It’s a group that has seen each other through good times, serious illnesses, addiction and the challenges typical to most high school students. Many of the boys have been friends since second grade. In fact, their Student Ministries small group leaders, Jake Horvath and John Carswell, have known several of them for that long. As they prepare to head out to college campuses across the country, several young men in the group shared how God used community and biblical counsel to shape their hearts and help them understand what faithfulness to Christ really means.
“I hated God when I came to Watermark. I really just came here to talk to a girl. But after that first visit, I decided to go on the Student Ministries Ski Trip. John and Jake were awesome and encouraged me to join their small group.
“I used to think that the guys in this small group were really weird. But learning to trust and be vulnerable with them helped me see that we are all the same in the eyes of a loving God. Through serving others and accountability in this group, I learned what it meant to trust and walk with Christ.
“I had the chance to learn how to love people who were different from me, and these guys have ended up becoming some of my very best friends. I feel like God has given me life-long friendships, and He prevented me from investing my time in fleeting things.
“I thought the Lord was judging, critical and controlling, and I didn’t think He really liked me. Through community and studying God’s Word, I’ve learned that God is not like that at all. He cares and is always there for me. His Word is there because He doesn’t want me to settle for a life that is focused on drinking and myself. Christ wants a better life for me than what I was once choosing for myself.”
“I’ve been in a Watermark small group with a lot of these guys since I was in 2nd grade. We have known our leaders, John and Jake, since then, too. That was a big help when I got to junior high. I felt very isolated, angry and frustrated at that time and wasn’t very popular with the people around me. These guys showed me that they cared and encouraged me not to compromise who I was just to be accepted.
“More recently, God used this group to reinforce why I believe what I believe. I’ve read God’s Word – particularly the heroic stories about Paul, which really resonate with me. Paul started out as an enemy of Christianity. Once he began following Christ, Paul became the most vocal supporter of the early church. I like to think that God redeemed me a little bit like that, as well. Learning more of God’s Word has helped me see, above all else, that God loves me unconditionally. John, Jake and the others in
the group reaffirm that and help me discover more about the character of God.”
“As a group, we have talked about everything from porn and depression to addiction and insecurity. When I throw anything out there, I’m always met with encouragement, prayer or an offer to grab lunch so we can talk. I can’t count the number of lunches that have been paid for by our leaders.
“One of our friends in the group, Brandon Landis, was diagnosed with a degenerative muscle disorder in 2008. He’s had many surgeries and setbacks, and it’s been hard to see him struggle. But he has been a real-world example of smiling through suffering. He is a big part of our time together and has taught me how to love and serve others unselfishly. There’s not one of us who has not struggled with sin. Landis is an inspiring example because he loves God and pursues righteousness in all circumstances. He has been a real blessing in my life.”
“I became a believer when I was a sophomore in high school, but I didn’t know what it was to have real community until I joined this group about six months ago. It was kind of intimidating to join a group that had been together for so long during my senior year. But they quickly made me part of the family, and now these are the guys I go to when I am struggling. They were in the water with me when I was baptized last May. The group keeps me focused on each moment of my walk – the key to thriving and bearing fruit in Christ.”
“When I changed schools, I didn’t expect the hate I’d get for being a Christian. The small group helped me stay encouraged in God’s Word and in community, which helped me feel more confident both then and now that I am going away for college. Without these guys I definitely would not know the importance of accountability. I’ve learned that it’s ok to confess when I have messed up, because faith is not about legalism. It’s about a real relationship with the Lord, and I know more about following Him because of these guys.”
If you are interested in serving as a leader in Student Ministries, please contact Anne Marie Mason at
firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in serving in Children’s Ministry email email@example.com and write in the Subject line, “I Want To Serve!” and we will follow up with you. Details at watermark.org.