3 Takeaways From Passages Leaders Conference 2021

By Passages Alumna Julia Schemmer

May 21-23 was the annual Passages Leaders Conference, where leaders, Passages staff, and partner organizations came together in Frisco, Texas to share resources, lead trainings, and get excited for the year ahead. Whether it was seeing life-long friends or meeting each other for the first time, there were so many lessons, takeaways, and joys from the three short days we spent together. Check out the three main takeaways from this year’s Passages Leaders Conference!


1. Community is a beautiful thing.

In a year as challenging and unpredictable as 2020, I’ve grown used to being alone, social distancing, and delayed plans. While these practices were necessary to stay safe in the midst of a pandemic, nothing beats the joy of getting to see people face-to-face, to build community and to fellowship together. Whether this is done through a screen or in person, I am constantly learning the importance of leaning on each other, of building meaningful relationships, and going through life together.

When you go on a Passages trip, you become a part of a larger Passages family, one that has been growing since 2014. Whether it’s reaching out to your bus to relive some good memories over Zoom or checking out the Passages Leadership Network to find alumni near you, there are so many ways to stay engaged and involved with Passages. Let’s make 2021 the year of finding and building community.


2. Don’t be scared of complexity.

There’s a lot going on in the world right now, especially in Israel and Palestine. It’s easy to minimize the conflict, saying it’s not complex and that everyone should immediately understand what’s going on. While I wish it was that easy to comprehend, the region itself has thousands of years of history behind it, and it is rich in spiritual, cultural, and political complexities. To neglect these intersections is to do an injustice to your own understanding. Instead, try to lean into the complexity and see where your curiosity will take you. Use it as a reason to propel you forward in your understanding of the issues, to try to learn as much as you can, to seek out diverse perspectives, and to not settle for diminishing the issues to an infographic on social media.

During the conference, Josiah McGee, Passages’ Associate Director of Education, gave a comprehensive and analytical breakdown of what has been happening in the region over the past two weeks. I noticed that every time I would write down a fact, I would have 2 or 3 more questions that followed… You might remember something similar during your Israel trip, and how we often leave Israel with more questions than answers. Don’t be afraid of trying to know everything about the region, but do what you can to learn beyond social media and instant headlines.


3. Leadership development is an ongoing process.

We are constantly growing, developing, and pruning our leadership skills. Just like how we will never fully know everything there is to know in the world, we will also never be done with fully developing ourselves as leaders.

During the closing devotional, Passages’ Deputy Director Jeremy Rivers said something that stuck with me: “get out of the stands and start running the race.” So often, I am guilty of allowing fear, insecurity and imposter syndrome stop me from getting out there and using my God-given abilities to further the Kingdom. I linger instead of lead. I hesitate instead of help. I compare myself to other leaders instead of trust the Creator who made me.

It’s so easy to look at the other runners in the marathon and wonder why I’m breathing so heavily, why my mile isn’t as fast as theirs, or why I need to stop to rest more. Comparison will always defeat us from being the leaders we were born to be, but the marathon has a finish line and it’s up to us to keep running. Tie up your shoes, grab your water bottle, and keep going!


There are so many incredible opportunities to get involved with Passages after your trip to Israel. If being a Passages leader is something you are interested in, visit the Passages Leadership Network to be informed of the latest opportunities!