I’ve always been the kind of person who got along with lots of different types of people in different social groups. Even in junior high, being a very nerdy kid, I circulated among different social groups without getting beat up, put in a trash can or locked in my locker. I’m not sure if that was Providence or just that fact that the even the bullies couldn’t live with themselves if they picked on such a clueless, nerdy kid.
When I entered full-time vocational ministry with no formal ministry education or degree (I have my bachelor’s in chemistry and biology), it was my connections with the children’s pastor at the church I volunteered at along with the children’s pastor who mentored me that got my foot in the door.
And when I found out that I no longer had a staff position at my previous church, it was the different networks of friends and colleagues that helped me to quickly secure a new children’s ministry staff position as well as help me through all that encompasses major transitions in life.
Networks and support groups have always been a part of who I am and continue to be. It wasn’t until I moved to Thunder Bay that I realized how important a wide-reaching support group was. Because of it’s geographical location (the middle of nowhere… OK, maybe not that bad but pretty close), I wasn’t in any proximity to other children’s pastors. I am the only paid children’s ministry staff in the city, and we are at least 3.5 hours away from the nearest large US city and 8 hours from the nearest large Canadian city. I quickly found myself feeling lonely and isolated. I was used to picking up the phone, calling a children’s pastor from the city 30 minutes away and meeting for lunch to talk about ministry, life, whatever… Being in a more remote city, that kind of networking isn’t readily available.
It didn’t take me long to quickly switch my networking to primarily using online social tools like Facebook, Skype, and now Twitter to try and connect with people. I use the phone and email much more so than I did before as well. Conferences, then, become more treasured times for me to connect face-to-face with peers, friends and colleagues as well as form new connections. All these new social networking tools have become a life-line for me in networking with people since it is the only kind of regular networking I am capable of doing due to my geographical location.
This is where my questions come in:
- Who are you networking with?
- Do you have a group or groups of people you connect with regarding different aspects of your personal and professional life?
- How do you connect with them?
- What are you doing to continually build those networks?
- If you don’t have a group of people, why not?
I know some people just aren’t wired to be as energized by being around people as I am, but I would challenge the idea that no one needs anyone. All of us need someone to pour into as well as need someone who is pouring into us. God created us for relationships, whether that means relating with lots of people or only one or two other people. You can’t do life alone, and friends don’t just happen.
Maybe you are geographically isolated. There is a wonderful new thing called the internet that can help with that. There are many networks out there for just about anything. Use tools like Facebook or Twitter or Skype or TokBox. For children’s ministry, there are networks and resources like Kidology or CM Connect. Go to conferences when you can to interact with people. If you are in close proximity to other children’s ministry people, then pick up the phone or show up to a network meeting (many places have them if you look), go to denominational gatherings of children’s ministry people… start one of your own!
I encourage you to not do this children’s ministry thing on your own. Community is vital! It’s vital regardless of whether or not you are in children’s ministry.
Don’t do life alone. It’s lonely that way.