There I was minding my own business on Facebook, posting divisive political opinions, sharing results from BuzzFeed surveys, and liking every picture and video of my friends’ kids (not really, none of that), when all of a sudden a message popped up. It was a mom of a student I had years ago in small group. I didn’t respond to her message right away. I even hesitated reading it. Why?

Their family left the church for an unknown reason. Their younger son had stopped coming to group just before that. He was disinterested. They didn’t feel group was worth it. No matter what I did, I just couldn’t connect him to the community of faith.

He’s in high school now. He plays sports. He’s really close to his family. He even has a girlfriend.

He didn’t feel he needed church, group, or me. Maybe you’ve felt the sting of rejection within your group. You might even be picturing a kid and family right now that fits this description.

I finally read the message from his mom. There was turmoil in the home and at school. She kept it short. “Call me when you can. We need help.

Great! They didn’t want or need me involved before, but when things get difficult and confusing, they want my input and relationship. I don’t know if there’s some level of spiritual maturity one can reach that makes this reality not hurt. Relationships don’t feel authentic when they are reactionary. I felt like the boy the girl likes now because the other guy dumped her. Through all of these feelings, I was reminded of an important truth behind leading small.

“If you’re in a family’s life before they need you, you’ll be there when they need you.”

In spite of feeling discouraged, I called and talked with the parents. All of a sudden, they were complimentary of my influence on their son. Things they said behind closed doors but never to my face were finally being said to me. They were kind things. Meaningful things. But it’s only coming out now—in times of crises.

Where were they when we had group week in and week out? It doesn’t matter. What matters is their son is hurting. What matters is they need a partner. What matters is the spiritual influence I am now given in their pain. I don’t know what to say through all of this. Maybe there are no words. Maybe, just maybe, my presence can make a difference. Maybe I can be the love of Jesus that this boy (and this family) needs to begin healing.

Are you feeling the weight of “being present” with your group on a regular basis? Good! Your presence matters. Even if they aren’t present. Even if they don’t get it. If you’re present physically, mentally, and randomly before they need you, you’ll be present when they need you. And that’s when you get to really make a difference!

Here’s a few tips I learned to respond in a helpful way:

  1. Don’t React. If I had called right away, my initial reaction of feeling hurt and used would’ve come out. This helps no one!
  2. Center Yourself. This is simply a breathing, reflecting, or relaxing exercise. It’s good to respond when you’re your best self.
  3. Love Loudly. Sacrifice communicates love. Sacrifice your feelings and love that family well.

Maybe you have some ideas on how to respond well. Share them here in the comments section. Join the discussion.

. . .

Written by Jeremy Martin

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