The craziness of life is something I think we can all relate to. Family interactions, work issues, school activities, hectic schedules, car problems, home repairs, health issues . . . the list could go on and on. No matter the age group that we work with (preK, elementary or students), bad days can affect us and how we interact with our kids. We all deal with an enormous amount of “stuff” every day. As small group leaders, it’s sometimes a hard task to leave the “stuff” out when we head into small group.

That’s easier said than done, I know . . . believe me, I know. Recently, I had to endure a Sunday when I felt like everything was just falling apart: my mom was in the hospital, I was behind at work, I hadn’t had a real night’s sleep in days, one of my students was going through an incredibly difficult time. There was nothing I could do to help. I felt out of control (yes, I know that’s probably another post for another time) and it was killing me.

I was battling tears all day—and often losing that battle—and it was just about time to go into small group. I didn’t know how I was going to get through it without verbally or emotionally “throwing up” all over them.

Now, don’t get me wrong—I have an amazing group of 12th grade girls that I have come to love and trust. They would’ve been glad to listen to me and all my frustrations—but that’s not what I’m there for. Small group time is for them . . . time for them to share, to process what’s going on in their lives, to relate what we’re learning in large group to their faith journey. It’s not for me to use as a counseling session.

I know we’ve all been there and had days like that. Days when everything seems to be crashing down . . . or emotions are building up in such a way that small group time becomes a “perfect storm.” We’re human—so there are going to be those times. I believe that’s one of the hardest parts about being a small group leader—understanding that there’s a fine line that has to be navigated between sharing your life without sharing too much.

For me, it’s a matter of boundaries—of putting borders in place that help me manage that line. These borders allow me to be authentic without being too vulnerable. In this particular situation, I reached out to a couple close friends (who are also SGLs) and they quickly agreed to dinner after small group.

So when it came to my small group, I used our “Highs and Lows” time to let them know that day had been a really rough day so if I busted out crying, to just forgive me and move on. And they were great—they smiled and made some great, funny comments and small group went off without a hitch.

Good news, I didn’t cry. . . but I sure was glad I had the disclaimer out there just in case.

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Kristie McCollister

Kristie has worked with students for 25 years as a director of student ministries, a small group leader, a Sunday coach, or a coach for student sports teams.

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