Research provides a needed listening function for the mission community. Listening well results in better understanding, and better understanding usually leads to better ministry.
A great example of the way that research increases understanding and leads to practical action in ministry is the Lausanne Standards project that fosters dialogue and collaboration among ministry implementers and funders about the giving and receiving of money in mission.
Check out this entertaining whiteboard video that illustrates (literally) how the Lausanne Standards were developed and the role that research played.
GMI is honored to have conducted the first round of research (mentioned in the presentation) that supported the development of the Lausanne Standards. Rob Martin, Lausanne Senior Associate for Global Philanthropy, whose voice (and likeness) feature prominently in the video, graciously gave us permission to discuss some of that research here on this blog.
A survey of 147 mission leaders – divided roughly 55/45 between ministry implementers and ministry donors – revealed that both groups agreed that positive funding partnerships are almost always an important issue. However, the leaders were divided on whether partnerships were problematic, and what the nature of the problems (if any) and solutions were.
Cluster analysis led to the identification and description of four “attitude segments” among ministry donors and implementers. This enabled the research sponsors to understand the likely objections to developing a set of guidelines for philanthropic partnerships.
Each of these groups believes that funders and implementers want to partner well with one another. However, each could pose a significant objection to the process of developing standards for effective funding partnerships. Proceeding clockwise around the grid, from top left:
- Standards aren’t enough to fix the problems of dependence and power in philanthropy! We need to overhaul the system and create new structures for working together.
- There isn’t a problem to address – the perceived conflicts in philanthropic partnerships are exaggerated. Just because the work is hard doesn’t mean the system is broken.
- You can’t engineer a policy-based solution to a spiritual problem. Partnership issues will dissolve when people focus more on the Lord and recognize their common dependence on God.
- Codes and policies are no substitute for deeper relationships with one another. Making a greater effort to understand our neighbor will lead to more effective partnership, with or without a set of standards.
The Lausanne working group’s responses to these objections are:
- Yes, we can benefit from creating new forms. Finding points of affirmation is a perfect starting point.
- Yes, the work is challenging, and good communication will help us to address challenges more effectively.
- Yes, human-centered solutions are insufficient. Agreements must be developed and implemented in reliance on the Spirit.
- Yes, we must grow in understanding – and agreed-upon standards reflect an increasing level of understanding.
Watch the video again to see how some of these messages are communicated clearly and effectively. That’s research in action! Here, segmentation is not a tool to create or emphasize division but a means of addressing concerns to develop consensus and discover unity among varied perspectives.
Research for the sake of knowledge puffs up, but research for the sake of love builds up (variation on 1 Corinthians 8:1). How are you are seeing research applied in your area of ministry?