the shape of leadership

Teenage Girls in Crisis

What they need from the local church

Holly Davis on March 13, 2024

As I stepped off the platform after preaching the final night of youth camp, I noticed a teenage girl who looked to be about 15 waiting to talk with me.

With an expression of grief and desperation etched on her young face, she asked me to pray for her. The student opened up about her ongoing battle with depression, anxiety over family issues, difficulties with friends, and search for an authentic place of belonging.

Sadly, hers is a familiar story.

I have served in youth ministry for 26 years — as a youth pastor, district youth director, youth camp speaker, and events manager for Assemblies of God National Youth Ministries.

In recent years, I have noticed an increasing strain on girls. They are struggling with school and relationships, worrying about the future, obsessing over body image, and feeling pressure from social media.

Some girls are experiencing mental health problems, eating disorders, family dysfunction, and a number of other serious issues.

These are not just my observations. Studies confirm it’s a difficult time to be a teenage girl.

Most American high school girls (57%) report persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, according to a 2021 study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is nearly double the share of boys (29%) reporting such feelings.

While both genders are experiencing more negative emotions than in previous years, sadness and hopelessness among girls have risen 60% over the past decade, compared to a 38% increase among boys during the same period.

More girls than boys experience digital bullying via text and social media (20% vs. 11%, respectively). Bullying at school disproportionately targets girls as well, with 17% of girls and 13% of boys saying they have been a victim of bullying within the past year. Girls are more likely than boys to skip school because they feel unsafe (10% vs. 7%).

In a Pew Research Center study on teens (aged 13–17) and social media, girls were more likely than boys to say social media left them feeling overwhelmed (45% vs. 32%); excluded (37% vs. 24%); pressured to pursue likes and comments (32% vs. 27%); and generally worse about their lives (28% vs. 18%).

Some of these girls who are struggling are sitting in our youth rooms and auditoriums. What can we do to help them? Following are five simple things that can make a world of difference for a girl in crisis.


1. Relational Connections

Build girls up spiritually through genuine relational connections. Many teenage girls are navigating multiple crises with no spiritual guidance. No wonder so many are feeling hopeless.

Every girl needs someone who cares enough to point her to Jesus. You may not feel qualified to answer all the questions today’s teenage girls are asking, and that’s OK. The Lord has placed you there for a reason. Your supportive presence can be more important than you realize.

Just being in the room, listening, providing comfort, and offering to pray helps build trust.

Relationships can open doors for redemptive conversations. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak through you when guiding, training, and nurturing girls.

Girls especially need assurance the Church values them and their ministry contributions.

Lead girls to biblical truths that counter the lies they are hearing.

When I started in youth ministry, I worried none of the girls would like me. I still remember the fear I felt while walking into the first service as a youth pastor.

Students were already engaged in a game that involved popping balloons tied around participants’ ankles. I intended to lean on the wall and just watch while volunteers managed the activity.

Scanning the room, however, I noticed one girl in particular who looked like she needed a friend. In that moment, I sensed the Holy Spirit saying, “Go smash that girl’s balloon.”

I nervously made my way to the student and stomped the balloon tied around her ankle. She laughed, and we started a conversation.

That moment of connection led to me praying with her at the altar following the sermon. In fact, we started a mentoring relationship that continues to this day.


2. Mentoring

Every girl needs at least one godly woman in her life who can provide a consistent, loving presence.

I knew a group of church grandmothers who volunteered their time teaching crocheting to girls. While they worked on projects together, these ladies talked, listened, shared Scriptures, and told stories about serving Jesus.

The activity itself is not as important as spending time together. Mentoring can happen over coffee, during a pickleball game, or in a Bible study.


3. Biblical Guidance

Help girls see the relevance of Scripture in their everyday lives. Point out texts that address what they are feeling and experiencing, while guiding them to the gospel.

A teenage girl came to me during a retreat and started talking about some difficulties she was experiencing.

After listening attentively, I opened my Bible and showed her a passages that not only spoke to her issue but also revealed the hope that is available in Christ. I challenged her to memorize that verse and write it down in places where she would see it often.

This is not about offering pat answers. It’s about helping girls see God and His Word as their source of help.

When students develop a habit of turning to Scripture for help and hope, it will change their lives.


4. Ministry Opportunities

Students need a chance to participate in the life of the church through ministry.

Build girls’ confidence by allowing them to serve in areas of the church typically reserved for adults.

Entrusting teenagers with responsibilities like running the audio system or playing drums during the main service might seem like a bad idea, but it’s actually a great way to invest in the next generation.

Taking on such leadership roles helps teens develop life skills, receive mentoring, discover their spiritual gifts, and engage with the congregation outside of youth group.

Girls especially need assurance the Church values them and their ministry contributions.


5. Intervention

If you suspect a teenage girl is suicidal or experiencing extreme crisis, help her get professional assistance immediately.

While the student may ask you to keep the discussion confidential, you are responsible for reporting issues of child abuse and endangerment.

For mental health crises, the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides 24/7 support.

Keep a list of Christian counselors on hand for making referrals to families.

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep,” (John 21:16).

Youth workers have a tremendous responsibility that can seem daunting and even frightening at times. But with God’s help, we can offer help and hope to the hurting girls in our churches and communities.


This article appears in the Winter 2024 issue of Influence magazine.

SECTION Practice
Don't miss an issue, subscribe today!

Trending Articles

Advertise   Privacy Policy   Terms   About Us   Submission Guidelines  

Influence Magazine & The Healthy Church Network
© 2024 Assemblies of God