Kim Partridge is originally from West Valley City, Utah, and has lived in Phoenix, Arizona for 20 years. She is a nurse and a life coach for teenage girls where she also has a podcast to help build their confidence. Additionally, she, has served as a Young Women’s President, and currently serves in her stake Young Women’s presidency. Kim and her husband are the parents of four children.
Do you want to connect with the young women you lead? Then help her navigate these three key relationships (FYI- None of them are with you.) If that’s not enough, keep reading to discover three “must try” activities for increased engagements.
Does Your Youth Night Look Like This? Low turnout. Little engagement. Pleading for phones to be put away. Forced interaction between young women.
“How do we get our young women to attend activities?”
“Why can’t they all be friends?”
“I think this young woman secretly hates me, especially when she gives me the ‘death stare’.”
“Why am I putting all of this effort into activities if the young women don’t even want to be here?”
Hugs Can Replace “Death Stares”
I’ve been where you are now because I was once a ward young women’s president. Now, as a member of the current stake young women’s presidency in our stake, I developed a class to teach each of the wards in our stake about goals.
The first ward I went to had a large number of young women. One of the young women was particularly interactive when I asked for anyone who wanted to share a goal they had. After the meeting, she and I chatted about what was going on in her life. We embraced as she left the church building and she entered her dad’s car. Moments after I returned home, I received a text message from her young women president. “We haven’t had this Young Woman come to any activities in almost a year! She has never talked to any of us. She gives us a death stare when we do try. She never responds to any texts. How did you get her to participate?”
My answer to her was: Drop the expectation that she needs to change to fit the mold you think she should fit into so you can have a relationship with her.
You may not have a prickly young woman in your stewardship, and each young woman has whatever makes her unique, but they all love their relationships. Relationships are where she develops her values, purpose, and self-worth through connection to others. Relationships are the teenage girl’s playground to developing their identity. Attempting to force her into developing a relationship with you on your terms instead of hers will rarely end up as true connection.
Each Young Woman in your ward spends the majority of her time thinking about how to navigate her relationships. Friends, parents, teachers, peers, boys, herself. When she’s not actively engaged in doing a task that requires concentration, she’s thinking about her relationships. At school when the teacher is talking, she’s thinking about what her friend meant when she said, “You shouldn’t have said that!” When she’s texting her friends, she’s thinking “Do they even like me?” You want to have an influence for good in her life and future. If you can help her with her relationships, you will have made the impact as her leader.
Teenage girls are developing their identity while they are in the young women program. She develops her identity through the feedback she receives in key relationships in her life. Your goal could be to direct her towards positive progression in these three key relationships: peers, herself, and Jesus Christ.
Relationships with Peers
Teenage girls have innate desires: desire to connect, desire to belong, and desire to contribute. It’s amazing there is an organization devoted to all of this within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints! It’s led by leaders who learn to love them. As we develop love for each of the teenage girls we serve, we begin to notice things are not all warm and fuzzy.
The young women in the ward may or may not be friends outside of the Church setting. As a parent or leader, it seems like you should do something about it, because shouldn’t they all be friends with each other? Shouldn’t they all be nice to each other and love each other? In theory, that sounds amazing and a lot like Zion, but it’s not the world she (or you) live in yet. If you want to help her with the actual earthly relationships she has now. Talk with the young women about relationships.
Don’t try and avoid the lack of deeper relationships outside of the walls of the church or activities. Acknowledge while they may be a part of the same class, it doesn’t mean they have to be best friends, but instead they can look out for each other. If they go to the same school, it means they are aware of each other. They know their strengths and their weaknesses, and they are strict about keeping those confidential. The relationship they have with each other in the same young women class is not to be used against either of them. Don’t force them into a friendship they don’t want to have. This will attack their integrity they have with themselves since they are being dishonest to their true feelings.
Teenage girls ask themselves questions about their relationships constantly, such as “Why is she my friend?” “Why didn’t she sit by me at lunch?” “What does she want from me?” “What do I want from her?” If you put yourself, as a leader, in the position of forcing a relationship that isn’t happening naturally, you could be guilty of relational manipulation by using your authority over an area of her life that she finds sacred. You won’t have the positive impact you desire. Relationships that are supposed to form will form.
