The Pecking Order: When nurturing turns competitive in girls ministry.

*This post originally appeared in 2009. It has been updated with content and media for relevancy today.

I don’t think it probably took very long for you to see some of these behaviors that hens do, lived out in the way women nurture. Women are nurturers. However, nurturing can become territorial and competitive very quickly.
Understanding a little bit about what goes on in a chicken pen may give us some insight into why sometimes there are bickerings and quarreling that may arise between leaders of girls. Especially when there are several different layers of leadership.

In our church we have Lifegroups leaders, we have Sunday school teachers, Sunday School mentors, Student Peer leaders, Highschool girl mentors to middle school, Student Ministry Staff, and many volunteers leaders. In the midst of these layers of leadership, there is often overlapping in nurturing that happens. Nurturing and raising chicks is what a hen is supposed to do. Read below from a segment I discovered regarding aggressive poultry and see if you can find possible similarities in girls ministry that points to toxic nurturing.

Aggressive Chicken by Katie Thear

Pecking order

The pecking order is a well-defined hierarchical pattern of behaviour that manifests in flocks. There is a ‘top bird’ to which the rest will defer, often giving way at the food container or generally getting out of the way. The top bird is often a cock, but in the absence of a male, an old hen may hold the position. She may continue to hold sway even if there is a male, if he happens to be young and nervous. The pecking order extends downwards (just as it does in human societies), with the weakest having to survive as best as they can, dodging the onslaughts of the more powerful. The pecking order may also extend sideways, with a previously untouched bird being attacked if, for example, it becomes ill or sustains a wound that attracts the unwanted attention of the other birds.

Where new birds are introduced to an existing flock, there are always problems because the natural pecking order is disrupted. A hen spotting a newcomer will utter a single warning croak that alerts the rest of the flock. It then becomes fair game to peck at and chase away the stranger.

God created women specifically to have an amazing ability to nurture. It’s something we do naturally. It’s not a bad thing. Have you ever seen a hen gather her baby chicks under her wing? It’s a beautiful thing. It’s very natural and it makes sense. She is protective. She is taking care of that which was entrusted to her. Even Jesus uses this imagery when He speaks of how He wants to protect His children.

Matthew 23:37 how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.

What does nurture technically mean?
to feed and protect: to nurture one’s offspring.
2. to support and encourage, as during the period of training or development; foster: to nurture promising musicians.

3. to bring up; train; educate.

These are all things that you would want to have in one who mentors or invests in the girls God has entrusted into your care. Unfortunately, sometimes women can develop a pecking order of their own when it comes to who gets to be close to certain girls in the ministry. It begins innocently enough with phrases like: “My girls told me this.”
But that phrase can become very toxic if the group of girls is poured into by more than one woman within the ministry. I have seen this happen especially in the presence of small groups. Small groups are so vital to growth but one con that I have observed in girls ministry is when the small groups become small territories of the leader.
So here are some things to remind small group leaders and yourself of as a new school year begins:

1. The girls in the girls ministry are always “someone else’s girl too” . They are daughters. They are granddaughters. They have other mentors than just you. AND THIS IS HEALTHY! Recent studies have shown that a cluster of mentors is even more healthy than just one mentor per child. So remember to share. Try not to use territorial words. “But she is MY girl”. When we use those words, it discredits the impact other women have had on this student and can be very hurtful.

2. Be aware of the tools you use to draw boundaries which cut other leaders off from influence:
a. information.— Withholding information from other leaders or the student minister may provide a moment of mentoring power, but in the longrun there are certain things that may need to be shared–especially if you have a girls ministry leader or youth minister involved.
b. experience.—reminding new leaders or new volunteers that you have been here longer and know what’s best for YOUR girls. If you have been around for a long time—great! I know that when I was a new leader in my church, I had several veterans take me aside and invite me into ministry with them instead of blocking me out. I’m not suggesting that there needs to be flat leadership when working with girls…there does need to ultimately be someone responsible for the strategic and intentional plan for nuturing girls—and when that is communicated, the rest of the leaders need to work together to minister to “OUR girls” that God has brought to the church.

