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

meetgenz_1

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?

A girls ministry talk about Halloween costumes + girls

originally published October 27th, 2010…but it’s been updated for 2013!

Cady’s thoughts: in the real world Halloween was a time for little kids to dress up in scary costumes. in girl world it was the one night a year a girl could dress like a total slut and no other girls could say anything about it. The hard core girls just wore lingerie and some form of animal ears. unfortunately no one told me this rule so i showed up like this.

I remember the first time that I first heard this quote from Mean Girls and thought, “Wow. Someone really captured what I have been seeing over the years.” I remember our church had an alternative halloween event for youth where you had to dress as your favorite biblical character. Of course 98% of the girls chose Esther, but then there was always that one girl who chose to really live on the edge and don a bathrobe portraying Bathsheba. Nope—that wasn’t me. I always liked to pick the obscure people like Rhoda the servant girl. (look her up–she’s real.)

My church leaders never began a top 5 list of biblical costumes that girls should not be allowed to show up to do the apple dunk in. Just for kicks,this is what I think that list would have looked like:
5. Rahab
4. Bathsheba
3. Woman at the well
2. Potiphar’s wife
1. Eve before the fall

I hope that our readers will choose to speak into the lives of girls this Halloween to begin some conversations regarding their costume choices. Or perhaps we can just hope the coolest girl in school latches on to my 2013 secret Halloween viral campaigns:

“Hazmat suits = the new bunny costume”
“covered head to toe is the way to go”
“mummies & modest monsters= eye candy”

Or maybe the following web badges will start spreading onto the “cool girl’s” facebook profile pics:
bunny2013

hazmat2013

mummy2013

 

But in all seriousness, here’s an activity you can do with some of the girls you mentor to begin talking about Halloween Costumes:
Have girls use markers, pencils, glue, and old magazines to design a halloween costume for each member of their family—including pets.
Use those drawings to begin to talk about why they chose those costumes.
ASK: Did those costumes represent something about that person?
What do you think your costume represents about you?
Why do you think girls choose to wear costumes that are often innapropriate?
What do you think the message is regarding those costume choices?
How does Ephesians 3:5 impact the costume we may choose to wear?

web 2.0 suicide: are your students on the digital ledge?

The term social suicide is one that has been around for awhile. I looked up the most popular definition on The Urban Dictionary and this is the one that rose to the top:

SOCIAL SUICIDE: commiting an act or acts that alienates one from their social scene or social circleto kill one’s social life

Example: John commited social suicide by asking out his ex-girlfriends best friend barely a week after they broke up.Example: Veronica is commiting social suicide by talking behind her friends backs.

One of the recent movies to delve into this subject of the birth and death of a social status is mean girls.  It’s fascinating to see what someone will do to rise to popularity.  Once the heroine battles her way up the chain, we begin to see that it’s inevitable when she will take a fall and when she does, she falls all the way below even the rejects of society. Interestingly enough, she realizes the stress and strain of maintaining her status and in the end lives in peace with playing the role she should have stayed with. She commits social suicide and becomes a mathlete and acknowledges that she even enjoys hanging out with the social rejects.  Social suicide…it’s an interesting concept.  And now, the term has found it’s way into the virtual social landscape.
For those people that can’t keep up with their web 2.0 status and constant digital chatter, they can commit social suicide via the suicidemachine.org.   It’s a site that literally allows those who have had enough with their digital social shadow to pull the plug, stand on the ledge and leap, say sianara…adios…hasta la vista…and pull the trigger on their online life story in a matter of an hour.  Now granted, you used to be able to “dismember” all your social networks including Facebook, but recently suicidemachine.org has reported that facebook has blocked their IP address.  However FB couldn’t stop the suicides on facebook from 500 people affecting over 50,000 friends. So now you can only delete your facebook profile, although if you re-engage you’ll see that your profile gets resuscitated immediately with no visible wounds or scars. However, you can still kill your other social identities on networks like NING, TWITTER, etc.
So my question,  what does this mean for students who are having to commit social web suicide because they can’t handle the pressure?  Social networking has come onto the scene so quickly that students often times feel the need to put everything out there about themselves in a desire to get social feedback instantly.  When that feedback or constant pressure to be connected begins to wear on them…they may make the decision to choose social suicide.  It’s important to help students know boundaries in this weird online social cafeteria of sorts.
Here are some helpful tips to get your started should you have the opportunity to talk with students about boundaries on the social networks:
  • Create online hours and offline hours—-one of my friends wrote on the pillows of our senior girls last year this quote that stayed in my mind forever—“Nothing good happens after midnight”.  That goes for the internet and even begins earlier…don’t go on the networks past 10.  Often times you start posting things or saying things that you would not want to be said and those comments can’t be erased very easily.
  • Take some digital breaks each week — If you begin to feel like your online presence is becoming demanding or even addictive, begin to schedule digital breaks or sabbaths.  Tell someone or even post in your status that you are “off this week” or “this day”.  Don’t let your profile or status own you.
  • Consider the legacy… It’s hard to believe that a digital presence could cause havoc on your physical presence but it can. Your digital fingerprint leaves a legacy…think about what your profile will say when you begin to try and shake it, or change it.

