“I want to be a Sharon Battson for someone else.”
That’s how 7th-grade Ella answered the question: “Why do you want to be a small group leader in kid’s ministry?” Sharon had been leading Ella’s small group since they were in first grade, and Ella, who is now in 10th grade, has been leading her girls for the last three years. Sharon answered the call 10 years ago, when our church decided to start asking small group leaders to commit to leading groups every week and over several years. For many, this meant stepping up their commitment from every other week, or every other month, to committing an hour or more every single Sunday to loving, caring for, and influencing the lives of kids and students in their faith journey. It is not an easy call to answer, but our church continually sees the impact those leaders and groups make.
By choosing to give ministry away to small group leaders, our staff are no longer the “pastors” to our kids and students, but every child who goes through our ministry has a small group leader who is partnering with their parents to make an impact in that child’s life. The outcomes are phenomenal. We see small group leaders who are challenged in their own faith as they lead others. We see parents who see the value of having another adult in their child’s life, stepping up to be small group leaders for others’ children. We see students who, when faced with writing a school paper about an influential person in their life, choose to write about the impact of their small group leader. And thanks to students like Ella, our students make up nearly half of our kid’s ministry small group leaders.
Not only do small groups allow for each kid and student to have a caring small group leader, but it gives them a community of their peers to rely on, grow with and count on. This past summer, Chase was an incoming freshman student who had recently moved to the area. He’d been homeschooled his entire life, and he was nervous about attending public school for the first time in high school, particularly in a new town. At High School Camp (which, P.S., I’d highly recommend your group attending) his small group leader saw that Chase was shyer and was struggling to jump in with the guys. Chase’s small group leader challenged a few of the other in their group to be intentional about including Chase throughout the week. The boys jumped into action and went above and beyond the call. On the last night of High School Camp, Chase shared that this was the first time in his entire life he felt apart of a group of friends. He felt like he had a place of belonging. Instead of being anxious to start high school, he now felt that he would have a group of friends to help him along the way.
Small groups do just that. They give kids and students a sense of belonging. Small groups give kids and students a group of people who come alongside of them, care for them, laugh with them, and love them. Small groups give parents another person in their child’s life, another person to guide their child in the same godly wisdom their parent would.
With small groups, ministry becomes exponential. Ministry no longer relies on the time, energy and relational restraints of staff members, but ministry is given to those who step up and say, “I see this kid or this student as a child of God and will love them as such.” When we look at how Jesus modeled discipleship for us, He spoke to the crowds, but He walked with and invested in the few. What better model do we have for ministry?
Just as Jesus commissions Peter in John 21 to “feed My sheep” we ask our small group leaders to shepherd their small groups, providing care and spiritual food, to their flock. We see the fruit of that shepherding every day. And that shepherding has helped lead to community, spiritual development, and a lasting faith for many of our students after they leave high school.