teens, tweens and me
Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith. – Hebrews 13:7
We meet every Tuesday, just the four of us. I bring the books and snacks, and they bring their sweet, 13-year-old selves. It’s such a delightful time, one I look forward to each week.
Ah, how I remember those teen years. You know what I’m talking about—the wild hormonal fluctuations and feeling so misunderstood. Longing desperately to fit in, doing your very best to not say the wrong thing. Yes, those were heavy times, so vastly different from my life now. But I do remember what it was like. I can’t help but look back now, and imagine how much better I would have navigated those muddy waters of the teen years—if only I would’ve had someone I trusted that was older, wiser and willingly available to live life alongside me. Someone who wouldn’t roll their eyes and laugh at my superficial insecurities, someone who had walked that path before, who could help me understand the transition between being a girl, to becoming a woman after God’s own heart.
I am tempted to panic over the way things are now for these kids. But I wonder…were they really that much better when I was a teen? Sex? Yep, that was everywhere. Drugs? Oh, you bet! Rock and roll? This is where we’ll need to part ways. Rock and roll was so much better then than it is now! But it was still just as subversive.
I was a young girl during the late 60’s, ages 11-13 years old. Like most younger sisters, I wanted to be just like my older sisters. Unfortunately, that meant following them down some paths that I probably wouldn’t have wandered alone. The power of influence is real, and it’s also a neutral thing—it can either be used for good or for bad. While every social media outlet, TV show, magazine and billboard is begging for teens to walk down the road to destruction, I want to stand at the intersection of this time in the lives of these young girls. I want to be there as a listening ear and a guiding hand, reaching out to lead the way for them.
So, how can we do this in a tangible way? I’m glad you asked! For us, it started off pretty simple. We began meeting together on Tuesdays, right after school lets out. I throw on my very best June Cleaver apron (am I showing my age here?) and make something homey, never too healthy. I don’t want them to have to pass on the snacks. These are 13-year-olds we’re talking about…bring on all of the comfort foods!
There is such simple joy in watching them eat, because it reminds me of the reason we meet together in the first place. As a mentor, we are choosing to nourish and nurture the young people we take under our wing. This includes praying, reading and talking with them. I always try to get them to talk and ask questions, because I don’t want to be the only one talking. As I share my heart with them, it opens the door for them to be vulnerable and comfortable enough to share what’s on their hearts as well.
When I open up and tell stories from my life—the mistakes made and lessons learned, it helps to illustrate the stories we’re reading, and gives them the courage to share their stories, too. In Titus chapter two, Paul shares the importance of us older women pouring into the younger women. It’s not just a good idea, it’s a fundamental command to follow in the life of a woman chasing after God.
Sometimes we laugh at each other, and it feels like an episode of Gilmore Girls—full of wit and endless banter. Other times, it is completely quiet and they just take it all in. And then there are times when we hit on a sensitive area, and they open up with things they’re going through. What an incredible opportunity, to be the one who gets to hear what’s on the hearts and minds of the next leaders of tomorrow. It’s so worth taking the time to invest in them, to listen to what they have to say.
As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. ‑ Proverbs 27:17
I think about each of these young women with their unique personalities, and their backstories are all different. Now, being open and sharing what’s going on in our lives is such a good thing, but it’s not my main goal. I long to pass on wisdom—practical, biblical wisdom that can help them face the battles in their lives, even when I’m not around to coach them. I also like to give them fun, every day wisdom to remember.
Like these few things:
When in doubt, wear black. It matches everything—especially…well, black. And it makes your life that much simpler. In a rush? Don’t know what to wear? Don’t look back, just wear black!
Now, this one is so important…don’t forget it. Always, and I mean always put butter on your biscuit. No “calories” this or “diet” that. Just butter the biscuit.
When eating, put your napkin on your lap. Hold your knife and fork properly. Chew with your mouth closed—the whole table will appreciate it, and you’ll worry less about getting food all over your face.
When talking with people, try to look them in the eye. Sure, it can get a little awkward at times, but it shows personal confidence and gives respect to the person you are speaking with. Shake hands with a firm grip. Sit up straight, and always walk with your head up.
When I share with these young girls the things my older self takes for granted, I’m surprised at how they respond. Despite the age gap, God’s Word is still so relevant! I don’t feel ready for this “mentoring” role, and when I am asked about it I always say, “Well, I am trying!” And really, isn’t that all God asks us to do? To obey His command to make disciples, and to work at all things as if working unto Him.
Do your best and leave the results up to God.
I have never felt ready, and if we’re not careful, we’ll wait for someone else to do it some other day. It’s easy to think about delaying this whole mentoring thing. You know, to say I’ll do it later on in life when I know an extra thing or two. But that’s not how God works. He doesn’t need us to be all polished up to use us, He just wants us to dust off our feet and keep blazing the trail He set before us. And He especially wants us to take others along for the ride!
When it comes to mentoring, don’t wait for someone else to do it someday. You are the someone and today is the day. Be intentional. Ready or not, the younger people in your life are taking notes on the way you live. Why not give them a life worth modeling? My mom never formally mentored me, but oh how I was watching and listening! She showed me what it looks like to be generous and thoughtful, to put prayer and devotion to God at the beginning of each and every day.
Mentorship isn’t a dictatorship, where you just tell others what to do and not do. It’s being there to help catch them when they fall, when they don’t take your advice. It’s a long-term commitment to be present, available and willing to tackle life’s hard times with those who are behind us in age. Sometimes it’s taking the afternoon off to listen to a young girl’s problems and challenges, helping them find their way through. Notice I said helping them to find their way through.
More than simply telling them what you know, or what you think they should do, you must help them learn how to listen to God’s voice for themselves and find their way through the challenges.
You don’t need to be perfect to mentor someone—you just need to be present and willing.
So, let’s do it! Let’s take God’s Word seriously and help plant it into the hearts of the young girls in our lives. Once upon a time, you were in their shoes and because of that, they don’t have to walk alone. With God at the center and you by their side, there’s no limit to what they can do for the kingdom of God.
Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare Your power to the next generation, Your mighty acts to all who are to come.