Networking: It’s not just for the Secular World
My journey to Wake Forest began in a way that wasn’t out of the ordinary. During high school, I developed a sense of calling which led to my continuing discernment. The obvious route to seminary, for me, was to study religion at my undergraduate institution and then make a seamless transition to graduate studies. In conversation with one of my mentors, I learned of an alternate route: business school. This turned out to be the path for me.
The advice I received in high school was that in pursuing a vocation in youth ministry, there may come a time when I would need a skill set that was not focused on religion. After all, the eventual end goal of an MDiv degree is to find employment that will use the knowledge gained to further the work of Jesus in our world. No matter the vocation, the church needs everyday ministers that work in and through the secular world to truly create the new, just, equal world of which Jesus spoke. Here, people often cite Buechner’s quote about one’s individual calling matching their passions with the world’s greatest need. It would not be sustainable for all Christians to be vocational ministers. Nor, would there practically be enough jobs to go around. In light of the idea that all are called to be ministers, an important question then arises. How can those seeking an MDiv better serve the world? The answer lies in the business concept of “networking.”
While networking may often seem to be buttering up friends and colleagues so that they may send work your way, it serves an important role in continuing the ministry of Jesus. Each person has a unique set of skills that can somehow benefit others. Each person also has a unique set of weaknesses that need to be complimented by the strengths of another. Networking provides access to resources – people, ideas, books, you name it – that will enable an individual to offset their weaknesses. Further, it empowers each person to benefit another by being that resource. Forgive me for the theology here, but it may represent the dynamic mutuality of the Trinity. We are one global community, yet each individual has their own essence to contribute to the overall “being.” The process of creating a better world begins with relationship building, and that is where Divinity School proves even more important.
At Wake Forest, there exists a wealth of diverse ideas, backgrounds, and experiences. Also, students are afforded opportunities to hear speakers, attend conferences, speak with denominational representatives, and intern. The task, then, is to take advantage of those opportunities to build a network that will aid us long after we leave Wingate Hall. My hope is to encourage each student to do the same. Take notes at lectures. Engage faculty, staff, and denominational representatives. Apply for the internship that may stretch you. Though we may hate to admit it, we won’t have all of the answers about God, the Church, writing curriculum, or fair business practices when we graduate. But, we can connect to resources that will enable each of us to find the answers when we need them. I’m not sure exactly where my journey of vocational ministry will lead. When I get there, I know I’ll need your help and I’ll be willing to offer mine.
For further reading on the importance of networks, I suggest Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. The book deals with the roles people may play in causing social epidemics. It’s a great way to see how you may play a part in the “social epidemic” that is the mission of Jesus Christ.