I’ve said many times that there’s an upside and a downside to everything. And we all ought to be on the lookout for upsides to be leveraged and downsides to guard against. I actually use the phrase, “downsides to be mitigated.”
Sometimes people want to paint it differently. Sometimes people will want you to believe that there’s a black and white answer to everything. That is almost never true. Far more often, we operate in the haze while in search of clarity.
Can you see how this is our life? It’s not simple, is it?
Without wishing to make your life more complicated…I want to give you a few things to think about and they have to do with something called weak ties.
Do you know the social network theory, The Strength of Weak Ties? Developed by American sociologist Mark Granovetter, one of the basic ideas is that weak (relational) ties enable reaching populations and audiences that are not accessible via strong (relational) ties.
I want to repeat that line. Don’t miss this: “Weak ties enable reaching populations and audiences that are not accessible via strong ties.”
The theory has applications for many situations from job search to dating. Essentially, if you need a job or are on the proverbial hunt for Mr. or Miss Right, the wider network of acquaintances are more productive than the narrow network of close friends (for more information, read Granovetter’s paper, The Strength of Weak Ties).
I have a four grouplife takeaways and I believe they are all significant:
First, the longer and more deeply a person is connected within your congregation (for example, in a small group or on a serving team), the stronger internal ties become. And we love that, don’t we? We want to leverage the upside of new healthy relationships that become the optimal environment for life-change.
Second, the longer and more deeply a person is connected within your congregation, the weaker and fainter external ties become. I don’t love this. This is one of the main reasons I am a fan of open groups. I actually want to leverage the extensive ties that a thinly connected member still has in the community. Remember, “weak (relational) ties enable reaching populations and audiences that are not accessible via strong (relational) ties.” See also, The Ongoing Open vs Closed Group Debate.
Don’t both of these seem to be upsides to be leveraged? Here are a couple downsides to be mitigated:
Third, we all know that bad company corrupts good character. One could make the argument that continuing to associate with the old life is a downside to be mitigated. This understanding motivates many to guard against the downside of maintaining contact and relationships who aren’t part of the congregation. Truthfully, a misunderstanding and poor interpretation of scripture has prompted a fortress mentality that is not at all what Jesus had in mind. See also An “In” But Not “Of” M.O.
Fourth, thinly connected members of the crowd (to use Saddleback’s concentric circle metaphor) are always one tough thing away from not being at your church. Loss of a job. Divorce or separation. A devastating diagnosis. A child in trouble (see What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting People?).
Can you see how this is a downside to be guarded against? This is a Matthew 9:36 understanding, isn’t it? “When Jesus saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
My prayer for all of you? Don’t let mitigating the downsides keep you from leveraging the upsides of weak ties. Weak ties enable reaching populations and audiences that are not accessible via strong ties.
What do you think? Have a question? Want to argue? You can click here to jump into the conversation.