Is there an ache in your soul for today’s young women to live for something more than the shallow pursuits of our culture? Unsure of where to begin ministering to the young women God has placed in your life? Listen as Leslie Ludy shares her heart on women’s ministry, and how to effectively speak truth into the lives of young women today!
Leslie Ludy: Hi everyone, this is Leslie Ludy, host of the Set Apart Girl Podcast: Biblical Encouragement for Women of All Ages.
In this episode, we are going to be talking about how to reach today’s young women for Christ. I know that many of you, like me, have a burden for today’s young women because we can see the battle that is raging over their lives, and we desire to reach them with a message of hope.
Today’s Young Women are Under Attack
Leslie Ludy: Quite a few years ago when my husband, Eric, and I first started in ministry, I began to get letters and emails from teenage girls, and sometimes the things they would share with me were really startling. One time I got a letter from a 12-year-old girl who said, “Leslie, what do I do? My mom is pressuring me to go out, date around, and start sleeping around – and I’m only 12.” Another time I got a letter from a 14-year-old girl who told me, “My parents told me I should never get married because if I do I’ll only end up getting a divorce.”
Around the same time I began to get letters like this, I also saw a documentary that PBS had done that was following the true story of a group of teenagers from an upperclass suburb near Atlanta. There were about 200 of them, and they had to be treated by the health department for a massive outbreak of syphilis because of extreme sexual activity that they were involved in without their parents even knowing. And sometimes, girls as young as 11, 12, and 13 years old were engaged in activities that were just shocking to the community and shocking to their parents. Almost all of these teenagers were church-going kids. They were a part of a youth group; they were growing up in Christian homes, and yet they were living this secret life of perversion that was leading to great risk to their health and their future.
So it really brought home to me the point that there is no question that even Christian young women are under huge attack today, both by the enemy and by the culture. One of the main symptoms is the fact that abortion is so rampant. The statistics on abortion are really, really disturbing, and young women are the focal point of the abortion industry. Abortion providers strategically market their services to young women in public schools today. I once heard a former abortion clinic director say that it was actually in their business plan to get at least one or more abortion from every girl in every public high school in their community. Young women are being very specifically targeted from a young age by abortion providers to want and need those services sometime during their high school years.
That is just one symptom that shows the state of modern young women in this country today. Not to mention things like eating disorders, self-destructive behaviors, relational chaos, and the devastating choices that today’s young women are making.
I believe that the enemy knows that if he can destroy a young woman’s life now, he can destroy her future marriage, her future family, and even possibly cause her future children to go down the same destructive path that she has chosen. And that’s even seen in some of the letters that I’ve received, like the the ones from the 12 and 14-year-old girls whose parents had made the wrong choices and are now passing that faulty foundation on to their children.
What I’ve Learned After 20 Years in Ministry
Leslie Ludy: Here are a few facts about today’s young women that I have learned in the past 20 years of traveling, and speaking, and working with young women. First of all, they are not getting a solid, Christ-centered foundation at home very often, and sometimes they aren’t even getting it at church. Too often, church ministries that are focused on reaching young people are mainly just social events and entertainment. I remember when I was first starting in youth group, our youth pastor was more like a big, overgrown kid who just wanted to have fun with us. He wasn’t really leading us to truth that could change our lives. And I remember that he even made it a point to pull us away from our parents. He said to us, “Your parents don’t understand you, but I’m younger and I’m closer to your age, that’s what I am here for. Don’t go to your parents with your struggles, come to me.” All that accomplished was a wedge between my parents and as I began to ponder the idea that had been planted in my mind, “Your parents don’t understand you.” And this is happening in youth groups all over this country.
Add to that, the fact that the enemy is bombarding young women with lies every day at school, especially if they go to a public school. Even though I grew up in a Christian home, what I experienced, saw, and heard in the hallways of my public school, in a five or ten minute period of time between my classes, was more perverted, shocking, and disturbing than my parents ever would have dreamed or imagined. They had spent so many years protecting me from seeing certain kinds of movies and being exposed to certain things, and then in one five minute period of time between classes at a public school I was exposed to everything that they had always tried to protect me from and more. This is happening to countless young women today, every single day at school.
