Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Who do you love?

As I get ready to teach my brief part of the class at the seminary this weekend, a big issue that will be prominent in my presentation is networking.

Networking sometimes is on the receiving end of fairly harsh criticism in the Church. Okay, some business execs take it way too far, and they only network for personal gain. Yes, some people are manipulative with their relationships. No, we can't expect relationships to avoid the fallenness that affects all of us. And I'll grant that networking can sometimes dwindle down to little more than selfish abuse of the existing relationships of the Church for the networker's purposes only. But those who are unwilling-- or even reluctant-- to recognize the networking nature of the Church, particularly with regard to pastoral placement, are missing a key element to the way that the church works (and a biblical one, at that).

In my survey from last summer, I found that a lot fewer people have a negative view of networking than I would have guessed. Less than 2% of respondents (170 of the Covenant Seminary graduates from 1998-2004) said outright that networking is “an unhealthy idea.” Another 13% called networking “a somewhat professional approach” to placement (seeing “professional” to be a bad thing in this case). On the other hand, 83% indicated a favorable view of networking, acknowledging its value in the placement process.

Further, many of those who viewed networking in a less favorable way admitted that networking played some role in their placement. For some it played a very prominent role (which leaves me curious about their attitude toward networking), at times serving as the deciding factor.

And as I read through the qualitative portions of the survey, networking improves its standing even more: even those who downplayed the importance of networking quantitatively (e.g. they indicated that they did not utilize a network to a very great extent in their candidacy process) suggested or stated outright that the relationships they had (read: “network”) were significant in their candidacy with the particular church or ministry where they accepted a call. In other words, they may not have networked at all for 95% of the churches they candidated with, but the relationships of their network played an important role for the church that mattered-- the one where they ended up.

This is just looking at networking across the board for all respondents; thus, it includes many who did not have a “successful” placement for one reason or another. In another post, I'll work through the implications of networking for those in more qualitatively “successful” placements.

But it all comes down to the question Bo Diddley and George Thorgood, great church-growth experts that they are, keep asking: who do you love?

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