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Principles & Practical Tips

By Shane Bennett

Back in the old days you posted a cool thing on Facebook thinking it might cheer or inform your friends. You might also scroll along a bit and find things to encourage, amuse, or inform you. Now if you go to Facebook, you’re more likely to be hammered by the reality of people who don’t think like you and seem hell-bent on destroying all you hold dear! Oh, and right now you’ll also find pumpkin-spice recipes. That being true, maybe we should revive an old school idea whose time has come again. 

No, I’m not suggesting you go visit someone! (What, so now you want to infect everyone and their dear old Aunt Lou with COVID?)

I’m also not going to say outright that you should call someone on the phone. Some 30% of you would stop reading right then, and say, “Is there no burden you won’t lay on our shoulders? Not even Jesus Himself called anyone on the phone.”

I’m talking classic networking. Not so much this Harvard Business Review definition: “the unpleasant task of trading favors with strangers,” or the smarmy caricature of glad-handing everyone you know in a one-sided effort to advance yourself.

Rather, I’m thinking there are pairs or triplets of you all I’d give about anything to sit down with over a coffee. A couple minutes of small talk, a bit more background, and then amazing stuff could happen.

There are people reading this article right now who know the very person who knows how to solve problem number three on your list.

And you, yeah, I mean you: You know the answer to the very question that’s absolutely vexing someone else who reads Missions Catalyst! We matter to each other.

We can make a difference. We can help and be helped by each other in ways that nurture and advance God’s purposes.

Here are four networking principles, four practical tips, some consolation for introverts, and a bold pitch hearkening back to last month’s topic which may relate to this one.

 Four Principles of Networking 

1. Be brave.  

If you can ask the Creator of the universe for whatever you need (Hebrews 4:16), you can ask any missions person! I’ll never forget screwing up my courage and approaching Don Richardson with a question. (Back in my day, there was no bigger missions dude!) Turns out he was a reasonable person and quite willing to engage my sophomoric questions.

If you knew they’d be nice to you, who would you like to ask for advice?

2. Start early.

In an article about networking in the age of COVID-19, Gary Burnison, the CEO of Korn Ferry (a consulting firm, not a local bluegrass band. I know, that’s what I thought, too!), stresses, “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if you want to be successful at networking, you must keep in mind that it really isn’t about you. It’s about building relationships—and relationships aren’t one-way streets.” The sooner we begin to build relationships, the readier they will be should we find ourselves needing help or input.

Reach out now before you need a rescue.

3. Kingdom first.

I love the collaboration and interdependence expressed when workers from various agencies who reside in the same foreign city refer to themselves as “God’s team.” In classic networking, your efforts might result in you getting the job and the other guy walking. Ideally, our networking will be competition-free. For example, If you beat me to one of the remaining 500 or so unreached, unengaged Muslim people groups, I’m going to give you a high five, not the stink eye!

Full disclosure: I have met people who were so sharp that my efforts to recruit them may have included implying that your mission agency was a little soft on inerrancy or some other such nonsense! I apologize.

4. Be accessible.

Bob Goff set a high bar for this by including his cell number in the back of his books! As a fledgling writer, my oldest daughter called him and left a message sharing how he’d helped her. A few days later he called back and encouraged the bejeebers out of her!

Everyone’s situation is different. But let me ask, are your hands open with the good things God has given you? Would increasing your accessibility advance the kingdom? At the risk of “I’m accessible, but apparently no one cares!” here’s my mobile number: 719.251.1403. I’d be happy to add whatever little bit I can to the accomplishment of your godly plans and the realizations of your kingdom dreams.

Uh, but just text, don’t call. You know, phones!

 Four Practical Tips for Networking 

1. Send handwritten thank you notes.

I’m preaching to myself here! Well, actually Dr. Ben Hardy is. In this video he shares the power of a simple, handwritten thank you note. If we raise support, obviously we should thank donors. Who else would be blessed by your gratitude?

2. Write encouragement texts.

See something? Say something. Encourage the encouragers. Point out a high point. “Kudos.” “You were brilliant.” “Atta boy/girl!” 

3. Ask easily answerable questions.

I’ve preached it: The best questions can’t be answered with “yes,” “no,” or a list. This is true. But I know I’m much more apt to respond to an inquiry if I can do so in 30 seconds. Questions requiring minute(s)-long answers tend to languish for days.

4. Ask again.

I tend to assume other people are more disciplined and organized than I am since that would be setting the bar super low! So, when they don’t respond, I assume they don’t want to. In reality, most people are scrambling. People for whom you wouldn’t even think it could be true have dogs who throw up on the carpet and as a result they forget to respond to your message! Wait a bit and humbly try again.

 “Hold on a second, I’m an introvert!” 

Some of this “help and get help” networking might be a factor of personality. I’m not inclined to launch into anything significant on my own. As a mobilizer, I might be the one to start waving the flag for a particular vision, but I’m looking for close comrades right out of the gate. If you’re wired up in a more independent way, maybe you’ll happily spend more time on the giving end of networking, rather than the receiving end.

And if it feels like part of you will die if you ask someone to consider helping you, I wouldn’t blame you for saying “Bye, Felicia” to this whole idea. Please don’t, though. You have so much to offer the movement. Find the low key, safe ways to ask and share. We want you and need you.

 Fitness Pitch 

Last month I asked you to think of your body and consider making some changes to keep it alive longer. The recent passing of two dear and faithful missions all-stars (Lee Purgason and Doug Schaible) remind us it’s clear our days are not entirely in our hands. Even so, I want to steward this temple well. I suspect you do too. In fact, this could be problem number one or two on your list.

If so, please check out what my friends Anthony and Denea Widener are doing with Crash Fitness. They want to help missionaries and missions people by “empowering them in Christ to move with passion and purpose through fitness and healthy living.”

I’d like you and your whole network to join me in their free Seven-Day Challenge. What do you have to lose? (Me? About a stone. Maybe two!)

About Shane Bennett

Monthly Practical Mobilization articles are written by Shane Bennett. Shane helps normal Christians connect with Muslims in the US, Sicily, and beyond. He works for a cool, new organization called Healing Nations, speaks at Perspectives classes and churches, and writes a super-short weekly email that helps people think about Muslims the way God does and love them like Jesus does. Check it out or sign up.

Contact Shane.

About Missions Catalyst

Missions Catalyst is a free, weekly electronic digest of mission news and resources designed to inspire and equip Christians worldwide for global ministry. Missions Catalyst was founded in 1996. Since 2007 it has been a ministry of Pioneers.

Use Missions Catalyst to fuel your prayers, find tips and opportunities, and stay in touch with how God is building his kingdom all over the world. Please forward it freely!

Our mailing address is:

Missions Catalyst
c/o Marti Wade
10123 William Carey Drive
Orlando, FL 32832

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