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Leading Humans: Part 1 – Proximity

By Liz Smith, Director of Youth & Family Discipleship and Communications

How we lead human kids, human teenagers, human parents, and human volunteers in the real tension around us requires better conversations, deeper relationships, and healthier teams. Shannon Walter, our Director of Children’s Ministry, and I spent a day with other family ministry leaders at the Orange Tour Conference in Clermont, Florida a few weeks ago to learn more about leading through tension.

While we find ourselves, our church, our community, and our society in a season full of tension, we learned that tension isn’t a problem – it’s an opportunity. Tension provides a powerful platform to inspire faith and build trust with the next generation. Over the next several weeks, I will be sharing some of the things I gleaned from this conference, and how we can better serve our kids, youth, families, and our entire congregation.

We talked a lot about empowering kids and teenagers to keep living, creating, loving, believing, growing, and serving. The goal is for all of us to come together to help our kids and youth build a foundation of faith that is resilient. In order to do any of this, we need to lead with proximity. What is proximity when it comes to ministry?

In Matthew 5:1, we are told that “when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.” Jesus didn’t shout at them from afar or use a bullhorn so everyone could hear. No, he sat down with them and had a conversation. The beginning of leading kids and youth to Christ starts with relationships. It’s getting to know someone’s name, where they go to school, or what sport they might play. It’s sitting down with them on Sunday morning, or at a youth event and getting to know them.

In the Gospels, God shows up, walks among us, and wants to have a personal relationship with us. The proximity was close. God with us. This is the relational side of ministry in which we are all called to participate in. Something changes when we understand what it means to sit down with a kid or a teenager. To us it might just mean time, to them, it means everything.

How can we help lead the next generation closer to Christ? We sit down with them. Get to know them. Laugh with them. Learn with them. Pray for them. Show up and be a presence in their lives. Our sweet little five-year-olds will be graduating high school before we know it and our high schoolers will be one in just a couple of years.

“When we learn to lead in the tension, we will empower kids and teenagers to keep living, creating, loving, believing, growing, and serving in the tension. Then we give the next generation a foundation to build a different kind of faith – a resilient and everyday faith.”

If you would like to learn more about how you can pour into our kids and youth, please contact Shannon at or Liz at Stay tuned for more installments in this series.

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