Like many Americans, I was raised in the church. No, I don’t mean that I was born behind the pulpit, but you wouldn’t be too far off. We describe in this article my experience in young adult small group.
We were a churchgoing family. Not only did I go with my family for services on Sunday, but there were many other activities during the week. I took classes every Wednesday from the time I was in first grade until I was in middle school.
Whenever there was a rummage sale, a bake-off, or a tutoring session, I was the first in line. I love the feeling of community I got when I was there. Unlike school, where the other kids could be mean, at church, everyone was welcome. Click this link: https://www.stopbullying.gov/bullying/what-is-bullying for more information about bullying. There was no teasing or bullying allowed. It felt like a safe space.
What’s more, there was always a place for me. I didn’t have to ask to join in an activity like I did at school. It was understood that the door was always open.
I felt at peace when I was there like I was connected to something larger than myself.
But then, I entered high school. Suddenly, it wasn’t cool to love going to church. I started to dread going. My mom and I fought nearly every weekend about it. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go to church, it was just that I didn’t want to be different from my peers. My mom, knowing what was best for me, insisted that I go.
A Turning Point
Finally, I graduated high school and was ready to go to college. For the first time, I was going to be on my own and making my own decisions.
It was a thrilling possibility, but also a little frightening. I would be without the community I had come to rely on so strongly as a child. How would I make the right decisions?
I foolishly thought that I had matured enough to know all there was to know about the world. Who hasn’t felt that way when they’re young and on their own for the first time?
On my first day in the dorms, I started to think I was in over my head. My roommate was covered in tattoos and had brought a secret stash of alcohol with her even though she was underage.
“Come on,” I remember her saying. “It won’t hurt you to have one drink.” It sounded reasonable to me. After all, I had taken a sip of communion wine every week for most of my life, and it hadn’t done me any harm. I could have just one. I didn’t know it at the time, but underage drinking is a huge problem on college campuses. You can check here for more info.
I soon found that the feeling was nothing like I expected. I felt loose, and calm, but also out of control. Coming from a home where everything had always been structured, it was, well, intoxicating. I thought, sure, I could drink a little more. What could it hurt?
Soon I was drinking every night with my roommate. I woke up in the morning feeling sick and guilty, but I didn’t know what to do about it. I didn’t have the strength to say no on my own. It only took a few weeks for my grades to start to suffer. I felt I was at a breaking point.
A Guiding Light
Then one day, as I was resting in the student centre, I saw something that would change my life forever.
On the bulletin board was a flyer for a local church. At first, I didn’t think it was for me. But then I saw something that caught my eye: they offered a young adult small group on Saturday mornings.
From my first visit, I knew I was hooked. It was exactly what I had been looking for. I needed a place where I could go discuss my problems with my peers. They were able to offer advice and guidance because they had been in my situation when they first arrived at college. Through the community fostered in our group meetings, they were able to make the right decisions for themselves without being swayed by others’ opinions.
I became a regular member. I stayed a part of the group all four years of college, relying on their strength and friendship to stay clean. And in the end, I graduated with honours and, more importantly, with my soul intact.
I share my story not because I’m proud of the temptations I succumbed to. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. But I hope that my story will give someone out there the strength they need to find a group to help them maintain, or build, a relationship with God.