Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Swarms - Ellen Livingood and Justin Long Postings from September 9, 2009

My friend, Ellen Livingood, founded Catalyst Services ( ) to help strengthen agency – church collaboration. Postings, her monthly newsletter provides a wealth of cutting edge information for those interested in effective collaboration in God’s mission. Ellen is a missiologist practioner for whom I have great respect.

The latest edition of Postings features an interview with Justin Long, Senior Editor for The Network of Strategic Missions ( on the subject and missional implications of Swarms. Defined as highly focused, highly adaptable networks that exist for specific purposes, Long provides seven characteristics of these networks. Swarms are

  1. Focused on a measurable goal. They are not long term, and the lines are very clear around the purpose. Unless you accept the goal, you aren’t a part of the swarm.
  2. Highly relational. Although many are virtual; personal connections are key.
  3. Self organized. They are volunteer and autonomous.
  4. Transformational agents. They impact their environment.
  5. Highly adaptive. They are resource poor, so they are innovative and make the most of every situation.
  6. Open. They build tools everybody can use for free.
  7. Fast multipliers. They attract others quickly.

Related to mission mobilization, Long identifies two current approaches. First, is the “hierarchical, organizational approach adopted by most denominations. They have resources, events, conferences, recruits—all done very organizationally.” The other approach, upon which he elaborates in the article, operates in a more “swarmish” style.

Swarming was happening before technology, however, technologies have certainly made swarming easier. Technology is an amplifier, but the decentralized networking concept is not dependent on it and is not just something only the young do. Long calls YWAM [Youth with a Mission] a stunning example of swarming and notes the interesting phenomena that the Southern Baptist Convention is swarmish, while their International Mission Board is not.

The article provides helpful insights into the power and possibilities of swarms. Additional resources are also listed. Click here for the entire article. While you are there, let me encourage you to subscribe to Catalyst Postings. Let me know what you think! A Missional Swarm…I like it.

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