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Most of the time, as a small group leader, you have one day to pour your energy, heart, and soul into the individual men and women that were placed in your care, not really knowing the full impact or impression you make. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you get signs or general feelings of gratitude or growth, but more often than not, after doing all you can to love and guide them to conversion, you are left wondering if you helped them in any way to grow closer to Christ, let alone if they liked you or not. Nevertheless, you have one day to show Christ’s love to these young people...

and to give them the opportunity to grow in relationship with Him. No matter how valuable they believe it to be, a small group is vital to retreat ministry. We can do all that we can upfront through talks, skits, games, and testimonies, but it is only once you break out into small groups that they, the youth, have the chance to speak and share. It is an opportunity for us, as leaders, to get to know them on a more personal level and get to know them too. As a small group leader, you come across an array of ages, backgrounds, races, faith, feelings, and opinions, and in this way, each small group you lead is drastically different from the next, thus giving you a special and unique gift with each individual small group. As with every gift, you must embrace it for what is it, do your very best to make the most of what you are given, and then, when you are finished with said gift, return it or throw it away, with a hope that it was used well. In this same way, as you depart from your small group members, you must walk away, with the hope and prayer that what you did and said somehow resonated with them.

This past month, I was blessed with a small group that not only restored my faith in young people's ability to share and talk about God in a group but completely blew me out of the water and was unlike any small group I had ever had. This small group started off normally, with four grade seven girls staring at me with curiosity and a touch of insecurity, waiting to see what small group was going to look like. After the first “get to know each other” small group, I wasn't left to shaken or stressed; they were a nice group of girls, a little shy but I could tell they were very sweet. By the time the second small group session came around, and it was time to begin posing questions about the talk and initiate a discussion about faith, the girls were even shyer than before and seemingly weren't too keen on sharing. After a few minutes of “pulling teeth”, I mentally judged the way that this small group was seeming to go. As I kept on with the discussion, and desperately shared more and more about myself, I soon came to realize just how wrong I was to judge them. All of a sudden they began to speak up more and more. They not only were asking me questions but we're building on them, going deeper and deeper. Before I knew it, the girls began conversing back and forth with each other, until soon enough, I was only an outsider listening in. Having never experienced this before, I was taken aback, but as I sat and listened to their sharing, I realized just how much I was receiving from them. I could tell that they were getting something out of it and thinking more for themselves, perhaps maybe for the first time. One of the girls said, “I don't think I have ever had a good of a discussion about faith as this before”. The chorus of agreement from the other girls arose and promoted another to say “yeah, I feel God is so present here. Like He is here with us right now”. My heart was so full and continued to be full into our time of prayer ministry when all four girls agreed for me to pray with them. I could tell that the Holy Spirit was working in their hearts and souls, for once we reconvened again for our third small group, each of them was touched to the point of crying. I led them in a prayer, and for the first time ever, I invited my small group to offer up any intentions that they had. The intentions they came up with, through tears of healing and joy, were beautifully said - full of hope and graciousness.

My love for these four girls was so strong and leaving that retreat, I knew in my heart that I was able to make a difference in each one of their hearts that day. They had experienced the love of God - maybe for the first time. And the fact that I was able to give them that opportunity to experience God in that way was such an unbelievable gift. Although I haven't been able to journey with them much since, except in prayer, I unexpectedly saw them at a youth conference just this past week. After greeting them by name and with a hug, I could tell at that moment that by being God’s instrument, we now have a bond that can't be broken.