I remember sitting across the table from her as she updated me on the latest relationship news. It was not pretty, pure nor praiseworthy. By that point, the “that’s not going to satisfy you” conversation had been run into the ground. She knew I disagreed with her decisions. She knew what she was doing was wrong. It just didn’t matter. She didn’t want to change.
It’s one of the most painful parts of girls ministry. Watching girls you’ve loved and discipled rebel can make you feel so helpless. What do you do? If you’ve tried to persuade her until you’re blue in the face to no avail, what’s next? While there are multiple ways you can move forward, there are three things you should not do.
3 Cautions When a Girl Rebels
1. Don’t talk about her to other girls or allow gossip about her in your presence.
This point seems so obvious. Over and over though I find that it’s so easy to say too much. When the conversation seems to be taking a turn I normally resort to a few questions like-
- “Okay wait…do I need to know what you’re about to tell me?”
- “Have you talked to ______ about that?”
- “Why are you telling me this?”
I hate confrontation so know that I understand if you tend to avoid awkward and uncomfortable situations. Thankfully it normally only takes a couple times for girls to get the point. Plus it also subtly communicates to them that you are a safe person and that what is said to you, stays with you.
2. Don’t blame yourself.
Self-doubt and lies can rush in. It’s easy to wonder – what did I do wrong? Was I not clear in teaching Scripture? Am I not a good mentor? On and on it can go.
The problem with this mentality is that funny little thing called “free will.”
My role as a leader is to provide opportunities for girls. It is their decision whether to act on it.
Sometimes in our felt helplessness we try to control them. Trying to control someone (regardless of whether they are a teenager or adult), however, often results in alienation rather than the outcome you were hoping for. For this reason, I often reiterate to girls that the choice is theirs – not mine. They are getting to choose their consequences – both good and bad.
3. Don’t close lines of communication.
If a girl doesn’t claim to be a believer, there is no reason to expect her to act like one. Continue to speak truth over her. Look for opportunities to love her well. Pray for openings to share the gospel with her. Be patient and bear with her.
If she claims to be a believer, however, the process can be more painful.
Understand that there is a MAJOR difference in struggling with a sin and choosing to live in sin.
Let’s say two Christian girls are sexually active with their boyfriends. One girl is reaching for help, trying to make changes, stumbling along the way but continuing to battle the temptation. The other girl has decided her actions are okay and she does not care what Scripture says. Both are struggling with the same sin. Your response as a leader, however, will look very differently.
To the first girl – love her. Find ways to hold her accountable. Pray with her. Encourage her. It’s a brave thing to admit sin. Refuse to allow shame a foothold that will alienate her from the community she so desperately needs.
To the second girl – a change needs to happen. The best way I can explain this is by telling you a personal story.
A Personal Illustration
It was an incredibly painful season. I was deeply broken and wrestling with questions about God, faith, and the church. I thought about walking away from it all – or at least the church – as the lie screamed “if that’s what love is, you might want to look somewhere else.” Even while God graciously sent friends and mentors running for me – trying to step in any way they could – I was struggling. One of my mentors in particular listened, encouraged and waited – unable to fight the war for me but standing alongside.
One day I was seriously considering walking away. I was contemplating sin. I was deliberately talking about choosing it. And I’ll never forget my gentle grace-filled mentor saying to me “Katie, I love you but if you do that – our relationship is going to look differently.” It still brings tears to my eyes. It was the first time I saw biblical discipline modeled that clearly. I knew without a doubt that she loved me and out of that love she would withhold relationship to draw me to repentance. My mentor won me over. It was a price I wasn’t willing to pay (James 5:20).
There are often multiple and varying reasons a girl decides to rebel. Yes, it may be boredom or curiosity at times but other times it is the result of hurt, pain, confusion, and/or disillusionment. That doesn’t make the decision okay. It just makes it harder to throw stones.
So when it comes to a girl who rebels, let’s DO be a generation that celebrates repentance. Let’s DO be leaders who are waiting with arms open wide to embrace a girl returning damaged by the false promises of sin. Let’s DO attack shame by reaching out to the girl who is the subject of everyone’s whispers. May we be known by our love for each other (Jn. 13:34-35).