People have said that ministry is a lonely place. There are many reasons for this statement, but Brian Vander Ark is someone who believes this does not have to be the case. As he taught the pre-conference workshop, “How to Create a Local Network of Ministry Leaders,” he started off with some Questions:
- What if the churches in your community and region were working together instead of working alone?
- What if gathering these churches made not only your ministry better, but also improved the church down the street?
- What if you were not alone, but had a local network of Orange thinkers in your corner supporting your efforts?
- What if the Kingdom was bigger than just you and your church and everyone did not need to go to your church to grow spiritually because healthy churches existed around you?
We need to get to the point where “We believe that the kingdom of God is greater than us.”
A local network can help you explore new ideas, understand local trends, and evaluate your monastery with several leaders in face to face conversations to influence and change the greater community.
A local network works best when:
- the ego is left in the parking lot.
- gathering gets beyond information to a balance of giving and receiving wisdom.
- gathering is centered around a shared philosophy of ministry.
Brian’s story with networking: It starts with a beginning (calling ministry leaders around you). Move forward with developing a mission. Develop a rhythm in what you do as a network. Changes happen with people moving or leaving, kids are born, etc. The focus changed over time, which is all right, because networks are loose organizations. However, the relationships will remain. The process almost begins again at this time.
The bigger your church is, the smaller you need to think. It is all about relationships. For example, if a church is regional (vs. local), you might need to network in each community you reach.
Basics to starting a network:
- Take the initiative.
- Start with the “What if” questions.
- Pray for your community.
- Gather names in the community.
- Contact those people (via phone or face-to-face).
- Host a meeting (and see who shows up).
- Create a communication loop.
- Begin with relationship building.
- Spend time together with the individuals in the network.
- Learn their heart, philosophies, etc.
- Look for teachability (ability to share and receive from you).
- Say yes or say no to people. Some people will not fit the network.
- Identify common needs.
- What are the same things you want to accomplish?
- Create goals and develop a strategy.
- What is it in your network that you are going to work on together?
- Keep it simple; do not think of a huge list.
- Create a yearly rhythm.
- Regular meeting times throughout the year.
- This will re-energize everyone in the group.
- Evaluate the purpose of the network often.
- Yearly or every other year, take a look at the network.
- Think of the “What ifs” again.
Ideas & Resources for your network:
- The Orange Tour
- The Orange Specialists
- Core Essentials (curriculum for schools)
- IlluminateConference.tv (for volunteers in TX and AL)
Brian closed with one final “What if” question as a challenge to us. What if 50 people made a commitment to network together after the Orange Conference in order to change their communities for Christ’s Kingdom? I plan on taking him up on this challenge. Do you?
Brian VanderArk is the senior pastor of family ministries at Ada Bible Church near Grand Rapids, Michigan. Brian has developed a comprehensive ministry strategy that coordinates parent resources and family celebrations with a curriculum for children and students. Brian is passionate helping churches strengthen their strategy that allows families to better follow Jesus. He leads a great team who is energized by ORANGE thinking. Brian enjoys spending time with his wife, Ruby, and Will, his 13 year old son, who is nicknamed by his football team, “Wildebeast” and “Will Power.”