Growing As A Strategic Networker In Ministry - Part 1: 3 Keys
Let me state something obvious: Ministry is all about relationships. Programs are great. Programs are part of ministry. However, programs are secondary to building relationships with actual people. In fact, the primary purpose of programs should be to help facilitate relational ministry. For this reason, it is crucial that as pastors and leaders we are committed to consistently build relationships of love and trust with as many people as we can. This is at the heart of networking.
Underline, highlight, and put a star next to this sentence: one of your primary objectives as a pastor or leader in a local church is to connect with and form friendships with as many people as you possibly can in the community. And I mean that literally. That’s at the heart of networking. Your work is to get to know people, to build friendships with people, and to bless people in relationship. So, how do we do this? What does it look like? Let’s consider some keys to growing as an effective networker in your community.
Key #1: Be yourself. You’ve got to be you. This is true in your preaching, in your leadership, and in your networking: be yourself. I think there can be insecurities in all of us as leaders when we put ourselves out there and seek to connect with new people. We can feel the pressure to perform and try to be someone we’re not. The truth is you need to be who God’s made you to be. Your church and community need you to be you. That is why God put you there.
Key #2: Be mindful of how you can give to others, not get from others. This is one of the differences between networking from a worldly perspective and networking from a Christian perspective. Worldly networking is focused on what I can get from others. Christian networking is focused on what I can give to others. This is a crucial distinction to make. As a pastor and leader, your mindset needs to be on what you can give and how you can bless those around you.
Key #3: Take risks and think outside the box. Networking can be risky. You’re going to have conversations with people you don’t know. You’re going to invite people you’ve never spent much time with to go to lunch or coffee with you. You’re going to send emails and texts and make phone calls to people that you don’t know well. Some will respond to you and some won’t. That’s just how it goes. Networking takes risk. There’s no way around it: You have to put yourself out there, which can be hard and even a bit scary. And yet there is great reward and blessing that comes by taking that risk.
Now, I want to reemphasize the importance of pursuing all types of people. Never dismiss anyone as “unimportant.” Every person matters to God and they should matter to us. The best networkers understand this, which is why they work hard to build friendships and relationships with anybody and everybody they can.
Another thing to remember is that every person you meet has a network of relationships. If you go hang out with a homeless guy in your community, he probably has a network of others you can get to know, most likely other homeless folks. The same is true for senior citizens, teenagers, single moms, football fanatics, educators, fisherman, scrap-bookers, college students, etc. Again, the point is that you want to get to know anybody and everybody you can. As you befriend one person, it can often be a gateway to befriend many others in their network as well.
As an example, in the apartment buildings next to our church, there are some key families that know everybody in the whole apartment complex. As a result, they know everything that is going on all the time! Checking in with them periodically to see if there are any specific ways we as a church can serve those in the apartments is important for our leaders to do. These families will typically have a pretty good idea on ways we can help. Again, we must be intentional about reaching and going after all different types of people – ethnically, economically, and otherwise. This is the heart of an effective networker.