I know there are lots of ways to be strengthened, equipped and mentored. We are endlessly shaped through books, technology, media and connections with people, thoughts and ideas from all over the globe. However there is no substitute for geographically close human connections. This may be obvious, but the best way for community, discipleship and life transformation is through face to face, geographically close interaction with others! As much as the technology world wants to call it community, it will always be tainted with the fact that it’s computer to computer or phone to phone.
I’m not against social media connections. They are having major impact and the church is really able to use it! But it will never replace personal connections with those around you. Find ways to be mentored and to mentor. Find places for connecting with people in faith. It may not always feel natural – at least to start – but we are created for community. You have to cross the awkward stage of getting connected. Then spur one another on to greatness!
This concept of discipleship based on geographically close proximity always comes to mind when I am planning for events like The Well, Ignition and other Harvest Conferences. Since my days at Asbury Seminary, I have sensed God opening doors and calling me to be of assistance to the youth ministry leaders, worship leaders, student leaders and churches in and aroundIllinois. The way we have accomplished this goal is by working closely with people in the community and region.
For example, The Well, a gathering for youth ministry leaders, has taken place each fall since 2005. Partnering with local churches, we host small gatherings of youth ministry leaders (volunteers and paid) for a morning or evening of learning and growth. A typical size for these gatherings is between 15 and 30 leaders. The relationships that are formed are incredible and fun as we seek to serve the Lord together by sharing the message with the next generation. The Well is usually hosted in 6-10 locations each fall.
Another example and one of my favorite opportunities, is Ignition Middle School Conference. During this discipleship weekend, one of my goals is to involve Harvest leadership and other staff, as much as possible, in connecting with middle school kids. We personalize the weekend by being the small group and seminar leaders so the middle school students are able to rub shoulders with the adults and young adults who are walking in faith. Ignition has been hosted each fall or winter since 2004 and I praise God for the results of it.
Every once in a while I ask worship leaders around me this question. “Which is more effective: leading a one time event for 15,000 people or leading the same general group (of say 150) regularly for 15 years?” I know the Lord works both ways (and many more than we can even comprehend), but that question always opens up great discussion on the power of being close to people!
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