4 Practical Ways to Disciple Teen Girls
By Kari Andrews
Throughout the New Testament, believers are exhorted to disciple new and younger followers in the faith. We are challenged to live in such a way that we might say with the Apostle Paul,
“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).
Older women are specifically encouraged to disciple younger women in the faith. Titus 2:1-8 lays the groundwork for building these lead-by-example relationships with the following words:
“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”
When Does Discipleship Start?
Because this passage specifically mentions older women teaching younger women to love their husband and children, we often assume these verses apply only to women who are already in the season of marriage and motherhood. But when do we start learning about these relationships? Is it only after marriage and motherhood or might we start learning much younger?
Some of the most foundational and influential years of discipleship take place as a teen. What I learned about marriage, motherhood, home-making, and Christian living as a teen continues to unfold in my life today with each new season of maturity. With that in mind, here are four practical ways Christian women can invest in the discipleship of the teen girls in her life:
You don’t have to be a youth leader to influence teen girls. In fact, some of the most impactful relationships of my life were simply with the moms I babysat for. By watching these older women (who were only in their 20s and 30s at the time) navigate marriage, motherhood, and home life, I learned what real Christian families look like.
I doubt many of these women even realized they were discipling me. But by making time for me to be with them, I learned truths about Christian womanhood that I still carry with me today. One of the best ways you can disciple the teen girl in your life is simply by inviting her into your every day.
Speak the Truth
Once a relationship is established, the truth you speak is more likely to be received well. Teens are smart. They know when you’re telling the truth (even if they don’t like it) and when they’re getting a soft answer to avoid something hard. Though I didn’t always appreciate the truth shared with me as a teen, I did respect when someone loved me enough to tell me what I needed to hear.
I accepted the Lord as my Savior because someone told me the truth. I avoided some of the pitfalls of sin because someone loved me enough to tell me the truth. How thankful I am now for the seeds planted in my heart then that continue to produce fruit today. God promises that his word will not return void (Isa. 55:11), so let us speak the truth in love to the girls in our life and trust God with the results.
Care About What She Cares About
The things that concern a teen may not seem all that important once you’re a wife or mom -- boys, grades, sports, or clothes. But when I think back to the women who impacted me most as a teen, I realize these seemingly frivolous things are exactly what we spent time talking about. It was during normal conversations that we built a relationship and spiritual truths and encouragement were offered.
If the teen in your life cares about sports, go to her games and speak truth into the way sports impact her character and relationships. If she cares about art or music, take an interest in her work and encourage her toward Christlikeness in these venues. Discipleship need not happen only over a Bible study or in youth group; it’s just as likely to happen every day over normal conversations and issues. Take advantage of these opportunities by showing up for the teen in your life and caring about what she cares about.
Respect Where She’s At
There’s no doubt the teen years are some of the most influential. Huge decisions are made as a teen and many young people already care about real life issues, love the Lord, and are striving to make good choices for their future. We do the girls in our lives an injustice if we write them off as immature or otherwise undeserving of our investment simply because they’re young (1 Tim. 4:12).
I was saved as a teen and made life-impacting choices about friends, navigated complicated situations at home and church and even met my husband as a teen. And though I was at times self-centered and immature, I sincerely desired to love and serve the Lord, to make right choices, and to establish the foundations of a godly life and future. How thankful I am for the ladies in my life who knew how deeply my choices would impact my future and lovingly sought to disciple and direct me toward Christlikeness. We can do the same for the teen in our life by taking seriously where she’s at and helping guide the course she sets for the future.
Ways to Get Started
If you have the desire to disciple the teens in your life but aren’t sure how to start, here are some practical ways to begin:
Mother’s Helper or Babysitter
As a teen, I rubbed shoulders most intimately with older women by caring for their children. This allowed me to be in their home and to observe their marriage, motherhood, and homemaking. I thought I was helping by babysitting but the impact these women had on my life far exceeded anything I had to offer. If a teen isn’t driving yet, offer to pick her up and drop her off from babysitting; this gives you an opportunity for conversation that you might otherwise miss.
Go to Her Activities
Show up for her soccer game or recital. Find out what she’s interested in and be a presence in her life outside the walls of church.
I remember during a particularly tumultuous time as a teen, feeling the need to talk to someone. I asked an older lady I was close to if we could talk and she promptly made time to meet me for lunch. I don’t remember much of what was said, but I do remember her being available. Let the girls in your life know you have time for them and they’re more likely to reach out to you on their own.
Get Involved at Church
While discipleship can take place outside of church, what better place to start building relationships and planting seeds than through the outlets already available through the local church. Get involved in youth group or offer to host a youth get-together in your home. Teach a teen girl’s Sunday school or start a Bible study in your home. You could even start a women’s Bible study with the idea of including teen girls – creating an opportunity for women and girls to rub shoulders over the Word of God.
ConclusionHowever you start, know that God intends for each of us to learn from the older women in our lives and to disciple the younger. Increasingly, society is set up in ways that isolate one generation from another. Teens hang out with teens and moms hang out with moms. But we need each other and the best way to impact the future of our faith is by investing in the next generation of women God is raising up. May we break down the walls between us and each truly be able to say, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).