People will follow what you do more than they will ever follow what you say. This is the power of example. And if you are a parent you have probably seen this play out when your three-year-old repeats something you say in private but would never want people to know you say in public. When your 10-year-old uses the same facial expression you do that says, “I’m looking at you but really not listening to you.” And when your 15-year-old begins to exhibit the same work ethic and moral guide they’ve seen from mom and dad.
Intrinsically, we know that kids and students are likely to exhibit the example they see from their parents because they are with them so much. But what if this is also true for other role models in our kids’ and students’ lives? Role models like you, their ministry leaders and small group leaders. After all, have you ever heard a tween comment that [BLANK]—insert name of their favorite sports icon here—does so many sit-ups, push-ups, and practices so many hours every day? Why? Because what people do is really who they are. Their actions say: “Hey, this is personal to me. This is how I really feel.” Not only does it show others how we really feel, but our actions reiterate to ourselves how we really feel. Actions speak louder than words externally and internally. Actions show that we’ve made our words personal. If we are going to lead them to take their faith beyond words and make it personal, it will be because we’ve shown that we take our own faith personally.
If we want our kids and students to have a personal faith, we should make our faith personal by living in community.
Now we know if you are a small group leader, you are leading a community but that is not your community. Your community is made up of individuals over 18 who are in a similar life stage than you. Your community should be made up of individuals who love you, care about your spiritual health, and want to push you to be all that God created you to be. We believe discipleship happens in relationship. Relationships with other like-minded people are essential for our spiritual growth and development.
If we want our kids and students to have a personal faith, we should make our faith personal by setting priorities.
I find it so interesting that Jesus’ first miracle, His first ministry moment, was with His family. In His last ministry moments, He was also surrounded by family. Even with this example, one of the biggest causalities of ministry is when leaders lose connection with their family. This happens when we fail to set priorities. Priorities help us remember what really matters. It’s important that we show up predictably and randomly in our kids and students’ lives. But what good is it showing up predictably and randomly for them if our marriage is falling apart because we’re never home, or our own kids hate the church because the way we show up for our small group is not the way we show up for them? Setting priorities means we love God, our families, and His Church but we remember that it’s His Church. We trust God in times we cannot be present, and set priorities and boundaries that give boundaries to us and show balance to those we lead.
If you want your kids and students to have a personal faith, we should make our faith personal by being real.
Kids and students are great at sniffing out a fraud! We want to make sure that we are leading them someplace we are willing to go ourselves. Kids and students need our real but age-appropriate experiences with God. They need to know that faith is hard but God is active, and living for Him is worth it. They need to know that a life following Jesus can really happen. That it’s not a myth but a reality that makes our existence so much better. They need and respect us being real. But we can only be real about experiences that we’ve had because we’ve made our faith journey personal.
The most important thing you need to lead is you. You need a healthy you. An authentic you. A you that has made your faith personal. While all of your few may not become robust nextgen ministry leaders, we want each of our few to develop in a way that honors God, loves life, and serves others. The best way for them to do that is to have someone in their lives that is already doing that in a personal way.