by Elle Campbell
Let’s try something together.
For just a moment, I want you to think about the very first time you began volunteering at your church. Try to remember, as vividly as you can, what it was like to start serving somewhere new for the very first time.
What was it like to walk into a new environment, with new responsibilities, for the very first time? Who did you know? How long did it take for you to feel like you belonged there?
And here’s one more question I want you to consider.
Why did you start serving in the first place?
While you think about your story, I’ll tell you a little bit about mine. Maybe we can find some similarities.
I was in the eleventh grade when I started serving at my church in a significant way for the first time. I had grown up going to church, so over the years I had volunteered here and there when there was an opportunity. But I’d never really served anywhere consistently before. As a seventeen-year-old, though, I wanted to take on a new challenge. I wanted to be more intentional about the way I served and invested in my church.
So, I became a small group leader! A fifth-grade girls’ small group leader, to be specific. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. In fact, that decision to serve changed the trajectory of my whole life and ministry. Maybe you can relate.
But what drew me in? What made me want to start serving in the first place?
Well, I guess there were a few reasons.
I started serving because I wanted to do something significant. When it comes to serving, it seems like something interesting often happens during that 11th-grade year. Eleventh grade is often the year when teenagers begin serving and leading in some way. It’s often the first time they actually want to take on a role where they’re influencing others in a significant way, and it’s often the first time they can actually sustain the responsibility that kind of role requires. It’s true for a lot of kids and it was true for me. So, I started serving because I wanted to make a difference.
I also started serving because I felt like it was the right thing to do. After spending my whole life in church, there had been a lot of people who had invested in me, mentored me and helped me better understand what God was like. By the time I reached 11th grade, it felt like it was finally time to start giving back—to God, but also to the people and the ministries that had poured into me over the years.
But there were a few not-so-spiritual reasons that I started serving, too.
I started serving because my church needed the help and, well, I was available.
I started serving because I thought it would be fun. I’d had a ton of fun attending my church’s environments when I was younger. So serving as a small group leader, I thought, would be a way for me to continue experiencing some of that fun, but in a new way.
I also started serving because the guy who led the middle school worship band was really cute.
And there’s one more reason I started serving. It’s the one we’re going to talk about in the next few pages of this e-book.
I started serving because I really liked the people that I would be serving with.
The reason for this is simple.
We all want to be known by someone.
And we all want to belong somewhere.
I’m guessing you already believe this. It’s probably why you do small groups: Because you know that if you want kids to come back to your church, you need to first give them a place where they’re known and belong. Well, the same is true for your small group leaders. If you want your leaders to keep coming back, to keep giving and to keep investing, they need to know that your ministry is a place where they can be known and belong, too.
So as the people who lead small group leaders, we can’t ignore the need that our small group leaders have to be known and cared for by the people they serve with. We can’t underestimate the power of relationships. We can’t discount the value of community. In fact, creating and cultivating a sense of community amongst our small group leaders may be one of the most powerful tools we have for recruiting and retaining volunteers.
Because here’s what I’ve found to be true: When we create a culture of community among our small group leaders, we not only attract more leaders, but we retain more of them, too.
Elle Campbell is the Creative Director for XP3 Middle School.
This blog article was excerpted from the e-single Community for Small Group Leaders by Elle Campbell. Get this entire e-single for free with a subscription to GoWeekly—a library of resources for church leaders. Learn more about GoWeekly at GoWeekly.com. For more e-singles about developing small group leaders and engaging parents, check out the You Lead Book Series on Amazon.