By Jennifer Johnson
Our church recently spent a Sunday afternoon distributing fliers to thousands of homes in our area, inviting community members to a cookout, and announcing the launch of our second worship service. I was pleased to see half a dozen teen girls from our youth group show up to join the teams tromping through the suburbs of Levittown. I was less pleased when, just an hour into the experience, several of them wilted onto the curb of the neighborhood with complaints about tiredness and “oh my gosh it’s so hot” and “I have a blister” and “when are we going to be doooooone?”
So I am one of the folks Melanie Moore identified at the end of our phone interview: an adult who finds teen girls difficult. (See related article.)
I love the 15-year-old girl in my own home, and sometimes I even love her friends, although not so much that one time involving water balloons filled with paint. But it takes a special lady to raise four of her own girls and then start a ministry for dozens more in her free time.
Yet it’s desperately needed. According to a 2014 article by Ed Stetzer, one of the most predictive factors of whether teenagers will stay in church during young adulthood is at least one adult making an investment in that teen personally and spiritually.
“Recognize that it takes a church to raise a committed young adult,” he writes. Melanie is not an entire church, nor is she trying to replace the good efforts of these girls’ good youth pastors. But she did see a group that needed more of that personal and spiritual investment and decided she would be part of the solution. As a result, several more young women in southern Ohio are now baptized believers with a network of other Christian friends and a foundation of faith they will build on for years to come.
I do what I can for my stepdaughter. I sit with her during church. I talk about what it means to be a Christian and hopefully model it as well, at least most of most days. I laugh with her and welcome her friends to our home and make sure we are well stocked with orange soda and chips. I clean up paint. But I can’t be the only woman speaking into her life about the things of God, and I wish she could experience something like Melanie’s ministry.
Teenage girls are full of drama and difficulty, but they are also at least 50 percent of the church’s future. As a new year beckons, I’m wrestling with what new ways I can invest in more of them.