Developing the art of conversation and listening

“They don’t listen to me!”  This is a statement I hear over and over again from teen girls.  How do you develop the art of listening to a teen girl?  It’s different than how it was when they were younger.  Girls have a lot of words don’t they?  It’s one reason I have loaded “Spinvox” onto my voicemail so that when I receive a call from a girl, their voicemail is transcribed into text. That way I see all the words, and can piece the situation together.  Sometimes they don’t talk at all.  Sometimes they do that because they know the question you are going to ask them already. It’s a routine conversation…and they hate routine conversations. If we’re honest—we do too!  We can almost verbatim know the flow of this conversation because we’ve heard it before:  “How was school?”   teen: “It was okay”  Parent: “What did you do”  teen: “nothing really”  Parent: “What did you eat?”and I’m shutting this conversation down because it is already snoozing us all.  The parent was asking routine questions, seeing if all the necessities were covered.  The teen was just going through the motions…but what happens when you ask the right question and listen actively?  A conversation may be born!

My mother is the super-hero of active listening. She doesn’t understand why people go to her to talk to this day. She doesn’t understand why when I was in highschool, most of my girlfriends and I would end up where she was. One time that was when she was cleaning the bathroom. We all sat in the floor of the bathroom and talked with her while she cleaned. Why?  Because we knew she listened to us…really listened.  I never knew what she would ask next. It was a real conversation.  So here are some tips to throw those routine conversations out the door:

1. Remember things that they are working on and work those into conversations.  It shows you are observing and caring about their world.  Resist the urge to judge. Example: “Hey Abby, last week you said something about Carly quitting the cheerleading squad, how is she doing? ”  The response could be: She’s okay.  If so, ask how the dynamics of the squad are changing because she quit.

2.Ask questions to gain insight into the “ROOT”.   So you think Emily is being mean-girled at school?  That must be hard to be her friend with all that going on. How are you coping with that?  WHY do you think the girls are acting that way towards Emily? WHAT do you think you would do if you were her?

3.Create a place of conversation.  My mom was stationed at the kitchen table after dinner to read the newspaper or do a cross word puzzle. She was always on her feet but after dinner, this is where she was.  I knew her patterns. This is where I would hang to work on my homework. It wasn’t a place where forced conversation happened.  If I wanted to talk, she was there.

4. LISTEN.  Do more listening than talking.  There are 4 main reasons we listen

We listen to obtain information.
We listen to understand.
We listen for enjoyment.
We listen to learn.

People remember 25-50% of what we hear.  So when you spend your time with your daughter lecturing them for 10 minutes, they may only hear about 2 minutes of your speech before they tune you out.  However, they will take away much more if they feel listened to by you.  This is a LOUD way of telling them you love them and building that relationship.

This is just a start…other thoughts to share from parents or girls ministry leaders?

A New moon (Twilight) video cliff note edition.

twilighnewmoon Well it’s November. Not only is it “No-shave-mber”, it’s also the month many teenaged girls have been counting down the days for because it holds the release of the new Twilight Saga movie: New Moon.  Yes the anticipation has been building. You will start seeing the Twitter trending include New Moon and New Moon kissing scene on a regular basis.  But what is this movie all about?  What is this whole Team Edward and Team Jacob thing?  Well in this movie, Bella experiences a vampire dumping that sends her reeling into depression.  The things that Bella does to try to gain  closeness to Edward would have me send her to counseling, but that’s not what happens. She develops a friendship with Jacob that helps her limp through the Edwardless days, and begin to get mixed feelings about him as well–BUT there is always the pining for Edward. She literally stops her life and stops hanging out with friends…and in fact—finds that when she is almost killed, she hears Edward in her head.  Many of us have experienced the pain of a relationship ending, but it’s Bella’s way of dealing with it that makes me fearful that girls will allow their future dumpings to cause them to grieve in similar ways instead of finding healthy ways to move forward.  Stephanie Meyers has modeled the storyline to have a Romeo and Juliet-esque type of romance, and so many twi-hards realize this is the sad part of the twilight saga.  But you as a Mom, parent, youth worker, or friend may have opportunity to speak some hope or have some really good conversations about what happens when we do lose those friends or relationships.