And the other truth about young women today is that they are far more influenced by the media and by culture than they are by Christianity, or by their parents and leaders. So that is the state of young women today. It’s no wonder that we see such chaos and such devastating choices being made.
Taking the First Step
Leslie Ludy: If hearing these things makes you feel overwhelmed or ask the question, “Where do we even start? How do we even begin to reach the young women in our culture today?” I want to encourage you with a verse from Titus 2:4. Women are encouraged to exhort and teach younger women in God’s ways. And that’s exciting to me because we realize that pointing young women to Christ is actually a commission that we have received from God. And He will provide all of the wisdom and strength that we need in order to fulfill it. It is not just a burden that we feel because we look around and see the state that young women are in today – it is actually a commission that God has given us to point young women to Christ.
You don’t have to be in your older years to fulfill this command. No matter what age you are, you can be an example of Christ to the younger women, younger sisters, women who are even just a year or two younger than you that God has placed in your life. You can have a tremendous impact upon them. Whether you are a set apart young woman and you desire to meet your friends with the hope of the Gospel, or you are a mom of teenaged daughters, or you are a concerned older woman who desires to be a mentor to the young women in your life, I want to share some practical ways that you can make an eternal difference starting right now.
Reaching Today’s Young Women for Christ
Leslie Ludy: The first and most important thing that we need to understand when we want to reach young women with a life-changing message of truth is this: we need to have a clear understanding of the battle over their lives. One of the first times I spoke, I was about 17 years old and was asked to share at a “Moms in Touch” group. All of the moms had children in public school, and they met together to talk and pray for their children. One of the moms knew that I had recently left my public high school and was finishing my education at home. I had made a lot of decisions that were radical and different. I wasn’t a part of a lot of the social circles any more. I wasn’t dating around, and I was really becoming serious about my Christian faith. She asked me to come to this mom’s group and just share some of the struggles that I experienced when I was in public school. And so I went, not really sure of what I should be sharing, but I gave them a little peek inside what a typical day at public school had been like for me. Some of the things I was exposed to, some of the struggles, temptations, and pressures that I faced every day. And the moms just sat there and stared at me. Not a single mom in that entire room believed me. They all thought that I was exaggerating or they thought that what I shared was something unique to me – that I was the only one who had these struggles and these temptations, and was exposed to these kinds of things. I remember one of the moms saying, “Well, I have a very close relationship with my daughter, and I am sure that she would tell me if that kind of thing was really happening to her at school every day.”
What was amazing though was that I knew a lot of the kids from these families, and I knew that they were facing the exact same things that I was in public school. And yet, there was the youth culture that taught us that said, “Our parents can’t grasp this – they won’t understand this – so we are going to keep this to ourselves.” One of the biggest downfalls of parents and leaders today is that they are oftentimes oblivious to how intense the battle really is over today’s young people.
Key No. 1 – Understand the Battle
Leslie Ludy: When Eric and I would travel around the country and share our message about relationships, oftentimes the teens and young adults we would share with were very excited to hear a message that called them to a higher standard. But when we shared with parents, (we would oftentimes do a seminar separately just for the parents to help equip them to pass these truths on to their kids), they would oftentimes balk at our message. I remember a lot of them saying to me, “What you are saying sounds very interesting, but we want our kids to be normal.” And what they mean by “normal” was this: we want our kids to go to prom, and be cheerleaders, and we don’t want them to miss out on all the “normal” fun things that high schoolers are supposed to have. But the problem was that these parents did not realize what “normal” is today. And I told them, “If you could see ‘normal,’ if you knew what ‘normal’ was in public school today, you would never want ‘normal’ for your kids.”
The simple matter of fact was that they were ignorant. They did not understand the battle, and they were not truly fighting for the souls of their teenagers. They were oblivious to what was really going on. We need to be aware of the fact that the enemy has a strong grip on these young lives, and only the undiluted truth of Jesus Christ will save them. We don’t want our kids to be “normal.” We want them to be anything but “normal” in this culture. Because if they are “normal” it means they are headed down the same path of destruction as everybody else.