What other boundaries do you have or tell your students to think about when they are online? Share them below.

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When befriend…moves to unfriend. How to handle a digital diss.

unfriend

It’s not something I am proud of, but I did a search for someone that I needed to get in touch with the other day, and I knew that I had been facebook friends with them…but I couldn’t find them in my friends list.  I did another search and it finally clicked—I’ve been unfriended!!! Wow. I’ve heard of this, but it was still something that took me aback.  I found myself spiraling into a series of questions: “What did I do? How can I make this right? How do I respond to them in the real world? ” It was then that I stopped myself on that last question…In the words of my mother: “Whoa Nelly. Settle down there!”   Why was I having such a breakdown over this digital diss? Why was my digital ego so fragile? I realized that it truly is a crazy world when we can sever friendships without a word but merely a click of a button.  So how to we respond as Christians in a digital relationship? As I looked at that term that has developed on facebook for this action of digital dissing (UNFRIEND), I realized that the action in reverse is BEFRIEND.  When I am UNFRIENDED in the real world, my reaction should be to BEFRIEND. We should literally Proverbs 17:17 them.  (A friend loves at all times)  Therefore, when I am UNFRIENDED on facebook, I should still be a friend who loves at all times.  Even though I don’t understand why the unfriending happened…I still have a responsibility to love them—not slander them on facebook, not message them to say “I never liked you anyway”.  I find it very interesting that even The Urban Dictionary figured it out:

The oposite of befriending someone. When you unfriend someone you don’t necessarily become their enemy per say, but you are just no longer their friend, sorta like just distancing yourself from them until you befriend them again.

Well they kinda got it. At least they realized that Befriending is the opposite of Unfriending. So, should you experience a drive-by unfriending…or even if you see it coming…may you respond and teach others to respond as scripture tells us we should. Love at all times! Easier said than done, but hopefully it will be a reminder of what to do if an unfriending becomes a reality for you.

Princess deconstruction

Some of my friends in ministry know that I have an on-going dialogue to challenge the princess perception problem that is seeping into our churches. So they sent me the following link deconstructing the Disney Princesses and Princes. I’m putting this up here just for conversation. They were being funny girl leaders (Liz and Amy) asking me to use this in our lifegroup studies but as I started looking at it, it was interesting. As Girls leaders, we need to be clear that as we begin to use the Princess label to our girls, we need to realize that their perception of a princess may be skewed as they reflect on the fairytale princess stories they grew up on. Their stories are very different from the way that the daughter’s of the King of King’s stories should go—don’t you think? tumblr_kr8nybgvqn1qzmvbao1_5001

Dora the explorer grows up…what’s she looking for now?

dora-little

Have you heard recently about Dora the Explorer getting a new look?

