Networking as a Spiritual Practice
Today when I see the word “networking,” it’s usually preceded by one of two words: “computer” or “social.” The “computer” kind being the stuff that makes most websites/software actually work, and the “social” kind being things like Facebook and MySpace.
Back in the day, there was plenty being written on “networking” as an important practice for job-seeking. The point of it was to schmooze with enough people in a variety of social circles in order to make the right connections for you to move up, get a job, sell products, make money, etc. Sadly, sometimes this is the main motivation for people to go to church. Whatever the setting, “networking” has primarily been about you getting what you want or need or feel you deserve.
At some point over the past 10 years, I began telling friends (and anyone else who would listen) that “networking” was one of my “spiritual gifts.” I realized, saying this, that networking was not one of the traditional gifts in a strictly biblical sense. But I found the joy and satisfaction I got from connecting personally with other people, as well as the thrill of connecting like-minded people to each other and people to things (e.g., job opportunities, good information, etc.), was really a lot like the serenity and fulfillment one might receive from a healthy, life-giving spiritual practice.
Rather than focusing on myself and how I’m going to benefit directly or advance my own career, social standing, etc., I sincerely attempt to practice the discipline of self-less giving—connecting for the sake of the other, with no expectation of anything in return. At least, that’s the philosophy I’ve tried to adopt, however imperfectly it’s worked in practice. Whether it’s online or in-person interactions, I’ve tried to view networking as a spiritual practice, something that serves others first, rather than myself. And I still enjoy the fringe benefit of the personal satisfaction I get when connecting.
I’d really like to challenge others to view networking, both in the virtual and in the physical, as a self-less giving/connecting spiritual practice. No one likes to feel used by their “friends,” and hopefully no one wants to be a user. Giving truly is better than receiving.
Communication is Connection
This may just be how my strange mind works, but I was reading this weekend about John Maxwell’s new book project entitled Everyone Communicates, Few Connect. Now, to be honest, I think of “leadership gurus” like Maxwell as being some of the most self-motivated people, teaching other people how to always get ahead of others, but I’ve never read any of his books either, so I’ll stop the critique right there. That’s just my impression of who is and what he teaches (I may be way off).
Maxwell says something interesting about communication, which, as a communicator and a lover of networking (including the social networking kind), I perk up when I hear: “The secret to communication — whether one-on-one, in a small group, to an audience, or in a meeting — is connecting. If you can connect with people, you can communicate with people. This is something I learned early in my career, and it has helped me as a husband, father, friend, communicator, and leader. I cannot image what my life and my career might have looked like had I not learned how to connect.”
Maxwell is walking the talk, so to speak, by connecting with his readers through making the book writing process more “open source” and inviting participation and collaboration (something the folks in the Wikiklesia project know well) starting on September 1. I think that’s fantastic! It really just underscores again the importance of approaching networking as a spiritual practice, valuing people and appreciating connecting.
Idea Camp D.C.
This weekend I’ll be in Washington, D.C., to attend Idea Camp D.C. and to connect with folks from around the country representing 40+ organizations that are engaged in “Compassion and Justice” work. There will be people there that I’ve only communicated with in the online world (and many more I’ve never had any contact with), and I look forward to connecting in person.
I’m looking forward to learning much from them, and I look forward to giving out of my knowledge and experience as well. I’ll be approaching this exciting networking opportunity as a spiritual practice, to see where the Spirit of God is moving and join in it, however I can.
Theology of Social Media
In a similar vein as “networking as a spiritual practice,” I’m looking forward to speaking on the theology of social media at the Christian Educators Fellowship “CE 2.0 Christian Education & The Internet” conference, September 11-12, at Pfeiffer University. Registration is only $50, and the deadline to register is next Monday, August 31. Thanks to Jonathan LeMaster-Smith for inviting me to participate in this conference!
Photo by lewis chaplin