3. As a girls minister, there are some things that can be done to create some healthy mixing among leaders and girls. We are trying to ensure that at events, we place groups of girls with different leaders than those they may have for a lifegroup or sunday school class. This provides them the opportunity to hear from another Godly woman how God has worked in and through them and to hear another teaching style.

4. Another leadership opportunity is to place a younger leader (either spiritually or physically) with an older leader. Let’s not forget that sometimes toxic nurturing is just evidence of some maturity opportunities. This is also helpful in ensuring that a group is not just identified with one woman. I had led a group of girls for 3 years but always brought in new leaders into the group to serve with me. This constantly helped me to “give the group away” to others. Because if we’re honest, we develop heart ties to girls we’ve poured into. I never wanted that to be destructive or a distraction. The last two years I was with the group I facilitated, I brought on two permanent leaders. It is extremely healthy to do that. If you do not have shared leadership in the groups you facilitate, I encourage you to begin moving toward this opportunity.

5. PRAY! This is not the last thing to do. This is the first thing to do. Pray that God will unify your leadership and if there is a root of pecking order or jealousy or territorism growing in the girls ministry you serve in, then ask first if it is in you. Pray that God will allow nurturing to be healthy and not toxic within you. Continue to find ways to include the first girls minister the girls have the opportunity to know—this is their mother. Sometimes mom’s do not know God…but if they do—they have the right to be that primary girls minister for their daughter. Let’s do everything we can to pray that they are involved and do not feel threatened by other mentors God may bring alongside of their daughter. I am thankful my mom allowed women to be my mentors and continues to celebrate women in my life that share things with me.

It is a blessing to love others. It is a blessing to serve others. When it becomes competitive then the motivation has become something other than Godly. Seek—Pray—and Ask God what that motivation may be so that it does not become toxic to those you are nurturing and serving with.

Create your own customized bible reading plan for free

I’m always looking for ways to get people joining together for bible reading. I stumbled across this free resource and thought I’d pass it along. While it doesn’t allow you to receive the reading plan via sms, it does remind you from email. In addition you can access the reading plan from the website. I created a quick sample plan for free in a matter of seconds. Enjoy using this resource with your students!
click here to access the sample 10 day reading plan I created

When FOMO moves to YAMO

“Fear of missing out” or “FOMO” is a term that started to trend when social media posts would document events. People wanted to make sure that they were in those pictures and not missing out at home. It created this anxiety that takes place within you as you scour instagram stories or snapchat to make sure there wasn’t something you weren’t invited to.

I’ve started playing around with a new term lately. It’s called “YAMO” or “You are missing out”. Recently I’ve been hearing about girls sharing moments on their stories or direct messaging other girls to let them know they were missing out and they weren’t allowed to be present. It moved from a casual, “wow, those people are together for a party and I didn’t get invited” to “hey we are having so much fun without you at this party”.

It’s a new way of mean girling and it hits at the core of our need for community. So what do you do about it as you minister to students?

1. Be aware that one of the tactics of satan is to attack when we are lonely. And social media highlights our loneliness. Scripture tells us that Satan prowls like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8) Lions devour weak, isolated, sick, and hurting prey. That’s one reason why we need to be in community as the body of Christ. We combat the loneliness that Satan wants us to live in.

2. Ensure that you have consistent places of community that exist for students where they are regularly having face to face conversation and soul to soul accountability. I say face to face, because generation z is losing the art of communicating deeply. They are exchanging real conversations for emoji’s, snaps, texts, and stories. They need to learn how to go from a face to face to a soul to soul talk. It’s in those moments where you as a leader can call our Christ in them and remind them of their identity in Christ, their significance in Christ, and their purpose in Christ.

3. Use attendance tracking to pursue those who have dropped off the scene. This is not something I have done well at, but I can tell you this is a new goal of mine. I want to pursue the unseen student as much as I pursue the present student. The lifegroup I lead is now in 10th grade. We use a tool called GROUPME to continue weekly conversations when we aren’t together. I want to send notes and phone calls in addition to a quick groupme so that these girls who may be suffering from loneliness begin to experience community to comes after them.

