Rough Beginnings

My first year as a small group leader was not exactly what I expected.  After completing a volunteer application that was thorough enough to qualify me for top level security clearance, I showed up to a dark room in the corner of the church ready to transform lives and take names.  If you have worked with student groups for any period of time, you know that my expectations were in need of a slight adjustment.  You probably also know that I really could have used the training that came along with my security clearance.

What I remember most about my first night was the aroma that assaulted my olfactory senses as I approached a room full of Middle School students running around in what appeared to be utter chaos.  The second thing I remember is that as the program drew to a close, a lone six grade boy walked over to me with a disappointed look in his eyes and said “I guess I’m in your group.”  It was then that I realized I had no idea what I was doing.

As my new sixth grade friend and I walked off together, I scanned the hallway for the nearest exit.  Finding none, and realizing that escape was probably not the mature response, we sat down in a quiet corner of a nearby hallway. All I remember about those next 30 minutes was the terror I felt as I tried to make something meaningful happen.   I have no idea what I said that night, but when I left I was confident I had broken the world record for Worst Small Group Ever.

It Gets Better

The good news is that over the next few weeks things began to get better.  Eventually the group grew, and ultimately I had the privilege of walking with those sixth grade boys through Middle School and High School.

Over the years I have had incredible moments with these guys.  I have watched them learn and grow in their relationship with Christ.  I have watched them make huge mistakes and learn what forgiveness looks like.  I have been able to celebrate with them and mourn with them, and they have done the same with me.

When my first child was born, all of my guys came to the hospital to celebrate with my wife and I. In fact, my little sixth grade friend, now a Senior in High School, skipped school to come to the hospital and hold our new baby girl for an hour.  I’m not condoning skipping school, but it was a beautiful moment etched in my memory forever.  A few years ago I had the opportunity to stand up with this same friend in his wedding, and just last week to celebrate with he and his wife the birth of their baby girl.

So What?

There are many beautiful moments in the life of a small group leader, but I honestly never could have imagined these moments all those years ago sitting in a hallway confused and scared.  To be honest, for every beautiful moment there have been several difficult, confusing, and frustrating moments.  There were a lot of moments when I had no idea what I was doing and I honestly wanted to quit, and my guess is that many of you have felt the same way.  Whether you are in one of these dark moments as a Small Group Leader or your group is currently blossoming, my encouragement is to remain faithful and hold on.  Sometimes it hurts, but the journey is reward in itself, and the beautiful moments are a blessing that is worth the struggle.

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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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