Casting Your Net(work)
One of the great regrets of my early years in ministry were missed opportunities to develop and grow my personal network of friends and mentors in ministry. Most particularly while I was in seminary. For three years I wandered the halls and grounds of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. I completed 96 hours and a Master of Divinity degree. I was exposed to some of the best and brightest minds in theological education. And while I worked very hard in seminary getting good grades and starting a family (Julie and I had two of our four kids while we were there), I missed the golden opportunity to cultivate relationships with professors, administrators, and other students.
I remember very clearly not wanting to be “that guy” in seminary. By “that guy,” I mean that guy who, after class, rushes up to the professor and hangs out sucking up and schmoozing him. Or the guy who was always prowling the campus, looking for Dr. So-and-So to saunter by just so he could pounce and try to make some kind of memorable impression. So instead, I was the guy who left class immediately when it was over. If I saw profs walking the campus grounds, I might say “hello” if I passed close by, but otherwise, I left them to their business.
In all of this I was wrong. Woefully, and ashamedly wrong.
Looking back, I know that the problem was never the “brown-nosing” student (as I saw them) but the insecurity and pride within me. And because of that insecurity and pride, I missed a golden opportunity to meet and develop close relationships with numerous men who could have really and truly helped me along in the formative years of my ministry.
I viewed the whole notion of “networking” in ministry as worldly, secular, and ungodly. “God will direct my path and open any door He wants for me in ministry.” That was my attitude. And while true, I will be the first to admit that I have never ended up in any ministry position based on my resume alone. It has AWALYS been because SOMEBODY who knew me, recommended me to SOMEONE at some church that was looking.
That, my friends, is called networking.
And, yes, the Holy Spirit can and does use networking to move his people around and position them for Kingdom impact.
Oh, how I wish I had understood this early on in ministry. As the president of the Cross Church School of Ministry, our goal is to mentor and connect young men and women called to ministry. I spend a year pouring into them. We promise that a year with us will forever tie them into the “network” of Cross Church. We will be with them along the way in ministry to help them.
In my current role, I have the privilege of visiting numerous college and seminary campuses each year. I constantly network with faculty and administration. Many of these have become good friends in the past two years. In my 23 years of ministry I have developed collegial friendships in churches and institutions all across the United States and the world. What a joy it is to run into one of these brothers or sisters at a conference or convention or just in passing.
For those who still doubt the spiritual nature of networking, I would ask you to consider Paul. How many times in one of his letters to a church did he send greetings to certain individuals by name? Or how many times does he speak of sending someone by name to a church, asking the church to greet and take care of them? We even see examples of churches gathering offerings for another church in financial crisis and sending the gift to them. Why? Because Paul wants us to know that we are all in the same “network.”
The reality is that what the world calls networking, the church calls the fellowship of the brethren. So my encouragement to any young leader in ministry is this: Go and cast your net(work)….