Our girls are to be cared for, esteemed, sought after, taught, seen, discipled, valued, just as any member of the body of Christ is. If they are believers, just because they are young and maturing does not diminish their value or position in the body of Christ. If they are not yet believers, our prayer is that the authentic, loving, gospel-saturated community they experience in our churches is so compelling that they are drawn to it and one day say, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it…How awesome is this place!
On a cool summer’s evening just a few weeks ago, I witnessed something important. Four teenage girls were squished together on a bench, under a large oak tree in the backyard of one of our church members. I approached them, hoping to get some intel on what they wanted to do together this year in our “Challengers” program, a teen girl discipleship group our church supports. They causally looked up at me and respectfully shrugged their collective shoulders. I asked a few more direct questions, got a little more information, thanked them and slowly walked away. What did I witness in that particular moment? They showed me that all they really wanted this year was to be together.
Maybe it’s always been that way. As one of the leaders of the group, my mind typically is focused on preparing for each week: what we’ll do together, what we’ll study, what service project we’ll tackle. But what they want is to be together. It was a reminder to me why a girls-only ministry matters and why our girls need it.
In our nation today, we are witnessing an assault on our girls. Recently, the CDC reported on the mental health of our youth, finding that almost three in five U.S. teen girls reported feeling sad or hopeless in 2021, the highest level seen in a decade and nearly twice the rate among teenage boys. Nearly a third of girls said they seriously considered attempting suicide, up 60% since 2011. In these critical years, studies say that our girls are uniquely vulnerable and awkward: They found that there was a distinct drop in girl’s self-esteem and sense of self between the ages of 11 and 14.  Seventy-four percent of girls say they feel like that must please “everyone” which drives perfectionism and unrealistic expectations leading to mental crisis.
Those who have studied this trend tell us that the main culprits are cell phones and social media, through which our fledgling girls have access to an artificial world, designed by “media influencers” who use their sway to define the ideal woman. Their solution to this distressing trend is to limit phone use and access to social media and create more “inclusive communities” where our youth are accepted “as they are.”
They’re not wrong. Limiting phone use and access to social media is a healthy start to staying this trend. And, to their credit, they recognize community is vital to the mental health of our girls. It’s not a new discovery; but what is dawning on many is the significance –and absence –of real community. Girls in our churches are not immune to these trends. When our girls look for acceptance and community, do they find them in our churches?
As Christians, we know that Christ redeemed us to experience real community (1 Pet. 2:9-10). When God calls us to faith in Jesus Christ by His grace alone, we were given the gift of community. Our salvation and adoption are both gifts that are sealed to us by the Holy Spirit and can never be revoked (Eph.1:13-14). He gave us a home in Him and with His people. Furthermore, God has given us everything we need for life and godliness and that includes how to create and sustain thriving covenant communities that glorify God (2 Pet. 1:3). Covenant community is not an option, as if it were a selection from a pull-down menu. We are designed for community within the household of God.
Our girls—as girls—need to experience this God-designed, genuine community in our churches so they can recognize the counterfeit community of the world—and there are plenty of counterfeits who pull our girls from their purpose: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Our daughters were designed to be pillars of strength for the flourishing of families and communities and for the health of nations (Ps. 144:12). Their beautiful, essential identity for the benefit of all of humanity is being lost and devalued. The church must speak louder, love stronger, invest deeper in our girls and lift up their eyes to see their worth in the eyes of their Maker.
If our goal is to see our girls flourish and mature in community (Gal. 4:19, Eph. 4:13), then we need two complimentary approaches in our churches. The first is to welcome and integrate them into the life-giving community of a healthy, gospel-centered church, so they are nourished in truth, godliness, and authentic womanliness. Our girls need to be included – INVITED – to be a part of women’s fellowship, so they can see and experience mature, godly community. Our girls need this. Our women’s ministries must have a multi-generational vision for discipleship of our girls. Womanhood is our ground. We cannot abdicate it to the world. God has entrusted it to us as stewards (Tit. 3:3-5).
Secondly, our churches need to prioritize a girl-only ministries. Setting aside a specific time and space allows them to thrive as girls. Our churches should not wait until they are women to understand this need. Our girls need this ministry during their formative years. What does a girls-only ministry look-like?
- Time. Set aside time during the mid-week to have a girls-only fellowship. A girl-only fellowship time gets them away from co-ed distractions; allows them to flourish in their femininity; they learn from one another, guided by godly women who emphasize Christ-centered friendships.
- Activities. Explore Titus 2:4-5 and Proverbs 31:10-31 which give plenty of categories of activities that build character, skill and aptitude for our girls. Activities give opportunity for training in godliness in many areas of interest and ability for the diversity of covenant life.
- Mentorship. Support godly women who have a heart to disciple girls in bible study skills, the power of prayer, the value of our design, the pitfalls of sin, and most importantly the gospel message of redemption and wholeness through Christ alone.
Our girls are to be cared for, esteemed, sought after, taught, seen, discipled, valued, just as any member of the body of Christ is. If they are believers, just because they are young and maturing does not diminish their value or position in the body of Christ. If they are not yet believers, our prayer is that the authentic, loving, gospel-saturated community they experience in our churches is so compelling that they are drawn to it and one day say, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it…How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:1-17).
When I think about those four girls squished together under that tree, my heart yearns that Christ would capture their hearts and they would know their value. Only God can do this, in His time. As women, we’re called to be faithful stewards of His idea of womanhood. They are looking to us as we look to Christ. They need us to show them the true community they were made for. Let’s not let them down.
Sharon Smith Leaman is a member of New Life in Christ Church (PCA) in Fredericksburg, Va.
 Teen Girls Report Highest Levels of Sadness and Sexual Violence in a Decade, CDC Says. (2023, February 13). Time. https://time.com/6255143/teen-girls-sadness-sexual-violence-cdc/
 Girls Have Much Lower Self-Esteem During their Teen Years, According to New Study. (2021, January 31). Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicebroster/2021/01/31/girls-have-much-lower-self-esteem-during-their-teen-years-according-to-new-study/?sh=7a9b663a5eb7
 Barber, H. M. (2019, February 22). Girls feel pressure to please everyone, survey finds. Education Week. https://www.edweek.org/education/girls-feel-pressure-to-please-everyone-survey-finds/2006/11
 Hinshaw, S. P., & Kranz, R. (2009). The triple bind: Saving our teenage girls from today’s pressures. Ballantine Books.
 Center for Disease Control. (2021). Youth Risk Behavior Survey. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/YRBS_Data-Summary-Trends_Report2023_508.pdf