Nov 20, 2017
You’ve Gotta Network!
Andy Abramson writes about all the spiritual and strategic value of being networked with other collegiate leaders.
Recently, my wife and I have been back in the Portland, OR area where we started our ministry. It’s been fun to see the restaurants we frequented early in our relationship. We also saw the parks we used to go to on a Sunday afternoon after church. It has been good to reflect on that season of our lives.
While walking down memory lane, my wife asked, “What would I have done differently twenty years ago, if I had the knowledge and experience I had now?” It’s an interesting question that I hadn’t thought about in a while. After a few minutes of pondering, I answered, “I would’ve sought out more relationships with other pastors in my area.” I was twenty years old and felt like I was on an island doing ministry. I had taken very little knowledge I had received from Bible College and set out to try to lead a group of young people. I needed a network of leaders and pastors around me.
Over the last several years, I’ve grown concerned with the lack of college ministry networks. There have been a few minor ones created by a denomination or a rare group of leaders in a city has banded together to create a network, but for the most part, they are pretty limited. I believe part of the issue is that so many people, within the church world, are volunteers and they might struggle with being available because of their limited free time. Others who lead a college ministry as a paid job may have a number of other hats they are wearing. Creating networks within college ministry can be hard, but I think it’s well worth the time and energy. Let’s think about some of the benefits of these networks.
One of the most important things about networking is how it enlarges our perspective of God’s Kingdom. It’s easy for you and I to get so engrossed in our context or situation that we can lose sight of what God is doing down the street, in our city, or beyond. I’ve walked away from time with other college ministry leaders reminded that it’s not just me. There are others who are in the trenches alongside me and that God is working through them. I love to listen to stories of other college students who are coming to find Christ, getting baptized, or making momentous decisions to be a part of God’s Kingdom. We all need an enlarged perspective of God’s Kingdom.
Not only do we see God’s kingdom in a bigger way, we can be inspired and encouraged by others. We all know times in our lives that we were so inspired by what someone else was doing. We would see them and our hearts would be rejuvenated in ways we haven’t felt in a while. Others can help give us ideas or stir dreams in our hearts. Yesterday I had a chance to get some coffee with a college leader in the Seattle area. As we conversed I could sense both of us being inspired by our stories and things we had been learning. Not only are we inspired, but we can be encouraged. We all know the grind and difficulties of the ministry. There are occasions in our lives when we needed a listening ear or someone to pray for us. Difficulties that needed to be processed and spoken into. Other relationships can be essential in order to encourage our hearts and souls. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard of college ministry leaders who have walked away because of feeling alone and isolated. Networks can help inspire and encourage us.
I love thinking about some of the dynamic networks I’ve been a part of. These networks have given me people to depend on. It’s been so valuable to team up with other leaders in my city or in my denomination. We’ve had the opportunity to partner with other leaders for training, meetings, mission trips and retreats. The value that others have added by being involved with my students has been huge. They have added pieces to my ministry that I couldn’t have. They had gifts that were different from mine and added value to my students. I also think about the times where I’ve needed someone to come in to teach or speak to our groups. Those networks have been so valuable. Being a part of networks gives us people to depend on.
I’ve been on both sides of pushback on creating networks. I’ve been the young leader who didn’t know where to begin. Where would I even begin to look if I just wanted to connect with others? I’ve wondered if people would be interested in meeting together. It’s challenging to know where even to start. I’ve also been on the other side. I’ve been the leader that’s been so busy that it feels like a burden to slow down and connect with other leaders in my area. I’ve seen it as a chore to look for younger, more inexperienced leaders to connect with. If you were to look at my schedule where would I find time to carve out for networking or building a network.
I believe it would make us more effective and raise the tide of overall college ministry within our cities and areas. My dream is to see significant networking rise around the country. I really believe that it’s a missing piece to long term, effective college ministry within our cities, on our campuses and in our churches! Will you be committed to network with other college leaders along with me?
We recommend getting involved with our Facebook group. It has become an online community where you can get advice, hear new ideas, and even ask for prayer. It may not take the place of a local netowrk, but it can provide much of the support Andy describes here. – Chase