Starting something from scratch is hard. It takes guts. It takes faith. It takes foolishness. And it is entirely worth it. In any new endeavor, connections are absolutely necessary. Here are the three steps I took in building a network of connections as we planted Lighthouse Church.
Be well read. When my wife and I first moved to Denver to start Lighthouse, I realized that if I was going to network with key leaders, I needed to be able to speak their language. Which meant I needed to read what they read.
Not a single one of my connections knew who Andy Stanley was or what John H. Walton was writing about in his new Lost World of the Old Testament series. But, they were avid leadership theory readers, TED talk watchers and entrepreneurial-trend magazine subscribers. Which meant, if I was going to connect with them in a meaningful way, I needed to read what they read.
The purpose of reading what they read wasn’t to learn exactly what they were passionate about. But rather, it was to honor them by showing interest in their passions. And as you honor them, you are building a lasting connection.
Be well equipped to dialogue. When you go out of your way to establish a new connection, you need to be equipped to dialogue with them. Not pitch them. But dialogue with them.
Dialogue is a process of learning about your connection, being invested in a conversation and finding ways to intertwine your passions with theirs. Dialogue is so important because it builds trust. In my own life, the people I can dialogue with are people who have taken the necessary steps of honoring our relationship and investing in quality communication. These are the people who I love to contact when I have an idea. These are the people I connect with when a need presents itself to our church.
The more equipped you are to have a genuine conversation (which necessitates taking notes, coming prepared with questions, etc.) the more you are able to build a lasting connection with a high-quality individual.
Be ready to ask—at a later point. In the first year of planting Lighthouse Church we found ourselves in a bind. We needed to rent a building for church services, and we needed it in less than three weeks.
At the time, I had a connection with a high school principal and a nonprofit CEO who worked with the mayor’s office and humanitarian efforts in our city. But at that point in the life of Lighthouse, I had never once asked my connections for anything. I had never asked the principal for a building or the CEO for a meeting with the mayor. But the time now came for the “ask.”
So, I sent an email with the subject line “HELP!” to my two connections, and within 15 minutes I had two meetings set up. In the end, the mayor approved a church meeting in the school, and the principal agreed to our lease terms for the school auditorium. I asked, but I waited until the time was right.
Some of your best connections are people you don’t need right away. You see potential in the connection, but you wait. You wait a couple days, a couple weeks, a couple months to pull in a favor. But once you do, you know that you have built enough rapport with your connections that you can ask them for the world.
Networking with proper connections is a process of being willing and ready. And I hope that by reading, dialoging and asking, you grow in your own personal network.