What are some positive ways of dealing with that sort of loss? How have you felt like Bella, and how can you protect your heart from finding yourself in a similar sort of grieving?  We’ll have a discussion guide later in the month. Here’s is a cliff notes video synopsis of New Moon through the perspective of a sarcastic girls minister. It’s about 10 minutes but hopefully you will enjoy it.

Girlsminister on the road: A New Moon (Twilight) synopsis from Amy Jo Girardier on Vimeo.

Former Motley Crue Body Guard Now Offers a Message Of Truth To Parents and Daughters


Ephesians 6 1-4

1.Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; 3.That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. 4.And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

I have had the opportunity to see several fathers help their daughters understand their true identity in Christ.

One such father has had a unique background as a bodyguard that has provided him with too many first hand stories that have given him a perspective that not many people have had. I have a great deal of respect for his two daughters and thought it would be interesting to have his input as a father of daughters on this site. Here are some of the snippets he provided me. I have broken it down into two sections. The first section works best for parents and the final section is addressed to daughters. Thanks Ron for sharing with us your story and mostly thanks for modeling for your daughters true love from a father. I recently heard from a father that works with my husband that the job of the daddy is to fill the love tank of the daughter so much that she doesn’t go looking for someone to fill her love tank. You are definitely doing that with your daughters!

And without further ado…here’s Ron:


I have, in the past, had the rare honor of working with some of the top recording acts in the history of music; first as a tour manager and then as bodyguard. In both jobs I was charged with the safety and welfare of the acts to which I was entrusted. It was a passion. It was not a hobby and it was one I was forced to put my life on the line for more than once.

When I started I was not saved by Grace and aware of the boundless attributes of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I lacked instruction in all areas of life. I lived to be a part of the events that shaped music and I thrived on the vast expression and uniqueness of our time.

When my daughter, Angelique, was born I was Vince Neil, the lead singer of Motley Crue’s, (Voice of the Decade of Decadence) body guard,. and we were on tour with Van Halen (Run’in with the Devil). Every night, in every town their where large crowds of rabid fans willing to do anything to see, touch, talk to, or party with the band. They would go to great lengths to show their admiration like climb through heating and air ducts at the arena s, break into hotel rooms, rush the tour buses and limos–you name it and they would try it. Then there were the more sinister and seedy characters associated with the events. People that were jealous, addicted, thieves and scoundrels of every type; people dangerous to themselves and everyone around them. These same people confront our daughters, in our home communities and will be surrounding them when they leave our homes for college and at the work place.

I used and still use the same three principles of protection, providing understanding and staying strong for my artists as I do for my teenage girls –Vigilance, Instruction, Endurance.

Being a writer I spend a great deal of time researching new words. I even look up words I feel comfortable using but want a clearer understanding of their usage. It is the case with the two words that make up the commands for child rearing in Ephesians 6 both words are important and both set the tone and pattern for raising my teenage daughters

Nurture 1. to feed and protect:. to support and encourage, as during the period of training or development; foster: 3. to bring up; train; educate.

Admonition 1. to caution, advise, or counsel against something. 2. to reprove or scold, esp. in a mild and good-willed manner: 3. to urge to a duty; remind: to admonish them about their obligations.

As a parent of daughters I will endure regardless of the struggle to keep my daughters pure. It may not be popular and you may rail against our authority but in the end you will be glad we cared enough to challenge you into making the right decisions that will allow you to grow with dignity, and respect for yourselves and others and most importantly GOD.

Deuteronomy 6:6-8 6 “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”

Ron continually talks with his daughters about God’s commandments. I asked him to share with us what he would share with his daughters. Here is a snippet he wrote to teenaged daughters everywhere:


Girls if you have seen the movie (chick flick) 27 Dresses (that’s right I have seen it 3 times) there is an amazing GOD moment in it. The heroin is an extraordinary wedding planner who meets the hunky newspaper writer, that is forced to write gooey romanticized articles about marriage for his magazine when in reality he hates the very thought of marriage. When he falls in love with the wedding planner he writes a satirical piece about her 27 theme weddings, that embarrasses her. In the make up scene the writer admits to the wedding planner that there is one part of the wedding ceremony he has always loved, “the moment when the groom looks back at the bride coming down the isle and realizes that is his wife forever.”

