What the Church Can Learn from a Barbie Commercial

This is one of my favorite commercials right now.  I never would have thought this was a commercial for Barbie, but they masterfully have sold how playing with their product will help girls dream of being anything they want to be.  Now, we know it’s a Barbie doll.  Girls are most likely not pretending to be vets or professors. That Ken doll most likely shows up in their dramatic play and they start planning balls and weddings pretty quickly. But I digress.

My question is, what can we as the church learn from this commercial?  How are we as the church equipping girls in particular to dream in such a way that they hear the Holy Spirit calling them to use their lives in impossible ways for His Kingdom?  Barbie says that it’s through playing with their dolls that girls begin to see the possibilities.  How are girls getting to see the possibilities of God sized work in the church today?  Are we giving them chances to see and imagine and surrender their everyday lives to His everyday purposes?

Titus 2 tells us to encourage the younger women…and then it goes on to list some very specific things we are to train or encourage them to do.  One of the questions I am getting asked most frequently by millennial young adult women is about how they are to serve in the church.  We have had some very difficult conversations. What I don’t want to do is to get into a debate about what girls can and can’t do in the church.  So I focus not on the “You can’ts” but the “You are’s”. What I have come to understand is that it’s one thing to talk to girls about how God works but it’s an entirely different thing to call out within a specific girl that God is at work and how.

One of the most pivotal times for me as a girl was when I was in 6th grade. Looking back, I mark that year as the year God called me into ministry. My family was involved in starting a church plant on the west side of our town and there were a handful of families that were meeting in a home to pray for the subdivisions and families we would begin to be neighbors to.

The head of our deacons was a man named Rick, and he was father to some of my friends at the time.  All of us were sitting in an older couples living room discussing the church plant and getting into the nuts and bolts of church governance.  I remember Rick looked right at me and said, “Amy-Jo, what do you think about the direction of our church governance?”  I was a shy 6th grader.

I had said nothing. I don’t even remember what I said at that moment, but years later I remember that Rick and the whole church listened.  They gave me a voice.  They took time to listen to children, students, girls, boys…all of us.  At that moment, I knew the church was a family.

I am a charter member of that church and I am thankful that I was taught the importance of coming together as a family to listen to one another, to pray with one another and to call out within one another how God is at work. And to celebrate the unique gifting of each other.  That is one of the reasons I am called to the church today. So as you pour into the lives of girls in the church…how can you help them see how God is at work…and the possibilities that God could and is working in and through their unique giftings?


Who is a girl that you can think of right now that you could encourage in her specific giftings? Pray for her and pray for opportunities to “call out” how you see Christ at work in and through her.

How is your church encouraging girls to build the kingdom? There are lost people that need to come into contact with girls who know that not only Christ is alive…but Christ has redeemed them and they are called to spread the gospel.

3 reasons you need a Ieader covenant

I wish we all could say that girls ministry is full of roses and smells pretty all the time, but we live in a broken world and know that’s not the case.

One of the reasons I have needed a leader covenant has been because of a few incidences where leaders or volunteers challenged the process or simply just went rogue. If you are a girls minister or supervising the ministry of girls in your church, you may encounter a type of leadership that challenges the authority the church has given you to minister to the girls in the church.  We’ll address this in the first section, but also there are other reasons for having a leader covenant.

  1. CLEAR EXPECTATIONS AND BOUNDARIES:  Sometimes this leadership may appear rogue to you when in reality, the leader may not know they have done anything outside the boundaries of their role.  This is one great reason to have a leader covenant.  It creates clearly defined boundaries and expectations that are agreed upon by both you and the leadership.
  2. REMINDER THAT THEY ARE NOT THE LONE RANGER: When you have leaders sign a covenant, it’s a great opportunity to remind them that they are not alone in this journey to minister to students but that they are a part of something bigger.  That responsibility has ramifications that go beyond their group.  That also means that with community comes resource and networking.  It’s a reminder that they are each week as they minister to a group of students, they are co-laboring with others.  This is helpful when decisions have to be made that may impact the way their individual group may prefer to do something.
  3. PROVIDES PROTECTION FOR LEADERS, STUDENTS, AND THE CHURCH: Student ministry is a great place to serve.  There are those moments in ministry that can define you for good and unfortunately for bad.  Do not ever let yourself think that you are not susceptible to bad things happening in your ministry.  You have to ensure that you do whatever it takes to protect those that God has entrusted to your care, to those that are leading in your ministry, and to the church itself.  One of the best ways to do this is to have a covenant that allows for you to have a talksheet that covers everything from doctrinal views, to how to handle crisis counseling, to how to engage with students on social media.

