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(This article was originally written for the Association of Christian Counsellors in SA in 2017)

The notion of a network is well demonstrated when thinking about computers on a network which are linked through cables, radio waves or satellites. The purpose of the connection is to work together and share information in a manner that is efficient and synergetic.

In the world of business, networking can be described as intermingling with people to exchange information and meet new contacts, especially to further a business or career.

In the ministry of pastors and counsellors this skill is often overlooked and neglected. The reasons for this oversight can vary from being too busy, seeing more than enough people with problems or not knowing where to start. Maybe the question is: “Why bother?”

In our ministry, Inter Trauma Nexus, we found that networking is essential when working in a community. Nexus actually means ‘network’. The reality is that trust relationships are not formed in a crisis. When crisis and trauma hits people’s lives, sound relationship must already be in place if we wish the serve and minister in a community.

We define a sound relationship as a relationship where we can encourage, support and even challenge each other to grow towards a dynamic relationship with God and other people.

In this article only four kinds of networking will be highlighted:

  1. Networking with people who share a common interest.

Meeting together to worship and to build the Kingdom of God seem to be the most natural form of interaction with people for pastors and Christian counsellors. This should be very important and can be seen as our primary responsibility.

We are passionate about creating opportunities for Christian counsellor to network at meetings and conferences, because that helps us to enhance our profession and ministry. It also creates the opportunity to encourage professional responsible and ethical behaviour in our practices.

  1. Networking to establish contingency programmes in a community.

Crime, mistrust and heart ache are rife in South Africa. We can complain and blame or we can make a positive difference. Effective relationships with community members can start with joining the community policing forum or becoming actively involved with local school or sport affairs. You are part of that community. Your knowledge and skills will make a positive difference, once people get to know and trust you.

  1. Networking to cultivate productive professional relationships.

I grew up in a time when embracing relationships with people from “other churches” were frowned upon. Associating with people in some medical professions were equally unacceptable, for whatever reason. However, I found the most valuable colleagues when I looked further that the formal church walls and professional boundaries.

Once we get acquainted with people outside, or alongside, out field of expertize we can start to share with each other. We can share our stories, our knowledge and challenges. When we come to the place where we can talk about challenges, we can look for possible solutions together.

  1. Networking to encourage the next generation.

Many pastors and counsellors are working so hard in isolation that they simple burn out due to the constant bombardment with human suffering, financial hardship and a lack of fellowship. There are young people working, with great commitment, to find their feet in ministry. They need encouragement and practical wisdom from seasoned workers in ministry. A few words of encouragement and wisdom can help them to learn to balance their time between working, ministering, family and studying.

Working with young people is mutually beneficial because they see life in a new light and can offer insights no one else dare to share. Nonetheless networking with will only be of true value by keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit.

Networking is about more than hunting for clients, dishing out business cards or hitting people over the head with the Bible. Networking is about getting out of your office and meeting people where they interact with each other. It is about listening to people. Hearing their stories, their concerns and dreams in a non-therapeutic context.

Networking is about caring and being there where life happens. People do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care. You will be “the salt of the earth” by being genuine, having integrity and bringing God’s peace and wisdom.

May 2018 present a new ministry opportunity where you will meet people who need Jesus and who need encouragement. May you make a dynamic impact in your community, by being part of it.

Dr. Barbara Louw (Chief Executive Officer_