Faithful with Few

mentoring

 

I’m helping my current church launch small groups in their student ministry. I learned a lot about small groups when I was a student pastor and love the relationships that small groups foster. I’ve even helped launch a small group model in the current school I teach at. Launching small groups can be tough. There are leaders to find, sign ups to happen, contacts to be made. Transitioning a student ministry from a program emphasis to a small group/relational emphasis is tough. It changes the goals, the wins, and the measures for your ministry. Yet, it is completely worth it.

One of the small group leaders (SGL) had ten girls originally signed up for her group. For her groups launch four showed up. I celebrated, people wondered why I was so excited. I explained how four girls connecting to a leader in an intimate setting, growing relationally, is a HUGE deal. I told the story of how I had a group of two kids that over time grew to be a home group of over twenty consistently. I talked about celebrating those four girls and praying for them daily. That those four girls connecting with a leader and with each other helps to connect even more girls. We are laying the foundation for something great.

We can get caught up in the numbers. I’ve learned from a good friend that numbers are important, but they should not be sole factor in your ministry. Numbers help us to see trends in our ministry, help us to be strategic with plans and they help us to see where God is leading the ministry. Numbers are not relationships though. You could have a student ministry with hundreds of kids, but if community is not a central aspect of that ministry students may miss out on discovering and developing an authentic faith.

There is a vision of huge number of students connecting through small groups. Right now we are laying that foundation. We are connecting leaders to students. Even if it is a few, we party.

Rough

kids

Some kids are tougher to reach than others. My proximity to kids helps me to realize some of the severe trauma that some may experience. Dropping kids off at their homes that have no furniture, no electricity, and no food you begin to realize the lives they live after 4pm. You may be the only consistent person in their life, they may not know how to respond and act around you, they may fear abandonment and have seen so much loss they don’t even want to try.

The toughest kids are the most rewarding kids when you give them love over time consistently, show up for them and speak life into them.

Dealing with kids that have dealt with extreme trauma in their lives is tough. They can be more argumentative, angry, defiant and lack the desire for social connections. Don’t take it personally. You did not cause their trauma, and you are not the sole person reasonably to fix it. It takes time and will be rough at times. Things will be said and done that seem like a personal attack. Sometimes, students who have faced trauma ‘test’ your willingness to stick around. Show up. Some great advice I received once was to “let all the badness roll off you like water off a ducks back.” Remember to not take the rough moments personally.

Despite the frustrations you get from dealing with students who have faced trauma in their lives, you are called to love them anyway. Know them, ask them questions, treat them fairly, be clear with expectations of behavior and be fair. Invite them to have lunch with you. Treat them as they are, kids. Build a relationship that is founded on trust, respect and consistency. You may be the first time they have seen this type of relationship.

You will get tired. Tired of the struggle and tired of the slow process in building relationships. Keep at it. It is worth it, they are worth it. These students will come around, it may take longer, but they will open up. When they do listen to their stories, help them to see that their stories do not define them and speak life into them. Help them discover their passions and strengths in life.