Connect their faith to a community.
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 this 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 - some scriptural insight - into their world. They are worth an hour of your attention.
Show up randomly.
Never underestimate the power of showing up randomly: a phone call, a birthday card, a ball game, a text message, a Facebook post, 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
Clarify their faith as they grow.
Lead the Group
Lead your group to value acceptance, confidentiality, and 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 this 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 a SGL, you should expect some pretty tough, 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.
Partner With Parents
Nurture an everyday faith.
Cue the Parent
When you "cue" the parent, you give them just the right information at just the right time so they can make a move to do more than they would otherwise do. Cueing the parent is pretty easy - 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, yo'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.
Make it Personal
Inspire their faith by your example.
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.
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 life, it might even inspire your few to think about their own priorities.
Find ways to relate to your few without compromising who you really are. It's more important for them to see a real, live person that is still growing, learning and trying to live out authentic faith than it is for them to have another friend.
Move Them Out
Engage their faith in a bigger story.
Move Them to Someone Else
The trust is, today, 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, help them discover something about life and experience something significant 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
In this sense, 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, participate in telling the Bible story, or lead worship for younger kids. The options are endless.
Move Them to What's Next
No matter what is next in their lives, do everything you can to set them up for that transition and make sure it goes as smoothly as possible.