My pastor made a point not long ago that I’ve been chewing on ever since.
It was one of our semi-annual “giving” sermons, with which I assume most Christians are familiar: God wants us to be good stewards of our resources, please tithe, give generously, etc. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the nature of the sermon, though it tends to feel very familiar. But this past week it wasn’t, primarily because my pastor chose not to focus on money or material goods.
Christians are encouraged to give those, of course, and to give their time and care to those who need it. But my pastor also encouraged us to give the following: our influence and our connections. Most of us, he pointed out, have skills we use “out in the world” – useful, great skills! – that somehow never become a part of ministry. And many of us have influence or connections – networks of people we’ve grown to know and call on – that we can leverage to help others.
Many Christians don’t think of giving in that way.
But connections, networking, and influence can be so important. As much as we want to say that who you know doesn’t matter, in our modern world, it does. A good contact can get you a job, let you in on a secret about an obscure scholarship, or give you a leg up when you need it. I
My husband got his first job from a connection: a dean at our university who was fond of him and who set up an interview for my husband with a local firm. His third job came about thanks to a believer we met when church-hunting, who passed his resume on to a high-level manager who would never have seen it otherwise. I received a tip on a graduate assistantship from someone I knew in school; my scholarship opportunities for college came, in large part, from an in-the-know guidance counselor.
People in the business world will tell you that “who you know” can matter just as much as any resume or amount of job experience. I’ve discovered this to be largely true, especially when it comes to getting your foot in the door somewhere or when you’re just starting out. It’s one of the reasons I will always write recommendation letters for deserving students: they were one of the interventions from caring teachers and professors that God used to make a difference for me.
It can be harder to give in this way, sometimes. Giving money is a free and simple thing: offering to give someone advice or to stick your neck out for them with a recommendation can be much more emotionally involved. But it can also be far more valuable. So this Christmas, as you think of giving, think beyond the regular dollars and cents and material objects. Your ability to put in a good word for someone, to offer up your influence on someone’s behalf, or to help someone in need to make connections, can make a world of difference.