Learn how to connect to new people

/ 14 February 2013

One of my favorite scholars/researchers in digital culture, danah boyd, has a new piece up about “networked norms: how tech startups and teen practices challenge organizational boundaries.” I think her observations are pointed, pertinent, and directly applicable to the work of communities of faith:

Many of you are helping people develop hard skills that they need to do a variety of jobs. This is utterly critical. Without those hard skills, people can't get very far in a knowledge economy that is dependent on highly educated and skilled workers. But if you want to prepare people not just for the next job, but for the one after that, you need to help them think through the relationships they have and what they learn from the people around them. Understanding people isn't just an HR skill for managers. For better or worse, in a risk economy with an increasingly interdependent global workforce, these are skills that everyday people need. Building lifelong learners means instilling curiosity, but it also means helping people recognize how important it is that they continuously surround themselves by people that they can learn from. And what this means is that people need to learn how to connect to new people on a regular basis.

I’d like to repeat one sentence here: “… what this means is that people need to learn how to connect to new people on a regular basis.”

If we do not figure out how to do this in seminary, we are doomed. Yet far too often we are “curved in upon ourselves,” only listening to those who speak our private language. Jesus showed up, Jesus was present to those on the margins, Jesus had, as theologians say, a “preferential option for the poor.” I worry, in the midst of the challenges sweeping across the landscape of theological education, that too many in leadership are not listening to voices on the margins, are not reaching out to and learning from new people.