A Note from Amanda Mejias with Lifeway Girls: Finding a new church may be one of the hardest things my husband and I did when we moved to Tennessee two years ago. There were so many options, but I almost didn’t even know where to start. However, with time and research, it was SO worth it. I love my church, and as part of Lifeway Girls, we want your daughter to love her church and be part of a biblical community with people her age. If your family has moved recently, you are coming back to church after the pandemic, or you are just looking for somewhere that better fits your teen girl, check out this post for some pointers on how to make finding a youth group more simple and less intimidating.
I’ve seen it time and time again. A new middle and high schooler walk into a student center with their parents and they look very nervous—almost sickly. Their eyes are taking in all the sounds of our area and the people, and if they were being completely honest, for a split second they feel like they’d rather die than have to interact with new adults or meet new students. Because finding a new youth group can be intimidating for some people when they don’t know what to expect or what to look for.
For me, I have been on both sides. I have personally been on the student side of trying out new youth groups with the kind introductions and semi-awkward conversations. And I have been on the receiving end of more than a few new-to-youth-group interactions with students.
So if you’re a parent trying to help your student, you’re more than likely asking questions like “What do you do when you’re looking for a new youth group?” “Who do you talk to?” “Where do you go?” “Should you even go?” There are many instances where finding a new youth group can seem like a vast, unknown ocean of awkward. But through introduction conversations and filling out guest cards, there are a few things to do and look for when finding a new youth group.
Please know that it is essential for your daughter to find a biblical community and youth groups (or even small groups) make that easy to find. Social anxiety is a thing, so it may take time, but it is imperative to her growth and relationship with Jesus. We were designed for community, and made to do life together.
When you do begin your search for a new youth group, a great place to start is by asking your daughter. Maybe she has a church in mind or knows some friends at school that can recommend a place?
Next, do some research about the youth group. Find the student ministry (and student leaders) on social media. Find out who attends there and when their activities and services happen. This will help you visualize what going there will look and be like for your daughter.
But, don’t stop your research there. Make sure to research the church itself. Most churches have a website, and on their website they will have a mission statement, values, or something that can give you an idea as to what kind of church you’ll be checking out and the type of teaching you might hear. Some characteristics of a healthy church to look for: expositional preaching, biblical theology, and a right understanding of the gospel. I cannot reiterate how important this step actually is. Community is great, but if you are being fed from an unhealthy source, that will not be beneficial to your spiritual growth—you don’t drink mud just because it has water in it.
And as you research, pray. Pray that God would lead you to the right (not the perfect) church at His time. Ask Him to help you trust Him as you help your daughter navigate this new journey. Also, if there is any hesitation or bitterness based on past hurt and bad experiences, let me encourage you that you can heal and you can find trustworthy believers to walk with your daughter again. Lean into the Lord during this process.
Now once you’ve done the research and you’ve prayed, it’s time to just try out a youth group. Let your daughter be part of this conversation. And once you decide on which to try first, spend some time praying with her and encouraging her.
Pray and ask God to open your daughter’s heart to the people, the group, the place, and the pastor’s message. And if you’re able to help her set up a meeting up with, or ride with a friend to that youth group, definitely do that to provide her a bit of a safety net.
Prepare her to fill out a first time guest card, and to answer basic level questions about where she goes to school and what she likes to do. Encourage her that the long term benefits of being brave will outweigh the awkwardness she might feel in the moment.
And no, every youth group is not going to be your entire family’s ideal church and your daughter probably won’t mesh well with every single person at every place. Finally, let me encourage you as one last tip to give youth groups in your area more than a one week trial. It takes time to establish trust and comfortability within a community, so give some grace while you practice patience. God will lead you to community, but make sure you do your part in exploring your options.
Rachel Fox Frazier has the joy of serving full-time as the Middle School Girls Associate at Sevier Heights Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. She loves spending her days helping students take their next right step in their relationship with Jesus. And she loves to spend her nights writing, planning, and dreaming about ways she can help others do the same! Rachel is recent newlywed and adores her hilarious and Jesus-loving husband. She loves connecting with others of matcha lattes, serving overseas, and everything about student ministry. Connect with Rachel: Instagram // Website