“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Serving as an equipping-style leader can be a lonely job. I used to envy the youth leaders and children’s ministry pastors because their ministry was so identifiable and provided a means to connect with others in the same trenches. If your ministry hat is to “grow people and develop ministry,” (whatever title you hold) it may be a challenge to find others who share the path you’re traveling.
Enter the power of a network. For years, professionals have gathered in regional circles to provide support and encouragement, networking, and continuing education. Networks provide the opportunity for a collaborative gathering of leaders dedicated to walking alongside each other in their leadership journey.
Often church leaders (in any position) fall into the trap of “doing ministry” rather than equipping others to serve. As leaders begin to model equipping values and systems, they may begin to think they’re the only ones using this style of leadership. At times, the challenges seem overwhelming; and frustrations grow. Connecting with a regional network in a face-to-face community can keep you focused and energized for the long haul.
A word of caution: All networks are not created equal! I remember a group I joined a few years ago that meet monthly. It quickly became apparent that its purpose was to share donuts and complain about senior pastors. Although the fellowship (and donuts) were good—it was lacking the ‘meat’ to make it worth my time away from the office.
Characteristics to consider before committing to a network affiliation:
- Structure and Purpose – Does the network offer an agenda with a purpose that will benefit you professionally? This may include a training session, a book discussion, speaker, sharing best practices, or even a time to “show and share” new resources. It must offer more than coffee and gossip to make it good stewardship of your participation.
- Accountability and Commitment – Knowing that team members are committed to the vision of equipping people for service will allow you to push through the tough stuff and realize your ministry goals. Effective networks give each other permission to hold one another accountable. You may be able to share openly with a network member about an issue you wouldn’t share with someone at your church.
- Fellowship and Fun – You know what they say about all work and no play! Healthy networks balance their time of training and support with fun and fellowship. It could be as simple as having lunch together. Getting a tour of the host church facility. Taking time out for a team-building experience or attending a conference together. (The Equipping Institute is a great way to bring your team together and get everyone on the same page!)
If an equipping network is not currently available in your area, consider starting one! For help getting an equipping network up and running, click here.