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 owned up to the idea of being special, brave, and bold.

Because of the amount of time the three of us have invested in these guys, we’ve built up a strong foundation of accountability and friendships. This sort of relationship allows us to share with them a different insight than their parents. For us nerds out there, think of it sort of like admin access, or “super user.” We have access to their lives in unique ways allowing us to speak truth but actually have them listen. We can extend grace while instilling discipline. Of course it hasn’t always been like this, but during these past several years we have done a combined total of 12 overnight retreats and countless outings. We have invested a lot of time into the lives of these guys, with the goal of being able to show them what it’s like to have a faith of their own and grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ.

We didn’t make them memorize verses every week
or walk through a specific book or curriculum
or make them volunteer
or fast or preach or pray out loud or evangelize in the park or hand out tracts or… you get the picture.

We show up. Every Sunday. Every Retreat.

We definitely encouraged them to do all of the above (save for handing out tracts), and most, if not all, of them are serving in some capacity at our church. These things aren’t something we make them do. The time we have invested trying to speak truth, lead as Jesus led, and show grace builds a sort of relationship equity you just can’t buy. This comes in handy, especially in instances like our last retreat.

We had a new student who’s experience with our small group consisted of coming to church one week prior to the retreat and meeting us for the first time. During this time I got to witness the guys welcoming him to the group with open arms, and invite him to come hang out with 21 strangers for a weekend. So, he signed up. (They can be rather convincing…)

On the last night, our new guy shared a bit about his broken past, growing up being “feared into catholicism,” and eventually leaving the church and his beliefs. He said,

“I went from being a guy who didn’t know what to believe, I don’t know, maybe an atheist or something. I really just didn’t know exactly what or who I was looking for…”

He took a breath, then finished.

“…to knowing 100% it is God. I am so very grateful for this group, and for coming here to myLIFE.”

There was silence, but it lasted for maybe a second. Because of the trust we have built in our relationships, these guys needed little convincing to make great efforts on their initial invite. But all of this lead up to his moment of sharing, and since they have all learned how important it is to celebrate these kinds of victories, they all stood up and clapped.

It was awesome.

As leaders, we get to celebrate these kinds of moments even though at times it takes everything for the group to focus the discussion on something other than video games or girls. It’s ok though, because the ultimate goal is for the foundation to remain in their hearts and minds. It will remind them of the time three adults invested in their lives, and helped their parents guide them to be real men. Men who, in the future, will recognize the importance of investing in others and be bold as friends, leaders, husbands, and most importantly, followers of Christ.

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 0 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

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