It’s funny, you can spend hours and hours with people and never realize how big of an impact you have made in their life; many times you do not find out until years down the road.

I just finished a Skype Interview last night for my sermon on Sunday morning.  The interview was with Kerry McIlroy.  Kerry was one of my small group leaders when I was in high school.

There are lots of people who have really impacted my life, but I would say there are a few really special people; I could honestly say I would not be where I am, if it had not been for them.  Kerry, Tracy, Brian & Toyia were some of those really special people in my life.  What made them so special?

I have been thinking the last several days about why they made such and impact on my life.  So here are a few thoughts.

  1. Consistency:  They were always there.  Every week for three years I was at their house for small group on Wednesday night.  I saw them every Sunday.  As a teenager it seems everything is always changing, but at home and small group I had consistency.
  2. Compassion:  Not only did I see them multiple times each week, they always asked how I was doing.  When I was talking to one of them, I felt like I was the only person in the room.  They even came to some of my games.  I knew they cared; there was never a question in my mind.
  3. Authenticity: They shared their life with me, I truly felt like part of their families.  I still vividly remember walking into the McIlroy’s one night and seeing everyone in tears, because Brian and Toyia’s daughter Beth was going to have Down Syndrome.  I didn’t know what that was, but I knew it wasn’t good.  But seeing the way they handled something very difficult, really impacted the way I saw each of them.  Last time I was at Highland Oaks they recognized Beth for her Special Olympics medals, it was amazing.  She is a teenager now.

Ultimately, I would say you could sum up their impact on my life with the words of Paul;

NIV 1 Thessalonians 2:8  8 We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.

When I finished the interview with Kerry last night I was telling Him what an impact they had made on my life.  He said he remembers conversations with Brian, asking each other if they were making a difference.  You did, more than you will ever know.

I would say one of the greatest ministry lessons I have learned came from Kerry, Tracy, Brian & Toyia.  I did not realize it until last night and I would not have worded it this way while I was learning it from them.  However, looking back here is what they taught me about ministry.  Make PEOPLE your PRIMARY focus and not PROGRAMS.  People desire relationships.  They have shaped my ministry.

Never underestimate the impact you have on someone else’s life because you never know how God is using you.  Pour your life into people!

Thank you Brian, Toyia, Kerry & Tracy!


  1. Gary,
    Reading this brought back such wonderful memories! I read your blog yesterday and have been thinking about it ever since. You are right, relationships matter! I am so thankful that the years we spent with you impacted your life! The experience changed mine as well. I have been struck though in the last 24 hours as I have been thinking about your words, how many lives were actually impacted by that one small group. Leading the group developed a bound between Kerry, Tracy, Brian, and I that can never be broken. We live life together and in many ways that started then. Working with all of you taught us to love and understand high school kids. The relationship that we shared with all of you, I believe, has helped me with my own children. Gary, ya’ll were also wonderful examples to our children. My last thought is that the McIlroy and Crisp kids grew up like family and to this day still love and treat each other that way. It is amazing the impact that a small group can have on people when everyone involved wants it to work. Gary, you helped make ours a family. I always thought that if I had son I would hope he would grow up to be like Gary Albritton!

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