March 4, 2008
I guess networking is one of those postmodern buzz-words, also one of the business buzz-words. “It’s not about who you are, but about who you know”, Afrikaans people would say. In church, we talk about networking to learn, to support, to “network”, work together. In our synod there is a number of networks, old pastors, young pastors, pastors from mega churches, pastors from churches with only one pastor, and a few others. End of last year we started a new network, this one was for young pastors (since the pastors from the “young pastors” network are in their thirties by now), theological students and youth workers.
We had our first meeting last year, a few of us invited those we know to attend. We had a real “postmodern” approach, decentralized, non-hierarchical, you name it. At the first meeting we had some discussions, facilitated by five different people from various age groups at various stages of the conversation, and we decided that we would meet once in six months. At every meeting we would appoint someone to organize the next meeting. The task of this person would then be to arrange a time, about two weeks before the next meeting, where anyone who would like to take part in organizing the next get-together can talk about what would happen.
What we said we would like to happen is networking, getting to know others doing similar things in similar places, learning from each other through conversation, and maybe even sometimes from someone outside the group, but not generally.
I got the task of creating a facebook group for our network, but although quite a number joined, little happened on the group, there wasn’t a lot of conversation on the group, and what did happen, was only because of a small number of people repeatedly taking part.
So, last night we had a second meeting… with the full amount of six people. Not quite what we expected. So we started the conversation about networking again, about what we are doing, about what is working and not. Did we create a fulfillment for a need which didn’t quite exist? Are we only providing people with another thing about which to feel guilty because they don’t attend? Are we only furthering the overly busy programs of people by providing another event?
But I wonder, maybe the problem is that we have spent a lifetime to train people in becoming independent individuals, not in need of anything or anyone? Why would they suddenly take time out to become dependent on others, to talk, to lean on others? Cause networking, mentoring, all these things take time, it ask of us to sometimes come to a standstill, and it only works for people who commit to the discipline of networking and mentoring.
Any thoughts? Anyone with good experiences about networking, about support systems for people in ministry in this day and age?