Mentoring Girls 101

Recently I had dinner with a new friend. We discussed all things ministry, church, worship, and dating over some delicious margarita pizza. For a first time get together, we hit it off pretty easily. That’s a blessing in itself because you never know if your first time meeting up with someone is going to be painfully long and awkward, or easy and refreshing. I left feeling refreshed and grateful for the handful of new friends the Lord has blessed me with over the past year and a half.

Among our other topics of conversation, she asked me about mentoring young girls. Basically, she was curious what I had seen work and what hadn’t in my short time in ministry. While I love this question, and actually receive that exact question in my email inbox often, I liken it to parenting. (Since I’m a parent and all, you know.) I’m no expert whatsoever, but I’ve learned that there is no formula, and the experience is different for everyone. However, over the few short years I’ve had the privilege to mentor some young girls, there are a few things that have never fallen short. Because I’m always looking for ideas, and because I don’t mind sharing what I’ve seen be effective, I thought what better way to share than to post a blog.

I know for a fact many of you are doing the thing and have the same question!

I am curious, however, how many of you out there specifically work with high school girls? Whether it be by volunteering at your church or an organization, or those of you who might be on staff at a church serving in some type of girls ministry role. So, let’s consider this post a roll call, a little advice, and a place to give ideas. How does that sound? (Of course, these ideas can really be applied to any mentoring relationship.)

I’ll start by sharing what’s worked for me:

1) Be Real:

I don’t know if you know this, but you may think because of their young age that girls don’t pick up on if you’re faking it or not. But I’m telling you, they know. They pick up on it. They can smell a fake a mile away and they want nothing to do with it. So what does this mean? It means that although you might be their mentor and they the mentee, they want to know you! They want to know that you are not perfect. That you do not have it all together. That you sin. That you don’t always spend an hour in the word each morning. That you get mad and irritated with your family. That you have friend issues. That you are struggling to survive just like them. It means you speak these things to them. Obviously, there is wisdom and discretion in what you share and to what extent and how many details, but that doesn’t mean you can’t own up to your crud, too. It takes two to tango. Take that rare opportunity to learn from them as well!

2) Ask Questions: (Ask hard questions!)

How are you? That’s a very vague and empty question. A question anyone can hide behind. I have learned over the years that the more specific the question, the better and more effective. This actually took me a while to learn and ironically, one girl that I dearly love was always so annoyed when I asked this question that she would ask me what I meant and what did I really want to know? I’m so grateful for her honesty because it broadened my horizon of questions. Asking the hard questions is also vital, because who else is doing it? I think sometimes we don’t want to ask the hard questions because that can get messy, but discipleship is messy. To throw some conversations starters out there, here are some good questions:

– How is your relationship with your friends? Is there any drama or gossip that you need to set straight? (If you have or know a high school girl, I can almost promise you there will be drama of some sort.)
– How is your relationship with your parents? Siblings?
– How is school?
– How is your relationship with your boyfriend? Who’s holding you accountable? What are your boundaries?
– What Bible study are you doing right now?
– Are you harboring any sin? Struggling in secret in any way?

3) Never FORCE them to talk:

While you are there to mentor them, hold them accountable and be real with them, there is nothing worse than someone forcing you to talk. I promise you, over time, they’ll say what they need to say when the Lord gives them the grace to do it. Gently encourage them, for sure, but don’t ever make them feel threatened.

4) Create Safety:

Each girl needs to know that you are a safe person. They need to trust you. Trusting someone takes time, especially if you’re starting this relationship from scratch. This means they are free to tell you anything with zero judgment or condemnation, only grace and love. This goes hand in hand with sharing your life as well. The more you share, the less perfect you are to them, the greater the chances of them opening up to you.

5) Go through a book together:

Sometimes as a high school girl, an older mentor whether it be in college, just out of college or older, can be intimidating. Because of the intimidation, they’re less likely to speak up and just be themselves around you. The book you read together gives you an opportunity to approach certain conversations or topics that could otherwise be awkward or just plain hard. Your book can be your guide. Some great resources for you would be your youth pastor, LifeWay or even Christian Book Distributors.

6) Know what teenage girls struggle with:

This may seem like common sense, but we have to know what we’re dealing with here, what our target audience is. We have to be in the know. While you were once a teenager and have struggled with similar things, because of the rapid speed of technology and the effect it’s had on the way we do things, we need to understand their world. You can be certain a few sensitive areas include: identity, body issues, friendships, dating, family, faith, and all things dealing with relationships whether it be emotional, mental, or sexual. And while we’re at it, you can certainly add in communication these days. How in the world do they communicate besides instant messaging, texting, and any online chatting? It’s a big world out there.

