“What man among you, who has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it?” Luke 15:4
My family moved from Washington D.C to Tennessee as I began my seventh grade year. The move coincided with a young pastor we knew launching a new church. As my family had done before, we became part of the launch team. The music and casual atmosphere were inviting, the church grew quickly, and a thriving youth group developed very quickly.But even with my family being well connected in the church, I would not attend the youth group. I attempted to go once, but quickly realized that I could not identify with a single person there. None of the students were people I would have chosen as friends. Because even as a middle schooler, I would not take any time for those that were different from me. That made me a very lonely young person.
Honestly, there wasn’t something specifically wrong with the group. Simply put, I had social anxiety. The kids and leaders in this group were very different from the people I was used to being around. I am an introvert and decided not to make any effort to know them, so I sort of slipped through the cracks when it came to youth ministry as a young teen. I loved Jesus and had a great relationship with Him, but my relationships with people fell short. Looking back, if I had a better relationship with people, it would have drawn me even closer to God and finding new friendships.
Over ten years later, I actually work in youth ministry and I love getting to know my students and pulling them out of their shells. I don’t want anyone to be left out, because I identify first hand with the girls that have no interest in showing up, whatever their reasoning may be—It’s boring. I’m too busy. I don’t know anyone there. I’d rather hang out with my school friends. the leaders are weird.
Now, more than ever, we, as leaders, have to fight for our girls. We have to fight for their attention and for their hearts. Before the coronavirus, there were plenty of distractions—school, boys, sports, and so on. But now, they have no reason to commit to youth groups or anything really. Churches aren’t meeting, parents aren’t making them come, no one will text you back.But, deliberate engagement is required to fight for your girls. We need to lose sleep over these girls and find a reason to create community with our students outside of the normal church gatherings.
Here are some simple tips to foster community among your girls, even when no one wants to show up.
Don’t plan your Zoom meetings or outside hang outs too far in advance. That gives them time to change their minds and over think.
Make access to your meeting as effortless as possible. Provide one click links to your video calls. When you meet at the park to hang, you bring the snacks. When you invite them to coffee, pick them up and pay for their drink.
Create little pressure and don’t guilt them into hanging. Use terms like “This will be chill zoom meeting” or “No pressure, but tomorrow at lunch time let’s meet at this place for an hour.” Changing your phrasing to remove pressure helps your girls realize that your love for them isn’t based on what they do or if they show up.
If a girl doesn’t show up, make a little video with your other students showing how much they were missed and send it to her. She’ll have a little bit of FOMO (fear of missing out), but she’ll know that she is being thought of positively when she’s not there.
Most importantly, pray and advocate on their behalf. There is no way to truly know what is going on in these girls’ heads and hearts. But, the Lord knows and is always working for the good of those girls. We can trust that He will make a way.
As a self-described introvert, Abby Underwood has struggled with social anxieties her whole life. Realizing her value in Christ, she overcame the challenges of loneliness, she is now fueled by her passion to help girls find their identity in Christ. Abby works as a member of the social media team and student ministry at Life.Church Hendersonville. Connect with Abby: Instagram // Website