These Girls Are Amazing!
by Dale Reeves
This past month at Christ’s Church we have been talking about how we need to invest time in relationships in order for them to really work in our lives. Good friendships and great community don’t just happen automatically. We have to be willing to be vulnerable and authentic with each other. One of our high school girls’ community groups in our church models this well. These girls tell it like it is, and they demonstrate weekly their desire for this kind of deep authentic community.
This group is facilitated by two women, Eileen Leek and Jenna Schnitker. Eileen is married, the mother of two teens, and has been working with high school girls in our church for four years. Jenna has only been attending Christ’s Church for three months, but she couldn’t wait to get plugged into serving in the church as soon as possible. She wanted to jump in with both feet and develop some great friendships in the process.
Navigating Life Together
High school ministry is a very exciting ministry in the church to be a part of, though some adults shy away from it because of fear of the unknown. What would motivate these two women to want to lead other girls in this ministry? Eileen says, “I grew up in the Catholic church, but I made some poor decisions as a teenager and ended up in a tough situation. My mom had passed away, and I didn’t really have anybody to walk beside me in that difficult time. I want our girls to know that even though they may make some bad decisions, our God offers so much love, healing, and restoration for all of us.”
Previously, Jenna has been involved in high school girls’ ministry in her home church, and in church camps in Brookville, Indiana. She says she is passionate about being involved in youth ministry, specifically helping girls navigate the challenges of this age. Jenna observes, “They have so much potential that just needs to be realized and nurtured as they move into adulthood. I love using my own experience as a single adult following Jesus to help them see what it looks like to serve Jesus as an adult.”
Speaking the Truth in Love
Ministry with high school girls is filled with peaks and valleys, as teenage girls learn to cope with their fears and anxieties. It is a process that involves turning every aspect of their lives over to Jesus.
Eileen shares, “One of the young ladies in our group has had some difficult challenges to deal with in her home. Her parents are not believers in Jesus. A family in our church invited this girl to start attending church here and for the past several years she has really become an integral part of our group. Because this girl is the oldest of three kids, she is expected to do all kinds of chores at home that not all teenagers have to do. Her mom and dad have very high expectations for her. We’ve walked through some tears together, and we’ve walked through some highs together.”
Eileen continues, “This girl got to the point where she called me and told me she was ready to give her life to Jesus and be baptized, and we celebrated that. Unfortunately, her dad will not allow her to do that, so out of respect for her parents, she has not taken that step, but she plans to when she goes to college and can make that decision for herself. This is just one example of the fact that our girls know that this is a safe place for them. What happens in small group stays in small group.”
Jenna says, “In the short time that I’ve been with this group, I’ve been very impressed by the level of transparency and vulnerability these girls have with each other. It’s been cool to see how serious they take the opportunity to share and pray for each other.”
Eileen feels that because she has let the girls see some of the tough situations she’s had to deal with, and because she has been very honest and vulnerable in sharing with them, it has opened the door for them to do the same. They’ve seen her struggle with some of the decisions she has to make as a parent. It is so important for the girls to see the realities of life in their leaders, and that has helped set the tone for authentic community.
That sounds like the challenge Paul gave us in Ephesians 4:15: “We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church” (NLT).
Growing as Disciples of Jesus
Some of the greatest joys for the women as leaders is in seeing how practical discipleship is taking place in the lives of the girls in their group. Eileen beams when she says, “These girls are amazing! A number of them are seniors in high school. I’ve gotten to see several of them grow in their lives and in their faith the past four years. I love seeing them serve in various areas of our church, such as the children’s ministry.”
Jenna says, “We talk a lot about what following Jesus looks like in college. We have the opportunity to mentor the girls and help them see that they have the Holy Spirit living inside them. We say things to them like: ‘As you make your decisions, are you learning to listen to God and do what he calls you to do? Are you obeying the promptings he sends to you to step out of your comfort zone and reach out to others, and talk to them about your faith?’”
One of the ways the girls exhibit growth in the discipleship process is by showing how they are unified toward a common goal. Eileen summarizes, “Our girls are one big amoeba. Even though they attend several different schools, and are different ages, they all go to lunch together, they go out together, they all hang out together. We have really tried to model vulnerability (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and mutual trust in one another.”
The girls in this group are trying to live out what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2,3, NIV).
Jenna explains, “I have been able to connect pretty quickly with the girls because we have Jesus as our foundation. Our starting point is that we all love Jesus and that is what really unites us. I am excited to see what happens with our girls over the next few months and years.”
Eileen concludes, “At the end of the day we’re all God’s people. Everybody needs community. Everybody needs friends. You have to do life with people.”
If you’re interested in knowing more about our high school community groups, please contact Cody Scroggins at email@example.com.