Today’s young people do not need soft, fluffy, feel-good messages. They need deliverance. They need the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And one of the problems with the way the modern church often tries to reach young women is that it’s shallow, trendy, and pop-culture based. I remember one time a publisher that I knew well wanted to come out with a “Biblezine,” which was basically a Bible / fashion magazine for young women. He said, “Young women are not going to read the Bible. But maybe if we mix articles about fashion, make-up, hair, and all the things that young women are interested in with some Scripture on the side, maybe we can lure them.”
Instead of just delivering truth, we can often feel this pressure that we need to make our message shallow, trendy, and pop-culture based or else young people won’t receive it. A lot of girls’ events that I’ve spoken at in churches present very little truth. They present a lot of fluff and entertainment, thinking that that’s the only way they can get girls to come to these events. The same is true when we, as a church, try to reach young people with a message of physical purity.
There is a whole trend of making abstinence a trend and cool, while others use use the STD scare-tactic approach. They say, “You need to jump on this bandwagon of being abstinent because it is the cool thing to do!” or, “Hey, you don’t want to end up like these people who got these horrible STD’s — so we are going to scare you into purity.” They do this instead of presenting the truth of what Scripture says.
If you take this approach of using worldly, shallow means to reach today’s young people, it is like sending them out into a battle zone armed with either no weapons to fight with, or with only one of those pretend foam swords that kids play with, instead of a real one.
I would encourage you to be aware of the battle, and don’t use trendy, pop-culture, worldly means to draw young women to the truth. They are looking for undiluted truth. In fact, they are desperately seeking it.
Jesus said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to me.” And what a profound principle that is when we lift up the name of Jesus. When we lift up the undiluted truth of Jesus Christ it is incredible how hungry souls are automatically, magnetically drawn to that truth. There was a story of a man named R. A. Torrey who was an evangelist and went to England to hold revivals. He booked the largest facility in the city, which was the Royal Albert Hall. The only time that it had ever been filled to capacity was when the most famous opera singer or circus act of the day would come through. He booked this place in faith, saying, “We know that if we lift up the name of Jesus, God will draw men to this place to give their lives to Him.” And the media mocked him saying, “How is he possibly going to draw people here without bringing in an opera singer, a circus act, or some kind of entertainment? If he just stands on that stage, speaks truth, and reads from the Bible, there is no way anyone will want to come!”
They were proven wrong because for at least a month the hall was filled to capacity with a crowd waiting outside to get in. And the only thing that they did in these services was speak undiluted truth.
I have seen that same principle proven true in my own ministry. Eric and I, as we traveled around and delivered a message on God-scripted love stories and giving God this area of your life, a lot of times youth pastors would say to us, “The kids in our youth group are not going to listen to you because you are not bringing in a rock concert, a laser light show, or anything entertainment-based. You are just up there on a stage speaking. How do we know that these young people are even going to listen? When we speak to them, they don’t listen for more than 10 or 15 minutes.”
We told them to just wait and see what would happen. Most of the time when we would begin to speak truth without watering it down, the young people were absolutely glued to what we were saying. It wasn’t because we were amazing communicators or because we were doing anything brilliant, it was simply because these young people were so eager and hungry to hear truth that was not watered down.
I remember the first time we spoke, it was to about 700 teens and the youth pastor was blown away. The teens sat there for about three hours without even moving, and when we finished they did not want to leave the room. One of them said to us afterwards, “We, as teenagers, have been so hungry for someone to raise the standard. We are ready to rise to a higher standard, but nobody ever believes that we are capable of receiving it.” This was so eye-opening for us early in our ministry with young people. We realized that we don’t need to use worldly methods of entertainment to reach young people – we simply need to speak the truth of Jesus Christ, and they will be drawn.
Key No. 2 – Be Available to God
Leslie Ludy: The second principle I want to share with you is to simply be available to God. It’s so easy to think that reaching young women today in a impactful way would mean writing book or starting a large-scale ministry. But we need to keep in mind the principle of Luke 19:17, which says that if we are faithful with a little, God will entrust us with more. I can say personally that that is how my ministry started. I began simply meeting with the girls that God had placed in my life for coffee or going out to lunch after church with them, and simply shared what God had done in my life. It was through those one-on-one conversations that God began to establish and grow my ministry to young women.
