Friday, February 25, 2011

Saturated Networks

For a while now I have been noticing that the networks of relationships that people have, seem to be saturated. The result is that many of us do not seem to have room in our lives to develop new in-depth relationships. Sure its easy to add new/old Facebook friends but once you have given energy and time to relationships with family, long term friends, work colleagues, clubs and church there is not much room for new relationships. Of course if you are an introvert the problem is accentuated.

Am I right? What are the implications for a Church? Just wondering what you think?


gbroughto said...

May also be the musings of an over-worked pastor and his circle/network of busy, over-committed staff and volunteers...

I'm somewhat serious...since I began inhabiting the normal world again these last 3 years - specifically without people relating to me with my 'clergy' hat on - I have been surprised at how lonely many 'ordinary' people appear to be. I am talking about my own demographic - parents of kids at primary school - and also from the strange universe of the inner west.

I think social networking just makes the sense of isolation more acute for some people...100's of friends, but not enough relating with others in a fuller and more sustaining way (of course busy suburban Christians can suffer from this too for different reasons).

Roger said...

Putting your observations of over worked clergy to one side –they do ring true.

What you observe at the school is what I hear people saying...they are lonely and want genuine community.

Would you agree that:

• People do have a limit to how many relationships they can genuinely maintain and therefore a constant invitation to welcome new people into our networks can sound burdensome – I want it to be a joy.

• Church people are more prone to saturate their relational networks (because of their concern for others)– and therefore the church can appear like a closed community.

• Sometimes even loneliness is not enough to drive someone to want to develop new and genuine relationships and so the school encounter is as far as it goes. There is safety in sharing with a “stranger”-no strings attached.

Steve said...

Hey guys
I thought this was a somewhat helpful if not slightly tangential article to add to the discussion

What do you reckon? I would agree with it, more friends, but less friendships as the ad once said...

Steve said...

Crackingly great comments section as well which pull the guy *rightly* to bits

gbroughto said...

I suspect that the root of some of the problem is that contemporary 'relationship management' (I wish I could think of a better term) - both online / social networking, in the church, and for parents of kids and the local school has become a largely individualist affair...akin to managing a share portfolio or trying to arrange too many books on the undersized bookshelf.

Approached as an individual 'our' relationships will always be from the basis of scarcity not abundance (time, energy...etc)

I think the village/neighbourhood/embodied community is a better way to 'manage' our relationships because 'community' helps us to relate from abundance not scarcity.

There are theological reasons for this which don't need developing here.

Many contemporary 'quests for community' (as US sociologist Robert Wuthnow called them) only result in people 'finding themselves' - he was writing 2 decades ago about the small group / self-help phenomena in the US. I suspect it is true for a significant number of face-bookers, people on committee/small groups at church and at the local P&C.

Roger Bray said...

Steve good point now to think through how to address it :)

Geoff, I like your insight, 'community' helps us to relate from abundance not scarcity –I guess the 'relationship management' model is one I see most played out and the reason I I raise the question of saturated networks.

I guess though I might add abundant grace helps 'community'/ us to relate from abundance not scarcity.