There is a great activity sheet, (Your Ward Name) Young Women Community Contract, that will be helpful to you. Young Women love filling this out and love having a voice in what they need from, what they expect from, and what they agree to within their young women group. It keeps the space safe for each young woman. Each girl will be grateful for this sanctuary from her world outside of this organization and will want to be a part of the group. Once your young women have filled this out, you must do everything you can to honor it. You want to be sure to send the message their voices and opinions matter. Doing so will further cement a bond of trust from you as their leader.
Relationship with Herself
Her identity development is being forged as she progresses through her young women classes. Each young women is different, and she wants to know she matters. She wants to be enough but has a culturally imposed picture of success looming over her. Outside of the teachings of the Gospel, she hears messages tell her she must be amazing at everything she does, accomplishments=value and worth, and making mistakes is the worst thing she could do.
Each young woman has fears: fear of rejection, fear of isolation, fear of failure, fear of being a burden. Minimizing these fears or avoiding them will not make them go away. If your desire is to strengthen your connection to her, talking about her fears will develop her trust in you as her leader. Each of these fears is attached to a desire she has. She wants to connect. She wants to belong. She wants to contribute in a meaningful way.
Teach her that her opinion of herself is the one that matters. Teach her about the inner critic voice we all have in our heads telling us we’re doing it wrong, but she doesn’t have to listen to that voice. She can acknowledge it is there but isn’t particularly helpful.
Teach her we all have doubts and fears and then talk about your doubts and fears (but don’t talk about the doubts and fears of her peers, otherwise she will think you will do the same with hers). Teach her we all take a face plant or two during life, but no one stays down. Either they get up on their own or someone helps them up.
Teach her perfection is not the ideal. Perfection is someone who doesn’t believe in themselves. As an activity, do an Identity Canvas for each young woman. Suggest they use the goals they have for the upcoming year and turn them in to beliefs about themselves.
Want to have more friends? Identify yourself as a person that is “friendly” or a “good friend”. Their identity starts out as a desire to believe they are that kind of person. It’s up to them to experiment on that belief. They must plant it, believe it is possible, and not resist the Spirit of the Lord to work in them to nurture that belief.
They don’t believe in the fruit of their identity at first. No one can yet, otherwise it would already be a part of their identity, but this is new and worth nurturing. First, the seed or belief in the identity begins to grow as you nurture that belief. After you have nurtured the belief, you will start thinking and feeling and acting like the person that already has that identity. Next, you will practice being that person so much you will identify as that kind of person and will forget what it was like not to have that identity. Last, you will have the fruit of that identity, which will cause more seeds of belief in your identity as a disciple of the Savior.
Relationship with Jesus Christ
The personal development guidebook instructs youth on how they can become more like the Savior. The do this by learning and growing in a balanced way through the four areas of life Jesus Christ progressed through when he was a mortal youth on the earth: physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual. This pattern of growth works on the belief we can become like the Savior, which means it is part of our identity development as we nurture the belief we can become like the Savior. The closer a young woman gets to identifying herself as a disciple of Christ, the more like Him she will become.
This is the same process as Alma teaching the people on the hill Onidah. The first seed to plant in each of the four areas of growth is to plant the belief her Savior believes in her. He believes in her so much He wants her to set goals in these areas to prove to herself she can choose whatever goals she wants; He just wants her to strengthen her faith in Him. The relationship He already has with her is deeply intimate. There is no way she can undo it, no matter how much she doesn’t believe.
She will start on that process to identifying herself as a disciple of Christ wherever she is. No one is behind. No one is ahead. We are all allowed to get on the path wherever we get on the path. Teach her Christ believes in her and if she needs to, she can rely on the faith He has in her when she needs help up. She has been baptized in His name. She has a deeply intimate relationship with Him. Invite her to nurture this relationship with Jesus Christ at an activity called “If You Really Knew Me.” We all have a desire to be known and understood. Jesus Christ has that same desire from each of us. We all know something about the Savior. Share what you know about Jesus Christ in this activity as though you were Him. Your young women will develop their relationship with Him naturally as they seek to teach their fellow young women what He wishes that they knew about Him.
Relationships for teenage girls are how they make sense of their world. Your role as their leader is to help them connect to these three key relationships: her peers, herself, and her Savior. When you make that happen, you will have impacted their world and THE world for good.