Eleven years ago, I had the opportunity to lead a small group of fourth grade girls. I had them for a total of two years. For the whole of those two years, I was the one that they saw every Sunday. I was the one that showed up at their elementary spring music concerts. I was the one that brought in snacks (which made me a hero). I was the one that acted silly right alongside them. I one the face that received those serious prayer requests. I was the one who impressed on them the importance of following the rules but who also had fun with them. I was the one that invested in them week in and week out.

We had great Sundays. Coincidentally, we also had some not so great Sundays. But whatever kind of Sunday we experienced, we worked hard to build community. We built relationships—me with the girls and the girls with one another. We shared the word of God with them. We discipled them. We loved on them. And on their last Sunday with me, I sent each of them off with a personal letter that I spent careful time writing. And I know that the things I wrote meant a lot to each of them. I thanked them for two years worth of wonderful memories and laugh. I reminded them that God had amazing plans for their lives. I reiterated that He would never leave them nor forsake them. And I let them know that my door would always be open.

A lot has happened in the eleven years since my time with those girls. I’ve attended one of their weddings. Currently, I’m still meeting every other week with one of them. And today, I had a young woman from that group reach out to me to ask if we could meet up and talk. Her boyfriend of five years just broke up with her. She hasn’t talked to her parents about it. She hasn’t really talk to anyone about it. And the fact that she felt compelled to confide in me means the world. It’s been eleven years since I ceased to be their small group—or at least since I ceased to be on paper. But in a way, my position just shifted to something that occurred within the context of our small group to something else entirely. Something organic. Something long lasting. Something unique. I’m not their small group leader anymore. And yet, I still am.

Even as I’m writing this, tears are running down my face thinking about the Sundays that I came in but didn’t really feel like being there. Sundays where I was tired. But it was worth every second to have that young woman reach out to me and say, “Can we talk? I don’t want to walk through this alone.” Small group leaders are important. We pour into the next generation. Lives are transformed—even if it’s years later.

Melissa Woodard
Mount Hope Church

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