I’m a sports nut. It’s common knowledge to anyone who knows me. ESPN? FoxSports? Golf Channel? These are the channels that I watch most. There is probably a plethora of reasons why I like sports, but I am gonna hone in on one of them: I love the way athletes are committed to what they are doing. They are ALL IN when they are competing.

I love student ministry too. And most specifically, I love leading small groups in student ministry. I love the way we, as small group leaders, get to go hard after our passion and have the opportunity to be ALL IN with regards to our students and their spiritual growth. I know that can be a daunting idea—ALL IN. Without context and a real understanding of the importance of what it entails, “all in” can easily feel like much more than we may be willing to offer. And I get it! I mean, we have lives outside of our church commitments. You do. I do. So how can we effectively be ALL IN everywhere God has called us to be? I know we cannot be everything to every student. And I don’t even think that should be our end goal. But I do think we can be everything we can be to each student in our group.

For example, make it a priority to get to know your students as individuals as well as a group. One of my favorite icebreaker games is “Faves” where we just go around and name our favorite fill-in-the-blank. We talk about favorite cartoon characters, ice cream flavors, movies, songs, bugs, bands, historical figures. Asking about historical figures may cause your few to go a little cross-eyed, but I figure you got to throw something in there every now and then to make sure they are still paying attention. And while easy games like this allow everyone in the group to get to know one another, it offers me the chance to make note of the ones with whom I have similar favorites so that I can bring it up at another time. When I do, they are amazed that I remembered it. By remembering, I am showing them I care enough to know the details— even if they think they are insignificant details.

Here’s the good news. It’s not about being present ALL THE TIME, but being ALL IN when you are there. Be present. Be engaged. Be consistent. Be predictable. Be someone that your students can be sure about in their lives because in today’s world, confidence and trust in someone else is not necessarily a given. Be ALL IN when you are there and being there will become a lot easier

What are some ways you have discovered to be ALL IN with your students? We would love to hear all about it!

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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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