By LESLIE LUDY
Many years ago, I received a three-sentence letter from a young girl that gripped my soul and broke my heart. She wrote, “Dear Leslie, my mom is pressuring me to start dating and sleeping around. I’m only twelve. What should I do?”
Another time a fourteen-year-old girl told me, “My mom has told me I should never get married because if I do, I’ll only end up getting divorced.”
The more I interacted with modern young women, the more disturbed and heartbroken I became. Even though many girls I met came from church-going families, there was a noticeable lack of Christ in their home lives. I spoke with countless young women who were desperately crying out for their parents to protect them and guide them in the way of Truth. But in all too many cases, their parents seemed just as lost and confused as they were. After several years of speaking and ministering to young women, I came to a heartbreaking but unmistakable conclusion – today’s young women are not just in need; they are in crisis.
I will never forget seeing a documentary about a large group of teens (most of them girls between the ages of 12 and 14) from an upper-class American suburb who had to be treated by the health department for a serious STD outbreak, because dozens of them were engaging in extreme sexual behavior without their parents’ knowledge. In nearly every case, the parents of these children were simply not paying attention to what was really going on with their children. They were busy with career pursuits, church activities, and bustling social lives. Their homes were filled with televisions and video games. There was so much noise and distraction in their lives that they weren’t able to see the warning signs that something wasn’t right.
Sadly, this scenario is all too common today. Yes, there is a remnant of Christ-centered parents who are raising Christ-focused girls, but a large majority of girls in the younger generation are not receiving the strength, guidance, and Truth that they desperately need. They are lost, lonely, and insecure. There is a hunger in their souls for “something more” but they have no idea where to find it. And as a result, they are prone to making very damaging choices. Abortion and STD’s are rampant. Unhealthy relationships are the norm. Drinking, drugs, and other self-destructive habits are commonplace. And even in many Christian circles, today’s young women are far more influenced by the ungodly messages of pop-culture than by the life-changing truth of Jesus Christ.
Maybe you, like me, have a burning desire to reach these precious young women with the hope and truth of Jesus Christ. Perhaps you have specific girls in your life that you have a burden for. You know God has put you in their lives for a reason, but you aren’t exactly sure how to take the first steps in reaching them.
In Titus 2:4 women are exhorted to “encourage” or “teach” younger women in God’s ways. It’s exciting to realize that pointing younger women to Christ is a commission that we have received from God Himself – and that He will provide all of the wisdom and strength we need in order to fulfill it. You don’t have to be in your later years to fulfill this command. All throughout your life – in your single years, your married years, and into your old age – you can be an example of Christ (both in word and deed) to the girls that God has placed in your life, and make an eternal difference in God’s Kingdom.
Here are some practical ways to get started.
1. Be Available to God
Often we assume that reaching today’s young women means writing a book or starting a large-scale ministry. But a key principle of Kingdom work is, “be faithful in little, and you will be entrusted with more.” (See Luke 19:17.) A year or two before I was married, I began meeting every so often with a handful of girls that God had placed in my life. These young women desired to go deeper with Christ, and they were always full of questions about how to navigate difficult areas of their lives. That’s how my ministry to young women began. I didn’t strategize my “ministry goals” or come up with a ten-year plan for growing a large ministry to young women. I simply made myself available to the few girls that God brought across my path, prayed for them diligently, and shared spiritual truths with them as best I could.
I didn’t always feel super-confident in my ability to make a lasting impact in their lives. There were many times that I prayed silently, “Lord, I have no idea what to say to the question this girl is asking. Please give me Your wisdom right now.” And He always did! I soon learned that one of the most effective ways to impact girls was to simply share stories from my own personal walk with God. I didn’t always have a perfectly organized message to pass along or a beautifully scripted answer to a difficult question the girls asked me. But just being willing to share my own experiences of how God had faithfully walked me through various struggles, and important spiritual lessons He had taught me, made an incredible impact upon the girls’ lives.
If you desire to reach today’s young women with the hope of Christ, a great place to start is by simply making yourself available to the girls God has already placed in your life. Do you have a younger sister? Take her on a special outing and spend some time just encouraging her and taking a personal interest in her life. Is there a young woman at your church that you are burdened for? Consider inviting her out to coffee. Ask God to awaken you to the opportunities that are sitting right in front of you. Even if you don’t feel like you know exactly how to reach younger girls or what to say to them, simply making yourself available and taking an interest in their lives will often open the door to eventually reach them at a deeper level. When they sense that you genuinely care about them and that you are willing to take the time to listen to them, they will often begin to open up to you and ask your advice on various struggles they might be facing. As you show yourself faithful in the opportunities God has given you (even if they don’t seem big or glamorous) He will begin to entrust you with more. Allow Him to grow and build your ministry to young women in His own perfect time and way. Remember, even if you only reach one young woman with the Truth of the Gospel, your time and energy was very well spent.
