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Five Church Leadership Lessons From The Social Network

The Social Network is a film about the complex and convoluted orgins of Facebook. It focuses on Mark Zuckerberg, the controversial inventor of Facebook, and other stakeholders in the social media empire. It is a well-told, fast-paced, intense film that is a laboratory for organizational behavior on many levels. As I watched The Social Network, I began seeing lessons that applied to leadership—particularly church leadership. Some of these lessons were learned from watching Mark Zuckerberg; others were gleaned from his mistakes.

1. Dream Big

According to the film, Zuckerberg’s dream for Facebook was partially fueled by Napster’s founder, Sean Parker, who said, “Will you be known for fishing the 3,000 pound marlin or 14 trout?” Not content maintaining a small operation, Zuckerberg throws himself into expanding internationally.

Church leaders also need to dream big. A church is a dynamic system that is in a state of constant flux. If church leaders choose to maintain the status quo in their churches—as opposed to adapting and growing—their churches will eventually atrophy and die. So often we limit God’s power by our finite minds. The solution is to envision a God-sized dream for your church. If your church had unlimited resources and was not hindered by any obstacles, what could it accomplish? Stay faithful to God, and get out of his way as he fulfills his will.

2. Stay Focused

One of the keys of Facebook’s success was having a team of people that was extremely focused. When Zuckerberg was “writing code”, he wore headphones to remove any outside distractions. He taught his staff to do the same.

Church leaders can take a cue from the Facebook handbook by being focused on their mission. What is the mission of your church? If you cannot define it in one sentence, your church will be handicapped. Decide why you exist, and then stay focused on that mission. Every move you make—planning, studying, staffing, or leading–should be centered on your church’s DNA.

3. Maintain Pure Motives

While still at Harvard, Zuckerberg’s friend Severin asked him when Facebook would be done. Zuckerberg responded, “It’s not going to be finished, the way fashion is never finished.” For Zuckerberg, working on his venture was not about money; he was motivated by his passion for creativity and innovation.

This is a lesson for all church leaders. It is easy to get caught in the potential snares of fame, fortune, or status. Are your actions motivated by God’s plan for your life? If not, what can you do to change that?

4. Take risks

Zuckerberg took risks to achieve success. Early on, he broke university rules to establish an Internet site called Facemash. Later, he took a gamble by moving his operation to California. In the end, Zuckerberg’s boldness paid off.

Church leaders can learn from the example of risk-taking. They are often the catalysts for change in their churches. Bil Cornelius of Bay Area Fellowship has a motto: “Whatever it takes.” That bold entrepreneurial thinking has helped establish his church as one of the fastest growing churches in the United States. Risk-takers are able to see the possibilities and potential of their churches, and they take decisive, bold actions that bring about positive changes.

5. Value relationships

According to the film, Zuckerberg did not place a high value on his relationships. He neglected to communicate properly with his partner Severin, causing Severin to lose potential earnings from Facebook, and prompting him to sue Zuckerberg.

Church leaders can learn from Zuckerberg’s mistakes. They can find ways to more effectively communicate effectively with staff members, form collaborative relationships with them, and encourage individual contributions. Staff members need to be considered as vital team members. Church leaders can emphasis camaraderie by engaging staff in planning, and providing them with resources and training on a regular basis.

What other lessons can church leaders learn from The Social Network?

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