“I’m only 21. What can I really teach them? I’m still figuring life out myself in a lot of ways,” I thought as I waited to meet a group of 6th grade girls that would soon call me their small group leader. I was nervous. I was doubting myself. I was doubting God.

Now, with five years of experience under my belt and still leading that same group of girls, I find a lot of humor in that thought. Not only did I expect to be the one doing the teaching, I also I thought I had to have life “figured out” before stepping into something God clearly called me to.

It is imperative to know that being a small group leader is a position with a lot of influence. I am not suggesting just anyone should be allowed a voice in a teenager’s life. Of course SGLs should be firmly rooted in faith, but there is no requirement to be perfect or have learned every lesson before taking on this title.

On some level I thought I had to become as close to perfect as possible before God could use me in this way.  However, God began working in me, developing me, and growing me not just for this role, but largely in and through this role.

In fact, with a humble heart and a healthy dislike for hypocrisy, serving in this role can stretch and grow our faith like we could never anticipate.

  • It is hard to sit across from teenagers for very long and hold up the importance of spiritual disciplines, like reading the Bible, when you know you have not cracked yours open outside of Sunday in weeks.
  • It is hard to hear a sincere prayer request from a 14-year-old heart and not talk to God about it–or anything else at all–in the week to come.
  • It is hard to drill into a teenage girl’s head all the reasons and scripture surrounding why God wants her to know her worth and wait for a boy who is passionate about this faith, and then just settle for any “nice enough” guy yourself.
  • It is hard to talk to a 16 year old about forgiving a parent or a friend while the name of someone you need to forgive yourself lays heavy on your own heart.
  • It is hard to champion the value of having a vulnerable and honest community in your group and not be seeking your own adult community to be vulnerable and honest with, too.

And it should be hard. All of it. That tension should convict us. It should push us to lean on Jesus more and more in every area. It’s an unexpected place to find accountability in the eyes of a teenager. but when they’re looking at us and our relationships with Jesus to be examples of what theirs can become, accountable is exactly what we are.

Life gets hard. We all fall short. We’re not lacking excuses and explanations for why and how. We all sit in a group from time to time and spout Biblical wisdom knowing we need to hear it even more than those we are leading. Being open to that conviction, honest about it, committed to pray over it, and obedient to act on it, is key. It’s key to our spiritual health. And it’s key to theirs.


Submitted from Shannon Pijanowski

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