Social Capital Saves Lives

We’ve thought that success is achieved by picking the superstars, the brightest
men, or occasionally women, in the room, and giving them all the resources and all the power.  And the result has been . . . aggression, dysfunction and waste.  If the only way the most productive can be successful is by suppressing the productivity of the rest, then we badly need to find a better way to work and a richer way to live.
   Margaret Heffernan

Social Network Shelby McQuilkin

The initial title for my post today was “We Are Killing Ourselves & Each Other” but it sounded a bit too dark, don’t you think?  Still –  it’s true.

What’s also true is that we need each other.  For the love of God (and humanity) please listen to this or – if you prefer, read the transcript of Margaret Heffernan’s TED Talk about work – it’s here.

As we all know, another loner has taken the lives of innocent people along with his own.  These shooters are called “unknown” or “sullen and aloof” with “socialization delays.”  Sometimes teachers or counselors noticed them along the way and they expressed concern.  But it wasn’t enough.  They needed friends, mentors, unconditional love, treatment, protection, intervention, attention.

I have no wisdom for how to stop our national crisis.  My life’s work involves church and professional ministry, and in the throes of this work, I also know pastors and other church leaders who are profoundly lonely and broken.  We self-medicate.  We avoid conflict.  We keep our spiritual doubts to ourselves.

We need to make changes in the way we work.  We need to figure out how to create social capital.

Margaret Heffernan works with companies and this is what she says about making companies thrive:  “Social capital is what gives companies momentum. And social capital is what makes companies robust.

. . . Time is everything because social capital compounds with time. So teams that work together longer get better because it takes time to develop the trust you need for real candor and openness. And time is what builds value.

Many pastors have limited social capital.  Maybe we tried to make changes without first developing relationships.  Maybe we love the intellectual rigors of our profession, but we don’t love the relational piece. Maybe we didn’t show our people that we love them.  Maybe we don’t love them.  Maybe we are working solo in a tiny church with negligible support.  Maybe we are lonely as hell.

Our seminaries and denominational leaders would serve professional ministers better if we could teach/encourage/model how to build social capital.  Some of our more creative colleagues have ideas:

  • Multi-staff pastors invite neighboring solo pastors to join them for staff meetings, to do what people do at staff meetings – collaborate, bounce ideas off each other, check in.  Yes, neighboring pastors often meet occasionally in Clergy Associations, but what if there was a culture shift that created a broader understanding of “staff”?
  • Solo pastors in several churches become staff for each other, partnering across congregational and denominational lines.  (We need to get past the idea that Roman Catholics can’t do things with Methodists or Presbyterians cannot join Lutherans without the fear that one pastor won’t steal another pastor’s people.)
  • We need therapy groups/accountability groups/12-step groups for clergy in which we leave our shame and fear at the door.  (Note: there are untrustworthy clergy out there.  Sadly, we must be careful about what we share.)

Social capital saves lives.  This is true for loners with violence issues.  This is true for clergy with savior issues.  This is true for all of us.

Image is Social Networking by the gifted artist Shelby McQuilkin.  Please buy her art here.

3 responses to “Social Capital Saves Lives

  1. Yes. Relationships need to be at the core of all we do in the church. It’s not about programming or worship style or mission projects. It’s about relationships so that we can be effective at programming and worship and mission. That’s why to the core of my belief I believe churches need LOGOS–an approach to ministry that teaches leaders (church staff, parents, other adult volunteers of all ages) AND participants (children and youth) HOW to be in relationship with one another and with God through Jesus Christ. If I may…here’s a story I recently received from a 25 year old who grew up in our church:
    “As for a story about logos, maybe the best one was when I was about 13. My patents were getting divorced, I was a wreak my world was tilted in a way I’d never known. I was extremely distant and very short tempered and one logos Wednesday I was completely disengaged with everyone, when we were told to come in from rec I refused and stayed on the basketball court. After multiple parents trying to get me to come inside, Mr Ridgeway came outside. It was the first time some asked me how I was doing and didn’t tell me everything would be ok. He just kept passing me the basketball.He listened to me talk which for me wasn’t my forte especially coming from my family which didn’t do alot of it. He allowed me to express everything I felt then said we all must have rainy days in order to savor the sunny ones. He told me I was a good kid and for once I believed it about my self. Chuck really helped me through hard times even if he never knew it. those times sitting with him a dinner or out at rec helped me.that’s why logos is an amazing program, adults have a chance to really make an impact on great kids . Yeah they mess around alot and don’t always answer you, but they will be amazing people if you allow them to be themselves and just support them and try to be a friend not just an adult. They will thank you for it when they are older, trust me…i know”


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