GOD paints a similar picture in Isaiah 62:5 As a young man marries a maiden… as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” One of the most beautiful pictures painted for us as believers is the triumphant return of GOD to take to himself his faithful believers in Christ. He looks at us not only as his prize but as HIS for eternity.

The question for us all is obedience. Are we willing to live holy lives set apart from the fallen world? Including how we talk, act, and here’s a big one girls – how we dress. Again the bible set the standard 1 Peter 3:3 beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes (or few cloths at all). 4.Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5.For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.

In the movie “The Producers” Uma Thurman sings a song “If You Got it Flaunt it.” The gist of this comedic ditty is to “put your assets on display.” Listen this lack of discretion bears consequence. First in how you see yourself, how others see you, and finally and most importantly how GOD sees you. According to an intense Kinsey Institute study, the average man forms a thought about sex approximately every two minutes, and that he generally ponders the thought for about a minute, 50 seconds before letting go of it. When my girls were in middle school being taught about appropriate touching their was a song about the “No-No Zones.” Ladies if your No-No Zones have less that 3-5 inches of fabric between them and the great outdoors, factoring in the data of the Kinsey report, than at school, or on the streets, or at the beach you have been visually violated thousands of time a day.

Now imagine GOD is in your High School this afternoon and comes upon you and sees your lack of discretion. Would you be embarrassed? It is not the way GOD intended you to be.

I go through this discussion every month and I will continue to go through it and not be swayed. I know what bad girls look like. As I said they came into my back stage areas every night Not all of them were intending to be bad. But they dressed revealing as much as possible without being arrested, hung out with girlfriends, who themselves may not have been bad people, but in the areas of appropriate behavior felt going for it was– OK. They almost always ended up in compromising, harmful, and even dangerous situations. We are living in the age of STD’s and AIDS and the consequences of turning from GODS intended plan for you young ladies, our daughters, is devastating. As a parent of daughters I will endure regardless of the struggle to keep my daughters pure. It may not be popular and you may rail against our authority but in the end you will be glad we cared enough to challenge you into making the right decisions that will allow you to grow with dignity, and respect for yourselves and others and most importantly GOD.

Thanks Ron for sharing a little of your heart with us.  Ron Camacho has authored and co-authored several books (Chicken soup for the country soul, From the heart of racing, and The Last Dragon: Tear Falle).  He is a great dad and husband and his daughters are a joy to have in our girls ministry.  I hope you have enjoyed hearing from his heart.  We look forward to bringing some more dads into the conversation.  And if you are a daddy, may you continue to fill up your daughter’s love tank to overflowing so that she learns first from you what a Godly man is and sets her up to look for that in her own marriage relationship.

Girls Ministry Mom moment: Walking the last few weeks with your Senior Girl…


This past week I had the opportunity to have a special conversation with a mom of one of our senior girls.  I had the conversation while I was visiting at my childhood home and as we talked about some of the emotions and conversations and words that had been exchanged between parents and the soon-to-be-grad, I couldn’t help but remember some of those words come from my own mouth within the walls of the house I was sitting in.   As I continued to listen and share with my friend over the phone, I remembered some key things about how I perceived those pre-graduation weeks.  I had the unique privilege of talking this through with my mom as an adult and I think what we reflected on could be helpful to some moms that are preparing to let their little girl graduate from High School in the next couple of weeks.

Priorities are in the eye of the beholder. Remember that while you are taking in all the days of their life and trying to soak up the remaining moments you have with them, that they are not fully grasping the big picture like you are.  There are so many decisions, last moments, celebrations, and school projects that they are experiencing sensory overload.  For my mother and I, we reflected on what was priority for me and what was priority for her in those last few months before I left for college.

