Growing Together: Small Groups

Summit Semester Bethany Estanislao 2016Our small group is one of the smallest — but is one that usually goes over time (shout out to Lindsey, for being the most patient leader ever and dealing with all us talkative female specimens). Our first meeting, we were outside in the cold for 2-3 hours laying on the grass in the field while looking at the stars. I have figured out the recipe to growing good friendships:

1 cup of warm liquid (i.e. hot chocolate or tea) per person
A group of 5-8 people
1 hat full of both hilarious and deep questions
1 cold and clear night
And the fear of death by hypothermia

We began our night with picking out random questions from a beanie and it gradually evolved into long conversations about big topics like why is the world the way it is? What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve experienced? What is your spirit animal? And so on. By the end of the first hour we had gotten so cold, we ended up cuddling together for warmth. Sharing that beautiful view and the intimate conversations with 5 other girls was a moment that I will keep close to my heart.

It is strange to me to know someone for only a few days and know their thoughts about why the world is the way it is and how their family life is impacted by the culture. Through the random “deep” conversations, we were able to open up about our lives and how things of our pasts affect the present. It is convenient that most of the articles and topics we discuss are applicable to the situations that arise in our culture here at Summit. Our small group does a good job at answering the questions the article poses honestly — without holding much of our thoughts back. Our conversations have changed the way I previously saw the people that surrounded me.

One night, we decided to be special and go into town for small group. Pagosa Springs, being the small town that it is (so small that it is corrected by spell check), closes all of their shops around 4PM or 5PM. We decided to go to the only place we could go at any time of the day — McDonald’s (product placement whoop). We had ordered our food and decided that speaking of the Bible was too sacred for Mickey D’s, so we left and talked about Paul and his perspective of Jesus as God. Our conversation went on for an hour or so. When we attempted to turn on the van afterwards, the battery had run out. We called up a few different staff members and were rescued by one of the guys’ small groups — who allowed us to switch cars with them while they wait for help to arrive.

My views have not only been sharpened by other people’s opinions and what they have said, but being a part of a small group has grown me in patience and speaking out of love. We deal with conflict as a unit and — unless someone is determined to be alone — no one is alone. Our leaders treat us like mature adults — which is hard because we have a lot of freedom and live with the consequences of those actions.  We love talking about Jesus and our lives and how Jesus has affected our lives. We are like sisters — we tease out bad ideas; we push each other to be more than who we are; we encourage one another in the pursuit of truth and love. We make a conscious effort to pray for one another and encourage one another outside of designated small group time. There is an accountability that happens when a group of six girls get together and talk about specific problems of society.

Having small groups allows for even deeper and more controlled conversations with peers from different social circles and allows for a more personal understanding of the other people. Mutual understandings happen more often when we grow deeper together- it is a beautiful process to observe and be a part of. I am truly blessed to be a part of a group that is challenging me to become a better and deeper version of myself.

Bethany Estanislao, a recent high school graduate, traveled all the way from Jacksonville, Florida, to join us this year. With a strong desire to be a conduit of God’s joy, Bethany has served on multiple missions trips. Understanding that her mission field is wherever she currently is, she has been able to help multiple communities in her own city by distributing food and leading others in worship through music. Music is one of her favorite ways to lift the spirits of the fallen and communicate the unconditional love of Christ. After Summit Semester, Bethany hopes to pursue Communications and Spanish at Florida State College at Jacksonville.