“Stop being a girl!” I’ve heard this phrase come out of the mouths of teachers, coaches, parents, youth workers…and even out of my own mouth. I could do a whole series on this statement but I’ll resist the urge to point out all the things wrong with it..and instead just focus on one thought.

This thought is about our student leaders, specifically our girl leaders. Are we allowing for girls to be fully girls as they lead in our ministry? Or are we asking them to “turn off” their feminine side in order to lead?

Here is what I have seen in my own life and in a lot of different ministries:

First, in my life, when I was a teenager I realized that I had some leadership skills. All the people I looked up to in leadership were men. In my young 16 year old brain, I came to this conclusion that if I was going to be a good leader that I needed to be like them…which meant that I couldn’t be emotional, talk like a girl or wear pink. I needed to “stop being such a girl.”

Secondly, I have seen countless girls over the years do the exact same thing. Turn off their feminine side in order to step into leadership roles. Now, more than ever, I know what a major bummer that is for girls and for churches. One, we are created in the image of God and our uniqueness as girls is from Him. Second, these feminine qualities are missing in our churches and they are essential for fully caring for each other and for the world.

Here are two things we can do to help girls be fully themselves:

1. Affirm “girly” qualities. Being sensitive is a good thing. Being multi-taskers is a good thing. Being emotional about the right thing is a good thing. Being upset about injustice is a good thing. Being concerned about relationships is a good thing. Despite if in the past we may have seen all of these things as negatives- when these traits are directed towards the Body of Christ – they are are amazing assets to our ministries. When you see a girl using these “gifts” for good, call it out. Affirm the good in them…remind them that these things are part of God’s image in them.

2. Affirm girl leaders. I suppose I may be jumping ahead of myself but in order to affirm girl leaders you need to have girl leaders. So, first get some girl volunteers. Give these volunteers opportunities to lead in various ways. Leading games, speaking, leading small groups or planning events. And when they do, verbally affirm these women in front of your whole youth ministry. By doing this you provide visible examples of what it means to lead like a girl.

Wouldn’t it be great if at our churches instead of hearing the same whole thing, “stop being such a girl”- they would hear, “be a girl!” I hope more youth ministries would start celebrating what it means to be a girl.

How do you celebrate the girls in your ministry?

PS- I’ve heard some ladies say that they don’t like to be called a girl. It doesn’t really bother me…but maybe that’s because I am learning to love being a girl and see my “girl-ness” as a gift. If everyone could feel that, maybe it wouldn’t be bother them either.