Growing up, I was always in the water. As a kid my family took yearly lake trips , and I spent countless hours splashing around local swimming pools. When I was ten, I joined the local club swim team and swam competitively for the next eight years. In high school I spent my summers lifeguarding and teaching kids how to swim as a certified instructor.
Understand—I was no Michael Phelps—but I was, and still am, a pretty good swimmer in my own right. That’s why, when it came time to teach my own three-year old son Sawyer to swim, I naturally thought I was just the guy. Father always knows best, right?
Not so much.
Remember watching Scooby Doo? Remember when the bad guy would show up and Scooby would jump straight into Shaggy’s arms, fearing for his life? That’s kind of what it was like—my swimming sessions with Sawyer. But I doubt Scooby’s fingernails were quite as sharp. Sawyer would not let go of me for any amount of candy or Chic-fil-a lemonade. He would not go underwater without making it clear that his trust in me would be forever broken. Eventually, he would take a survive-at-all-cost approach and try to climb on top of my head. It didn’t take many of these experiences to realize I wasn’t the right guy for the job. That guy turned out to be Mr. Everett. He’s probably no older than fifteen.
Mr. Everett is a swim instructor at a local swim club where my wife and I decided to enroll our son. Our thinking went something like this, “we can drop him off, pay someone else to be the bad guy, and go grab a coffee so we don’t have to watch the pain and suffering.” Turns out, there never was any pain and suffering. In fact, by the end of the week, Sawyer had completed every skill Mr. Everett had asked him to tackle, and could even swim by himself for a few yards. Our expectations were blown away.
I’m not so sure I could have lined up and dusted Mr. Everett in the 50 Freestyle like my ego suggested. My speedo is a bit rusty, so to speak. But I absolutely know enough about swimming to coach high schoolers (which I did once). How is someone else better able to teach my three year old how to wave his arms in circles and kick his feet?
The answer, I think, is that he’s not me.
Mr. Everett is another voice. He’s someone Sawyer could look up to, respect, and for reasons unknown to me, feel more compelled to trust in the pool than his own dad. I knew this day would come at some point: the day when I’d have to hand over some trust to another person to speak into the lives of my children. The day when I’d realize that there are people who can say or teach something better than I can. I knew my kids would be teenagers someday, and, having been a high-school small group leader, knew how they might detach from their parents. I just didn’t realize they could be influenced so soon.
It took Mr. Everett to show me how much and how soon caring adults can impact the lives of children. For me as a parent, that’s a game changer. Mr. Everett taught very important physical survival skills. But spiritually speaking, the stakes are even higher – there is an entire generation on the line.
And you as a small group leader—you’re the game changer. You are the caring, Godly adult with so much more to offer than swimming skills. Don’t hesitate to step into the circle – you have influence.