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Remind People You Are Real

Meeting with my one of my volunteers recently we talked about her small group, how it was going, how she was engaging with them and she confessed that she felt she was just not a good small group leader. I was astonished; she is a gifted, Jesus-loving, hard-working leader who has been one of our core team members for years. I needed to know why she was feeling this way and for how long… and I quickly discovered that one of the biggest reasons for feeling this way was me.

After years of listening to my sermons, retreats, and anecdotal accounts of my life she felt that; for lack of a better word, she was boring. That was hard to hear, that because of the person that I put myself out to be and all the stories that have I shared from the front she would feel that her life could not measure up and therefore her small group girls could never be satisfied with her. The reality is that I am a pretty boring guy – after all I am a frequent attender of estate auctions, I re-purpose antiques in my garage, sell things I make online, and golf. All of these things are pretty dull to the average teenager. But have I painted a misleading portrait of who I am and what I do, and have made myself out to be a caricature of an actual person? Am I even real to them?

This is a struggle that most pastors (especially youth pastors) have. We end up sharing lots of the crazy stories that have happened to us, including the ones many of us go out of our way to make happen because they might make great illustrations. (One time I drove 5 minutes past my exit of the freeway following a pick up truck full of loaves of bread because I was hoping some would fly out and hit my car – and sure enough three loaves did.) But I really enjoy spending time with students, especially my small group, one-on-one because if anything they get to see that I am a pretty normal guy. The ones that don’t know the real me look at my twitter and Facebook, and it’s one event or conference after another, one more “adventure” that I am on. This highlight reel is not in any way, shape, or form an accurate portrait of my life.

Then what do we do?  I would suggest that you do what I try and do and remind people that you are normal, that you watch TV with your wife and cats, that you sometimes clean your garage on Friday nights, I don’t read my Bible all day either and that that’s okay. Remind your leaders that students desire for them to be real, not a superhero leader whose life is not attainable; to be a leader who is authentic, who struggles with things, who loves Jesus, and shows the ins and outs of their relationship with Him. Remind them that their story is God’s story working itself out through them and therefore is valuable and meaningful. Take every opportunity to be real with them and remember to do life with your team as well as your students.