You Might Be A Yellow Network If...
by Jason Kaat
A few years ago the church I was working at gave me a three-month sabbatical. It was a great time to refresh and build a stronger connection with God and my family. There are many stories I could share from this time, but one story in particular has been surfacing to the fore of my mind. I had the opportunity to spend an hour and a half with Jack Crabtree, the Long Island Youth for Christ Director.
He is a veteran Youth For Christ guru and has the true heart of a networker. At that time in life I was just asked to take on state leadership for the National Network of Youth Ministries so when I mentioned to Doug Clark, our Field Coordinator, that our family was going to be taking a trip to the East Coast and New England area, he suggested that I connect with Jack and pick his brain.
So call and pick I did! We met at the Prodigal House which has a great story all its own and I suggest following the highlighted link to learn more!
I asked him how he would describe his role as the network coordinator of such a huge populated area. He thought a moment and in the silence a lawn mower started. He smiled and said, "It's a lot like caring for a lawn!"
He went on to elaborate that when caring for a lawn you have to care for green grass, yellow grass and dead grass. It's important that you maintain and care for the green grass because if there is a yellow patch of grass near green grass, the healthy grass will grow into the yellow grass and eventually take over.
If there is dead grass you need to figure out why its dead and assess if it needs some more water, fertilizer or perhaps it just needs to have sod put over it.
It's the same thing when networking in a geographic area that is placed under your care. You want to make sure that the strong networks (green grass) are nurtured well; complete with training, fellowship and strategy. The desired result is that the existing network will grow into other areas as surrounding ministry sites hear the stories and success of how working together not only helps us reach more students but also creates healthier youth leaders.
This will hopefully motivate those other (yellow grass) ministry sites to learn how to network together and the "green grass" will spread into the new ministry site. If there is no network ministry happening we need to think about how we can pray for the area and ask God to open doors. Let the Holy Spirit do His work and be ready to come along side when God raises people up to work together.
Upon further reflection I would add that we cannot try to place sod in ourselves. In other words do not try to convince the locals in a community that they need to network when the soil isn't ready. This process needs to be organic and led by the Spirit and not of human volition.
How do you know if your network is green or yellow? I would refer once again to the train track analogy and to rip off rip off a catch phrase from Jeff Foxworthy...
If your network is lopsided towards relationships and very little or no strategy going on, you just might be a yellow network.
If you do a lot of events but the youth workers aren't able to do life together comfortably by pouring into each others lives, you just might be a yellow network.
If youth leaders spend most of their time complaining about their senior pastor, you might be a yellow network.
If one person dominates the conversation and thinks he or she is God's gift to youth ministry, you might be a yellow network.
If you go to meetings to share about your event and don't care about what others are doing, you might be a yellow network.
If the only collaborative effort you take on the whole school year is See You at the Pole, you might be a yellow network.
If church youth workers still see para-church ministry as competition, you might be a yellow network.
If the para-church still think there are students who would never darken the door of a church, you might be a yellow network.
If the meeting control rests only with youth leaders from the bigger churches, you might be a yellow network.
If you aren't willing to give ministry away to other youth workers, you might be a yellow network.
If you think Catholics are not a part of the body of Christ, you might be a yellow network.
Need I go on? I sense more yellow network jokes will be peppered though out by blogs for years to come!
What I took away from the conversation with Jack Crabtree is the deep need to invest in the green networks and not sweat the yellow network mentality:
"I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live a life worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4:1-6)
"So then dear brothers, be firm. Do not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Yellow networks exist, but they will not exist for long.
We are living in a time where pretense, smoke and mirrors don't survive. However, the Church is hungry for laborers who live transparent lives and are willing to do life together trusting that as we follow Christ together, the Holy Spirit will stir in our hearts and cause ministry to organically bubble up.
When we come together to pray with one another, care for one another, and patiently listen to what the needs around us are, you will hear the call of God summoning His church to action. (See Proverbs 8.)