When I first started at IOH, I had this vision for what I wanted small groups to be. I wanted there to be two groups for every grade and every group to have two leaders. I wanted them to meet in homes and do life together. I wanted them to serve and go to each others games and confess their struggles of school and friends and life. I wanted them to be consistent and to grow in depth. I wanted them to create friendships that would last all through college and into their adult lives. I wanted them to eat meals together and send out encouraging group texts. Every week. But I wanted something else that didn’t line up with these things. I wanted them to be perfect.
I wanted every group to run like a well-oiled machine. I wanted there to be perfect relationships existing within imperfect people.
I think I first realized that this may not happen when it occurred to me that we actually had to recruit leaders. We were two weeks away from the start of a new school year and the leaders I had recruited for my (then) 8th grade girls had exciting life changes and were not able to lead. I had high hopes for this group, and while it was no ones fault, I found that I would have to fill in. I found myself in a position where I would be picking up another small group, putting me at a “four nights a week” work schedule. But even that wouldn’t be enough. I couldn’t lead these girls alone.
After a lot of prayer and anxiety (because anxiety solves everything, right?), one of my already faithful small group leaders casually dropped the name of someone who may be interested. Somehow this lady said yes and now every (other) week, 10 girls flood my house. They wipe their nutella hands all over my furniture and light candles and pour the wax out on my carpet. They are not perfect, but I would not trade them for any kind of perfect if it existed. Some weeks we have three show up and some weeks I think that God stretches the walls of my living room to make space for all of us. Sometimes it feels like we couldn’t be closer to God and other weeks I wonder if we’re even growing at all.
I had to get over the imperfections of small group ministry. Well, of youth ministry in general. If we couldn’t meet one week because our schedules just wouldn’t allow it. Or if another group had a leader call out sick at the last minute. Or if my lesson didn’t spark the discussion that I thought it might. Or when we decided that we needed to switch from every week to every other (that took a long time to get over). Those things had to matter less because it didn’t define my group or any other group that met.
The important thing needs to be that these groups are meeting and students are showing up. And relationships are being built and friendships are formed in the most unlikely places. In all of that, in every group, God is being glorified.
We have a group of boys that started meeting last year. My hope was that this group of boys that already hung out together could meet once every other week with a purpose. We carefully prayed over the leaders that would meet with them and they have consistently gathered together for the past year to talk about their lives and the bible.
While we organize these groups, we don’t always get to hear everything that goes on within them. A story was shared recently that reminded me just how faithful God is in our small group ministry.
These boys decided to meet for dinner recently. Their plan was to discuss putting others first as they met over dinner. But what is great about this group on this specific night is the action they took. Before they went in and ordered their pizza, a leader had an idea for them to help take groceries out to the cars of strangers leaving BI-LO. With no expectation for anything in return. Our boys did something small to live out the Gospel by putting others first. And they did it with their small group.
They did it because they have two adults pouring into their lives every other week. Two adults who want to see these boys grow in their faith and want to challenge them to live differently. While our groups may have their imperfections, we are doing a good work and we will not come down.
I’m so thankful that God is faithful in our ministry. For calling on these adults to lead and for the great growth that is happening.