Dora the Explorer is growing up. The bilingual pre-school favorite is getting a tween makeover thanks to Mattel and Nickelodeon. Besides having a new line of toys and products to sell, Mattel wants Dora to age with her audience and “experience the new things” fans are going through.

I know that there have been a lot discussions among the mom networks about if the teen Dora is dressed provacatively.  I have other questions about the intent of a teen Dora. I know as an Aunt, my nieces both watch Dora.  I have thought it was great for them to allow Dora to take them on an exploration of her world and culture. They have learned and have been entertained. I just hope for their sake that teen Dora doesn’t take them on an exploration to help her look for her Identity, Significance, and Purpose.  It will be interesting to see what Nickelodeon decides to use Teen Dora to help viewers explore.  It’s kinda sad that even the animated world of girldom apparently is being asked to grow up.  Poor Dora…I just hope she doesn’t start hanging out with The Bratz dolls or start watching Gossip Girl. Interested to see what your thoughts on a Teen Dora might be.

Girls Minister on the road: The Twilight Episode


Girls Minister on the Road: The Twilight edition pt 1 from Amy Jo Girardier on Vimeo.
This is a brief and not complete synopsis of the twilight book 1 for dads, youth ministers, and moms that don’t have time to read the book. I do encourage you to read the book so you can talk with your daughter or girls in your ministry about it because I think it will allow for some awesome conversations. If you need some insight, go to our twilight discussion guide post and read the post about the twilight discussion for moms and daughters I posted on there to go along with this video. This will just tell you the main plot. I have left out the ushy gushy love scenes and just cut to the meat of the story. Enjoy!

GIRLS MINISTER POP CULTURE MOMENT: if you seek amy, you won’t find her.

images2Well Britney has done it again. It was earlier this month that I was working out at the gym with my bootcamp friends and our trainer turned on a song.  Chris, one of the guys, commented on the song to divert us from the pain we were experiencing during our weight lifting.  He said—“what does this song even mean, and why is she looking for amy?”.  At that moment, Christy gasped and said “OH…this is that song with the secret vulgar message in the chorus.”  She told us to repeat the chorus “If you seek Amy” rapidly over and over again and we would know what Britney was wanting us to hear.  It was a sentence expressing a sexual advance.  The chorus doesn’t make sense—all of the boys and all of the girls are begging to if you seek amy.  (The F bomb+ me is the hint if you still are at a loss.)

Britney has gotten a lot of flack and also some praise with her witty hide and seek lyric game.  Britney has gone through a lot and so this post is not an attempt to slam her.  I do think that it is interesting that while her songs and antics continue to get her attention, she is still playing her own hide and seek game with her identity.  She hasn’t found it in a career. She hasn’t found it in a relationship.  She hasn’t found it in being a mother.  All of those things can be good things, but for anyone these good things will unravel if we put our identity into them.  I love what St. Augustine says:

You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.

It is my prayer that for Britney and girls everywhere, that they will find rest and completeness when they place their hearts in God’s care.  It is my prayer that they will seek their Identity, Significance, and Purpose through His eyes and not fill their lives with empty relationships, dreams, and throw-away moments.

Check out Vicki Courtney’s post about this song and more.

Twilight: a discussion for moms and daughters.

Every girl needs a vampire?

MOMS, HERE ARE SOME DISCUSSIONS YOU NEED TO HAVE WITH YOUR DAUGHTERS THAT ARE READING THE TWILIGHT SERIES:

As I write this, I just finished book 3 of The Twilight series written by Stephanie Meyers. I am aware that I am not a teenaged girl and so some of you may be asking why I am spending my time consumed with these books of almost 500 pages each that girls across the country are reading over and over again. It’s for that exact reason that I am reading them. I found myself on the outside of conversations that girls were having concerning this fantasy lovestory that they were reading 5 and 7 times. See I am a girlsminister and I have some amazing girls and moms that I care for very much who have had some conversations with me about this book series. I have hated not being able to enter into the conversation and so after getting my Kindle, I decided it was time to download these books and read them.

