Our community is blessed with a ministry that coordinates Bible studies in our schools. Students in grades 6-8 can attend a bible study before school, led by volunteer parents. As a Girls Minister on staff at a local church, I was able to be a guest speaker at various meetings. I am now leading a group as a volunteer parent because my son is in middle school. One obvious reason includes picking out which girls I approve of him crushing on, but the main reason is core to what I believe about student ministry. No longer is church a priority for families’ weekend schedules. Select sports and divorced homes with flip-flop weekend visits keep our students from being consistent in their attendance. Church attendance has lost its top spot.
Our desire to see students engage with Jesus means we have to go to where they are. We must find them in their regular life events like sporting events, dance recitals, and part-time jobs, and show them we care. My middle school girls join me before school for donuts and Jesus. Girls of all backgrounds come together, including those that believe and those that are seeking. They hear scripture, ask questions and are challenged to live out the faith and calling of Jesus Christ.
We cannot stop there though. We go to where they are, but we invite them to where we are. We invite them back to small groups inside the local church where they can find community and care. At a recent meeting, two senior girls taught the week’s lesson. At the end I asked them to give one piece of advice to the group about finding healthy friendships. Both of them, without meaning to copy each other, said their small group at church is where they found real friendships. They admitted to having busy schedules, tough academics, and the desire to sleep in on the weekends. Through it all though, church and their small group was where they experienced encouragement, care and life change. The church cultivates discipleship and a place to be known.
The lives of our teens are fast-paced; constantly racing ahead to the next activity that will add to their college resume. They are asked to jump through popularity hoops and then feel steady criticism when they have the courage to stand on their faith. The local church is not an add-on or a bonus meeting; it is the answer. It is commissioned by God as a place for believers to gather and grow. It is where we mobilize and send out harvesters into the field. Matthew 28:19, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations.” Go where your girls are and then invite them to where you are. Invite them to an imperfect gathering of like-minded teens that desire to make God a priority.
You and the community of students at your church can offer authenticity, accountability and the opportunity to forgive. More than ever, our girls need godly adults, seeking them out wherever they go. More than ever, our girls need godly adults, inviting them back to where we are, the bride of Christ called the church.
Rebecca Bradford is a mom of three who happily just sent her youngest off to kindergarten and skipped all the way home. She served for over 20 years in SAGE Ministries and as the Director of Girls Ministry at Lake Pointe Church for 15 years. Currently, Rebecca is called Queen of her own home, and teaches and volunteers in Girlz 4 God, Gather Moms, and discipling 4th grade girls. She loves encouraging girls and moms with transparent truth that helps them understand God’s grace and feel connected with others experiencing similar struggles. Her easy going spirit makes her a joy to be around and she is never short of laughs. She’s been married to her college sweetheart for 18 years and loves doing ministry together in their hometown of Rockwall, Texas.