Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A letter to a small group leader

Dear small group leader,

When you sign up to  be a small group leader for children (whether it be WaumbaLand, UpStreet, Transit or InsideOut), you are signing up for more than just an hour on Sundays. You are signing up to walk through life with the child you have been given, partnering along with the parents. You are to be a safe place for our children to go should they need someone (other than mom or dad) to talk with. You are investing in the future of that child. Believe it or not, you make a huge impact on them (and their parents).

My children have had some great small group leaders in the years that we have been attending North Point & Browns Bridge. Several come to mind as I type this letter. What set these leaders apart was that they invested in my children OUTSIDE of Sunday mornings too. Not just at camps or events. But during the mundane, day-to-day happenings. They were there to celebrate the wins, commiserate the losses and be another voice of reason for my kids.

What we don’t realize when we become small group leaders is that just as we can help make the church experience wonderful for these kids, we can also destroy that experience.

That’s what happened this year. One event changed the course of my daughter’s senior year.

My daughter is about to graduate from high school. She has been with the same small group leaders since her freshman year. She has wanted to attend every single event planned for the high schoolers. She’s been to The Walk, Vertical Reality, My Life and even a mission trip to Mexico. Her small group leaders have walked alongside my daughter through the end of a friendship, surviving a car accident & the sudden death of her beloved grandfather. She LOVED Sundays. Not just because she got to serve in UpStreet & Transit, but because she loved going back to church in the afternoons for InsideOut.

But this year, something changed. A simple comment made by her leader that made her feel as if she were unimportant and dismissed changed the course for her. She stopped attending InsideOut. Only once did one of her leaders text her to see if she was ok. Then, she didn’t go to My Life. Again, no phone call, no text, no email as to why. Even when it was time to film her senior video, she decided not to go. This was a day she had been dreaming about since her Freshman year. I’ll be honest, as her parents, my husband and I were looking forward to it too.

Thankfully, my daughter has the insight to know that the ‘church’ didn’t fail her; people did. But this lesson has made it so much easier for her to walk away from church. Instead of being excited to find a church near her college campus where she can volunteer, she’s not even interested.

Just as in schools, there are cliques. A small group leader is to try to bridge the gap between the cliques within the small group. In this case, the gap was made wider. My daughter attended her senior prom just a few nights ago. She looked stunning. But how sad was it to see the other girls in her small group, all dressed up and beautiful, posing with their small group leaders.

I know how difficult it is to be a small group leader. I have served in UpStreet and Transit. I also know how rewarding it is. My favorite memories of the past few years has been the time I spent as a Transit small group leader.

I don’t have the answer. I don’t even know if there is one. I  know that everyone leads differently. That there isn’t necessarily a right way and a wrong way. But I do know that what took 3 years to build up, only took 1 moment to destroy. 

I know that if something like this had happened in my group when I was leading, I would want to know.

Why did I wait so long to say something? That's simple. Out of respect for my daughter. 

Now I wish I had spoken up sooner. 

So small group leader, please learn from this. Take whatever lesson you get out of this and use it. I know I will. I know that this will make me a better small group leader should I ever go back to being one.

Many blessings.