The following is the part 1 of a series I will use to create some conversations among moms of teenaged girls.

As I finished book 3 today in a matter of 2 weeks, I found myself caught up in the storyline of a Highschool Jr named Bella who finds herself in a lovestory with an unlikely character—a vampire. It was easy to read the story and allow Bella’s story to become my own as you read the narrative through her eyes. You begin to find yourself in her situations, and I would even say most teenaged girls are pretending in some way that Bella is them as they read this book. As a married woman and I read these thoughts and vivid descriptions of Bella’s emotions it is easy for me to recall and reflect on those ushy gushy feelings of infatuation and the “my breath just caught in my throat” kisses that I shared with my then fiance and my now husband of 9 years next month. The story of the vampire family and the werewolves are not the storyline that teenaged girls are enthralled with. The reason they are reading the books 5 and 7 times is not because they are intrigued with the fantasy of vampires and werewolves. They aren’t going goth! They are reading the books over and over again because of the descriptive pre-harlequin lovestory scenes that happen between Bella and her vampire Edward and later her best-friend turned werewolf Jacob who also loves Bella. I know right?!?!
*NOTE:The movie leaves out the sexual tension discussions that make up a large portion of the books.

So if your daughter is reading these books over and over again, and you have sat them down to talk with them about it but have not read it, you probably have heard these statements from their mouth and thought it was okay for you not to have to endure the reading of this series on your own time:

Statement 1:
Mom, it’s just this lovestory between Bella and Edward but it’s really good because they practice abstinence and do not have sex until they are married. That’s what you are trying to teach me right?

This is partially true. However, you need to not assume that is all that is going on. Edward the vampire is teaching your daughter a lot more about purity than that. And Bella is never the one who abstains except 1 time and it’s not because of her choice for purity but because it’s not convenient to her plans.

Some questions to ask your daughter in regards to this statement:
QUESTION 1:
How do Edward and Bella show restraint? And if they show restraint, why are they doing so?
A: Edward makes the comment that he can’t have sex with Bella because in her human fraility he would kill her due to his vampire strength. (The actual reference says he would crush her skull because he is so strong.)
In addition, not only is Edward capable of harming Bella during sex, but because he is a vampire he also strongly desires her blood and he is not sure that he would be able to resist this urge to kill her for her blood as he becomes physical with her.
Later in book 3 Edward does make references to being old-fashioned and having morals and not wanting to have pre-marital sex because he is worried about Bella’s soul and doing the right thing.

So in the book, we constantly hear of “Edward’s rules” but we don’t ever have those rules defined. One of the things my mother and I talked about with a group of my girlfriends when I was in highschool were the dating rules we had to ensure purity before marriage. As a result, my friends and I created our own purity rules that we held each other accountable for. Some of these were rules that were obvious…and some of these were rules that pertained to beyond my highschool career as I had my mom’s rules at home that would have made some of these null and void anyway.
Here were just a few of the rules that we agreed to:
Not lying down horizontally with a boy.
Not allowing articles of clothing to be removed.
Not being alone with a boy in a room.
Not hanging out with a boy past midnight.

My husband and I added our own rules to our own list when we were dating and then engaged because it was becoming easier for us to think we already belonged to each other.

I include these in here to say that we never hear anything about what Bella and Edward were using as their rules to guard their purity and Bella’s life.
What we do see is that Edward constantly spends the night in Bella’s room and leaves in the morning so that Bella’s dad is unaware of what is going on up there.
We do see that Bella intentionally seduces Edward on several occassions and if not for Edward constantly pushing Bella away and telling her to “Be good” then they would have had sex.

QUESTION 2: Discuss with your daughter the entanglement of The Physical Appetite and The Sexual Appetite that moves throughout the series. Discuss the reason why Edward and Bella get as close as they can to feeding their appetites.