4. Address the YAMO attacks. This is not something that sisters in Christ do to one another. Even tonight as an adult girls minister, I have experienced persons that have stopped pursuing me for community for one reason or another and have posted social media moments that have ushered in some FOMO feelings. As an adult, although hurt, I have the maturity to respond with grace and forgiveness. I have persons in my circle that can remind me that my worth doesn’t come from who I hang out with, but from being loved sacrificially by my savior. Our girls need help in being equipped to handle those moments.

When I was growing up, I had a group of nine girl friends. The circles of friends within that group of nine would always change. My mom observed that every few weeks, it would be my turn to be left out. It was such a horrible experience, but she was right. My mom acknowledged the pattern. She would use those moments to remind me what makes a good friend. If there were some unhealthy friendships, we talked about how to walk away. As a girls minister, we need to remind girls that it’s not okay to mean girl through a YAMO story or DM. And if a girl is being YAMO’d, we need to come alongside of her and equip her to know how to respond. And as she is being lulled into loneliness, we need to bring her into intentional community. Pray that God would help you to see the girls who may be walking in loneliness because of a FOMO or YAMO incident.

Generation Alpha: Get ready!

I’m now a mom to two Gen Alpha boys! Whew! In fact, because of the newest Gen Alpha in our family, I may be a little sleep deprived. As he is just newly arrived 10 weeks ago. But he has gotten me thinking and praying…how will his generation be different than generation z. There is always some “generation bleed” (As I call it) when one person who traditionally fits into a birth year of a generation, but due to circumstances with how old their parents are or siblings, they ACT more like a generation before or after them in certain moments.

Gen Z is the generation we have in our student ministries currently. Give or take a few years…the oldest you will see Gen Z characteristics is at about the age of 22. I started noticing Gen z for the first time when my now graduating seniors were juniors. I was grieved that I didn’t notice the switch between millennial to Gen z until then. I don’t want to be caught off guard this time.

While I am currently enjoying discovering more and more about equipping Generation z, I can’t help but be intrigued by Gen Alpha since I am literally immersed in it as a mom to a 5 year old and 10 week old.

Current research trends are saying Gen Alpha’s arrived on the scene with the iPad in 2010. That would put us seeing them arriving in our ministries in about 5 years.

So what would happen if we as the church began praying IN ADVANCE for a generation coming into our student ministries? What if we were preparing for them?

I have been encouraged lately by some other friends who are new parents of a get alpher, to begin to literally pray from head to toe over the gen alpher’s we have in our homes.

Some things you could pray for already for this generation:

“They are the most materially endowed and technologically literate generation to ever grace the planet!”-Mccrindle.com.au

While with Generation z I’m praying for them to understand Lordship of Christ and the ability to surrender their life to Him…I wonder if with Gen Alpha with just a continued thrust of digital connectedness that they will struggle with understanding how to walk spiritually in a relationship with Christ. I’m just spitballing here, but that is shaping some of what I am praying for my Gen Alpha’s. In fact, Skylar is the name of our youngest. Skylar comes from the etymology of “Scholar”. We want him to be knowledgeable of who Christ is and a scholar of the bible…and his middle name is JUDE. I pray for him to contend for the faith as stated in Jude 3.

““Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”

And my heart is that this generation will contend for the faith IN LOVE.

I believe that this upcoming generation will need to be taught COMMUNITY and how to express the LOVE of Christ in and through community. I think they will be longing for that. We are already seeing authentic community eroding from the margins of the lives of Generation z. So how can we continue to provide, and equip this next generation to experience biblical community and experience real relationship with Christ?

So while I don’t have a lot of “research” to dispense on Gen Alpha as yet, perhaps the greatest gift I can give today is to remind us that they are present and in five years we will be ministering to them. So let’s begin praying now!

Guy Ministers share inside scoop on working with a Girls Minister

This video is video #2 in a series of videos I did in order to prepare for a conference I led regarding working with guys on church staff.
This interview is with Jay Strother and Aaron Bryant who were the first guys I served with on a team at Brentwood Baptist many many moons ago. I asked my friends to share some tips and encouragement to other girls ministers. They have graciously allowed me to share this with others who may be wanting to know how to work with a girls minister. Thanks Jay and Aaron! I love you guys!

