139 Weeks

I recently downloaded the “Legacy Marble Countdown” app, which helps parents countdown the weeks they have left until their kiddos become adults. How old are my kids, you ask? Oh, I actually don’t have any.

I do, however, lead a small group of 10th-grade girls. Years ago, when I first sat down with my then sixth-grade girls, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Today I love every one of them much more than I could have ever expected.. So while I may not be a parent, just the same I want to make the most of the time I have with these girls.

The app tells me I have 139 weeks left to lead them. That seems like a solid number. Until I do the reverse calculations and realize I have already had 216 weeks with them. I have been leading these girls for 216 weeks and it seems like the blink of an eye. The next 139 are sure to fly by even more quickly.

In those 216 weeks I’ve done a lot. I’ve built relationships and trust, shared my stories, wrestled with them through their doubts, and helped them make sense of things that make no sense (like natural disasters and boys). They know I’ll listen to them. They know I’ll show up for them. They know that I think they’re awesome and I love them. Job done, right? I mean, what else can happen in these next 139 weeks?

I don’t know exactly. But I know what can’t happen. I know they can’t leave this ministry knowing I love and care about them, but still not be sure if this Jesus guy really loves and care about them.

If we as leaders aren’t careful, we can allow our students’ faith to become based more on trusting us to show up than on trusting God to show up. And as we well know, they are going to need to trust God to show up. Because I will fail them and I will not be enough. And when I’m not seeing them every week, that will only become even more apparent. I need to use the 139 weeks I have left with them looking to me, to help them know and trust that they can spend all of their weeks from now until forever looking to Jesus. To help them know that they are not just a group of girls I love because I’m a child of God, but fellow children who God loves. To help them know that they are the Church andthe hands and feet of Christ. To help them own their faith and live it out in such a way that it consumes every part of who they are, so they couldn’t possibly imagine denying it or walking away from it in 139 weeks.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been trying to do this all along. But it’s only growing more crucial with each passing week. Maybe this means stepping out of the way and pushing them more. Maybe it means helping them get plugged into a consistent service role. Maybe it means trusting them to lead small group time on their own. Maybe it means encouraging them to step outside of their comfort zones, with me cheering from the sidelines more and playing in the game with them less.

I’m not sure exactly what it will look like. It will probably look a little different for every girl. But I know what it can’t look like when that app hits zero. When they are no longer walking into a student ministry environment every week, they can’t stop walking in altogether. So I’ll be praying for God to equip me to guide them to own their faith in a way that will allow God to take off with their lives. Even if that means I have to get out of the way.

How will you encourage your students to own their faith in the weeks you have left?

By Shannon Pijanowski 

Guest Writer November 30th, 2015 0 comments

Be the Change

In case you didn’t notice: FALL IS HERE! This is my favorite time of year because change creates a symphony for the senses. The temperature is cooler on our faces, the visuals are a stunning masterpiece painted by our great Creator, and the smell of crackling fires perfume the fall air.

I often stop to gaze at a tree, wondering how God has programmed it

Guest Writer November 11th, 2015 0 comments

10 Perks of Being a Small Group Leader

If you’ve been a small group leader for more than five seconds, you know that, sometimes, leading a small group of kids or teenagers can be… well, a challenge. You signed up to be a small group leader, but some days it feels like your title should actually be something like…

Chaos Manager
Professional “Shhhh”-er
Snack Dispenser
Crisis Counselor
Full-Time Group Text Responder


Elle Campbell November 10th, 2015 0 comments

Blah Blah Blah

I've been thinking about the power words have in our relationships with children and students.

It is truly amazing what a few carefully-worded and well-timed statements can do to a life.

I know that is true in my life.

I know that it is true in the lives of the students I've taught and led over the years.

I recently got a Facebook message out

Tom Shefchunas October 21st, 2015 0 comments

Gossip, iPhones, and Other Distractions

I have little recollection of what my small group girls looked like in 7th grade. However, I can describe their phone cases in detail, since that is what I predominantly saw when looking at their faces that year.

It seems like 7th grade girls have a need for distraction, and one of their best tactics to accomplish this is gossip. This completely shocked me because

Steph Whitacre August 6th, 2015 3 Comments

To The SGLs of the Class of 2019 and Beyond

In January 2008, my husband and I volunteered to be small group leaders for high school students. We met with our church’s Family Ministries Pastor, and he welcomed us into high school ministry—with a twist. He asked us to start with 5th grade students, and move up with them through middle school, eventually graduating into high school programming. This wasn’t exactly what we had in

Steph Whitacre June 15th, 2015 1 comment

Oh Habakkuk

One of the most difficult parts of being a small group leader is knowing what to say in critical moments.

I have friends who always know the right thing to say. They sit down to counsel students in crisis, listen intently and respond calmly with things like, “You know, that reminds me of this life-changing verse I memorized in the book of Habakkuk…” Really!? They’re

Steph Whitacre May 18th, 2015 2 Comments

Turn In Your Burn Book

I’m one of those crazy adults who really enjoy hanging out with middle and high school students. Since you are reading this post, my guess is you are too. Which means you know how much your heart hurts when you see a student being teased or made to feel less than. We can’t always – okay, we almost never can – provide answers for why

Steph Whitacre April 10th, 2015 0 comments

4 Ways to Celebrate Your Few

Kool and The Gang had a great song titled:  Celebration.

(In case you think you've never heard of Kool & The Gang, maybe this will jog your memory: http://youtu.be/3GwjfUFyY6M?t=1m49s)

The chorus went like this:
"Celebrate good times, come on!
(It's a celebration)
Celebrate good times, come on.  Let’s celebrate."
Kool and The Gang got it right.  They knew the right time to celebrate. And my fellow

Jeremy Zach April 6th, 2015 0 comments


I am a small group leader.

I co-lead with 2 other awesome adults. We have the unique ability to bring all of our experiences together seamlessly and serve a group of high school guys who like to call themselves the 429 Tribe. This tribe has been around for almost 6 years now, and even though the name wasn’t established until last year these guys have

Guest Writer March 18th, 2015 0 comments