The Source for Youth Ministry
Jonathan's Resource Ezine

Weekly Resources, Ideas and Articles from The Source for Youth Ministry
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

In This Issue

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Featured Article: Mean Church Girls (by Danette Matty)

by Jonathan McKee
July 20, 2004

Mean church?! Veteran youth workers don't need to see the movie to know about them. There were three of them in the youth group I spoke at last Wednesday night. I called them "Charlie's Angels" because they came in, played the game, sat, and left practically joined at the hips. Never separated once - including when I cutely called on them to answer a question - y'know, the whole make-them-a-part thing. They stuck together then, too - none of them answered me. Just smiled, looked knowingly at each other, looked at me like I had three heads - smiling of course - and didn't say a word. I spoke my best, had a skit, used a movie clip, threw in funny one-liners for good measure, and did a solid closing. Pin a rose on my nose; they were the first ones out the door. Mean girls don't always look mean. They can still be snotty.

They're in almost every youth group - whether you're the youth pastor, sponsor, or guest speaker. Y'know, those know-it-alls whose belly-buttons shimmy into your youth room followed by the rest of their bodies. The coy look on their face is either a fake, closed-mouth smile or just a closed mouth and glazed over eyes. Either expression translates: I'm only being polite because I don't want to embarrass you in front of everyone - even though I think you're stupid.

You know what I'm talkin' about; you've seen it. Who knows if they really want to be there or if someone made them? And it doesn't matter whether they're unchurched or were born in the front pew of your church. They're the little hotties who sit near the back - across the aisle from the "mean boys" who really aren't mean...just too cool to sit anywhere that might give them away as interested. But I'll let Jonathan write that article.

Back to mean girls - the type you want to do an Extreme Face Makeover on. Oh, I don't mean, hit them. I mean take their coy little expression between your palms and shape it into something that doesn't scream, "I DARE YOU to reach out to me!!!".

You're feelin' me, huh? Now that we both feel better, let me offer some productive insights into dealing with mean church girls.

Every time I encounter what we'd call a mean or hard girl, I smile and think, I'm reaping everything I've ever sown. Because after a few rounds with the crustier side of life during a military tour in Germany, I became hard. Still a believer, but hard. Once stationed stateside, the youth and young adult workers at the church I settled on paid a small price for my concrete I dare you attitude.

One female youth worker would later say, in not so many words, "I wasn't messin' with that until she chilled out." Since, by then, I'd "chilled out" (read: got the chip off my shoulder), I could laugh at that comment with everyone else at the table. But inside I thought, you wimp. Because here's how it played out with most female leaders: They approach me with their youth worker smile. I don't smile back. They ask me some standard getting-to-know-you questions. I reply with short, straight-faced answers. They shrivel up, smile weakly, and slink away.

I'm not blaming them completely. I was mad at the world and myself. What's harder to deal with than someone who hates herself? And I didn't make it easy to reach out to me (pulling up in the church parking lot on a motorcycle in leather pants doesn't exactly say, "Looking for friends" - my husband says he was afraid me!). Yes, there were guys God used in my life back then (male leader tips come later). But, more significantly, there were a handful of women who had and did key things that cracked the granite. Some of those women were in my wedding and are still close friends today. I want to share what it was about them that God used to reach me and still uses to reach today's girls:
  • They weren't intimidated, or if they were, didn't show it. When other leaders hit the slink-away point, these women eye-balled me with an unphased invitation to coffee, a movie, or a small group.
  • They pushed past my rudeness as if it weren't there. See through the mask and blow off the attitude. No, you're not superhuman, but you're the big person here. Ignore the fa?ade and be nice anyway.
  • They were "real" with me and cared about my life - not just glad I "made it to church."
  • They didn't push me, but they didn't let me get away with being shallow forever. When the time is right, ask the hard questions and talk your mean girl through the choices and consequences that led to her hardness.
  • They prayed for and with me. Never underestimate God's passion and power in someone's life. (Feel honored that He lets you be in on it occasionally.)
  • They chased me without begging me. I've occasionally said to a tough chick, "I want to be your friend, but I'm not gonna beg you to let me in." (Inside I'm crying for her, but I know she needs to take responsibility for her own growth on some level.) This sounds like a hard balance to strike. It means having your own boundaries.
Other things female leaders can consider:
  • A woman comfortable in her own skin, passionate for Christ and life is attractive to young girls - mean or nice. Let them see those things in you.
  • Don't try to break up all cliques. Youth speaker and founder of R5 Productions ( Mike Donahue believe cliques are healthy if they're not inclusive. But it's up to leaders to help show students how to keep their cliques healthy by including different students.
  • Give your mean girl permission to keep the mask on part-time while she's learning to trust others. Just be safe and be there when she's ready to peel another layer off.
  • Lead an all girl small group. Someone once said co-ed groups help guys learn how to treat girls. I agree, when there's both a strong male and female leader. But, girls, like guys, are different creatures when the opposite sex is present. A girls-only group gives female leaders the chance to speak into girls' lives, no-holds-barred, and help fortify their characters and beliefs, so they'll be stronger when the guys do come around. And let's be real: when boys aren't around, you can talk about anything!
For the girls in your group, coach them to:
  • Not blow off the mean girl at school, and definitely not at youth group; that only reinforces her view of "church girls" as goody-goody holier-than-thou snots.
  • Call a mean or fringe girl at home - a short, sweet call from a peer can disarm her, even if her voice masks it.
  • Invite her to hang out - a mean girl will show her sweet side if she feels accepted.
  • Invite her to youth group or small group if she isn't already plugged in.
  • Include her in their cliques, coaching them in friendship building.
Male youth leaders are key with girls:
  • As with all girls, have healthy boundaries. Treat girls like kid sisters. Married or single, give them a model of how a godly man talks to and about women.
  • Speak to the guys. As Mike Donahue put it, "Nail them in front of the girls. It's powerful when a male youth pastor does this. Tell the guys how hurt and wounded (many) girls have been. It'll help the girls, too, to hear you say it."
  • Toby Schneckloth, long-time youth pastor, will be annoyingly funny around girls, realizing that, "any reaction could be a good reaction. Don't allow them to intimidate you. Always talk to them, even if they don't talk back."
Here's the deal: You aren't responsible for their response to you - even when you've followed all of the above. So, you have nothing to lose reaching out to those mean girls. Will you get your love thrown back in your face? Maybe ... for a while. I have. But, the mean girl is worth the scary follow-up call or visit. She's worth your prayers and the spice chai you take her out for now and then.

