It seems like only a few weeks ago when I first met 25 beautiful young women all dolled up (most likely more for each other than anyone else) and desperate to stand out in a memorable way.

A few days before, I had met with others like myself who had been on this journey before, you know, to get advice, learn the ins and outs of how to best lead this wild ride, but it’s not my first rodeo. I was in these girls’ shoes not that long ago. I still remember what it’s like to try to stand out, make myself known, leave an impression in a room full of my peers.

One by one the girls told me their names and something interesting about them.

Lacie.

Lauren.

Sadie.

Lauren.

Maddie.

Lauren.

Wait… how many of you are Lauren?!

Sophie.

Lauren.

Ellie and Ella.

Wait… identical twins?? That’s just not fair.

(Mental note: make framed pictures of each girl to study so I can remember their names.)

That first night, I remember thinking it was almost as if the girls had been cast…

There was the sweet, quiet one.
There was the one who simply could not stop talking.
There was the one I immediately knew would be nothing but drama.
There was the one with the brutally sad backstory.
There were the fifteen others who thought they had brutally sad backstories.
There was the one with her arms crossed who won’t stop rolling her eyes. Why won’t she stop rolling her eyes?

“Hey, Lacie, could I pull you aside for a minute to talk? I’d love to get to know you a little better.”

“My name is Lauren.” (Eye roll beneath half a dozen layers of mascara)

Crap. When in doubt, go with Lauren.

After having some time with Lacie Lauren, and rejoining the rest of the girls, I sensed decidedly more tension in the room than when I’d left.

“Can I steal you for a second?” one of the “ie”s asked me.

“Absolutely.”

As soon as we sat down on a bench just out of earshot from the other girls, the “ie” burst into tears. “I really don’t want to throw anyone under the bus. It’s not who I am. But I think it’s only fair that you know… some of the girls aren’t here for the right reasons. Just now while you were out of the room, one of them, I won’t mention her name but I think you could guess…” ummm…Lauren? “…was talking about her boyfriend and it just didn’t seem like she should be here.”

I nod, trying to take it all in. “Okay. Thanks for telling me all this, (mumble)—ie. I’ll see if I can talk to… her… about all that later.”

After that first night, I went back to my house and stared at the girls’ pictures.

Who should I take on the first one-on-one?
What should we do on our first group date?
Should I try to take Lauren and that “ie” on a two-on-one to talk through some things?
No way. Two-on-ones lead to nothing but more drama.
How can I make sure each of these girls feels a special connection with me?

Weeks passed. I got to know the girls a little better.

Lacie has two little brothers she is practically raising.
Lauren B. was really affected by her parents’ divorce a couple years ago.
Sadie loves knitting (or is it pottery? …I don’t know… something boring).
Ellie and Ella hate each other.
Sophie had mono last year… and is still bringing it up for some reason.

Before I know it, we are all packing our bags and heading off for a week together on white sandy beaches. There will be free time to uncover more drama, songs that move us to tears, and so so many cheesy metaphors (that somehow resonate with these girls).

Still, I know it will be amazing.

This week will be the hardest week yet but it will be good for us to get to know each other a little better. I am hoping to get some quality time with the girls because I am in this for the long run after all.

But the first night, my high hopes for the week are dashed when Lauren B. gets beyond drunk and I have to send her home the next morning.

I didn’t think it would be this hard, I think to myself for the hundredth time as I watch the back of her car as she drives away. But then I remember…

I’m not here to make friends.
I’m here to Lead Small.

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Lauren Terrell

Lauren has a degree in elementary education, led the same high school small group for the past 4 years, and will soon be learning the ins and outs of the preschool world as she and her husband clamber through parenthood with their new baby girl.

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