Teens Don’t Need to Be Entertained; They Need to Be Mentored

Thirty years ago I taught my first retreat to teenage girls. Back then, I was their big sister. I had an absolute blast volunteering in the youth group and hosting the world’s best pool parties in my backyard. When I hosted a retreat, I crawled into a sleeping bag right next to the girls and giggled my way to the next morning.

I was “just a few years ahead of them.” But I had all the confidence in the world that they needed me.

Somewhere along the way, that courage fizzled into a fear that I was too old or out of touch. I know I’m not the only one who has experienced this. In one of Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s broadcasts, other older women confessed to feeling insecure, out-of-touch, or inadequate to speak into the lives of teenage girls. 

Today I want to declare that fear and insecurity for what it is: a lie from the pit of hell. It prohibits us from being obedient to the Word of God. Because whether you are gifted by God as a teacher, mentor, counselor, or hostess . . . you are called to reach out to the younger ones!

Reaching the Next Generation

Titus 2:3–5 (ESV) challenges:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 

This call to us “older women” is just that. A call to be an older woman. Not a call to teach our peers. Not a call to teach those just a tad behind us so that we can relate to each other. But to take the heavy weight of years of walking with the Lord and offer it up in confidence believing that if God says it will work . . . it surely will. It’s not about us. It’s about Him!

Now, I will say that I’ve aged out of the crazy games and grand hostessing of long weekend retreats that I used to have the energy to pull off. But God has not told us to have the world’s best pool parties. (Although you’d have a hard time topping the ones I used to host, featuring a greased watermelon for a competitive game of watermelon football in the pool!) No, God has not charged us to entertain the younger women in our lives. His instruction is to teach them.

I did that. And it’s been wildly fruitful.

How fruitful?

I’ll tell you.

This month I pulled out an old Bible study that I really love and have completed seven times. As I looked through the notes I recognized the names scribbled in the margins with prayer prompts and notes to remember important things going on in their lives. This was the very workbook I had used to guide my very first group of teen girls through a Bible study thirty years ago.

One of them? Erin Davis, who I’m blessed to work beside at Revive Our Hearts. Together (along with Portia Collins) we cohost Grounded, a weekly videocast and podcast, to give women hope and perspective. Today she is one of the many thriving “older women” that God invited me to disciple through their teen years.

Erin has no use for the watermelon football skills I taught her. (Be sure to ask her if my pool parties were epic when you see her!) But the love for the Word of God that I, in small part, helped to plant in her heart is of great value for the kingdom of God. 

What am I trying to say? Let me put it simply: teens (& tweens) don’t need to be entertained. They need to be mentored.

Fun Is Not Enough

According to one survey, “66% of American young adults who attended a Protestant church on a regular basis as a teenager say they dropped out for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22.”

And, another report reveals, “The percentage of people whose beliefs qualify them for a biblical worldview declines in each successively younger generation.” That ought to alarm every single “older woman.” Only 4% of Gen Z, those in their late teens to early thirties, claim to have a biblical worldview.

Why is this happening?

I’m not saying there were too many games in our youth activities. Frankly, I love them. They open up hearts to receive the truth of God’s Word and to share deeply. But fun cannot replace one-on-one, life-on-life mentoring.

The fact is, the reason we are witnessing an exodus from the Church is as complex as it is heartbreaking. But one thing is clear: we’ve got to do something about it.

And that probably includes you. No matter how old you are. Because this is an all-hands-on-deck kind of problem.

I’m so proud of my friend Lynn.

She’s in her sixties, but that has not stopped her from volunteering as a leader in her church’s youth group. Her husband leads this vibrant church with a modern facility where her son is the youth pastor. They have a thriving team that disciples dozens of teens. Recently, the Lord tugged at her heart to sign up to help. As she recounts to me the harrowing emotional and spiritual battles the girls in her group are facing, I can see why the Lord needed someone with her wisdom to navigate their hearts toward truth.

It reminded me of something an older, wiser pastor said to Bob and me years ago:

These students don’t need dumbed-down teaching from someone just a few years ahead of them. They need mature food from older teachers so they will rise up to the expectation of eating the meat of the Word.

What a balm those words were to my heart years ago. They dismantled the lie that I’d aged out of youth ministry. I stopped dreaming of graduating to college or women’s ministry. In fact, God began to give me a love for “little women.” Today I spend most of my energy creating discipleship tools for girls ages 7–12.

The fact is, I need reading glasses, don’t look that great in a t-shirt, and can’t seem to figure out some of today’s lingo, but those things are part of what make me an “older woman.”

I also respond less to peer pressure and know what matters most in a way that I did not in my twenties. I’m not afraid to speak hard truth to a girl, and my discernment has grown so I know when I need to do just that. Perhaps most importantly, I’ve now spent three decades marinating in the teachings of . . . well, older men and women! That means I have more to pass on.

As I write this, I am leading a group of four twenty-somethings through the book of I Peter. (God has me praying that they’ll know how deeply loved they are.) I teach seventy or so teens frequently at Grace Prep, a Christian high school my husband founded. (One area where I teach them what God’s Word instructs pertains to gender and sexuality.) Most Monday nights, I’m leading an online Bible study for tween girls and their moms through True Girl. This is how I obey God’s instructions to be an older woman who teaches the younger ones.

How do you fulfill this calling?

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad there are new “big sisters” out there whose wisdom and counsel are empathetic. I’m thankful they have the energy for sleepovers, shopping trips, and “30 Hour Famines” (a popular game) like I used to have. I’m not saying they aren’t really valuable in our Christian youth culture, but I yearn for more teachers to stay engaged with the youth of the Church. And as I dream about my grandbabies becoming teenagers someday, I long for them to experience the weight of the Word of God from teachers who’ve walked in it for decades!

And now, if you’ll excuse me. Writing this article just made me want to mentor someone. I think I’ll text my discipleship group and see how their I Peter homework is going for this week. And remind them they are God’s beloved. (And mine!)

Beautiful flowers fade, clothing styles change, and trinkets collect dust, but the Word of God stands forever. Shop the Spring Sale now through April 30 at Revive Our Hearts for biblically-focused gifts that will leave a lasting impact on the life of your mom, dad, bridal couple, or grad.

About the Author

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh is the co-host of Revive Our Hearts podcast and the founder of True Girl, a ministry dedicated to providing tools to help moms and grandmas disciple their 7–12-year-old girls. She has authored over twenty-eight books, including a Bible … read more …

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