I was greeting students by the check-in desk one Wednesday night with my usual, “Hey girl, how was your day?” when a girl walked in looking pretty bummed. She told me she’d had a difficult day and she almost didn’t come to church at all. I gave her a hug and honestly told her that she wasn’t alone. The truth is, I hadn’t really felt like coming to church that night either. Despite my outward cheeriness, it had been a difficult week for me too and I related with her instinct to hide rather than show up. As I opened up to her about it, I think she was a little shocked. She didn’t expect me to relate because it seems like I’m always so happy to be at church. It was a moment of transparency for me that turned into a valuable, life-long lesson as I told her that I’ve never once regretted coming to worship even when I didn’t feel like it. What I couldn’t have predicted is that it would be one of the last opportunities we had to worship together in person for weeks because of COVID-19.
In girls ministry, finding the line between valuable transparency and healthy boundaries can be difficult. On one side of the issue, it’s possible to be too transparent with the girls we minister to, but on the other hand, we can be so guarded with our own experiences and feelings that we aren’t relatable to them. The truth is, teenage girls know when we’re faking it. Not being genuine is a good way to make sure teenage girls aren’t interested in what you have to say. That’s why having healthy boundaries with the girls we’re ministering to doesn’t mean being fake or disingenuous, it simply means practicing discernment. Our faith is real and our girls can see that faith in action when we pull back the curtain on our everyday lives as often as we have an appropriate opportunity. Just like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, when we are transparent about our life and faith we can encourage the girls we mentor to “follow me as I follow Christ.”
This transparency is going to be particularly challenging in the season of life that we are collectively walking through as a society with “quarantine” being used so often in our daily vocabulary. The added obstacle of connecting through a screen makes healthy transparency vital to our ability to minister to girls in this pandemic. Everyone feels the weight of our cultural climate, including our girls, and it can be difficult to lead them while navigating these new waters ourselves. Don’t feel like you have to have it all together right now! In fact, trying to make it look like you have it all together in this season (when none of us do) is only going to isolate you more and prevent you from ministering effectively.
So, how can we elevate our transparency while also practicing healthy boundaries with the girls we minister too?
1. Pray for Discernment.
In this unprecedented season especially, pray for the Lord to guide you as you care for the girls you lead and as you process your own emotions! Knowing what to share and what to keep private as we minister takes wisdom and discernment that comes from God and His Word. Thankfully, these are things that God wants to give us as we consistently seek Him (James 1:5).
2. Find Community.
The girls you lead should not be the only people you are connecting with, both in this season and after. As leaders, we have a responsibility to first process our emotions and the difficult circumstances in our lives with peers and mentors rather than those we are leading. When we process with those we trust first, we are better able to minister with discernment and be transparent in beneficial and uplifting ways. Be transparent with people you trust so that you can have healthy boundaries with those you lead!
3. Make Jesus Your Main Point.
As you are sharing, make sure you’re making Jesus the main character of the story – not you. If you’re constantly making much of Jesus and pointing students to Him in everything you share, it will be much easier to have healthy boundaries as you share transparently about His work in your life.
Ultimately, it’s hard to ask girls to be genuine with you if you aren’t willing to be genuine yourself. If you want them to take off the mask, you have to take off yours first. It’s so important to allow a healthy level of transparency in our ministry in order to build deeper connections with girls so that we can point them to Christ.
Taylor Cage is a Nashville native, currently living in Oklahoma City with her husband, Baron, who serves as a student pastor at Trinity Baptist Church. After college, she spent three years as a Girls Minister and she’s passionate about building gospel-centered community among women of all ages. Taylor is the Social Media Coordinator for Well-Watered Women and a regular contributor for the Lifeway Girls blog. Most days you can find her writing about God’s Word with a cup of coffee in hand or chasing around her new Goldendoodle, Posie. Connect with Taylor: Instagram