I thought this would be a helpful post.

A How to Script for Tough Talks with Students and Leaders

This post was originally published in January 2011. I dug up this post for a friend and thought it may be helpful to others. I’ve updated it a bit for a repost.

A couple of months ago, even in my own life, I experienced a tough talk with someone who is very dear to me.  I’m sure it was very painful for them to sit down with me and share some difficult insights, and it truly was a humbling experience, but it was much needed in helping me flourish.  I share this with you to encourage you to not shy away from tough talks.  The work that Christ has been doing in me to sanctify me and grow me came out of that tough talk.  I needed a push to keep growing and God used this person to do it.  I am forever thankful that they made time to care about me that much to talk with me, then help me see how valuable I am, and then to help me gain perspective.  They didn’t beat me up with a conversation.  They truly were there to equip me. Read below for what have learned personally and how I use this in the lives of students and leaders:

Today I was reading Read Ephesians 4:12.

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
“Equipping” is the translation of a Greek word used in New Testament times for mending nets, setting a bone, and realizing a purpose. It means to “put right”.

As girls ministers (parents, student workers), we have all sorts of conversations with girls and leaders. Sometimes you walk away from a conversation encouraging a girl to pursue God or to be all that God is calling her to be. Sometimes you get to help her with some faith questions. (It’s always fun when they ask about “the nephilim” in Genesis 6.) Then there are the times when you may have to confront an area of immaturity. These are not easy conversations to have. I had to have a couple of those conversations this week. And I was reminded today that I am called to those conversations too. I’m called to equip as if I were a doctor and I saw a broken bone. I would not ignore it. I would not just give pain medicine. I would need to align the bones and set it in a cast so that it mends and grows stronger. Do not be afraid of those conversations where a student may need you to speak into their life regarding various immaturities. And just like a doctor would be careful with the broken bone, we too must take special care with these students we are entering into equipping conversations with.

A long time ago, I had a group of girls that determined whenever I would say “Can we talk for a second”, that this meant they were getting ready to be disciplined. I realized it was true and something they were doing may have triggered my “equipping” mode and I didn’t set up the conversation for maximum influence. There are some things we can do to prepare for a healthy conversation with a student, just like a doctor would prepare for surgery.

1. Set up a time to talk with the girl for a later time. Sometime in the heat of the moment, we may see something that needs to be addressed and we respond right there and then. However, if we’re honest, equipping the student at that moment may not be our initial motivation and oftentimes we miss out on a unique opportunity to truly set up the optimum time to talk with that student.

2. Pray through what it is that you are getting ready to share with the student.

3. Remove the personal hurt feelings out of the conversation. You may have been hurt by the student, but remember they are a teenager. Their prefrontal cortex won’t be fully wired until they are 25. As you address the situation, your feelings expressing hurt may bring guilt and shame on a student that will erase any type of equipping. This is a delicate area which only highlights your need to listen to the Holy Spirit’s leading of what to say and what not to say.

4. Look for ways to build the student up. Your truthful encouraging words can be just like a cast in surrounding the “wound” and supporting the healing. Remember to speak His truth into the situation.

5. Write out a basic framework of where you are wanting to go with the equipping time. Example:

Heather, I’ve been observing this sarcasm in you during our student leader meetings. You are truly a hilarious person, but I wanted to talk with you about what is happening around you with our group when you begin being sarcastic during our meetings.

—share some examples of how unity has been affected.

—ask what she thinks sarcasm is intended to do? Share with her what scripture says about sarcasm.

—talk about ways to turn the sarcasm into encouragement.

—What would happen if her words were used to build people up and not tear them down?

—Share how you have seen God using her, and how working together on this area could really make a difference in the unity of our student ministry.

—Make a plan to eliminate sarcasm from the wednesday night meeting.

—PRAY.

Here are some areas where you may see ways to “equip” or “set right” or “mend” or “help realize a purpose”:

A student appears to have an agenda for wanting to be involved in a leadership component.

