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 making that up. I bet Habakkuk isn’t even in the Bible. (Please don’t email me about this. I went to Bible college—twice. I know what I’m talking about.)

Meanwhile, when I sit down with students, I spend 75% of my energy listening kinda intently, and the other 25% thinking panicked thoughts like, “Oh shoot, oh shoot, oh shoot… they’re going to expect me to have an answer. Oh shoot, this is above my pay grade… Shoot, shoot, shoot…” Under the pressure, I begin spitting out Habakkuk as a curse word.

Helping a student figure out life’s biggest problems in their current phase of development is a big responsibility, and I feel the weight of getting it right.

One day, when my small group girls were in 8th grade, I got a phone call from a mom. She explained that, after a heated argument, Mary Anne’s dad had moved out. She wasn’t sure how long the separation would last, but she knew Mary Anne was hurt and reluctant to share her thoughts with anyone. She asked if I would see what I could do.

My mouth said, “Of course.” My brain said, “Oh Habakkuk.”

I picked Mary Anne and her best friend Dawn up after school. We went to the park and sat on the swings for an hour and a half. We talked about school, boys, hobbies, childhood memories, pets, the weather, favorite foods, and the color of the grass—we covered practically every topic that has nothing to do with dads. I would occasionally try to steer the conversation in a way that would trick Mary Anne into pouring out her feelings, but to no avail. Finally, my persistence dwindling, I suggested we go get ice cream.

As we sat on the curb in front of Manning’s (which is truly the best ice cream in all 50 states), the conversation became more serious. Sensing her friend’s shift in mood, Dawn suddenly found the need to “go use the bathroom” and left Mary Anne and I sitting side-by-side, making futile attempts to catch drippy ice cream with our tongues before it melted down the backs of our hands.

I glanced over at Mary Anne, took a deep breath, and said, “Ya know, your mom called me… I wouldn’t be a responsible adult if I didn’t ask how you are doing. Do you want to talk about your dad?”

There was a pause, and then she mumbled, “There really isn’t much to say. He’s gonna come back.”

Shut down. Habakkuk.

My brain scrambled to formulate my response. Most of the statements began with, “But if he doesn’t…” and, “God has a plan…”

Instead I heard myself say one word, “Okay.” Yup. She predicted the unforeseeable future, and I said… “Okay”.

When Dawn’s mom came to pick the girls up, Mary Anne hugged me and thanked me for talking. I was a little dumbfounded by her gratitude, being as our exchange on the matter consisted of 3-4 sentences.

I guess when it comes to leading students, the words you don’t say are sometimes as important as the ones you do.

Mary Anne’s dad did come home a couple weeks later. In the following years, his leaving and coming home have been cyclical. Looking back on that day in front of Manning’s, I don’t think she needed me to dispense wisdom or talk her through the reality that her home life might be changed forever. She already knew that. I think she just needed me to sit next to her on the curb, sticky with rocky road ice cream, and console her with one word: Okay.

Steph Whitacre May 18th, 2015 0 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

First Ever Camp

I have to admit, I was terrified the first time I went to camp. What was I getting myself into? Would I be able to connect with the 13 boys in my cabin? Would I get any sleep?

That was this past year and even though I was going as a 55 year old leader, my fears were probably not that different from those of

Guest Writer March 13th, 2015 2 Comments

Show Marvelous

Let’s face it. Middle schoolers can be difficult. They are in such an uncertain time in their lives – one foot in childhood and the other in adulthood. Unsure of who they are, they spend their time trying to figure it out and that process can be a little rough. They can be awkward and annoying and sometimes, even, hard to love.

They actually remind

Guest Writer February 9th, 2015 1 comment

Not About Me

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love

Guest Writer February 2nd, 2015 0 comments

Focusing Your Few

What do you do when you sit down with your few to start group and they are:

not focused
look bored to death
on their phones
listen to music on the BEATS
fighting or gossiping
watching youtube on their phones
braiding each other’s hair
punching holes in the wall
fidgeting with the pillows
screaming or crying
and the list can keep going on

Jeremy Zach December 1st, 2014 5 Comments

The Power of Traditions

We've probably all seen the power of celebrating traditions in our families (just think about your favorite childhood memories - I'm guessing a bunch of them will be connected to a family tradition or two).

But have you ever thought about harnessing the power of traditions for your small group? 

You should!

Traditions are powerful.

The traditions we celebrate have this crazy ability to bind us to the

Elle Campbell November 17th, 2014 4 Comments

When Death Happens

This past Thursday evening I found myself driving in a numb panic to the home of one of my few. Just a few hours earlier, I was in the middle of my toddler’s weekly trip to library story time when I received a call from one of my small group girls.

“Lauren? Kate’s sister was killed in a car accident last night. What should we

Lauren Terrell August 18th, 2014 2 Comments