Every student is just one caring adult away from being a success story. This is a slight modification from a Josh Shipp quote about the power of mentoring, but I have seen and I believe in the power that one caring adult can have in the life of a student.
When I was having a difficult time trying to make sense out of the direction of my life and figure out exactly where to go and what to do next, Doug came into my life at just the right time. His ability to make me think and make me laugh transformed the way I connected to God and helped me believe that He had a bigger story in mind for my life.
Doug directed me to study 2 Timothy and showed me his favorite Bible verse:
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7
That verse has been an anchor for my identity in Christ. If I have succeeded in any measure in growing closer Christ and helping others to do the same, it is because of people like Doug who cared enough about me to invest.
Chances are, If you are the parent of a student or know a student, you want them to help them be a success story. The struggle is knowing how to get them there, and how to know you're putting the right things in their path to help them along. What if they were a part of a caring community who could help them as they navigate through their teenage years?
Doug is one of the big reasons that I believe that every student should be in a small group.
Every student needs a "Doug". Every adult can be a "Doug" to someone. Small groups are the context where these meaningful relationships thrive.
Just so we're clear, I'm using the term small group to mean a group of 8-10 students with a couple of leaders that is centered around the Bible and figuring out how to become a follower of God. There are many small group contexts out there, and I believe in the power of most of those as well. But, I talking about specifically my belief in this particular small group context.
Here are 5 reasons that I believe that every student should be in a small group:
1 - More Than A Face In The Crowd
It can become increasingly easy for students to come and go in larger groups without truly connecting with anyone. This certainly has a purpose and a season as a student decides if they're comfortable in a particular group. However, the small group allows for a student to be known and to know a few other people. There is tremendous power in just a couple of friendships to defeat isolation.
2 - Seeing A Mature Christian Leader Up Close And Personal
When students get to see a mature Christian leader up close and truly know their life, they get a picture of what it looks like to own their faith and take it seriously. It's important to note that a leader is not perfect, but they allow even their miscues to be part of the modeling process and a means to help students understand that God doesn't disqualify us because of our mistakes.
3 - Experiencing The Family Of God
These small groups begin to look like another family for students to belong. Not intending to replace a biological family by any means, the small group is a small sample of what belonging to the family of God is all about. It's about being consistent in one another's lives. It's about encouraging each other to pursue God through faith in Jesus Christ. It's about holding one another accountable to put to death sinful activity that creates distance between one another and God.
4 - Taking Steps In Faith
When a student is a part of a small group, they are able to see how they are truly growing in their faith. The leader is able to affirm their growth and challenge them to keep exploring the next steps that they can take in following God to greater depths.
5 - Seeking Refuge When Crisis Happens
There are all kinds of crises. Small crises. Big crises. We don't get to choose when they'll strike our lives and they can lead to ruin. These two verses from Ecclesiastes are among my favorite, and illustrate this beautifully:
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Knowing that you have a source of healthy community to turn when your ship capsizes can be the difference between growing in the midst of trials or giving up.
Every student needs to be in a small group. There are so many blessings and benefits to this type of community! As a Student Minister, small groups will always be a huge piece of how we point students to Jesus.
Every adult has incredible potential to invest in the lives of a few students and help them become a success story, just like Doug did for me. By the way, Doug and I have very little in common. He's a St. Louis Cardinal fan for crying out loud! But I admired his faith in God and how he let the Bible guide his life. Don't buy into the life that you have to be a charismatic, attractive leader to connect with students. Authenticity is the trait that wins the day!
What benefits have you experienced from being a part of a small group?
What do you think keeps caring adults from investing in the lives of students?
I go to worship every weekend, but if I’m honest I struggle with “preparing my heart” to worship. I have to guard against church becoming just another thing that I do, rather than I meaningful connection with my Heavenly Father.
I figured that I wasn’t the only one with this problem, so I began a search to see what a more heart-felt approach to going to church would look like.
What does the Bible say about preparation?
And the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.
God instructed Moses to get the Israelites ready to encounter the Lord.
When I go to church, I am doing exactly that, I'm encountering God. I lift up praises to Him, I hear an exhortation from the Bible, I remember Jesus’ sacrifice for sins, I connect to brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.
But if I neglect to prepare my heart for what is about to happen, I’m subtlely placing an obstacle of routine between God and myself.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Here is a promise from God to the Israelites at one of their lowest points as a nation. You and I will find God when we seek Him with all our heart.
I’m so busy to prepare for anything!
The other day, I got a text from my friend asking me if I wanted to go to this cajun restaurant in town. We’d been talking about it a couple times, so when sent me the text, I knew it was time to make it happen. I asked him if he wanted to go later that evening or the next night. He and I both made arrangements and we were both mowing down on jumbalaya that evening.
Every week we all have the same ammount of time, 168 hours or 10,080 minutes. And if you’re anything like me, you find yourself incredibly busy moving from one thing to the next and then kind of whirrring down at night only to jump up frantically in the morning and start the whole cycle over again.
If something’s important enough, we’ll find a way to make it happen.
So, here are some ways to prepare your heart to encounter God at church each weekend.
1 - Begin the night before.
When I first began distance running, I was going early in the morning to get my run in for the day. So, the night before I laid out my clothes and I set multiple alarms to remove any obstacle between me and getting up to run.
How can I minimize the decisions that I have to make before I go to church?
2 - Focus on one passage of Scripture.
One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Psalm 139.
I particularly love the last couple verses of the Psalm:
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
I also like the Topical Memory System of Bible Verses to focus and study and memorize. These verses focus on the promises of God, the character of God, and our response to God.
What is one passage of Scripture that you can focus on while you get ready to go to church?
3 - Pray seeking prayers.
When I’m praying a “seeking” prayer:
I’m telling God that my heart is open to listen.
I’m asking for forgiveness for anything that I’ve done to run from God in any area of my life.
I’m asking God to open my eyes to see what He will be saying to me while I’m at church.
I’m seeking direction from God for the next week of life and how I can follow Him better.
What will you say to God in prayer to seek Him before going to church?
All together, this process takes probably an hour, but It isn’t done in one time block.
It’s usually 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there.
Also, this is a process that helps me prepare my heart each day. If I forget to do it in the morning, I’ll try to do it on my lunch break, so I’m ready to take on the afternoon. Really, the only way to fail is to do nothing.
So, let’s get started: Pick one scripture and focus on that. Once you’ve picked it out, share it in the comments.