People have told me over the years that they could "never do" what I do. That is, they could never be in teen ministry. I get it. Teenagers are amazing but they are not easy to understand. People that say they could never do that....aren't saying that because they're unloving or lack compassion. They really do care about teens. The issue is that it's not what God has called them to do and to understand. They are being used elsewhere by the Lord and that's awesome!
There are other times when parents ask for advice about their teenage daughter. Many parents remember being a teenager and the difficult years in Jr. High and High School. We remember but we aren't sure what to do when it comes to our own girls. I have been encouraged to share the "Top 5" things you can do to connect with, help and encourage your teen girl. Whether you're a parent, a youth leader, mentor or friend, these will help. I have my own teenage daughter and have 16 years of experience walking alongside teen girls.....so these are tried and true with blood, sweat and tears. LOL!
1. BUILD A RELATIONSHIP: This is so important. Teenagers don't trust easily so there has to be a relationship. Get to know who THEY are....not who you THINK they are. Youth Leaders - spend time just hanging out. Over time, they will trust you and that relationship will grow. Put out effort and seek them out.
Parents - Just because we are parents, does NOT automatically mean "relationship". Your daughter needs to know you care and are interested in her life. Build that relationship by spending quality time just the two of you.
2. BE THE EXAMPLE: I could repeat over and over that teenagers don't trust easily. They are used to people disappointing them and/or hurting them. It is IMPERATIVE that we are THE example. The whole saying "Do as I say, not as I do" is ridiculous! They will do as you do!! Check yourself and see what example you are to the teens around you. Hypocrites don't get very far in life with teens. They will stop listening and stop paying attention to you.
3. LISTEN MORE THAN YOU TALK: Girls and women LOVE to talk! The average female uses 25,000 words a day! So listen to your teen more than you talk at her. They so desperately want to be acknowledged and valued. When we listen to what's in their minds and hearts, they feel validated. If we just interrupt them and tell them what we think of them.....we lose them. Go to a coffee shop and just sit and listen to the heart of your girl.
4. MAKE SURE YOU ARE MILES AHEAD: Many times when tragedy or suffering hits our girls, we are stunned. How could this happen? What went wrong? I never thought she would do this? The fact is, we live in a fallen world. Bad things will happen to our teenagers. The good news is that God is Sovereign and we can trust Him in it. As youth leaders, mentors and parents....we need to be miles ahead of our girls. How can we help them with safety on the internet if we haven't studied the different social sites? How can we know what they're dealing with at school if we don't pay attention and look closely at the school? WE HAVE TO KNOW THE WORLD THEY LIVE IN....NOT THE WORLD WE LIVED IN. This is huge! How we grew up doesn't matter anymore. It's all about the kind of world THEY are growing up in. So do your homework and be ahead of the game.
5. LAST BUT MOST IMPORTANT....KNOW GOD'S WORD, WALK IN HIS WAYS AND POUR HIS TRUTH INTO YOUR GIRL: Honestly, without this one, the other four things don't matter. We cannot expect our teens to go to church, go to youth group and be "good" if we as adults are not doing it. We have to know who God is and be secure in our Salvation. They need to see us walking the walk and talking the talk. Involve your teen in your bible study....in your walk with God. Share with her all the things God has done and is doing in your life. Walking with the Lord is an exciting adventure so show it to her. This way, when the trials come and the tragedy hits (which it will) you all have a firm foundation to stand on. And PRAY with her over and over. Don't ever stop because this will change your relationship. If she doesn't want to then at the very least, pray for her on your own.
MAY THE LORD BLESS YOU AND KEEP YOU CLOSE
AS YOU LEAN ON HIM!!