I began working with my church’s women’s ministry about fifteen years ago. One of the first things I felt led to do was to be a conduit between women and girls; so, I started teaching the high school girls’ Sunday School class and helping out with various girls ministry activities.
At first, I just wanted them to see a woman who was passionate about God’s Word, full of love and confidence and hope. I wanted them to know that I was willing to share my life with them. (You know, like a Beth Moore for teenagers!) And this simple goal worked! Well, at least for a little while.
Then I got a group of girls who attached themselves to me. They clung to me. I wasn’t just their Sunday School teacher, and I wasn’t just a speaker at their girls events. I was seen as more than just an older sister or a mentor.
I was a backup mom.
The role came as a shock to me because I never needed a backup mom. By God’s grace, my mother was amazing; she loved God and raised me to do the same. She kept me in church and was bold enough to correct me when I was wrong. (One of many examples: I spent my 18th birthday grounded in my room.) She loved me tirelessly, and she gave me the tools I needed to be an adult, a wife, a mom, and a leader.
It took me too long to realize my mom was the exception.
Most girls don’t have amazing moms. Their moms are frazzled, hurting, and broken. These women are yearning for the same things as their daughters: the attention of men, the approval of women, and the joy of earthly life without the heartache and pain that comes from it.
To put it bluntly, many moms act like their teenage daughters.
So when these high school girls asked me questions like, “Why do you teach us to submit?”, “How do you know what purity is?”, and “Isn’t it okay to lie if it’s for someone’s own good?” I wanted to ask them (yet thought to myself instead), Why didn’t your mother teach you this?
Because their mothers didn’t know.
Because their mothers didn’t care.
Because their mothers didn’t believe Jesus.
So I found myself as a backup mom: leading them according to God’s Word, loving them unconditionally, being willing to tell them the truth even when they didn’t want to hear it.
The same is true for many girls you lead. They need to see women (read: you) who love the Lord, love others, and have a passion for ministry. They’re girls now, but they will start the transition into womanhood while they’re still teenagers.
And the beautiful reality is, through Christ, you can do it. Not only is being a backup mom an extension of our role as girls ministers, but also as “older women” (Titus 2:3-5).
Consider a few of these steps to get started:
- Open your home. Offer to host the next gathering, game night, or sleepover for girls in your church. Don’t just host, though: participate and get to know them.
- Reach out to girls you already know. Have them over for dinner. Take them out for coffee. Go to their plays and ball games.
- Offer to share your talents with girls. Are you good at crafts? Do you love to read? Can you decorate? Volunteer to do your thing at the next girls’ event.
- Share your story. Your testimony is powerful (Revelation 12:11) and your tellings of Jesus’ work in your everyday life are thrilling to girls.
- Start a discipleship group. Gather a handful of girls who want to dig deeper into God’s Word and do a Bible study together. Invite a few godly women to help. Pray that each girl will seek out a backup mom if they need one.
- Be a backup mom to the girls who come to you for advice. Speak truth. Share your struggles. Become their advocate and cheerleader and helper.
- Get a group of women and reach out together. Plan something fun that gives you an opportunity to connect with girls, like a hike, cooking night, coffee bar, etc.
- Pray for them. Ask your student pastor for girls who need prayer and lift them up. Mail them a card telling them you are praying for them and invite them to share prayer requests with you.
Don’t get me wrong; being a backup mom is an inexact science at best. You’ll find yourself knee-deep in hormones, boys, clothes, and tears. But there is nothing sweeter than watching her grow up in Christ because of your relationship with her.
I’m not asking you to overstep your boundaries. You’re not their mother, and you should always seek to cultivate a relationship with their parent or guardian to build a partnership in ministry. But, a backup mom can have a lasting impact on a girl who will—in the blink of an eye—be a woman. When that happens, you won’t be her backup mom any more.
You’ll be her friend.
Leslie Hudson fills her life with blueberries, strong coffee, and lots of laughter in White Bluff, Tennessee, where she lives with her husband and two kids. She loves studying God’s Word early and spreading it around the rest of the day. Get to know her better at myleslienotebook.blogspot.com.
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