Last week I completed my fourteenth year as a leader in student ministry.  Fourteen is not a number we often celebrate in our culture, but in the world of students it means a lot.  Over the last fourteen years I have watched a class of students come in as squirrely 6th graders and leave as somewhat less squarely seniors, and then repeated the process.  As I’ve pondered what I’ve learned over the last fourteen years, a lot of fun lessons come to mind…

Farting contests are a way of life for 6th grade boys small groups, and sometimes 6th grade girls groups, too.
Watching Rocky IV with your 9th grade group will inevitably lead to a fist fight in your living room.
Man cannot live on bread alone, but pizza maybe.
At some point your group is going to be physically stronger than you, and they will throw you in the snow and pay you back for anything you have ever done to them leading up to that point.

Everything Matters

Fortunately, I have also learned some meaningful lessons.  Above all else I’ve learned that everything you do as a Small Group Leader matters.

Every kind, encouraging word….matters.
Every hour spent building a relationship with a student, earning the right to speak truth…matters.
Every crisis walked through with a student…matters.
Every game, concert, match, meet, or ceremony attended…matters.
Every conversation with a parent…matters.
Every hard truth spoken in love…matters.
Every sacrifice made…matters.

Nothing Matters…unless

While no effort we make on behalf of a student is wasted, I’ve also learned over and over again that our efforts don’t truly matter unless the love, grace, peace and truth of Christ is flowing through us.  I know this, and yet I regularly forget that without Him my efforts are in vain.  I am grateful that in these moments He is faithful and good despite me.  I am also grateful that He continues to use me despite my shortcomings and failures.

As I think about the next fourteen years I hope to have a lot of fun.  I hope that my efforts make a difference.  But, more than anything my prayer is that more and more I will do “what matters” through “Him who truly matters”.  My hope for you is the same.

As you think through your ministry with students, does this resonate with you?  If so, how do you regularly remind yourself of this?

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Jon Grunden

Jon is a video gamer wanna-be, lego aficionado, who also happens to love student ministry and deeply believes in the importance of student small groups. He has served as a Jr. HIgh and Sr. High SGL for the last 14 years in West Michigan. In his free time, he thoroughly enjoys spending time with his wife and three children.'

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