developing teenagers, inexperienced workers, and recovering addicts.  It just works!

When you’re encouraging people to pair up, you can get some unexpectedly delightful results.  And just like the fellow who initially put chocolate and peanut butter together (or peanut butter and bananas!), once it’s done, it can seem so obvious!  I can imagine a local church designing a “partnership” series which focuses on famous biblical partnerships and encourages people to explore partnerships with other people.

Quirky, delightful pairings work for more than people, too:

  • The right program at exactly the right time (sometimes an unexpected time).
  • The right program in the right location (sometimes in an unexpected place).
  • The right activity for the right audience (sometimes a group doing a thing that’s unexpected).
  • The right surprise at the right juncture (flipping the script to catch everyone’s attention).

When the right two (often improbable) things get paired together, wonderful things happen, and they can seem inevitable in the aftermath, but they are the result of open-mindedness to try new things in new combinations and a whole of experimentation.  Let’s not assume that just because an idea flops in one configuration, it needs to be permanently jettisoned.  Maybe it just needs its proper counterpart!

What have been some improbable but wonderful pairings you have seen in your years of ministry?  What’s an example of something – a pairing or combination – that worked in a way that you thought never would?  Do you make concerted efforts to get people together in creative or practical partnerships?  Do you have specific partners with whom you love to work?  Partner with the blog in sharing a tale or two.  We appreciate YOU.