Bro, You’re Leading Girls Too
Nothing in this world turns me to mush more than my daughter, Laelle. As she grows older, my wife and I have the privilege of experiencing the image of God slowly being revealed. I love hearing her heart.
The other day, she was talking about things that four-year-old girls talk about. But out of nowhere, she took an abrupt turn. To this point, she had never supposed what she wanted to be when she grows up. But now she looked at me with her big eyes and said, “Daddy, I want to be a policeman when I grow up.”
But then she followed that up with a poignant question:
“Daddy, can girls do that?”
You already know what I said: “Of COURSE they can, baby!” She hasn’t mentioned it since, and honestly, she probably won’t again. But here are some things I wouldn’t tell my daughter:
“Well, honey, you’re going to have to understand that this is a male-dominated profession. It may not be worth it.”
“The problem is that, if you do that, you won’t have the same respect as a man who does it.”
You can buck against it, but it’s inevitable – women will have a harder time finding their area of influence than men will.
Male youth leader, it’s time to realize that we have the privilege of leading girls who have been handcrafted by the Creator with unlimited talents, passions and purposes. Each one of them will hit a point where they too will be asking themselves the same question: “can girls do that?”
Unfortunately, as a youth ministry culture, we’ve gotten better at figuring out how not to get sued than we have at unleashing female, student leaders in a male-heavy leadership scene called the Church.
Here are some things I advocate for in regards to leading girls:
Abandon the “I-export-girl-ministry” attitude
I’ve spoken with multiple youth leaders who take great pride in their lack of interaction with girls. It’s true that there is nothing better you can do for a girl than to put a devoted, female leader in her life. However, once you do this, you are not off the hook. Don’t mail it in and assume that they are covered.
You have an important role as a secondary role model. That may not sound as sexy as you’d like it to be. Still, I’m convinced that one function of youth groups that we need to take seriously is putting both male and female role models in the lives of both boys and girls. Our programs are often too segregated.
These girls need to know what positive, healthy interaction looks like from godly men who are personally invested in their soul. Paul talks about being a spiritual father. It’s not just for the guys. Your investment in their lives can model to them many things, ranging from attributes to find in a spouse to leadership skills they wish to emulate.
Even something as simple as checking up on them during hangout times goes a long way. But don’t be afraid to go deeper. Intentional conversations must happen.
You know what shouldn’t happen? Living in the state of “ugh, girls scare me so I’m pumped that I have girl leaders who can take care of this.” Don’t default to “I-minister-to-boys-only” – intentionally connect with girls in the common spaces of your youth ministry.
Disciple them – like, SERIOUSLY disciple them
We all know how impactful face-to-face time with students is. Here’s the typical trend that I have seen in my ministry:
- Nobody spends more time with students outside of youth group than I do (you know… it’s kinda what I’m paid to do).
- I am a guy.
- Most of my time is with guys.
Therefore, guys get the most personal attention in our group.
If this continues, girls will naturally be at a disadvantage in our ministry. It can’t be.
Why can’t you meet up with five girls at Starbucks to talk about Jesus? Who says your car has to be filled with guys when you’re carpooling to a retreat? Why not occasionally lead one of your girl’s small groups at youth group? Any reason you can’t team up with a parent to host a meal with the girls in your group?
I’ve done all of these things and it has been fantastic. My girls like it when I lead their group. My girls want to ride in my car when we are driving somewhere. It’s a huge honor.
Your girls need you talking Jesus with them outside of youth group. Sermons alone aren’t going to cut it. When you’re planning out what students you are going to hang out with each week, don’t automatically eliminate 50% of them due to their gender. Think of a handful of girls who are ready to kick it into another gear with Jesus and personally help them get there.
Seek out girls for guy-heavy roles
If we are being honest, much of the “guys-only” leadership development is our own fault. Training up young men to fill the roles that we’ve seen men leading is the most natural fit. Unfortunately, we, the Church, have gotten passed by the corporate world when it comes to unleashing women leaders.
Take a moment now to think of the leaders you are investing in. How many of them are guys because it takes less effort?
What are some roles of your ministry that you can train up girls to take over? If you have interns, how amazing would it be to have a female intern? Is there a girl student with the gift of communication that you could train up to occasionally lead the teaching time?
All of these suggestions may not seem that earth shattering. And it should go without having to be said that you should maintain discretion and never spend time alone with a girl. But our conversation needs to shift from building walls of appropriateness to identifying and developing the gifts that our girls possess.
Jonny Radcliff is the Student Ministries Director at Storehouse Church in Plymouth Meeting, PA. He lives nearby with his wife, Sarah, and two kids, Laelle and Levi. His almost ten years of ministry have been spent in Indiana and Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of Liberty University and Grace Theological Seminary. It is Jonny’s hope that his efforts will help youth leaders all over the Philadelphia area operate as one unit. For more info, check out WWW.YOUTHMINLIFERS.COM.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.