A student flakes out on their responsibilities or commitments with the student ministry.

A girl treats her church family one way, and completely disrespects her biological family.

A student hasn’t seen the way they can use their gifts to connect with service or worship.

A student has been saying unkind remarks on other’s instagrams or social media.

A student has been over posting selfies and appears consumed with what others think about them online.

What are some other ways you have seen reason to step in and equip?

How does this added understanding of the word “equip” help you in your role as a volunteer, mom, or girls minister?

When He prompts your heart for a bone-setting, net-mending, or purpose realizing conversation, know that He is not leaving you alone in that talk. After-all, He goes by the name “Immanuel” not just at Christmas time. “God with us”, is with us 365 days a year.

Learning to finish well

Serving on the girls ministry team at Lifeway and being in ministry at the same place for 13+ years affords me some great opportunities to encourage those who have just found themselves in the brand spanking new position of girls minister.
It’s always fun for me to get to sit down with a new girls minister and finally get to the part where they are willing to share their struggles. Sometimes, the honeymoon period is still in play and everything seems perfect. But a few months in, usually the newness wears off and the reality of the job sets in. Now, I don’t want everyone to have a bad situation. I just want people to realize that girls ministry is hard. It’s really rewarding, AND it is hard.
Today, I had a conversation with a friend who has served at a location for less than a year. She confided in me some of her struggles. I told her I’d pray and then I found myself texting these words:
“it’s never always awesome anywhere”.
Now that’s a horribly constructed sentence, but it captures my point perfectly.

No matter where you serve, it will not be 100% awesome all the time. And guess what…it’s not 100% awesome at the other girl’s minister’s church down the road or across the state or across the country. Everyone has something that is not awesome going on. In fact, even I know what it’s like to serve in a season of not awesome. And for those seasons, The Lord has reminded me of two words. FINISH WELL

You may be saying, “FINISH WELL? But I just started.”
I had no idea that I would be at my current church for the years that I am serving. But I think I would have quit a long time ago had I not remembered “the end” in the midst of my “not awesome” season.
I wanted to be see my very last day as a day where I could walk away and know that I had finished well what God had called me to. And as I considered what it would look like in the future, I had to consider what it would look like for the present day I was living.
And some days I wanted to quit so bad, that I made a contract with God. I would say…”okay, I’m working as a girls minister until this date and then I want to reconsider the arrangement.”

It’s funny how God would send just the right encouragement on those days that helped me renegotiate a contract extension to keep being the girls minister.

There are several passages in scripture that speak to how we are to finish well. One that I have been focusing on recently has been this one:

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24

friend…wherever you are in ministry, if you are reading this know that you can finish well today..finish well this week…finish well this month…finish well this year…if you remember that your course and the ministry is not given to you by the church or by your boss or by yourself…it is given to you by the Lord Jesus. You serve Him.

I’m guessing sometime in your time as a girls minister, you will have a boss you may not jive with. It’s okay…
You ultimately serve Jesus so keep serving Him well. And pray pray pray for your heart to not grow bitter towards the one you may not be jiving with.

I know that for me personally, the sanctification process that has happened in my heart as God has combined my position with others through the years that I may not have jived with has been more than I could ever have imagined. And I hated those moments and yet I am the person I am today because I went through those moments.

I realized that He is finishing me well. He uses people that are like sand paper to rub off those areas that need to be grinded down and refined. It hurts while you are going through it but it really strengthens your relationship with Christ if you begin to surrender those relationships to Him.

So…as we move through these tough ministry days, remember: “it’s never always awesome anywhere” so take each day and ask The Lord to remind you to finish well on that day. And when you wake up the next day…guess what—finish well. And just like your shampoo instructions: RINSE and REPEAT:)

Praying for you friend. In the trenches together.

Why Gen Z isn’t dreaming the American Dream like generations before them

Generation Z grew up in a world where they literally can discover news on twitter before they ever see it on the actual News. They live in a world where terrorism is not just in the middle east but it hits their home turf and the enemy seems faceless.  They live in dystopia, and it stresses them out.  Why are they like this?They have seen the traditional methods that generations before them tried and have seen them fail.  They don’t trust anyone but themselves.  So when you don’t show up…they are ready to step up.  They almost anticipate you not showing up.

