LifeGroups are a large part of the spiritual culture on Southern’s campus. Many students build leadership skills by starting their own group on campus, and some take it even further by continuing those groups after they graduate.
Julie MacLafferty, a May 2019 graduate of Southern and former LifeGroup leader, is now an interning pastor at the Forest Lake Church in Apopka, Florida where she started her own LifeGroup program.
“I started my own LifeGroup just to help grow some leaders,” MacLafferty said. “And so, after that, some of [those leaders] started their own LifeGroups.”
MacLafferty’s father, a pastor, encouraged her to try new things like leading a small group.
“I somehow got the opportunity to help out in a small group, and I was young — I was probably a tween,” MacLafferty said. “But I was helping with these groups of families, just doing a small group.”
MacLafferty added that she was scared of branching out, felt a bit insecure and thought that spiritual leadership wasn’t her gift. Eventually, she gave it a try in high school and started her own group with friends during her freshman year.
“[In] my sophomore year, I did something similar, and [my friends and I] started doing more groups at my high school,” MacLafferty said.
MacLafferty continued to be involved with small groups, and over time, she realized that she wanted to keep talking to people about Jesus.
“Getting to Southern, I wasn’t really sure about taking theology. … So, I started out in pastoral care, which is more like being a chaplain,” MacLafferty said. “I kind of realized that theology is a bit more versatile in what you can do. So then, I went that route. I never really sat down and said, ‘That’s exactly what I’m going to do,’ but I just knew I loved Jesus and I love people. I wanted something where that’s together, and so that’s where I ended up.”
MacLafferty now continues her ministry as a pastor emphasizing small groups, making sure to implement LifeGroups where she can. To students wondering about starting a LifeGroup, she says this:
“Just do it,” MacLafferty said. “… When you share your story, there’s power in that. As you graduate, you’re just learning how God wants you to share your story … through everything that He’s called you to do and be.”