Rachel Lonberg 2016 Stoll SmallDear Ones,

I received a strange phone call a few weeks ago. Chris said, “there’s someone on the phone who wants to talk about your husband.” Puzzled, I picked up the call. The caller is now my husband’s new boss, the owner of The Old Mill Brewpub in Plainwell, where Brian starts as the brewer in early July. (His beers will be served beginning in early August.)

Apparently, a People’s person—I still don’t know who—is a regular at The Old Mill. When this person heard they were looking for a new brewer, she or he or they said, “my minister’s husband is a brewer.” Consequently, I received that strange phone call at the church.

We are part of the church for many reasons, many of them not as tangible as job prospects. And yet, these sorts of word-of-mouth referrals can be a powerful part of what a church does. When I told the story of Brian’s new job to Tim Bartik, he said, “That’s The Strength of Weak Ties!”

Apparently, one of the most cited papers in sociology is about how important it is to have relationships with people who don’t know all the same people that you know. (The weakness is not that the relationship isn’t close or meaningful, but that the relationship isn’t embedded in a group in which everyone already knows each other.) Weak ties are the most fruitful for job searches, as the people you have the most overlapping friendships with are likely to know about the same job openings that you already know.

In recent weeks, I’ve been thinking about how many wonderfully weak ties we have at the church. It’s true that, within the church, our relationships overlap and many of us know many other people. It’s also true that, through the relationships at our workplaces, schools, the voluntary associations we belong to, and within our families and neighborhoods, we have a whole host of weak ties as well – I envision them as tentacles reaching out across Southwest Michigan and beyond. There are only about 250 members of our church, but through our relationships, weak and embedded, we reach thousands upon thousands.

May our relationships, within and beyond the church, be a source of love, joy, job prospects—and other good things.

(And to that mysterious People’s person who recommended Brian for his new job, let me know who you are. I’ll treat you to one of Brian’s beers.)

 

See you in church,

Rachel

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