If you need help with a covenant, please let me know.  In addition, I’m always interested in what others have included in their covenants as well. Shoot me some responses below.


3 Conversation tips to keep them talking

It’s the start of a new year so I am guessing your church is experiencing lots of new visitors and first time guests to sign up for your small groups or weekly activities.  If you are a new girls minister or girls ministry volunteer, you may be overwhelmed with those first time impressions.  I get it!  It’s crazy scary for most people to initiate a conversation with a complete stranger, let alone a complete stranger that’s a teenager.  My first weeks on the job, there was a hallway that I nicknamed the gauntlet because groups of girls lined the hallway leading to the main teaching room I needed to get to.  It was petrifying because none of those girls naturally talked to the new girl.  If I could just get through it…I survived!  I learned some interesting conversational skills that I want to pass along.

1. Remember this truth:  Everyone wants to be known.  

I know that is true for myself, and true for you. It’s also true for that middle school girl that is hovering in the corner shooting the death glare at you.  She has up every line of defense possible and it may make you think she hates your guts, but most likely she is protecting her thin fragile shell of confidence with the outer shell that is oozing: “just try to start a conversation with me”.  So how do you approach her? How do you approach anyone?  It will look different for each student.  Begin to recognize that you have a bunch of SAFES that have shown up in your ministry.  You don’t know what the combination lock is, but each safe is full of treasure and mystery.  Your job is not to make that “safe” know you. Your job is to help that “safe” know they are safe. They are loved. and they belong.  So let’s keep going with this “safe” illustration.  There is a movie called The Italian Job that features people who have to steal something from a safe.  In order to pick the lock, they need to listen for certain clicks to know how to unlock the safe.  They don’t force the lock.  They don’t try the combination that works with them.  Each safe is different. So as you go into a conversation with a student…LISTEN.  Don’t try to be thinking how you can share YOUR story to keep the conversation going.  Just listen to them.  Don’t ask the same questions.  They are ready for those.  Initial questions like:  What is your name?  What school do you go to?  are fine.  But try to get to deeper questions if the environment lends itself.  Even some silly questions are ok. Some “safes” open up immediately. Other “safes” take time.  It’s okay.  Just keep listening.


2. Don’t overshare.  Don’t forget that you are still an adult. 

This is important to remember that you are the adult in the conversation. Sometimes we may want to exchange that role to get on the same level in order to gain some cool points.  This is a bad decision.  Once you try to be a peer, you are not able to flip the switch to leader.   So don’t make comments like…we’re not that much different in age.  You are not a student.  Remember that.  You can still have fun with them and be goofy. I’ve been known to be crazy with students, but not to the point where I exchanged my role as adult or leader in the situation.


3. Listen more than you talk.  Be a connector.

I know when I start rambling that it’s because I’m scared of the silence.  I will share more about myself and unintentionally shift the focus to me.  It’s a insecurity tactic and unfortunately it then puts the student in the role of listener.  You can share some about yourself to make them feel more comfortable, but it’s not a counseling session for you.  Ask yourself:

Why am I sharing this?  Is it because I want to be liked by this student or am I sharing this in order connect this student?

How can I share this in order for this to connect through to a deeper conversation?

Is there anyone else I can bring into the conversation to help connect them?

Remember, you are not trying to be the most popular leader in the student ministry. Not everyone will like you.  Your job is to get students connected to Christ and to one another as well as having an adult other than their parent who can walk alongside them and echo the biblical truths they should be hearing at their home.  So think of yourself as a “pipeline” instead of a “straw”.  A straw goes from the container to the person on the other end.  A pipeline, connects pipes to other places and other pipes.


Are you living for a seat at the table? Get a different seat assignment!

“We want you to have a seat at the table”. Have you heard this talked about in ministry? It’s really being used in business jargon alot these days and I’ve seen countless books that address this for the underdogs or marginalized workers.  I have heard this phrase recently. It has baffled me really. Of course there are questions that naturally arise. Where is this “table”? And then naturally I’m inclined to ask: Is there food? Who else is at the table? How do I get invited? Why would I want a seat at this table?

