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  • Writer's pictureMandy

be the person you wish you had: Sam's story

What do the Migos, milly rock, “fye” and the three finger challenge all have in common? They’re all relevant rappers, dance moves, catch phrases, and viral videos, and I wouldn’t know any of them were a “thing” unless my high school girls taught me about them. For the past three years, I have been loving, leading, and learning from a group of over 25 high school ladies. Not only do they keep me “young” but have completely changed my heart and life for the better.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I agreed to hop on board, and become a high school small group leader in the summer of 2015 at Gwinnett Church in Sugar Hill, GA. I didn’t feel equipped, qualified, or cool enough, but God was definitely nudging me to get involved. The only thing I knew was I wanted to be who I wish I had when I was younger. I decided to be obedient and give it a try. It was the best decision and leap of faith I’ve made to date.

My high school years were filled with loneliness, depression, anxiety, and stress. Looking back, I wish I had someone older and wiser shining light in a dark place, and helping me navigate the messiness of high school. I didn’t need another parent. I didn’t need another friend. I didn’t need another teacher. What I needed was a “plus one” in my life. I needed a hybrid of all of those roles. I needed someone to mentor me, listen to me, and speak truth over me.

Over the past few years, my high school girls, co-leaders, and I have had sleepovers, one-on-one coffee and dinner dates, Bible studies (we call them “Bible Brunch”), camp retreats, countless Sunday services and small group discussions, outings and more. We have “done life together.” We’ve laughed, cried, worshipped, grieved, celebrated, and navigated highs and lows. Every time I feel unequipped, unqualified, or not enough I pray, “Holy Spirit speak through me” and I’ve walked away from every messy or hard conversation saying “phewf, glad I prayed that because that was definitely not Sam Sardone, that was 100% Jesus.” I have had a front row seat to the work Jesus has done in their hearts, and all I’ve been is a vessel for God to use me. You can be a vessel too.

In 2016, I was approached by our student pastor about a full-time position on staff with the ministry. I couldn’t believe it! At the time, I was a special education teacher for Kindergarteners - 2nd graders. My degree was in special education and it was all I’d ever known from a professional standpoint. I thought I would be a teacher for my entire career. Again, I didn’t feel equipped, qualified, or cool enough! Through a lot of prayerful consideration, and a lengthy interview process, I was offered the position of Female Groups Director at Gwinnett Church in April 2017.

I finished out the school year and began my new job in June 2017. Now, when people ask me what I do for a living, I typically say something to the effect of, “I get to recruit, develop, and mentor female small group leaders in our high school ministry.” The truth is, it’s impossible to put into words the immense privilege I have to watch these women serve and love the female students of our ministry. The investment they make week in and week out is having an eternal impact, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the sacrifice they are making to pour into their students.

I’ll leave you with one quote that has become my battle cry, my heart-beat, and my purpose.

“What is the faith of the next generation worth? Everything.”

Andy Stanley

As we continue our discussion on investing vs. spending time, I hope you consider investing your gifts, coolness, and time into the next generation. Be the person you wish you had.


  • What age group in the “next generation” do you feel called to invest in? Pre-School? Elementary School? Middle School? High School?

  • Who is benefiting from your wisdom, past experiences, and current lifestyle?

  • What is holding you back from pouring into the “next generation”?

  • How can your leverage influence you have in your community to change the trajectory of someone else’s life?


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