For the mother: She wanted to make sure she covered the basics of life and more so she tried to cleverly “invite” me into some projects that she thought I needed to learn.  For example, usually during the 5 o’clock hour if I was at home—I used that time to “chillax”.  My mom recognized this need in me over the years and would let me unwind by just vedging in front of the tv until dinner was ready.  However, as I neared Graduation day, I found that she “interrupted” this time with sentences like, “Hey Amy-Jo, can you come here for a second. I want you to help me with this ______(insert project).”  I didn’t see what she was really doing.  She was rushing to make sure that I got as many opportunities to learn things for the “real world” as she could cram into those days.  She never said this was what she was doing, so it was just irritating to me at times.  I didn’t know that sometimes she was feeling like she was failing me by not teaching me how to do some tasks like making mashed potatoes from scratch.

For the daughter: priorities were to have closure with my friends and family—but mostly friends.   In fact it didn’t fully hit me that I would be leaving home (mom and dad) and the comforts/amenities/ familiarities that this home had provided for 18 years.  It didn’t hit until I was on a mission trip in The Virgin Islands on the night before we left to come home.  My summer was just about to end, and I knew things were never going to be the same.  I wept on the floor of that bathroom in my hotel room until about 2am.  I wept again the next day when I found my old beatup high school car had gotten a sun-roof installed because my dad wanted to make sure there was enough ventilation for me as I drove to college.  Emotions were roller coasters for me those weeks before graduation and leaving for college.  Sometimes they ranged from anger at my parents not realizing how independent and grown-up I was.  Then quickly they would plummet to almost child-like needs.

I couldn’t get enough time with my friends.  I think it’s because I wanted to be with people that knew me…knew inside jokes…and were going through the same emotional transformations I was.  Because of this need…this pull…I sometimes chose friends over family more than I probably should have.  The night I left for college my friends sat on my stairs in my home talking, giggling, and remembering as my mom and I loaded up the car.  They stayed until about 3am the morning we left. I was the first to go to college.  It was almost like a wake for them.

Priorities are different for the mom and the daughter during this time.

  • Mom may focus on “daughter time” and “holding on” as well as trying to train daughter in those last minute skills.
  • Daughter is clinging to friends and trying to claim her independence all at the same time as trying to say goodbye to things that she has known her whole life. There is often a whiplash between nostalgia and a need to grow up.

This post has gotten exceedingly longer than I had intended so I will sum it up with some key thoughts for moms and dads that may read this:

Your daughter is not a monster. She will exhibit some unusual emotional outbursts during this time.  My mother and I reflected on such a moment this past weekend.  I do not remember what prompted my response but I was evidently not happy with my mother.  I printed out a computer paper banner complete with cheesy graphics that stated boldly:  FREEDOM ON JUNE 9th!  (That was graduation day)  I stapled it to my ceiling.  My mother’s response for this outburst was simply to look at it and say nothing.  She never told me to remove it.  In fact, that banner remained until after I was married.  Then she very quietly pointed to it upon a visit home from seminary and said:  ” Do you think we can take this down now?”

I asked her why she responded with letting that outburst happen and not saying anything for so many years.  She said—“You pick your battles.”  She did later confess that I had no idea how badly that hurt but she knew I was having an outburst that was uncharacteristic of me.

Remember should you meet the wrath of your Senior in a way that seems foreign to you: It’s not you—-it’s just a lot for her to take in.  She doesn’t always have words to use for all that is going on in her head and her heart.  She’s excited about the future. She’s scared about the future. She’s grieving the passing of her high school experience. She’s ready for the passing of her high school experience. She’s contemplated big decisions like what does she want to do with her life.  She also’s contemplating little things like…will she be able to figure out how to drive home from college after you drop her off.  She’s worried about her roomate.  She’s excited about the new friends she will meet.  These are all raging inside of her and sometimes she wants to talk about it and sometimes she wishes she could just hit the pause buttton and make things normal.