Ecclesiastes 6:7 All man’s efforts are for his mouth, yet his appetite is never satisfied.
I think it is interesting that appetite is discussed so much throughout this series. Edward has found a way to supress his appetite for human blood by eating animals but Bella refuses to find a way to supress her sexual appetite. In fact she will go so far as to consider becoming a vampire (I haven’t finished book 4 yet so it could happen) in order to quench her appetite for Edward. Interesting that the character aches that deeply for this boy and will give up all other ambitions and dreams because without him her life has no purpose.

QUESTION 3: Discuss with your daughter how Bella may have gotten swept into this lovestory because she was in a place she hated, her flighty mother was choosing her own interests over her daughters as she lived out her days with her new husband on the road, she had a father she barely knew that didn’t know how to tell her he loved her, and she was in new school where she was the center-of-attention and had her pick of the guys except for one beautiful pale boy who seemed angry with her. Was Bella drawn to Edward for the right reasons? Are we sometimes looking for our lovestory to happen because we are lonely, not fitting in, wanting to feel loved, wanting to experience physical touch and willing to be swept away into a relationship that takes our lifestory in a different direction?

QUESTION 4: Your daughter will probably defend Edward strongly and she should. He is a vampire that has been 17 years old for over 90 years. He was born at the turn of the 19th century. He is an “old-soul” and exhibits moral traits from the years of his human youth most of the time. He is very calming. He is very protective. He is my favorite character in the story. Bella is the irresponsible one in most cases. And while Edward is someone that you fall in love with as you read the story, he is not reality.
For many of the readers, Edward may become their first understanding of a boyfriend. Use Edward as a discussion point for what are good attributes and what are unrealistic to expect of your future husband.

For example: 1 myth that Edward may have girls believing: Guys don’t live to hear girls answers to every detail of their life all the time. Guys may have moments where they are intuned to you more than another time but they tend to be the less “I just want to talk all night with you” sort of people. They are more into physical touch. More into just being with you without the talky talk. You hear more frequently the words: “Tell me what you’re thinking” from a female. Edward asks this question over and over of Bella throughout the series.

Another myth that girls may believe and expect of their future husband: He should live to keep me happy. He only thinks about me all the time. He will drop anything to come to my rescue. His life has no purpose without me.

HERE ARE SOME THINGS TO CELEBRATE ABOUT TWILIGHT:

  • The vampires are monogamous. Edward values marriage. Bella doesn’t but is willing to considered it.
  • Restraint from sex is a part of the story. It may only be because death is the immediate consequence but it is practiced.

That leads to a QUESTION 5: In the story of Bella and Edward, the consequence of immediate death is what causes the restraint in their activity. How would that change the restraints or lack of restraints we have in dealing with our temptations?

  • Another thing to celebrate is that Bella does exhibit some self-less acts. She moves to Forks because she realizes her mother wants to have this ability to travel with her new husband and she can’t if Bella stays with her in Phoenix.
  • The Vampire Parent figures are very strong and responsible in the story. However, Bella’s parental figures are very negligent and even seem child-like. Bella constantly has to take care of them in cooking for them, cleaning for them, and helping them think through life details.

These are just some beginning talking points that I am having with girls and other women I know that have read these books. I would be interested to add some of your questions  to this if you have been able to talk with your daughter or someone you mentor concerning this book. I will continue to add some more discussions as I continue to process the series.

FINAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: I do want to acknowledge that I realize this is a fictional book and that Stephanie Meyers in no way is trying to mentor teenaged girls but she is just simply telling a lovestory. However, if our teenaged girls are becoming so wrapped up into this story, we need to make sure that we as girlsministers, mom, mentors, and youthworkers are there to have the conversations with our girls about purity and about lovestories and not just leave it up to a vampire named Edward. So mom’s, it’s time for you to ask your daughter to introduce you to Edward the un-edited version.
COMING SOON: PART2—If I were Bella’s girlsminister this is what I’d say.