One of the most valuable lessons I have learned as a missionary is to network. Not just with those like me, but those different from me. Those doing different ministries and people from different walks of life.
The Riley Guide defines networking as, the art of building alliances. You are networking when:
* attending meetings, conferences, seminars
* talking to others, asking questions
* volunteering to help in others projects
* taking time to visit with members of similar ministries/religious groups
* listening and learning from others
* striking up conversations with others while going about daily living
* posting messages/articles on the internet (blogs, forums, etc.)
* answering emails and phone calls which encourage ongoing dialog
I like what this article says about networking...
Anytime you are making connections or acquaintances with people based upon shared experiences or interests, you are networking.
I have found that many people are out there looking for help. They are trying to get others to help them achieve their ministry objectives. This is very different from networking.
Networking is a two-way street. It must benefit both persons to be most effective, so as you ask your network for help...be prepared to return the favor when asked.
I have found that sitting down with people outside my normal circle of contacts stimulates new ideas. Often previously closed doors will open through networking with those I normally would not associate. These 'new friends' often lead to greater ministry opportunities, or facilitating our own current efforts.
All of us need help. Nobody can do it all by themselves. We all need partners in order to reach our own objectives. When we intentionally network, there are many benefits.
* discovering materials that fit our needs and not having to reinvent the wheel
* getting people on board with helping reach common goals
* saving time by knowing where to go to get something that is needed
* making new friends and possible future working relationships
* entries into whole other realms of ministry
* open doors to not only help, but help shape the direction of others ministry efforts
* increased influence (usually far beyond that merited!)
* greater comradery and trust between entities that normally would not relate to one another
* obtaining materials that normally wouldn't be available without having to pay a lot of money
* good will and support rather than suspicion and criticism
* access to resources, personnel, and knowledge of different groups that can directly assist/benefit what we are doing
The list is indeed longer than the above, but it serves as an example of the benefits from taking the time to network.
I know a lot of the above sounds like "business world" kind of stuff, but I have found that what networking is really about is putting into practice the one another concepts of the New Testament. We are actually exhorted to relate to one another in this fashion within the Body of Christ. As we 'do unto others', they are more likely to 'do unto us' in return. As we 'one another' each other, the winner is clearly the Kingdom of God.
So, do you network in your ministry? How do you go about it? What are some of your thoughts or observations on the above?
BTW, one of the reasons I blog is to network!