Can I be honest for a minute? I often feel like I am driving the struggle bus on Struggle Street when it comes to being a good small group leader. I feel like if students don’t show up, it’s because of me. If they don’t respond to texts, it’s because they don’t like me. If we talked for 15 minutes in small group about Jesus and 20 minutes on Marvel movies, I feel like a failure. How are they supposed to grow in their faith if they seem to care more about Captain America than they do Jesus?

What I have figured out over time is that they DO care about Jesus . . . but they care about Captain America too.

I’ve learned that this phase of their life is sitting in a classroom five days a week, under florescent lights, listening to a teacher talk at them—not to them or even with them. The same can be said for parents. Parents want to make sure chores and homework are done, and that the kids eat dinner, take a shower, and go to bed on time. In my years spend listening to students, the underlining theme is the same.

They just want someone to talk with and someone to really listen to them.

Here is some ways I have tried to be more present with students:

  1. Know Their Interests.
    Thanks to social media, it’s easy to know what your few are interested in—even if it’s something you know nothing about . . . like origami. Ask the about the things they care about. Ask them what sparked their interest. Ask them to make something for you. You wouldn’t believe the number of handmade lanyards I have at home.
  2. Really Listen.
    Look, I’m guilty of it too. It’s hard sometimes to truly listen when a student is talking nonstop—especially if it’s something that you know they won’t care about tomorrow. Put the phone or tablet away, and give them your undivided attention. Great leaders are great listeners.
  3. Show Up Unexpectedly.
    I know, I know. This gets said all the time, but nothing means more to a student (even if they don’t show it) than you showing up to something. Majority of the time, it means more to the parents, and it shows them you care about their son or daughter. In my experience, once you show up, they never stop asking you to come back, and it leads to more conversation about that sport, instrument, the play they are in, or music that they really love.

I hope some of these can be useful to you and your few! What are some tips and tricks that you have for being present with your few students? We’d love to hear about it!

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Written by Stephanie Combs
High School SGL

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