7) Pray with them:

Don’t just pray for them, pray with them. Have you ever denied prayer? I know we all want it and need it, but unfortunately, something about praying out loud for someone on the spot scares us. However, although I sometimes felt awkward as a young girl, nothing meant more to me than the ladies that never let me leave their sight without praying for me. Not only does this teach them how to pray, how to love and what it looks like to be discipled, it also gives them a chance to receive that prayer and those blessings first hand and to hear what you are praying. There is power in prayer. There is power in praying out loud. And there is certainly power in praying with the girls.

8) Listen to them:

This may be the most redundant of all to you, but in all seriousness, the more you give them the time of day and listen to what may seem mundane to you, the more they’ll be willing to tell you. Listen, no one is going to open up to you until they know you care. And not just that you care about the hard, serious things, but that you care about the homework they loathe, and their favorite place to shop. The more you genuinely hear them out without cutting them off, the farther your relationship will go.

9) Do things with them:

One really great way to build a strong relationship is to just do everyday life with them. Go see a movie, take them grocery shopping with you, go shopping together, invite them over for dinner with your family, hang out at the pool, and so on and so forth. It doesn’t always have to be a formal one-on-one get together. In fact, it’s in the “mundane” that real life and real discipleship happens. This is also a really great way for them to see a peak into your real life.

It looks so easy on paper, but mentoring, discipling, however you want to label it is easier said than done. But we were called to make disciples, each and every one of us. I’d love to hear from you guys. Y’all are a wealth of wisdom! What are some things you’ve seen work for you?

Oh, and for a little encouragement, there is truly nothing like investing your time in a young girl, only to watch her go off to college and do the same to the younger girls around her. The Lord doesn’t always allow us to see the fruit of our labor, but when He does, it’s the sweetest, most rewarding gift ever. Your investment will be worth it, dear friend. Do not grow weary in doing good!

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105 Responses to “Mentoring Girls 101”

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Comments:

  1. 51
    Jennifer says:

    Thank you Lindsee,
    I have been leading Bible Study’s for teen girls for several years, focusing mainly on Sexual Integrity and relationships. I would encourage Mentors to have a few warriors praying for them. The battle is intense at times. Loved your post! Thanks for the encouragement 🙂

    • 51.1
      Amber Hammontree says:

      Hi Jennifer,

      I have been considering for some time starting a small group also focusing on sexual boundaries, relationships, etc. Can you give me any information on jow you got started or some resources you used?

      Thanks!

  2. 52
    Dusti says:

    One thing that helps me when mentoring high school age girls is to put myself in their shoes and/or try to remember what I was like as a high schooler. (I’m a little more removed from that age, i.e. older.) And although I was a big mess-up in high school, God was pursuing me then and he still pursues me. So truly, we can ONLY be a support. We can show them what it means to love like Jesus (agape), but we can’t BE Jesus for them. They are going to mess up. It is our job to love, and while we may need to gently encourage them back to the life they’re meant to live, it is not our job to judge. It’s a very fine, difficult line to walk.

    • 52.1
      Dusti says:

      P.S. I love #2. Will do this more in the future!

    • 52.2
      Lindsee says:

      Amen to all the of above, Dusti. Especially about putting ourselves in their shoes! I always tell them that what matters and is significant to them, also matters and is significant to God! Thanks for sharing!

  3. 53
    Lee says:

    Hey! WOW…you nailed it! I have been blessed and privileged to work with teens for a few years. I have a ministry where I use my horses and through all the things you mentioned, we do with a horse. Depending on the game we are doing in the round pen,the horse represents us, or Jesus. The teen or child can share if they like or I communicate by what the horse is doing. It’s all about relationships and how we communicate is what can make or break that relationship. “The horse is a mirror to the human soul.” Buck Thank you for sharing! You are very encouraging!
    Lee

  4. 54
    Kathy B says:

    Hey Lindsee, wonderful help and encouragement. Thanks!! I teach a high school girl’s Sunday school class and really appreciate all the suggestions for relationship builders. That part has never come naturally for me, but doubtless takes the teaching deeper.

