I prefer to see social networks as less about “how to” and more “why” and “what if.” Many of us recognize that virtual networks are merely reflections of our connections in the real world. I believe the hyper-connectedness we see online only scratches the surface of what is really happening. A study conducted by the Monitor Institute echoes this sentiment:
“…the tools are only the beginning of the story. The deeper news is actually about the networks behind the tools, and how these networks are fundamentally changing the way we live and work…The real transformation is in the way that people are using the tools and fundamentally changing how they think, form groups, and do their work.”
I suspect if the Monitor Institute were church growth consultants, they might tell us that traditional church-as-usual is not going to work in the hyper-connected church. They would ask whether our churches are prepared to make the necessary “connections” in order to effectively communicate in such a networked society. They might insist that networking is less about Twittering or being LinkedIn and rather more about openness, transparency, decentralization, and collaboration.
Church leaders should consider these characteristics of a hyper-connected, networked society.
Wisdom of Crowds
As a network grows, it accumulates more knowledge and experience, which leaves little room for outside sources of expertise and leadership.
Build on the Progress of Others
The network shares information and resources which enables progress to build atop the work of others.
No Membership Required
Networks organize around a common goal and may disband quickly once the goal is achieved. Unfortunately, networks may require us to change some of the ways we are connecting with people—the old ways may simply not work anymore. Networks require us to think about whether we are effectively communicating and organizing our efforts in the best possible ways. This mindset challenges some of our assumptions about ministry and how we carry out our mission. Fortunately, networks allow us to better understand ourselves, our communities, and our world. They allow us to develop and share wisdom and insight. Networks are a great place to exchange ideas and to share resources. Most importantly, networks offer us an effective way to interact and engage with a lost world, to serve and to spread the Gospel to those unwilling or unable to hear it anywhere else.
Interested readers can download a copy of the Monitor Institute report here.