I attend an urban church. It has multiple outreach opportunities for the kids and the teens in the area, but my friend Heather and I noticed that some of the teen girls in the area were not taking advantage of the programs. Our church is well placed right across the street from the community center and is also a few houses away from the middle school. There are always kids, especially teens, walking around and hanging out outside of our church.
One day, Heather and I approached three high school girls that we saw often and asked if they would like to be involved in a girl’s group that met weekly. They were interested and we began our first teen girls mentoring group. We held meetings at the church and a local coffee house.
When we first started, I wondered, “Why would teen girls want to hang out with a middle-aged woman?” But they came week after week and often invited friends. Our group time started off sharing our highs and lows of the week. If someone was having a hard week we all—adults and teens alike—would mentor, support and give suggestions and encouragement. I had a rule that if I expected the girls to be open and honest with me, then I had to be open and honest with them. They would often ask hard questions like, “Did you have sex before marriage?” or “Have you ever tried drugs?” I would answer honestly and pair it with life lessons I learned.
After our sharing time we always had a time to get into God’s Word. We would read a passage or several and dig into it to pull the meaning out and try to apply it to our lives. Most of the girls did not have their own Bibles. I was able to get a case of pretty pink Bibles for a good deal through our church. I gave each new girl a Bible.
We go to the movies, bake homemade cookies, share tips on how to save money at the grocery store, have sleepovers, go hiking and running. The goal for our girls’ group was to love on these girls and show them that we cared and that we could be someone they could count on. We also had a rule to not break promises. If I told the girls I was going to meet them somewhere, I was going to meet them no matter what. We learned early on that if we were consistent, available, and showed them love that the girls would show up too.
Over the years Heather and I had two different groups. When our first group all graduated, we started our second one and they all just graduated last May. Heather and I struggled whether we were supposed to start a third girls’ group or if God was calling us to do something different. After much prayer we felt that we were being called to start a “Grown Girls” Group. We contacted many of our previous group members and inquired if they would be interested in a group where we would discuss subjects such as money management, paying bills, cooking, and grocery shopping. Many were very interested. We had our first meeting of five young women and six babies 18 months and younger. It was chaotic but we cooked a meal and ate together, reunited, and discussed tracking where their money went for one month. We will meet again in a few weeks.
I would love to tell you that all these girls, now young women, are fully committed to Christ and that they totally turned their lives around, but that is not how the story ends. Some we merely introduced to Christ and they are still searching, a few are more solid but still fall into some bad habits. Don’t we all? Some are really struggling with poor life choices. Some have turned away, but I do believe that the seeds have been planted and when the time is right, God will complete the work that was started. Many of the girls call one of us in a time of crisis, even when we haven’t heard from them in a while. I believe God planted these girls in my life to show me how to love others more completely, sacrificially, and to show me how to stop being so busy and to be available to those who are right before me.