How to make networking work for you

By Andy Lawrenson September 29, 2016

“Don’t go it alone.” We know that this is tried and true wisdom for anyone in ministry, but many of us find that we’re doing ministry outside of the regular influence of other youth workers. We may feel that our schedules don’t allow for that kind of consistent connection, or we may be in an area with few like-minded youth pastors.

When I arrived on the scene at my current location Jim was only other full-time youth pastor in our county.  Having moved from a town where I had several good relationships with youth pastors that brought me both encouragement and collaboration, I knew the importance of connecting with him, and we began to meet once a month at a local restaurant. Together we committed to setting aside that time and using it to encourage and challenge one another to have a greater impact in our community. Building a meaningful ministry network is not without its challenges, but with the help of these tips it’s possible to make networking work for you.

Establish clear expectations
Take your first meeting to brainstorm a list of expectations or purposes for meeting together. You may want to combine for specific youth events, or perhaps your focus will be on fellowship and encouragement. Once your purpose is clear, decide on when and where you’ll meet and what your weekly agenda will look like. Our agenda looks something like this:

Network Meeting Fall 2016

Short Devotion

Share Ministry Wins

Topical Discussion

Share Prayer Requests

Closing Prayer

Don’t hog the conversation
Make sure that you don’t monopolize the conversation. A one-man show quickly grows old and can kill even a strong and healthy group dynamic. Remember that others in the group are likely working through similar issues and frustrations; they also need a place to vocalize the challenges of disconnected parents, unhealthy leadership, or struggling teens.

Prioritize encouragement
Encouragement has the power to strengthen us through the draining aspects of youth ministry, but it’s easy for it to fall by the wayside as we focus on what appear to be more pressing issues. By creating and designating a space for encouragement we ensure that it remains a priority in our network meetings. Have each member share a “win” in the ministry in the last month. Ask each person to name what he or she is most grateful for in this current season of ministry. You might even provide a way to hear updates on past prayer requests.

Share Ideas
Some of the best idea I’ve had in ministry I’ve stolen from other youth ministries. Leave room in your meetings to share ideas, strategies, and series or teaching suggestions. Someone in your group might have a great idea that you can adapt to fit your student ministry. Don’t pass up the wealth of wisdom that may be sitting across the coffee shop table from you.

As youth ministers we are in this adventure together. We’re meant to live out what is described in Hebrews 10:24-25 “Let us consider how we can stir up one another to love. Let us help one another to do good works. And let us not give up meeting together. Some are in the habit of doing this. Instead, let us encourage one another with words of hope. Let us do this even more as you see Christ’s return approaching.” Taking time to invest in your network relationships could lead to opportunities for collaboration, the discovery of fresh ideas, and meaningful encouragement to spur you on in ministry. Get out there, find some ministry friends, and begin encouraging and sharing together!

About the Author

Andy Lawrenson

Andy Lawrenson has been in student ministry for 26 years both as a volunteer and paid staff member.  Andy and his wife, Misha, have been married for 28 years and have three children: a son in middle school and twin eight-year-olds, a boy and girl. Andy loves getting together with other youth pastors to talk about…  Read More