My first summer as a Small Group Leader was not awesome. I was headed into my senior year of college, had a full time internship, and worked another full time job painting houses. So, when our student ministry year ended, so did my small group.
I never really planned for it to happen that way. I loved my guys and we had an awesome year together. Needless to say I was shocked when the small group fairy didn’t cover my group in awesome, deep-connection-enriching fairy dust when June hit.
Don’t get me wrong, there were some good times…sort of. We had a pool party, but only two of my guys showed up…awkward. We took a trip to the local arcade, but I got everyone home late and had a Mom yell at me…discouraging. In one last attempt to force connection, I took one of my guys across state lines to buy fireworks while feeding him a constant supply of red Slurpees…illegal and irresponsible. The worst part is that I totally missed out on using the additional time and freedom my guys had during the summer to make a significant impact in their lives.
A few summers and a lot of grace later, here are some things I’ve tried to do differently.
- Plan for relationship. Even though my guys were much less busy during the summer, there were always vacations, camps, or weeks away at their luxurious cabins on private lakes (no, I’m not bitter that they never invited me), that kept us from getting together. I quickly discovered that before summer even began I would have to create a very clear schedule of when we would spend time together and be OK with the fact that not all of them would make it.
- Take time to refresh. One of the best gifts I can give my group is time away from me. Being a small group leader is like a really out of shape guy trying to run a marathon with five to eight students on his back. We need to stop every once in a while, put the group down, drink some Gatorade and get excited about running again.
- Invite students to join you. When I get super busy during the summer, I try to find ways to take students along on the things I do. They always love it and it has honestly produced some of the best conversations I’ve ever had with them. If nothing else, they get a front row seat to watch me live out my faith in real life…scary
- Speak Truth. Summer is a great time to connect, but it is also a time when many students make big missteps on their spiritual journey. My guys never know how to articulate it, but they want me to ask hard questions about their faith, friends, and sexuality.
Your students need you. If you haven’t had a great start with your few this summer, it’s not too late. If you have any ideas or thoughts to add, please leave a comment so we can all learn from each other.