Today concludes our series- Real Life Youth Ministry. Each week have been sharing the story of someone doing Youth Ministry somewhere around the world. We all need encouragement in ministry at times. And sharing stories is one way we can encourage others on their journey. The Devil loves to bring discouragement, confusion, and make us feel like we’re not doing a good job or just aren’t good enough to be used by God. But the Bible says,
“And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony.” –Revelation 12:11
That’s why it’s so important to share our stories! Today we are hearing from Katie in Sandy Springs, USA. She is a girls’ min legend and so passionate about discipleship and mentoring young girls in their Christian walk. Welcome, Katie!
Tell us a little about yourself and how you ended up in Youth Ministry.
My name is Katie and I am a twenty something in the Atlanta area! The irony is that never in a million years did I think I would be passionate about student ministry.
I actually said “never!” in college. I’m not the loud, crazy personality. I hate stage games with a passion. I’m not silly and hate being the center of attention. There were so many reasons why this was not a good idea…yet I think God just laughed.
It took one summer as a WinShape camp counselor to change my mind. As the girls I led bubbled over with questions about how to know God and study their Bible – I was ruined. That summer was the beginning of a new journey – filled with dance parties after major victories, tears as girls I loved strayed and so many moments in between. Ministering to girls is not easy, but it has been a joy unlike anything I have ever experienced.
What does a typical Youth night look like for you?
My heartbeat is discipling teenage girls so it happens in a (very) small group context! After trying a couple different size groups and times, I settled on taking three upperclassman girls at a time and meeting with them every Monday from 7:00-9:00pm. Initially our meetings started at Starbucks and then we gradually moved to meeting in their homes once we all got to know each other better.
The discipleship process I walk through with my girls was heavily influenced by one of my first experiences in Bible college. Like many girls in the South, I grew up in church and had been a part of VBS, Sunday School, student choir and the many other activities. Yet I was stunned when I started my Old Testament class. I remember thinking “Why do I not know hardly any of this?? What did the church teach me in the 17 years I was there??”
It is a memory that has greatly shaped me and given me a heart for biblical literacy. Though I am confident almost all leaders want their girls to grow in their walk with Jesus, I want to have a couple specific measurable goals that I can assess when my girls finish. For me, my first goal is that each girl I mentor can clearly articulate the gospel. By the end of the year, my girls laugh when I have them pull out a piece of paper because they know where this is headed. They will practice with me and with each other hundreds of times before they graduate.
My second goal is for each girl to be able to articulate the story of Scripture. I want my girls to see that Christ shows up as early as Genesis and can be found throughout the rest of Scripture! I’m no expert at doing this, but have found some great resources along the way that have helped!
What was your biggest challenge initially, and how did you overcome it?
Earning a girl’s trust so you know what is truly going on in her heart and mind takes time and hard work. When starting with my girls the reality was I needed to gain the trust of three individual girls and they also had to build trust with each other. A lot of this simply took time and following up on what they had told me.
I did find though that our mystery trips helped leaps and bounds. Each semester I took the three girls on a trip and all they knew was where/when to meet, what to pack and how much money to bring. The surprise element stirred excitement weeks in advance, but spending a whole weekend together also gave us the quantity time needed to build deeper friendships. If you asked my girls, undoubtedly they would tell you the trips we took were their favorite part. Even to this day, I see inside jokes made on these trips pop up in our group text even after they’ve left for college!
What keeps you going when you’re feeling frustrated, worn down, or just want a night off?
From a practical standpoint, it’s my discipleship map. I’ve led groups with an objective “to finish the study” and it felt so pointless at times. With a plan in place though, even when I’m tired – I know every night counts. I know how each night fits specifically into the two goals I have for them and I don’t want to waste that time. (You can find the discipleship map I used last year under resources here!)
Yet if I’m really tired and discouraged, I do see that as a yellow flag. It is always worth it to be faithful to the places of influence God has given me yet the exhaustion may be an indicator that I need to re-examine my schedule. I can be a major people pleaser and I have to be careful not to clutter my schedule out of a fear of saying no.
Any words of advice you’d give to others starting out in Youth Ministry?
Burnout can happen to you…especially if you think it won’t. Say no. Find ways that help you recharge. Look for community outside of the places you serve. Simply put – take care of yourself. It will go a long way in helping you minister to others!
–Katie, Sandy Springs (USA)