Last weekend I met a student named Jeff who told me about his Life Group leader. The more I heard, the more I realized I needed to share his story. My hope is reading why Jeff loves his leader, you will be encouraged and realize what a difference you are making in the lives of your students.

Here’s what Jeff has to say about his leader (I left this unedited, except for some paragraph breaks, so you can see it just as it was written):

Hello! My name is Jeff and I’m a Junior in high school and I’ve grown up at the church my whole life. Because of my involvement at the church I’ve been around A TON of leaders. Leaders at summer camps, weekend retreats, serve trips, weekend service leaders and, most of all, small group leaders. Small Group leaders are my favorite. I’ve been through quite a few since the start of my small group (called “life groups” at my home church) in 7th grade. I’ve been asked to share from a student’s perspective what makes an awesome leader, so here we go!

My first account of an absolutely incredible Youth Ministry Leader was actually one of the first leaders I ever had. When I got thrown into a small group of 7th grade guys I just barely knew, I also got thrown into a group with the junior high pastor at our church and a high school student that were tasked with somehow, every Wednesday night, teach us about fellowship and Christ Jesus.

Now I remember vaguely some awesome lessons our pastor taught us at small group, but I remember even more so, our high school leader, Blake, being so present in our group. Blake served at the same service most of the guys in our group attended so everyone once in awhile, after service a few of us boys would pack into Blake’s old 90’s Jeep Grand Cherokee and go get burgers.

Blake would take us to get food, hangout and listen to music, give us rides to church and would always, always be at group on Wednesdays. We would talk about cars and trucks and motorcycles and about going camping and listening to music and how girls were oddly becoming more and more intriguing and we would talk and hang out and do absolutely whatever. It didn’t matter what we were doing. It mattered that Blake, an older leader, someone that had some amount of responsibility, someone that probably had something more important to do, spent his time with us.

It didn’t always have to be a spirit-infused conversation about the Godhead. It didn’t always have to be a “sit down and let me tell you what I’m struggling with”. Blake was and is a magnificent leader because he was my friend first. So when I needed to have those conversations, ask those tough biblical questions, tell him the dark stuff, I was ready, willing and running to him because he wasn’t a just my leader, he was a dear friend. And I’m always so stoked to tell people he still is. Even after he resigned from leading our small group, even after he started having to pay bills and worry about a future and a girlfriend and so much more, he still is my friend.

I still meet up with Blake as often as I can and get counsel if I need it, but also we still talk about cars (Jeeps specifically because that 90’s Grand Cherokee became my favorite car and I now have a newer version of that same model, due solely to Blake’s Jeep), we, unsurprisingly, still talk about girls and still get lunch. Blake is after 6 small group leaders, countless summer camp leaders and many more weekend leaders, still the best leader I’ve ever met. A great leader to me is anyone who is willing to generously give their time, but most of all, genuine friendship to students that need it. Doing that just allows Jesus to work through leaders even more effortlessly.

Also published on Medium.