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.

I have been blessed to be involved in student ministry for a long time now.  I say blessed because I know I get as much out of it as I put in (if not more).  And, over time, students come and go ­– fashion changes, culture shifts, technology advances – but the one thing that stays the same is the need for consistency (and no, the irony of the fact that need for consistency is the most consistent thing is not lost on me).

Every small group I have had the privilege to lead has been different.  Different personalities, different communities, different interests, different family situations… and each small group has taken a different time period for us to connect.  Sometimes that can be frustrating – as I am sure you all can relate.  I mean, one group will just click, like you have been in their lives forever but another may take months, even a year or so, to win over their trust.  Whatever the situation, the one thing I know I must do is be consistent.  Consistently there for small group… consistently interested in their lives (even when they seem like they don’t want me to be interested in their lives)… consistently offering unconditional acceptance and love.

Consistency can look different but will always have the same result.  If you are a new leader, try to reach out to your students weekly – either by text, phone, facebook or even twitter.  Just check in, without an agenda, and ask how their week is going.  Take my word for it, one day, even if they are not responding to it, they will start to look forward to your call/text/tweet/fb post.  As you get to know your students better, start showing up in their worlds. Have a drama kid in your group? Catch one of their plays. A cheerleader? Show up at a game or competition. A video gamer? Read up on the latest release and ask him/her questions about it.  Whatever your opportunity, show interest in their interests.

In a world where things are constantly changing and people are coming and going in the lives of our students, it’s imperative that we commit to the long haul in ministry.  If we can get past however long it takes a student to trust us, we will be able to better influence their lives in a positive way.  In the meantime, celebrate the small wins – things like the first time they return your text… or maybe when they respond with more than just a yes or no.  And pay attention to the transition of when they start to reach out to you – when they ask to meet you at Starbucks or initiate a call for advice.  It’s the small wins that make the biggest impact over time.  Believe me, they notice your consistency and appreciate the wins as much as you do.

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Kristie McCollister

Kristie has worked with students for 25 years as a director of student ministries, a small group leader, a Sunday coach, or a coach for student sports teams.

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