What you can do during this time:

  • write her notes to remind her you love her. She will probably save these and look at them over and over again as she gets older.
  • Send her a text message when you pray for her.
  • Have some moments where you don’t talk “grad” stuff.  You could declare them “grad-free” nights where you just do something she wants to do without discussing senior topics.
  • Encourage her other family members to write some encouraging notes to her as well.
  • Pray together over the fears she may be expressing.
  • REMEMBER: This is a natural part of this stage. You are not alone…other moms/daughters are experiencing some of the same outbursts and emotional roller coasters.
  • Find someone to be YOUR prayer partner during these times.  Your heart is too tender to handle this roller coaster alone.

A Prayer for you…

In closing, let me pray for you as I know these days are precious and also painful…

Dear Heavenly Father…growing up is necessary, but growing up is hard.  Give these mothers and fathers Your peace and comfort as they continue to walk  alongside of their graduate and as they celebrate their accomplishments.  Help these parents to know when to say something and when to be still.  Guard their hearts as sometimes their daughters may say things in the the moment that they are unable to measure the impact those words will have.  Create space for these mothers and daughters to have in the crazy days to come.  And most importantly, draw these families closer to each other as they draw closer to You.

I ask this in Your Holy and Precious name…Amen. wishes mom’s everywhere a happy mother’s day!


We would be remiss if we forgot to wish mom’s everywhere a Happy Mother’s day because afterall at we believe that the first Girls minister should be the mother.  I had some time this Friday to spend with my mom. I’m hoping to introduce you to her later on this month as I think she has some great thoughts to share with this community.  It was a blessing to walk around a park I attended preschool in, and have some time to reflect on the past, share about the present, and dream the future with my mom—my best friend.  She has taught me so much and to her I am greatly thankful.  I hope you have had some time to spend with your mom today or if you are a mom, I hope you were celebrated with everything from breakfast in bed—to scribbled cards—to sticky kisses—-and perhaps a fancy dinner.

Today also is a great day to say something to the other women that God placed in your lives that have served as spiritual mothers.  Today I was told “Happy Mother’s day” about 15 times.  I am not currently a mother and this was the first year I received such greetings so I was a bit shocked at first.  Then I realized that some of them were just automatic accidental reciprocal greetings.  But there were some teenaged girls that came up and embraced me with Happy Mother’s day greetings. I reminded them that although a sweet gesture, I was not a mom.  I quickly asked what they had done for their mothers and these girls told me of different beautiful and/or creative or thoughtful acts of love they were planning to honor their moms with.  Later at the end of the conversation, one of the girls said—“you know you are like a surrogate mom to us.  You have journeyed through these teenaged years and taught us about Christ, so we can say Happy Mother’s day to you.”  It caused me to take pause and remember also the women that God has brought into my life who have been spiritual mothers to me.

I hope today you have been celebrated as either a birth mom or a spiritual mom….I hope you have taken the time to seek out those whom God has placed in your life to raise you and shape you both physically and spiritually—And I praise God that He allows us to pour our lives into other women and nurture them with His truth, His love, and His guidance.  Happy Mother’s day from all of us at! Interview with Melissa Trevathan & Sissy Goff

2_smOne of the books I continually recommend to moms and those who work with girls is Raising Girls by Melissa Trevathan & Sissy Goff. It is an amazing read and a great reference when talking with moms about some of the stages they can expect to see their daughter experience physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I have had the opportunity to be a conference leader at a couple of girls events that Melissa and Sissy have led. As I have gotten to hear their heart for girls not only just in their books but in conversation, I knew that they were two people that the community needed to hear from as well. Below is an email interview that Sissy dialogued with me on. I know you will find it as insightful as I did.

Sissy and Melissa,
I have some moms, leaders, and teenaged girls that are doing a blog project with me to help bring
about some key conversations.
We are working to create some healthy dialogue among those who pour into the lives of
teenaged girls and their families. The intention of these conversations is that they would
help shape the way that the home and the church intentionally and strategically raises
Godly young women to know their identity, significance, and purpose is rooted in Christ. I have come up with 5 questions to begin that conversation with you. Thanks for your thoughts in advance and for all you do to help shape this conversation:
1. Girls ministry is a buzzword in and among churches right now. It seems that
churches are recognizing that girls need to be recognized and cared for differently. How
is that impacting the ministry you have to girls and their families?