In some research I found, the term refers to access to a power structure, a voice of influence, or equal treatment. How is this any different than trying to sit with the cool kids? Here is what I have learned in my 13+ years of church ministry.

1. There’s always another table at another level from where you are sitting.

2. I’ve found that often times, people who have made it to “the table” forget to get up and get work done.

So for my friends who are serving in ministry and you think you have no seat at the table, take a seat for a second—I’ve got great news for you.
There’s a better table!
There are over 76 verses in the bible regarding the word table. It should come of no surprise that the disciples themselves had an argument about the power table. Jesus has something to say to them and this spoke to me as well:

LUKE 22:24-26 (MSG) Within minutes they were bickering over who of them would end up the greatest. But Jesus intervened: “Kings like to throw their weight around and people in authority like to give themselves fancy titles. It’s not going to be that way with you. Let the senior among you become like the junior; let the leader act the part of the servant.

27–30 “Who would you rather be: the one who eats the dinner or the one who serves the dinner? You’d rather eat and be served, right? But I’ve taken my place among you as the one who serves. And you’ve stuck with me through thick and thin. Now I confer on you the royal authority my Father conferred on me so you can eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and be strengthened as you take up responsibilities among the congregations of God’s people.

Friends, no matter where you are in leadership, as a Christ follower our “table” already has been set with our name place. We don’t have to strive to get there. In fact, we don’t deserve a seat at this table, but Christ made a way for us to come to the table—not as a guest with no voice—but with royal authority to eat and drink at the table of God.  But notice—it’s not to sit there for power, but to be strengthened in order to go and serve God’s people.

And as Christ is talking to His disciples, He reminds them of the posture and seat He has taken—it is that of the servant.  He literally turned the table over and dropped the mic on this power struggle.  So what does this mean for us today?

Fight the urge for advancement or working your way up the ladder.  That’s for a corporate setting—that’s not for the church.  SERVE THE CHURCH!  I find the most joy and blessing when I give my life away in ministry and not in trying to appease people in order to get a seat at someone’s earthly table.

Know that you have been given a seat at the table and it is from Christ Himself.  Do not get caught up in intertwining your gifts, calling, and passions in pursuing the next level.  Simply keep pursuing that which you were designed to do for Him.  When I begin to loose steam and think I’m supposed to quit, I begin to hear more clearly the things that drain me and the things that fuel me.  It’s when I am with teen girls and young adult women and those who are passionate about leading and loving them that I hear a “Holy Yes” and know I’m supposed to keep moving in that direction.  Don’t let those things get lost in ministry.  If you do, you’ll find yourself at someone’s table serving someone other that Christ.


The Best Girls Ministry Retreat Budget Template Ever!

I truly detest creating budgets! That was until I created this awesome template.  This little template has made budgeting super easy on all the events I lead.  I can quickly determine how our current registration impacts things we want to do.  I can determine if a speaker charges the max amount, how that impacts the rest of my budget.  I can quickly determine incidentals like unforeseen plane tickets charges or extra meals charges and see how that impacts the budget.  I LOVE this template and so I am sharing it with you today.  I hope it is helpful.  You will need a google account to utilize this. See below the screenshot for instructions.

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Set up is easy, following the instructions below should take just a few minutes.

Log into your Google Account
Head to the tool here, and then to ‘File’ > ‘Make a Copy’

Then you should be able to use and input your own information.


You’re welcome!


Leading bible study in a TLDR world

I have been doing some much needed catch up research on Generation Z. Generation z turns 20 this year! So much focus has been on the Gen Y/ millennials that I truly missed some much needed focus on Gen Z. There is a lot of difference between Gen Y and Gen Z. The one I want to highlight today is that Gen Z is image focused. They are the emoji and photo generation. They COMMUNICATE in pictures. They look at a chunk of text and say TLDR. (Too long, didn’t read). They are highly literate but choosing not to read. So what does this mean for bible study?

I don’t think it means we need to give them an emoji bible as seen here. Although creative, I don’t think this is our next step.  Although it is interesting to note that there is an actual emoji translation of Moby Dick now.