I know, firsthand and from watching this played out over and over (18 years) that genuine effort motivated by love is never a waste. By you accepting and including them, God may eventually help them shift their "rage against the machine" to passion for life, for Jesus, and toward teachability to the youth leaders they once thought were stupid.

Push past your own insecurity and underneath the I-dare-you, you'll probably find a wounded girl who's too afraid to let everyone see the real her. Once past the wounds, you'll find everything you'd find in any other student - talent, creativity, secret dreams, intuition, even a heart after God. I am a testament to the fact that God even calls some mean girls to grow up and reach other mean girls.

Danette Matty is an author, youth worker and mother of two who works with "THE SOURCE."


Something You Can Use from our NEW GROWTH PAGE: Purity (For Girls Only)

Purity (For Girls Only)

This idea in its original text published in the Jul/Aug 2002 issue of Group Magazine, 1515 Cascade Ave., Loveland, CO 80538. Used with permission.

Main Point: This discussion highlights the importance of being pure from a guys' perspective. Hearing opinions on purity from female role models is effective, but hearing those opinions from cute guys with high standards will have maximum impact and create a great dialogue.

1. Recruit 2-4 secure, and faith-strong guys to impact a girls-only discussion on purity. Your brave guys are to dress up as girls, burst into the meeting at a prearranged time, and announce that they're on the hunt for some cute guys!
2. Anything you need for your challenge or game.

Girls arrive:
  • Make them feel welcome
  • Learn names and interests
  • Give new girls a New Person Form
Bring it Together: (about 15 minutes after start time)
"Hey, glad to see you all here. Welcome to INSERT NAME OF YOUTH GROUP!"

Introduce New People:
Give students a Blow-pop, Skittles, or Snickers bar, etc.

Youth Challenge or Game:
Choose an anywhere game or crowd breaker from our Games page (CLICK HERE)

Upcoming activities, events

Discussion Starter: This discussion starter only works if you have a couple mature guys that have a strong relationship with the Lord that are willing to help. They need to be able to: 1. Act out how Christian girls SHOULDN'T act, and 2. Be able to honestly verbalize what they are looking for in a "woman of God."

Before you begin your regular meeting, let girls know that a few new girls will be visiting but are running late. Say that tonight you're going to talk about purity and have a couple of time-killing opening comments to keep it going for the first minute or so.

When your "visitors" enter, allow them a few minutes to ham it up in their best falsetto voices, describing what they do and don't look for in guys, and how they plan to go about getting their guys. If time, allow the girls (the real ones) time to ask these visitors additional questions about their dating habits.

After a few minutes allow your visitors to leave the room, change into their regular clothes, and rejoin the meeting. Ask the guys to share from their perspective why purity is important to them and why a girl who's strong in her faith is just as important, what other qualities they look for in girls, how important appearance is to them, and how girls' dress (modest or immodest) affects them.

Then dismiss the guys and have the group of girls discuss the following questions:

1. What is the first thing that attracts you to a guy? (looks, smile, the way he dresses?)

2. Have you ever met a good looking jerk? If so, are looks the only thing you should look for in a guy? Explain.

3. How important is purity to you? Why?

4. What's the most important quality you look for in a guy?

5. The least important?

6. Would you want a guy to like you only for your looks? Why or why not?

7. What would you like a guy to look for in you?

8. How much time to you focus on that (your answer to #7) vs. how much time you focus on your looks? Does your time dedicated to each make sense?

9. Would you compromise your beliefs or standards for someone you might date?

10. What is one thing you can do to focus more on developing your standards and beliefs.

Wrap-up: Pair the girls up and ask them to share one thing that was said that made them think about purity in their life. Have them pray for each other, reminding them that what they've shared with one another must remain confidential.

Write yourself a note to follow-up with your girls the next week and encourage them to be accountable with each other about what they shared.

For more Growth/Discipleschip agendas, click here:

Also, for a Girls Only Event Idea, try Project Esther: Spa Night.
Project Esther: Spa Night's motto is, "Esther got a whole year, we get one night."
For the rest of this Event idea, click here and scroll down to Project Esther:

Recommended reading: Growing Godly Women - A Christian Woman's Guide to Mentoring Teenage Girls
By Donna Greene (New Hope Publishers)
This is especially good for younger or newer female leaders.

Secret Keeper - The Delicate Power of Modesty
By Dannah Gresh (Moody Press)
Smartly written for teenage girls, I recommend it to youth workers because Gresh does such a great job of explaining principles of modesty in a very relevant way. Whether you use her words in a heart-to-heart talk or as a Bible study in a small group, it's a great tool.

Reviving Ophelia - Saving The Selves of Adolescent Girls
By Mary Pipher, PhD (Bantam Doubleday)
A thorough look from a secular therapist at the inner life of troubled teenage girls.


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