When I was young, we would celebrate my birthday at Six Flags over Georgia. It was great! My mom would pack a big picnic lunch (fried chicken, potato salad, sandwiches, chips… oh, and fresh watermelon – always fresh watermelon) and the whole family and a few friends would head out to the park for the day.
One of my favorite things to do was ride the Scream Machine. Back in the day, this was a huge roller-coaster that would start off with a long, slow climb to the top of the first hill. If you sat in the very front seat, it felt like it stopped for a second before it began it’s decent. Then down we’d go—the big drop straight towards the blue lake. Then, swoosh, up another quick hill and a tight turn and a jerk back to the right. Well, you get the picture. Each hill, each turn, every scream seemed expected and unexpected at the same time. I’d always be exhausted by the time the ride finished, but as soon as we got out of the seats, we would run back around and get in line to ride it again!
I think leading a small group can be a lot like my birthdays spent on the Scream Machine—lots of twists, turns, steep hills and then fast descents. Sometimes I’m hanging on for dear life and other times holding my hands up daring it to get even more exciting. What could be better (and sometimes scarier) than getting to walk with a group of students through their high school years? As a leader, we help them navigate the unexpected and quick bumps of life as a Freshman, the twists and turns of being a Sophomore, the uphill climb—feeling like you are never going to get anywhere—of Junior year and then the seemingly out of control descent of being a Senior. And through it all we point them towards the One who created this wonderfully crazy ride.
I’ve just finished the ride with a group of Senior girls whom I have been blessed to walk with through their last two years of High School. It’s been so amazing to see them struggle and grow, ask questions and seek answers, find (and sometimes lose) friends and love, have trust broken but faith built—to basically ride the roller-coaster with them. Last week was Senior Sunday where we celebrated the senior class and commissioned them to the “next step” in their life. While I am not exactly ready to fully let these girls go, I do understand that my interaction with them is changing. And that is as it should be. So just like the roller-coaster rides of long ago, I am exhausted and maybe even a little spent. But guess what? I think I’m gonna race around and get in line to go again!
The beauty about relational youth ministry is that it gives students a place to share. As SGLs we need to remember that students are hurting and need a warm, welcoming environment to discuss their doubts, struggles, pain and hurts.
So what do we do when a student shares a hurt? The biggest danger is not knowing what to do when a student shares some of their hurts.
"Doubt isn't toxic to faith; unexpressed doubt is." - Kara Powell
I've occasionally been told that I have the "ideal" small group. My girls are life-long followers of Jesus, great friends, strong leaders, passionate about serving others, and super active at church. Students like that would never struggle with something terrible like doubt... right?
Well, a few months ago, my girls were at my house
I met Claire the first day I came to observe the high school ministry at our church. She made an immediate impression. At that point in time, our ministry met at a house on Monday nights. Claire’s parents had graciously opened their home every Monday night to about 40 to 50 high school students. It was clear Claire wasn’t crazy about the fact that her
When is the last time you had fun? No seriously, take a second and think about it...can you think of a time in the last few weeks you had fun?
When I was a kid, I had no problem having fun. I could waste an entire day doing nothing of any value, with absolutely no agenda other than spending time with people I enjoyed. Now
Every small group leader needs to think about how to assimilate new students into their small group. The initial thought of the new student who just joined your group is -- "this group thing is kind of weird." Think about it. Where else are students placed in a small group, sitting in a circle encouraged to talk about their life and faith? In our postmodern-21st century-digital culture
"Ugh! Moms these days!"
The words came tumbling out of my mouth before I could swallow them back down. It was one of those nights I had planned to get dinner with my girls and once the night rolled around, I could barely bring myself to show up. I was ten weeks pregnant (which in my personal experience is equally as uncomfortable as 42 weeks
I was having a great discussion the other day with some student leaders.
We were talking about Henry Cloud's book, Integrity. In it, Cloud describes the Observing Ego as "our ability to monitor our own thoughts, behaviors attitudes, feelings, abilities, choices, values, desires, talents and the like." He goes on to tell us that the mature among us are those who can self-observe and self-correct.
All too often when I meet people and tell them that I work with students, they quietly question my sanity and then follow it up with a simple statement like, “God love you.” If you work with students, I know you have had similar experiences.
I recently had the privilege to work at the Orange Conference where Reggie Joiner spent some time talking about the
I had the privilege of co-authoring a book entitled “Everybody’s Urban” with my friend, Leneita Fix. Leneita always provides me with great insight and perspective when it comes to how to measure “success” in my youth ministry. I wanted to share with you some things I’ve learned from her.
Have you ever experienced one of the following scenarios in youth ministry?
• The student you