The below photo has lyrics from G-Eazy.  It has some profanity in the song, and I don’t typically quote profane lyrics, but the first part of the lyrics are so descriptive of the generation it was written from.Sounds pretty sad doesn’t it?  Their hope is in them.  So how do we move a generation whose hope is misplaced?

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We pray for The Only sure Hope to make Himself known to them. We live lives that give evidence of surrender to Christ in a world for them that yells for them to be their own god.

I’ve been wrestling with this for awhile…but won’t you join me in praying for Gen Z? They are an amazing group of individuals.  If they were to latch on to the truth that He is their only Hope and surrender their lives to Him…I get chills thinking about what this generation unleashed would do as kingdom builders.

Pray for a GEN Z girl you may know by name this week.  Feel free to write her initial down below in the comments and your prayer for her.

Pray: God I pray for _______that she will begin to see that she can “do all things” but only “through Christ who strengthens” her.

 

Get to know Generation Z: The largest Generation and most unresearched group on the planet.

When you’ve been in girls ministry at one place for 14 years, you get to see trends and observe shifts from generation to generation.  I feel pretty well equipped in how to minister to Millennials. After all, we’ve been receiving information and research on this generation in such large masses that there is a term called, Millennial Fatigue, that is setting in.  But it hit me this year that something had changed.  The way students were responding and leading began to seem different.  My yearly girls retreat lead team meeting was completely sabotaged and it nearly caused me to get out of Girls Ministry altogether.  I began to think, I’m too old do to this.  And then thankfully, I began to have my heart awakened to this new Generation that had been in our ministry for several years, but no one had mentioned their arrival.  See in many ways, they may look like Millennials.  Many have siblings that are Millennials. But make no mistake…Generation Z are not Millennials.  And as I’ve become aware of their presence on our planet, it has re-energized my passion and calling to work with Students.  When you don’t know who you are ministering to, you miss the target.

While different researchers will divide Generations by different lines, the year I am going with is with those who were born in 1995 to 2010.  There is already a growing amount of research being built on Generation Alpha which is anyone born after 2010.  But what about Generation Z?  Millennials have been the most researched Generation to this day, and then Generation Z sort of crept in behind them.  Student Ministry classrooms and specialists still seem to be giving resources and research that is specific to Millennials, but we have our ministries flooded with Generation Z.

This Generation is filled with an independent, industrial, and entrepreneurial DNA that will have them most-likely leap frogging Millennials for jobs.  I have seen their ability for leadership and it is outstanding.  I watched first hand as I gave them the target for our Girls Retreat and told them what I needed them to do, and then I left them briefly to go get them some snacks.  When I came back, they did not stay in the groups I had put them in. They became a large collaborative group of thinkers.  And then they told me they wanted to go a different direction with our retreat.  I walked away from that planning session defeated and overwhelmed because I had set it up just like I had for all the Millennial leadership teams I had empowered before.  However, this was a Generation Z team.  Our next planning meeting went much better.  I learned more about how to set up the items they could not control and allow them to set preferences.  I learned the value of co-collaborating with them and not just letting them color in the lines.  Our retreat ended up being an amazingly messy and rewarding adventure.  There is so much more that I’m learning about Generation Z so I have put together a short Info PDF to give readership some handles to hold on to.  In order to get this exclusive content, all you have to do is sign up for our email subscription and it’s all yours!  If you have already signed up, I will be releasing it to you this week.

Here is a sneak peak of some of the things:

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So what does that mean as we minister to Generation Z? It means that we need to communicate with them in their language. Especially as we are teaching them about Jesus. When I was working with Lifeway on developing the Girls Biblestudy to Faithful One, using Scripture Doodles and pictures to help girls take notes was one thing that I was seeing in the lives of the girls I was ministering to. This is the language of Generation Z. We need to incorporate this alongside of our teaching and hang out time with these students.

What about you? Are you seeing the differences between Millennials and the students you have in your ministry or in your homes?