The following is an article from this month’s issue of Parenting Teens magazine, which is available for purchase (through individual issues or an annual subscription) at lifeway.com/parentingteens. Enjoy!
Earlier this year, our student ministry had our annual girls only retreat called Snowball. About a month later was our guys only weekend called Anvil. It’s amazing how the mission and purpose is the same but they both look so very different from each other.
When our Snowball containers are being packed up, the guys I work with can’t help but acknowledge that our event is much more complicated. We have everything from glitter to sports equipment to lots and lots of food. We have tea lights, lanterns, Scripture prayer cards, helium tanks, red balloons, and jumbo sized inflated gold metallic letters that spell out “wonderfully made.” Well actually it’s spelled “WONDERFUL7Y made” because Party City ran out of “L’s,” but an upside-down seven worked great! All of these things of course are strategic to helping our girls connect relationally to each other and to have unique moments to pull away from the regular routine of life and hear from God as they dig into His Word for themselves.
Community for girls looks different. It should! We are wired differently on purpose. So when women get together, guys may think it’s bizarre that we can talk for hours over a cup of coffee or tea, whereas their moments of togetherness look vastly different. When I am meeting with girls or women, I block off two-hour chunks. I know that to get to the heart of what it is we need to talk about requires me to go through at least three other surfaces. To ignore these concentric circles and get straight to the heart of the conversation can sometimes seem intrusive and not nurturing. But for a girl, everything in her life is often impacted by this one thing that we need to talk about. Community for girls means times of nurturing need to be built in.
In addition to times of nurturing, when I am working to bring girls into community with each other, I want to provide experiences that are planned but have spontaneous outcomes so that girls can have unique bonding moments that they can look back on as anchors for their friendship. For example, our girls have designed various components of our Snowball retreat that allow them to have these bonding moments. In the past we’ve rented laser guns and broken the girls up into random groups to compete against each other. That was in 2014, and I still have girls that remember funny things that happened during that laser tag game.
We have had crazy scavenger hunts where the girls were required to take group pictures at each station. A camp staff of the location we rented called me during the event to ask if the girls would like him to bring his baby goat out. My answer to this is always going to be yes. So after the weekend, all of these random pictures of girls surrounding a baby goat surfaced on social media. Parents heard about our times of worship and hanging out with a baby goat. How bizarre! And yet, girls still talk about those moments and those experiences act as anchors for friendships.
We know that in Scripture, the disharmony that occurs between a community of women can wreak havoc on the church. I have and am currently seeing this firsthand with an entire grade of girls. Look with me in Philippians 4.
“I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I also ask you, true partner, to help these women who have contended for the gospel at my side, along with Clement and the rest of my coworkers whose names are in the book of life.” – Philippians 4:2–3
So the one thing that I try to remember as I am creating, guarding, and nurturing community with girls is that Christ is who truly draws them together as sisters in a way nothing else can. When girls pray together, spend time in His Word together, and are witnesses to each other of how God is working in and through them…a community of sisterhood happens that will last through the storms of adolescence.
Pray for this kind of community to happen in and among your girls, and look for ways to create environments that allow for girls to have moments like these with God and each other.
Amy-Jo Girardier is the Girls Minister and Student Missions Coordinator at Brentwood Baptist Church in Middle Tennessee. She is the author of Faithful One and is the founding editor of girlsminister.com, a website created to connect and resource girls ministers, moms, and youth workers engaged in the girls ministry conversation.