Cooperative Parish

There are some wonderful benefits why churches would join a cooperative parish. Those benefits include access to all types of resources they would otherwise not be able to access. Churches sometimes receive inspiration, ministry ideas, and even extra sets of hands for ministry implementation when they become a part of a cooperation parish. Participation in a cooperative parish may even provide a boost of energy or rejuvenation for some churches. Many positive things are possible when churches cooperate in ministry.

On the other hand, I find there are many misunderstandings about cooperative parishes. Before your church dives into becoming a cooperative parish, let’s explore some of those common misunderstandings.

  1. All cooperative parishes are the same. In the 2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline ❡206, there are ten unique types of cooperative parishes. Within those ten types, there are further variations. 
  2. Every conference/judicatory leader implements the cooperative parish model alike.  Each conference and judicatory leader has their own unique implementation strategy for cooperative parishes. 
  3. A multi-point charge and a cooperative parish are the same. A cooperative parish has descriptors and expectations specifically outlined in the book of discipline for a purpose. A multi-point charge is brought together to share the expense of a pastoral compensation package.
  4. Any church is a good fit for a cooperative parish Any church can be a good candidate for a cooperative parish. However, a church should have a clear understanding of the type of cooperative parish they are considering becoming a part of, if it’s a good fit for their church, if it’s the right timing, and all the churches within the cooperative parish are on the same page with expectations and understandings.
  5. Dive into a cooperative parish and figure out the details later. In working with many churches who found themselves in a cooperative parish as an appointment solution, most often the details are slow to come. That is, if they come at all. Assumptions are made, mistrust builds, frustration grows, and before long the cooperative parish disbands. Because the details were not ironed out before the cooperative parish formed, the cooperative parish never had a chance.

Cooperative parishes can be a healthy, faithful next step for your church and a true blessing for your community. The key is to approach the decision of moving into a cooperative parish with prayer, discernment, and an intentional step-by-step process led by a neutral party. Determine what type of cooperative parish the churches will become, how and to what degree they intend to “cooperate in ministry,” what resources will be shared, etc. Think of the process as dating before you actually get married! If your church is considering becoming part of a cooperative parish, you might find this resource helpful, An Effective Approach to Cooperative Parishes: A Congregational Guide to Discernment and Implementation.

On a final note, don’t use the cooperative parish model as a last ditch effort for survival! If a church waits until they are too late in their life cycle (i.e. can no longer pay their bills), are they ready to start a new life cycle and actually cooperate in ministry with another church or are they simply prolonging death?