Good discussion from Alan Hirsch on the nature of networks as they relate to churches.  In his posting, he starts with a basic description of networks, nodes and hubs.

Networks can be physical, like the internet -a collection of interconnected nodes of information.  Or they can be social, like joining the Rotary club or finding friends on Facebook or MySpace.

For Christians, the concept of networks can apply to a network of churches.  Whether this is an association of churches in the denomination or a monthly gathering of pastors from multiple denominations in a community, these associations are built on an understanding first that the other churches exist, and that there is some mutual benefit that may come of the association.

The concept also works as networks of individuals.   Consider the network created when a church member – a member of one node – attends a community Bible study.  When these members of individual churches join for the community study, they create a network.

As Hirsch puts it, “The effective performance of a network over time and distance will depend to a large degree on the cultivation of shared beliefs, principles, interests, and goals- perhaps articulated in an overarching ideology. This combination of beliefs and principles together form the cultural glue, or reference point, which holds the nodes together and to which the members subscribe in a deep way.”

The impact for churches is that they share knowledge, relationships and experiences they receive at one community (potentially) with every other community they participate in.  What used to be a one-to-one relationship is now a network of support.  This is important for small churches, who are often unable to do great things by themselves, but may learn of another congregation doing similar things so that the two (or more) can partner to do greater things than one alone.