How We are Influencing the Faith of the Next Generation
God created us for community. Jesus illustrated community. The Church practiced community. That’s why you showed up—to connect the faith of your few to a community.
When you choose to be present, that means you. . .
- Show up predictably.
For most of you, that means weekly. You cannot lead a small group without trust. You cannot build a community without trust. And the first step to gaining the trust of your few is making sure they know you will show up—predictably.
- Show up mentally.
Check your phone at the door—unless of course you are using it for the Lead Small app! When you show up mentally, you commit to engaging your few in meaningful discussions and to listening—really listening—to what your students have to say. This means knowing the content ahead of time and being mentally prepared to shed some light and scriptural insight into their world. They are worth an hour of your attention.
The best way to be present is to lead small.
3. Show up randomly.
Never underestimate the power of showing up randomly. This may look like a phone call, a birthday card, a ball game, a text message, a Facebook post or a postcard from your trip. These small connections may seem insignificant, but when you choose to be present in an unexpected way, outside of your weekly group time, you reinforce your students’ connection to the community you are creating.
Create a Safe Place
There’s inevitable tension when a group of different people with different personalities and backgrounds come together in one place. But what if tension is actually the platform that gives you an opportunity to demonstrate that this is a safe place? The safer your environment is, the more honestly your few will clarify their faith in the context of your circle.
When you choose to create a safe place, that means you. . .
- Lead the group.
Lead your group to value acceptance. Lead your group to value confidentiality. Lead your group to value honesty. When you do, your few will feel safe to be themselves, share doubts, ask questions and admit their struggles and clarify their faith in an authentic way.
- Respect the process.
Authentic faith is a continual process. It’s not static. It is the molding, crafting, shaping and changing of faith through time, life experience and reflection. And the process isn’t the same for everyone. Each individual is different, so celebrate their steps. Refuse to get impatient with the process. And let God do what only God can do.
- Guard the heart.
Faith is personal. We often process the most difficult times in our lives through the filter of faith which is why, as an SGL, you should expect some pretty tough and even shocking things to be revealed during small group time. Your job is to know when to respect confidentiality and when you need outside help.
The best way to create a safe place is to lead small.
Partner with Parents
No matter what you think about the parents of your few, two things are true. One, every parent wants to be a better parent. Two, they will always have more influence than you do. So if you want to nurture the kind of faith that lasts, you need to partner with parents.
When you choose to partner with parents, that means you. . .
- Cue the parent.
When you “cue” the parent, you give them just the right information at just the right time so that they can make a move to do more than they might otherwise do. Cueing the parent is pretty easy. Just let them know who you are, and tell them what you’re talking about.
- Honor the parent.
Some children struggle with authority. No, scratch that. All children struggle with authority. But remember this—if you’re not on the parent’s side, you’re not on the kid’s side. Model what it means to respect not only your own parents, but theirs’ as well.
- Reinforce the family.
Although parents potentially have 3,000 hours a year of possible time with their child, it’s not always the same quality as the hours you have with your few. So when you plan your events and small group outings, be strategic. Don’t steal critical family moments. Christmas Eve is probably not a great time for a sleepover.
The best way to partner with parents is to lead small.
Make it Personal
The most important person you need to lead is not your few—it’s actually you.
When you choose to make it personal, that means you. . .
- Live in community.
Whether hosted by your church, formed organically or brought together through another local ministry, your own community provides the healthy and necessary outlet for you to process faith in a way you can’t with your few.
- Set priorities.
One of the best things you can do for your few, and for yourself, is to make your priorities clear. They need to see what you value. And when they see the way you prioritize your own relationship with God, it might even inspire your few to think about their own priorities.
- Be real.
Find ways to relate to your few without compromising who you really are. It’s more important for them to see a real person that is still growing, learning and trying to live out authentic faith than it is for them to have another friend.
The best way to make it personal is to lead small.
Move Them Out
When you focus on the bigger story of their lives, you understand that what happens inside your circle is measured by what happens outside your circle.
When you choose to move them out, that means you. . .
- Move them to someone else.
The truth is, as we speak, while you are still their SGL, your few need other positive adult influences in their lives. Your few are going to connect with other leaders who will teach them something about God and help them discover something about life. They will experience significant things together. And that’s a good thing. So do your part to encourage other adult influences in their lives.
- Move them to be the Church.
The Church is more than just a building or a location. The Church is a growing, changing, moving, living being that your few get to be a part of.
Never underestimate the importance of letting them pass out goldfish at snack time, allowing them to participate in telling the Bible story or letting them help lead worship for younger kids.
The options are endless.
- Move them to what’s next.
No matter what is next in their lives, it is your responsibility to do everything you can to set them up for that transition and to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible.
The best way to move them out is to lead small.