Over the weekend, our student ministry took a trip into the mountains for our Winter Retreat. This trip is one of my favorite type of trips and has quickly become a foundational event in my ministry. I love having a weekend to get away and spend time in the Word away from distractions. To be honest, there seems to be something about breaking routines helps set the stage for us to receive what God is teaching us through His Word.
As I’ve had a few moments to think about the work being done on this trip, I’ve been reminded of something I think I’ve known for a while, but I have finally had the chance to experience: adult leaders make all the difference.
To start, they connect with far more students. One of the first things I did when I came on board with my current church was have a leader meeting. Before I could lead us in any direction, I had to make sure I had cast a vision and had leaders on board. The analogy I used (lovingly given to me by my Father-in-law) focuses on the idea of fishing.
We can compare connecting students into the group like casting a line out into the water. When a student comes into the group for the first time, I can try to catch all of them and build relationships with them as the student pastor. While there’s a responsibility for me to be known by the students, I could never have close relationships with every student in the group- even a small group.
But what if, instead of using a single line, we were fishing using a net? What if adult leaders were actively getting to know students and had deep relationships with a few? Among multiple adult leaders, every student would be known and cared for as they needed. With one line, we get one fish; with a net, we catch many.
Naturally, connecting with students means that adult leaders are essential to small groups, as well. The way this winter trip is structured, our times of teaching are immediately followed by what we call “Breakout Groups”. These groups are our small groups, divided by age and gender, used to help tease out many of the concepts introduced in the time of teaching. They are, by far, the most important part of the entire retreat. Over the years, I have seen God do so much in students’ lives as they have the opportunity to talk about the issues and ask questions they had.
These groups are so successful because the adult leaders over the students know them well. Even over the course of this short trip, I’ve seen the relationships between the students and adults grow. These leaders can use this time to take the questions I’ve given them and address the issues that come up over the course of discussion. It’s an absolutely beautiful thing to see and experience.
Adult leaders provide accountability. We need people we can trust to watch out backs, help small issues stay small issues, and anticipate any concerns or needs of the group. There is no replacement for the encouragement adult leaders can provide in difficult times.
All of this- accountability, encouragement, and relationships- is rooted in the perspective adult leaders offer. So don’t go alone. I encourage you to build a team of adult leaders and see the difference it makes!