    My favorite piece of advice will probably sound like a broken record, but regardless here it is:
    when the girls share a struggle they’re having, I ask the other class members to try to think of scripture verses that would speak to her particular problem. My life has been impacted profoundly by God’s Word applied to specific challenges along the way, so I want them to learn to search out truths in scripture that will minister right where they are in their young lives. God’s Word works and I know no greater means of preparing them for what lies ahead than to know how to let it pour directly where they’re needing it.

  5. 55
    kathleen partint says:

    I don’t work with high school kids but I work with middle school kids. I was out of the whole youth group setting for years but found I miss the kids. After working with them for one year I have bonded with some of the kids. I enjoy all the kids but the young ladies in our group really touch my heart. Last night I had a young lady ask me if I would be her sponsor for conformation. I felt so honored! and stressed at the same time. I truly love this young lady. I am already thinking about the subjects that may come up over the next year. I know with Gods help and guidance her and I will have a great year and I pray I can help God help her prepare for the years to come.

  6. 56
    Connie Boyd says:

    I did work with both jr high and high school girls but now have a mentoring ministry to 18 and older. Your advise is very sound for any age – just have to remember the age you are mentoring. I have found college and young adult girls have in many cases, walked some rough independent roads when they stepped into their “freedom”. They need so much love and a lot of repair work that can only happen with time and encouragement that Jesus loves them. Moving forward and not looking back is critical for them to understand. Staying in the lives of those junior high and high school girls as they move on, will give them someone they can trust when the road gets rough. Thanks for what you and these other mentors are doing. Never give up!

  7. 57
    Joelle says:

    Thank you for this! So great! (I AM A HOME SCHOOL MOM RAISING DAUGHTERS!!!)I really really appreciate you sharing this expertise you have with us. This advice is ringing so true and I too have noticed the benefits of being more real.
    My only advise to add is:
    Moms….let them see you learning, studying and growing in a humble and non-preachy way. Let them see that you are sorry when you mess up or get cranky. Let them know you’ve been there. Several of us hide where we have been but it could be helpful to our gals if they knew that we really do get it. We have been there with the struggles, pits, crisis, or especially the “sad for no reason” moods too. 🙂

  8. 58
    candifer says:

    First off, I LOVE THIS POST!!!! in ministry, i think discipleship is my #1 passion! i have been helping with my church’s youth group for the past 9 years. i know i really could’ve benefited from someone pouring into my life when i was in high school, so i make it a priority to do so for as many young ladies as possible!

    lindsee, i think you hit the nail on the head with #1! from my experience, i’d say that today’s youth care a great deal about transparency–being real. the second they smell a fake, the walls come up/they shut you out.

    doing life together (#9) is exactly what Jesus did with his disciples; why should it be any different for us?!

    “There is power in prayer. There is power in praying out loud. And there is certainly power in praying with the girls.” AMEN AND AMEN!!

    just a question because i’m curious what other people think– we tend to use “mentor” and “disciple” interchangeably, but are they actually the same thing? why or why not?

    • 58.1
      Lindsee says:

      Your last question is a great question! And that’s where I’ve probably messed up. The exchange in mentoring verse discipleship. However, I see similarities in both, but that got me thinking! Will think on it.

      • Sasha says:

        Can we say that all mentoring is discipleship but not all discipleship is mentoring? I think that when Jesus said to “Go make disciples” this takes on a lot of forms. A pastor is making disciples, friends are making disciples of friends, parents are making disciples of children, co-workers, teachers with students etc, older women with younger women etc.

  9. 59
    Becky says:

    LPM:
    Hi, it’s been awhile since I’ve been on here.
    I just this morning finished up the Bible study ‘James’.
    Once again, Beth, sweetie, you have not failed to teach me. During this study you have taught me a few things I didn’t know, reminded me of a few things that I had forgotten, and stated in a more clear way of a few things I knew in my heart but cold not verbalize.
    I also hung in there with Melissa.
    Wheew! Thanks Beth, It was good.

  10. 60
    Elizabeth says:

    I am a high chool youth group leader and I have found that many girls have a tendency to come and go when it comes to youth group. I have found that one of the things that work best with them is to love them unconditionally and always be ready to welcome them back with open arms when they come back and be understanding when they’re not completely sure of their faith. As a mentor and a mentee, I’ve alo found that reassuring the mentee after that they’re still very much loved after they’ve disclosed something difficult is huge! One thing that I recently enjoyed as a mentee was cooking a meal with my mentor. Neither of us enjoy cooking, and we’re not exactly the best at it, but working through it together made a big difference.

  11. 61
    Valerie says:

    This advice is really helpful. Thank you!