2. Set an Uncompromising Example
1 Timothy 4:12 commands us to “…set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”
If your life is going to make an impact on today’s young women, they can’t merely hear your convictions spoken; they must see your convictions lived. In my own life, I discovered that when I lived a faithful, consistent example of the things I believed, girls would often seek me out and invite me to share my convictions with them. I didn’t have to force truth down their throats; rather, they saw something in my life that made them want to know more.
I’ve often shared story of two young women in China who became Christians and went from village to village sharing the Gospel with everyone they met. They were so in love with Jesus Christ that their faces literally glowed. And many times they didn’t even have to seek opportunity to share their faith; people noticed the radiant glow of their faces and asked them, “What do you have inside of you? Whatever it is – I want it!” That should be the example of every set apart young woman. Set the stage for your words by backing them up with your life. If you do, you’ll never have to force the Truth on young women; they will come to you, wanting to know more. And they will look to your life to prove that what you speak is true. 1 Peter 3:15 sums it up well:
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
I will never forgetting hearing the true story of a cruel communist who was thrown into a prison cell with a Christian pastor. The pastor preached the Gospel to the communist relentlessly for months. Finally the communist had had enough. “That’s it,” he told the pastor. “I’m sick of hearing about this Jesus. I will give you once sentence to tell me who Jesus is, and then I don’t want to hear about Him ever again!” Without hesitation the pastor replied, “He’s like me.” After a moment of silence the communist said, “If He is like you, I am ready to give my life to Him.”
Modern Christians often think that in order to appeal to today’s young women, they must use the culture’s tactics – chick flicks, rock concerts, shopping sprees, spa treatments, etc. I can’t even count the number of Christian girls’ retreats I’ve been invited to speak at over the years where every activity seemed centered around shallow frivolity rather than life-changing truth. It may be tempting to believe that because young women are so influenced by pop-culture, we need to bring pop-culture into the church in order to reach them. But the opposite is true. Jesus said “If I am lifted up … I will draw all men unto Me.” (See John 12:32.) Today’s girls aren’t looking for more shallow fluff and pop-culture entertainment – they are desperately hungry for the pure, unapologetic, unadulterated truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, even if they don’t realize it yet!
So don’t try to become culturally hip or use worldly trends to make yourself more appealing to today’s young women. Simply live out your convictions in purity, love, gentleness, and consistency – and young women will naturally be drawn to the light and strength they see in your life.
3. Don’t Underestimate Prayer
1 John 5:16 exhorts us, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us … If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life…”
When we see compromise in a young woman’s life, our first response should not be confronting her or trying to convince her to change her ways. Rather, God’s Word says that if we see our brother or sister sinning, we are to ask in faith for that person to be delivered from sin and set upon the path of life. We are to have confidence that God hears us, believing that He will (not might) bring victory in the other person’s life through our importunate prayers.
Often, our human tendency is to want to rush headlong into the situation and try to use our debate skills to bring about change in someone’s life. But we must remember that true heart-change is a work of the Spirit of God, and not of our own effort. It is not something we can accomplish in our own strength. And if we give in to anger and criticism, we get in the way of God’s work in the other person’s soul.
And as mentioned earlier, James 1:20 reminds us that “the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Prayer is a far more powerful weapon that our words will ever be.
If you know a young woman who seems unwilling to hear truth spoken into her life, being praying faithfully and consistently for God to change her heart. Often, prayer will soften the soil of her heart unlike human words ever could. A young woman who seems hardened and impossible to reach can be completely changed through the faithful prayers of a friend. The more you consistently pray for the young women in your life, you will notice that will be much more receptive to the truth that you speak to them and much more interested in the convictions you are living out. Even those people in our lives that seem like the toughest “nuts to crack” are not above the power of prayer. “For with God, nothing is impossible” (Lk. 1:37).
It is wonderful to realize that God cares even more about the young women today than we ever could! If you surrender your life to Him and respond to the opportunities He places in your life, He can make you an instrument of hope and light among the many lost and hurting girls of culture.
…in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.