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I do think that we need to remember that Gen Z does not know where to start with The Bible from day to day.  We have found that when we give them chunks of scripture and then have them do basic scripture discussion questions that are used in international countries, our students are learning how to look at God’s word for more than just “words” but allowing time to meditate and chew on the WORD.  There has to be time to let His Word work on our heart and when we just “read it”, we miss it.  This is what students are missing.   One of the ways I think we can use images to help our students in studying God’s word is to begin to have them draw doodles of what they see as they read.  I’m calling it divine doodling.  As they wrestle with a passage over and over again, I ask them to draw a doodle that represents what they just read.  I believe that it helps them process what they read through their image based literacy.  I’m truly just dabbling in this, but it is very intriquing to me.  I don’t want a generation to not know how to open the bible and meditate on His word.  Our students want to know how to study His Word…but it’s just dealing with the TLDR blockade.

Anyone else coming up against this?

How to get girls connected in 3 easy steps

Blog confession: This is an updated and repurposed post from 3 years ago.  However, I feel like this is a question that needs to be answered for those who work with girls on a regular basis. How do I get my girls connected to healthy friendships in the girls ministry? Keep reading for the 3 easy steps.-Amy-Jo

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a Connection Algorithm like Sheldon’s that would help you connect a girl to the student ministry or a girls lifegroup?
I remember the first day on the job as a girlsminister. Such an algorithm would have been very handy. It was our fall retreat! I was surrounded by cliques of girls and I couldn’t figure out how to get inside of one of those circles. They all seemed to be looking at me—the new girl—and sizing me up. Didn’t they realize I was an adult and the girls minister?! I think I thought there would be instant connection like there was when I worked summers at the large Christian camps. Just because I was camp staffer, I often had students come up and start talking with me about some pretty heavy things. But, this was not how it was on my first day on the job. There were some sweet people that tried to come over and introduce themselves but mostly it was cliques. My go to entry line was, “Hey do you guys know where I could get a soda?” and then when the conversation tanked, I’d say, “wow better go look for that soda.” Then on Sundays and Wednesdays there was the hallway that I renamed “The Gauntlet”. It was a horrible hallway because you had to walk down it to get into the sunday school room and lining every square inch of wallspace were groups of girls that weren’t talking to me but to each other. Very intimidating! I’m very thankful for the gauntlet and for that first fall retreat because it reminds me of what it feels like to be new in our student ministry. It’s scary!
That’s why I worked with some leaders and girls over the years to have a algorithm of sorts or a strategy to receive new girls into our student ministry. The idea is the 1-2-3 CLICK! method. Now understand that we don’t just go around saying “hey new girl…this is how we’re going to get you connected in three clicks.” This is just something that I have used to explain to students or leaders to help them understand how to continue reaching out to new people that have been introduced to our student ministry.

Here’s the basic premise:
1. Meet a girl who is unconnected and introduce her to her peer group.
2. Take her to coffee or introduce her to a peer or leader which will take her to coffee to get to know her.
3. Get her connected to a lifegroup of girls who have hung out with her or introduce her to a relationship building catalyst like our Snowball Girls Retreat. AND CLICK! She’s in.

I have observed that typically after 3 intentional relationship connections from you the leader—to a healthy peer group—and then to a bonding event or small group with that healthy peer group, the student will click into a place they feel welcomed and known within your student ministry.

As we have grown through the years, it has become imperative to utilize volunteers like our Chris and Debbie who are not only lifegroup leaders on Wednesdays, but also are moms that have journeyed through our student ministry alongside their students. They are the faces on Sunday AM when we have girls walk up to the check-in table to get connected. On Wednesdays we use our amazing ministry assistants Carol and Julia to connect girls to lifegroups and introduce them to a peer that will “show them the way” for the evening.
In addition to that, we have had a SOUP N STUDY at my home on Tuesday evenings or a WAFFLES N THE WORD group that meets in homes on Sundays. Surprisingly many girls that would not walk into the big student group have shown up at my home to meet girls in a smaller context. That may be something you could add to your connection plan as well.
How do you get girls connected and help them feel safe, loved and known in your student ministry?


This slide presentation tool is poetic. Haiku Deck

Sometimes you need to create a killer presentation really quick. Sometimes you want to put your slides on pinterest or slideshare. Well I am loving this new to me slide presentation software. You can utilize the app or you can use the web based tool. It’s sweet looking. https://www.haikudeck.com/

Here are some early glimpses:

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Weekly Resource Links for the Week of 2.9.15

This week’s links have to do a lot with sexuality. There just seems to be a lot of that talk in the air with the release of 50 shades of grey and with Valentine’s day coming up.  Hopefully these links are timely for you and your ministry.

Basically a Virgin
Addressing the topic of sexual purity with the girls in your ministry through a gospel lens