  12. 62

    I can definitely speak for the knowing the little things about someone making you really close. The people I let get the closest to me don’t just know that my sister-in-law died suddenly in the last week. I’m sure people who’ve never seen my face or know anything about me know that by now. Who knows how many prayer chains my family is on by now! But the people who know me best are the people in AA who see me almost every day and have paid enough attention to know things like I love skittles and always have hair ties. A friend brought me a big bag of skittles to celebrate an AA milestone I reached and another friend was at work one day and broke a hairtie. She told me she smiled to herself when she thought, “I know if I go to the noon meeting on my lunch break, Shellie will be there and she’ll have extra hair ties.” She had to come late, cause she only has an hour lunch break, but she instantly came up to me, tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I had an extra hair tie. Of course, I reached into my purse and pulled one out and handed it to her. She smiled and whispered, “I knew you would.” It sent a very warm feeling through me. I know people care about me to notice little things like that. By the way, the hair tie thing I think comes from not only having long hair and being sensitive to the heat myself, but also having preteen daughters with long hair and you never know when they’re going to have some complaint and want to do something different with their hair for whatever reason! It could just be that they just realized none of their friends are wearing their hair down! God forbid they should look different from their friends!!! (gasp!) Actually, my youngest doesn’t care about that, but she’s only 10. Give her a couple of years! But yeah, the people I know really care about me are the ones who’ve paid enough attention to know that I love skittles and always have extra hair ties. Not the ones that know my sister-in-law that I was closer to (cause she was in recovery with me) than I am my own siblings just passed recently. Although they know that, too. Particularly the part about me being closer to her than anyone in my family because of her also being a recovering alcoholic. By the way, it was Diabetes that took her out of this world. She died clean and sober, which she has been for the last 2 years!

  13. 63
    katiegfromtennessee says:

    Hey Lindsee, Thanks for the tips! I’m not around the youth like I was before I had my youngest one, but I think I will probably be helping out with the youth of my church in the future, esp. when my kiddles start going to youth. I do have a little sister that is a junior in high school. It’s like a built in mentoring relationship whether I think of it that way or not because she has watched me her whole life, and I know she has looked up to me and my older sister. My older sis and I have tried to be a godly example to her, and have been honest with her about our own struggles. I pray for her and for my two other younger sisters often. Thanks again Lindsee, God has given you valuable wisdom here:)

  14. 64
    Hannah says:

    This was so helpful! Especially the questions to engage girls. I feel like I ask the same thing over and over and get the same answer over and over. Thank you for the suggestions!

    Hannah

  15. 65
    Jacqui McGuire says:

    Awesome Article! I loved the emphasis on praying WITH others. This has been the most powerful in my relationships with women who have mentored me! The power is in PRAYER!

  16. 66
    Dorothy says:

    I have been mentoring a single twenty – something for about 5 weeks. It seems like most mentoring books out there are somewhat outdated, even the covers need a fresh new look! Many are written for mentees that are young moms. Most encourage spiritual mentoring or doing a bible study together. I am hoping to share “life” – and all that it entails with my sweet young mentee. My mentoring program director suggested that we mentors keep a calendar/diary/journal where we record the moments we spend time,pray, talk, text, have coffee etc., with our mentees. Then when our “mentoring season” is over wrap up the journal and give as a gift to our mentee. This will show your young mentee how much you cared for her. Thank you for the helpful blog post & comments. Hint to authors: We could use some new books out there on this subject.

  17. 67
    MaryBess says:

    I actually have a rather unique opportunity with high-school girls…I work as a “Student Life Advisor” at a residential highschool for gifted students from across the state. This means that I actually live down the hall from over 30 teenage girls and in the same building as even more. It’s crazy most of the time, but a joy.

    Since I’m employed by the state, I have to step carefully alot of the time, but thanks to the relationships I am able to build with them, I can usually eventually share the gospel with my non-believer students, and I have the thrill of driving several of them to church with me each Sunday.

    One of the most effective things I have found in this process of mentoring is similar to number 9, though I would put it another way: enter into their world, both feet, head first. I’ll read the book they said that they loved, or discuss a TV show that we both enjoy, and because I am knowledgeable about what they are minorly obsessed with, they will share way more than they would otherwise. In their terms, I understand the “fandom.

    I feel like this is crucial, especially when reaching out to the ones who have not accepted Christ, because the comment I hear so often is that “my parents” or “other adults just don’t get it, like, how can they not be as pumped as I am about this awesome _________” They dismiss these other adults when they aren’t around, and act like their opinions or advice is only half-legit, and even though it’s unfair, it’s because they don’t feel like they or their world is understood.

