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 community we celebrate them with.
They establish emotional milestones that stick with us for a lifetime.
The traditions we celebrate are chances to create new memories with the people we love most.
And they remind us of the memories we’ve already shared together.

Establishing your very own traditions as a small group can do some seriously incredible things for your relationships with your few.

Maybe it’s a tradition your whole group does together (like apple-picking every autumn, a service project every year around the holidays, or a special ritual you come up with to celebrate birthdays).

Or maybe there are some traditions you can celebrate with each of your few, individually.

I think Jessica was in 8th grade when she first started inviting me to her dance recitals. I remember her being a little nervous at first, like maybe she was worried I wouldn’t want to come. I did go, of course, and she was so happy that I wanted to support her and see her dance. Her parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and best friends were all there, too. We sat in the front row, took tons of terrible blurry pictures, cheered way too loudly every time she stepped on stage, gave her flowers, took more pictures, and stayed out late eating ice cream. Jessica, her closest family and friends, and me.

Then, in 9th grade, she said, “You’re coming to my dance recital again, right?” Again, I went. Front row with her family, more photos that didn’t turn out, more obnoxious applause, more flowers, and more late-night ice cream. And, suddenly, it was a tradition. I went again in 10th grade. Then again in 11th grade. And again in 12th grade for her final recital before she graduated.

To share in that tradition with Jessica, celebrating her alongside the people who meant the most to her, was a big deal – for me, for her and for her family, too. In the language of Lead Small, our tradition of celebrating her dance recitals became an opportunity for me to “show up predictably” for one of my few, year after year.

Now that my girls have graduated high school, I’m not technically their Small Group Leader anymore and the dynamics of our “small group” look a little different. But, in this new phase of life, it’s exciting to continue honoring some of our old traditions (I don’t think apple picking and scary movies in the fall will ever get old) while establishing some brand new ones. Last month, we took a little weekend road trip at the end of their spring semester to see a concert and explore a new city… and I think we just might have discovered our favorite new tradition.

How about you? What are some traditions you celebrate with your small group? Are there any new traditions you plan to start?

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

Does it Matter or Not?

Last week I completed my fourteenth year as a leader in student ministry.  Fourteen is not a number we often celebrate in our culture, but in the world of students it means a lot.  Over the last fourteen years I have watched a class of students come in as squirrely 6th graders and leave as somewhat less squarely seniors, and then repeated the process.  As

Jon Grunden July 16th, 2014 2 Comments

College Whiplash

She looked at me with tears in her eyes. “I just feel like such a failure,” she told me.

It was the middle of what should have been her second semester, sophomore year and she was no longer at college. For some reasons beyond her control (and some very much within her control) she had been forced to drop out of her dream school and

Lauren Terrell June 9th, 2014 2 Comments

The Art of Small Talk

The start of small group is one of the most challenging segments of the group time. Starting a meaningful and spiritual discussion in the first few minutes of group is like trying to herd cats.  You know what I am talking about, don’t you?

The large group talk just got done and you get back to your small group room and your students are either

Jeremy Zach March 26th, 2014 1 comment

Intentional Affirmation

Whoever said, “Sticks and stones may broke my bones, but words will never hurt me”, flat out lied.

Words do hurt and definitely matter…. especially when it comes to teenagers.  You would be surprised how much students in your group crave authentic affection and affirmation! In Playing for Keeps, Reggie Joiner writes that "a few select words over time can impact someone's direction in life."

Jeffrey Wallace March 19th, 2014 0 comments

A Case of Frustration

For the past twelve years I have led a male small group.  Over the years I have learned a few tricks and a few bad habits on how to lead a group of guys. But I have noticed that over the past few years, I have become more impatient with my few.  I easily get frustrated if a few of my guys aren’t growing in

Jeremy Zach February 26th, 2014 0 comments

Slow and Steady

We’ve all heard the saying, “slow and steady wins the race”, but if you’re like me, that's not an exciting way to go.  I mean, fast and furious is more fun and you are likely to get to your finish line quicker that way, right?  Not so much.  There is a lot of wisdom in the old story of the tortoise and the hare.


Kristie McCollister February 18th, 2014 0 comments

Will February Ever End?

It’s February, and in my part of the country we have already experienced 89” of snowfall this winter.  In fact as I look out the window right now, there are massive piles of snow everywhere, and according to the local news, more snow on the way this evening.  I don’t tell you this to complain, I just simply wanted you to know that my city’s

Jon Grunden February 12th, 2014 2 Comments

Hold On

Rough Beginnings

My first year as a small group leader was not exactly what I expected.  After completing a volunteer application that was thorough enough to qualify me for top level security clearance, I showed up to a dark room in the corner of the church ready to transform lives and take names.  If you have worked with student groups for any period of time,

Jon Grunden January 22nd, 2014 1 comment