The Ministry Value of Proximity
A normal day begins with walking our daughters to school just down the street from our duplex. At school I see my bartender whose son is in my daughter’s class. I see members of our Community Group who work at the school or are dropping their kids off at school. Then I walk a little over a mile to work at church. In the afternoons I work from home or at a local coffee shop a few blocks from our house. Then I pick up our daughters from school with my wife. Then I close off the afternoon with a run around a beautiful lake just down the road from our house.
Most of my work and family life happens within a one mile radius of our house.
I am beginning to realize that one of the most strategic values of ministry life is proximity.
Years ago pastors lived in parsonages (church owned homes) that were on the church property. They lived and worked in the same neighborhoods. But with the invention of the automobile and years later, the growth of suburbs, the idea of working and living in the same neighborhood has vanished. Now some pastors are deathly afraid of living in close proximity to their church. I don’t necessarily blame them. But for us God seems to be blessing our ministry and relationships because of proximity.
When I accepted the associate pastor position at Mountair, our lead pastor Trevor Lee recommended that we move into Edgewater. It is a small community covering only about a square mile just west of Denver and north of Lakewood. In the eyes of Trevor and others at Mountair it was the next logical place for new ministry opportunities radiating out from Mountair.
We were blessed to find a rental in our price range that was within walking distance of the local public elementary school and the church. As we have been intentional in connecting into the community of Edgewater, we have been amazed at the connections that are happening.
Our church has launched a Community Group in Edgewater that is living out together the monthly rhythms of sharing a meal, studying Scripture, serving at the local elementary school and celebration. At every turn we are meeting people in need of connection with others and ultimately Jesus. My wife Hillary and I met a local police officer who is committed to serving Edgewater and sharing Jesus. We’ve connected with the great staff members at our daughters’ school who are glad to partner with us and allow us to serve their school. This Halloween our church is organizing a Kids Carnival for the kids at the school. Trevor and I have connected with the mayor and other city staff who are welcoming our investment with open arms. Hillary and I have met people in our Spanish class at the school who need prayer and a church community.
Many of these connections have been magnified because we live and work in the community of Edgewater. It is through living in proximity that ministry is multiplying and growing. It means giving up a school with great test scores but we have been amazed by the teachers and staff at our local school. There’s more to a school than great test scores. It means giving up some of the conveniences of the suburbs but it’s worth it because of the diversity that our community offers. Living out the value of proximity has been a great experience for our family so far.
How would church life be different if we lived within walking distance of the church we attended and invested deeply in that community?