    A final word…tumblr. I can’t use it well yet, but this is their new method of communication and it is terrifying.

  18. 68
    Kara says:

    Thanks for this post. I’ve been a small group leader for high school girls for 8 years and it’s the most amazing ministry I’ve been involved it. I love pouring into young women, believing that God is doing and will do amazing things through them.

    It’s also a hard ministry and discouraging at times when you see them graduate from high school and walk away from their faith, or makeover choices while in high school.

    I appreciate your post so much. We all desire to be effective in mentoring these young ladies. It’s great to be in contact with others who have the same passion. With the busy-ness of our lives, there isn’t always time to reach out and get the encouragement or support we need. So thank you.

    One of the best things we’ve done in our small group is to always include accountability groups. For 30 minutes of our “cluster”(what we call our group), we break up into groups of 2-3 and ask each other accountability questions. I gave them a list to start out with and they can tweak it. The girls have said that this is one part of our group they would never want changed. I love that.

    Keep up the great work, youth mentors. I’m the product of a fabulous mentoring relationship. God is changing lives through your hard work. : )

  19. 69
    Regina says:

    My daughter will be 16 Thursday….June 6. She has been gone from my home for over a year. I brought her home with me Saturday after the Beth Moore conference. She says she doesn’t believe in God but I know somewhere deep in her he is tugging…….Please pray that God makes me the mother that I need to be. I don’t want to be a Pharisee any longer……I want to live out the love of God instead of talking about it. I love y’all and am praying……Regina

    Ps Please pray God removes anything from her that is displeasing to Him so she will be able to see Jesus clearly……

  20. 70
    Candace says:

    Lindsee,
    Love. This. Post.
    I’ve been directing the Girls’ Ministry at my church for twelve years. As a ministry with discipleship at its foundation and core, this post speaks volumes! Authenticity, accountability and accessibility are all a huge part of the ministry our team does.
    Doing anything for twelve years ensures you will go through different seasons! #9 Doing life with the girls ten years ago did consist of late night movies and weekly volleyball games. These days I’ve shifted to more of a come-along-for-grocery-shopping or stop-by-during-nap-time. At first, I struggled with this new season, thinking it was ineffective or boring for the girls. Praise God He can use any situation, or season! God can use anyone at any season! If you are sitting on the fence questioning if God could use you to minister to girls the answer is yes!
    I would also say to challenge these girls! I mean REALLY challenge them. They have potential to move mountains and upset the world for Christ. Don’t underestimate them. My little experience has taught me they are hungry and desperate for more than they have been given.
    Thank you again for this amazing post!

  21. 71
    Emma says:

    First off I love this post! Even though I’m mentoring young elementary kids I still find this post helping me and guiding me on what to say. I’m only in middle school but I have found great joy in mentoring young girls. Thank you for all the help!

  22. 72

    Thanks so much for sharing. Great advice. Are there any particular books you’ve seen that would be helpful to go through together?

  23. 73
    Karen says:

    I work with teens in Young Life. I found these questions and kept them. I am sorry I don’t remember where I got them

    Good questions to ask teens
    What is the hardest part of being a teenager? What is one way your parents have sacrificed for you? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
    What is your favorite place on earth?
    What is your earliest memory?
    What keeps you from trusting Jesus?

  24. 74
    Aubri says:

    I LOVE THIS POST SO MUCH. I’m 19 and just about to go mentor an 11 year old girl from my church for the first time. I’m very excited because I was the one being mentored for so long and now it’s finally my turn to return the favor.

  25. 75
    Michelle says:

    Hi!
    Thank you for the tips you’ve shared. I help out at my church with the youth group and the youth pastor is giving us a group of girls to mentor. I am pretty excited, and I’m eager to make it fun for them.

  26. 76
    Catherine says:

    I am just getting started by thinking about the whole idea of mentoring girls. I am a retired educator and miss the children. I want to give back in ways that will strengthen and develop strong intelligent women. I can’t decide what level to start with but I do want girls who need good guidance and have some goals in mind however I want to be there for the misguided girl also. Will you share what may be a good place for me to consider starting. I do have much to learn but I am willing to learn

    • 76.1
      Media says:

      Hi Catherine! That’s wonderful that you are looking for a way to serve younger women. We don’t have suggestions for any specific programs, but we recommend starting with your local church in order to connect with students in your area. Blessings to you, friend!

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