Julie moved to the western suburbs from St. Louis a little over a year ago. Having no family this way and not having many friends locally, made it hard for Julie to connect with new people, especially during a pandemic .
She grew up Catholic but stopped attending church after college. However, a couple of years ago, she found a church she liked, only to leave it as she ventured into Illinois. After getting settled into her new place, Julie was ready to find a church.
She tried out a few churches, watched them online, attended their services when able, but none of them felt like the right fit. But a church down the street from her was next on her list to check out: Willow Huntley.
After attending her first in-person service three months ago, Julie joined a “Coffee with Todd” event. After talking for a bit, Todd Katter, Huntley’s campus pastor, suggested Julie try out a small group. Julie was terrified.
“I thought I wasn’t a good enough Christian for a small group,” she said in recounting her feelings about joining one. “I thought you really had to know God and the Bible; I didn’t want to make a fool out of myself.” She told Todd her reservations, but he assured her small groups were nothing like that. So Julie agreed to try one out and met with small group leader, Frank.
At her first gathering, Julie introduced herself and told everyone, “To be honest, I’m scared. I don’t really know what to expect.” But just a few minutes in, Julie’s fears dissipated. She found herself joining in the group discussions and sharing her thoughts.
As the weeks went on, Julie became more engaged with the Bible and enjoyed spending time with her small group–they were a solid fit. Frank asked her if she was ready for her next step: to get baptized.
Challenging her further, Frank asked if she would share her journey before service with the Huntley congregation. A little hesitant at the thought, Julie agreed; she went from feeling she didn’t know enough about the Bible to even join a small group to sharing her testimony with the entire church in just a matter of months. And later that day, she was baptized.
When asked what advice she would give others who are hesitant in joining a small group, Julie said, “Being nervous is okay! You can always try a different group if the first one doesn’t feel like a good fit, but take that next step, explore your options, and talk to some people. It’s so worth it to take that jump.”
Julie came to Illinois with no local family, but she says, “My small group feels like family. They’re great people and great friends. They’re there to encourage and support me. Without taking that risk in joining this group, I can’t imagine what I would have been missing out on.”