Long-Range View of Leading Small Groups

I just completed my fourth season of helping to lead a small group of high school guys at my church. (Love being a volunteer and greatly enjoy not being in charge.)

A couple years back I wrote a post, This Better be Worth It, about the mental game of carving out space to chose investing in high school small groups over investing in a lot of other things in my life– I’m giving up a night of my life each week, it better be worth it.

But I want to pass along another matrix altogether for week-to-week evaluation of that worth.

The Promise

You’re going to have bad weeks. Heck, you’re going to have bad months. You might even have a bad semester or whole school year where you’re pretty sure that you didn’t make an ounce of impact.

Leading a group of high school guys is often somewhere on a spectrum between herding cats and a DIY root canal. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. Herding cats can have a purpose. And sometimes… you’ve got to do your own root canal.

I’ve been at this high school small groups thing since 1997, why in the world do I keep going?

The Long-Range View

  • Week-to-week means nothing compared to a memory sparked 10 years later.
  • High school students will only remember that you were a party pooper and you got pissed that they were talking or you scoffed at turning their small group into a night of American Gladiators… they won’t remember that week you pushed real hard to get through all of the content. 
  • I get real excited about faith steps… those tend to stick.
  • Conversely, I don’t get too worked up about week-to-week attendance. I take notice, but I don’t nag.
  • I call out deflection in an individual, but I also acknowledge that not every teenager is capable of being vulnerable.
  • When the whole group is deflecting I lean into that because I know we’re close to something important… which is why they are avoiding it.
  • I expect immaturity and allow room for it while asking them to push through it, it’s related to the bubble our society keeps teenage guys in. They have a lot of adults who chaperone them but very few who engage them in conversation or ask them to think.
  • I like that they get glimpses into manhood by being around me and my co-leader, but I’m not that interested in pushing them into “thinking like a grown man” and manhood too soon. (A mistake I see many make, almost like a default response to working with teenage guys.)

Ultimately, I am comfortable in my role. I know I’m not the most important adult male in their life. But I hope to be someone they can know for a long time, someone they can trust, someone they know they can talk to about real stuff.

After working with high schoolers for almost 20 years… that’s the stuff that I see lead to long-term spiritual growth. High school small groups provides some waypoints. But it’s ultimately mixed in with a lot of other messages, some of which land while others don’t.

In the end, you have to judge your role in students lives through the lens of your faithfulness to the calling and not on how last week or last month or last school year went. Because ultimately… that’s too soon to know. 






One response to “Long-Range View of Leading Small Groups”

  1. Carl Fuglein Avatar

    I just recently got a message from a student from 17 years ago telling me I had made an impression on her. They come far and few between, but when you get them, it’s enough to keep you going for another decade.

    Good post, Adam

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