We are really excited that churches are recognizing that girls are different and need to be cared for differently. We would say that girls are being reached more “where they are”…both understood and taught in a way that reaches to the hearts of who they are and what they really do need. It seems to be helping them gain confidence in who they are and who God has created them to be, as well.

2. One of the things that we keep hearing back from those who have heard you speak on
developmental stages was: “It was so encouraging to hear about the different things
happening in our brains that cause disruptions in our normal thinking patterns.” It
seems that this sort of knowledge of developmental stages among girls was helpful to
not only moms but also teenaged girls. Is this something you incorporate into your
ministry to girls and families? If so, how have you seen this help through the stages
where girls and their moms may not know how to communicate anymore?

We definitely are trying to get the word out about developmental stages not just to parents, but to girls as well. It is a huge part of why we have written two books for girls: Mirrors and Maps for 11-14 year-olds and Growing Up Without Getting Lost for 15-19 year-olds. So often, the default thinking with girls whenever they are wrestling with something is that “something is wrong with me.” We have seen the relief the developmental information provides girls in our counseling offices. One girl met with us and said, “Do you remember how you told me my brain was going to change and mess up my confidence? Well, it’s happening.” It was so encouraging to us to hear that she knew it was a part of her physical development, rather than a flaw in who she is. We have also seen this information help girls and moms with communication. Especially during the teenage years, there are a lot of communication struggles for moms and girls. To know that it is a very NORMAL part of development can not only help girls understand that what they are going through is normal, but can help moms’ realize that the lack of communication is not due to their failure as a parent. It has more to do with a daughter’s need to develop her independence and, because she has been closest to her mom, it is often her mom she feels the need to push away the most.

3. What would you suggest to a mother and daughter that are wanting to have the
ability to not only communicate during these tough teen years but to also take away
some good memories?

Find places, activities and time you can enjoy together. And, to the moms, that means time where you are not teaching, instructing or correcting. Your daughter needs to know that you are spending time with her for the sheer purpose of enjoying her (which can be difficult during those teen years). Dig into her culture. Find things she loves–find out why she loves those things. Watch a silly television show with her. Go on walks. Ask her about her friends. Take a mother/daughter trip. Read a book together. Watch home movies. Anything you can do to connect. Don’t put pressure on each other to have a heart-to-heart each time. It can even be singing motown songs in the car. Just find ways to connect with laughter and enjoyment. Girls who are delighted in feel more delightful, and this is a tremendous gift you can offer your daughter at any age.

4. What advice and/or encouragement would you give to those who minister to teen girls
and their families?

For most of us as adults, adolescents can feel like a lifetime ago. It is easy to forget how difficult those years were. Parents need help understanding life from the perspective of their girls–education as to what is happening inside of them, and outside from a cultural perspective. And girls need help knowing that, although their friends are a huge part of their life, their families are important and have a lot to offer them, as well. Helping them find places to connect–and even giving them opportunities to do so is huge!

5. What is something you love about working with teen girls and their families?

To see when parents and girls do connect…when girls can let go of the “they don’t understand” and see their parents as people who not only understand but truly love and have a vision for who God is creating their girls to be.

THANKS Melissa and Sissy for taking the time to share!
Make sure and check them out on their blog at:

  • Girls ministry should begin at home…

    mothers are the first girls minister
    Girls ministry is a big buzz word right now. It’s not a new concept but here at we are trying to help shape the conversation that is going on in our churches regarding how to minister to girls. In short, the first girlsminister should be the mother! We recognize that not all mothers have embraced this role for their daughters and we recognize that there are other Godly women that God draws around a teenaged girl to help model for her what a christ-follower looks like…but for those girls who do have a Godly mom who recognizes her role as the primary girlsminister—then this t-shirt is for you:)