As you show yourself faithful in the opportunities that God has given you, even if they don’t seem big or glamorous, He will begin to entrust you with more opportunities. We also need to keep in mind that even if we only reach one young woman with the truth of the Gospel, our time and our energy was very well spent.
One thing I want to point out here is that young women today, especially Christian young women who may not have the strongest foundation at home, are desperately seeking mentors. I’ve talked to so many young women who say, “I’ve asked so many older women in my church to mentor and disciple me, and no-one will say yes. No-one is available.” And oftentimes, this is because older women have bought this lie: My children are grown, I’ve put in my time, I’ve worked hard, and I’ve served my family. Now these years are for me – this is my time. So they become busy with selfish pursuits, traveling and doing the things they always wanted to do – and they don’t have time to fulfill God’s command to disciple the younger women.
If you desire to be a mentor, to be one who can guide younger women to the truth, know that there are young women in almost every church who are seeking out mentors and older women who will disciple them. Simply ask God to bring those women across your path, and be faithful with opportunities that He places in front of you. Also, in your one-on-one conversations with young women, it is important that you don’t make yourself indispensable, where they become dependent upon you. Your goal is to always point them back to Jesus Christ for the answers and the truth that they seek. (We’ll talk more about this in later episodes of this podcast.)
Key No. 3 – The Importance of Living Out the Truth
Leslie Ludy: The third principle that I want to share with you is: live it out. Girls today cannot just hear our convictions spoken – they have to see our convictions lived out. There are some studies that show that close to 80% of churched young people are leaving Christianity in their college years. Why is that the case? I believe it is largely because they do not see it lived out and so they don’t think Christianity really works. They see Christians who speak a lot of the right things, but live totally differently behind the scenes.
In my own life, I’ve discovered that when I live a faithful, consistent example of the things I believe and teach, girls will actually seek me out and invite me to share my convictions with them. I don’t have to force truth on them. They see something in my life that makes them want to know more.
About 10 years ago, Eric and I were speaking in a church to about a thousand young people. In the middle of our event, someone pulled the fire alarm, and we had to evacuate the entire building. We were out in the parking lot – with the thousand teenagers – waiting for the fire department to come and make sure that everything was fine so we could go back inside. Some of the kids there were very young and weren’t sure if it was a real fire or not, so they were actually nervous and scared. One girl wrote to me after this event and said, “Watching you and how you handled that emergency situation – you were so calm, and you didn’t get ruffled or agitated that your seminar had been interrupted – you used it as an opportunity to keep talking to the young people that were there. It made such an impact on my life, and I decided to truly give my life to Jesus Christ that night.” I was taken back by that because although I had been speaking from a stage for three hours that night, it was five minutes of her watching me in the parking lot that made the biggest impact on her life.
1 Timothy 4:12 commands us to set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity. So we have to understand that living set apart, being holy unto God, is not a hindrance to our Christian witness, it is our Christian witness. If you faithfully live out the truths that you believe and speak, you won’t ever have to force the truth upon today’s young women. They will actually come to you wanting to know what it is that you have in your life that they are missing in theirs.
Key No. 4 – The Importance of Prayer
Leslie Ludy: The next principle I want to share with you is the importance of prayer. In 1 John 5:16, we are told, “This is the confidence that we have in Him. 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 (or maybe you are a young adult, and you have friends that are living a compromised life), it is so tempting to want to rush into the situation and try to use our own brilliant debate skills, or maybe react in anger and criticism towards them. God says in His Word, in the book of James, that the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
Prayer is a far more powerful weapon than our words could ever be. Not that our words are not important, but if we lay a foundation of prayer, oftentimes God can soften a woman’s heart and prepare her to hear and receive the truth we want to offer. Rather than skipping the step of prayer and rushing into the situation, using our own wisdom to try to speak truth, take some time to really wrestle in prayer for the young women that you are burdened with. You will often find that that softens the soil of their hearts, so that when God does give you an opportunity to speak truth into their lives, they are actually willing to hear it and receive it.
My parents prayed for me, starting at about the time I was two years old, that I would fully walk with Jesus Christ. They specifically prayed for my future husband and that whole area of my life. Even though I had a season in my teen years where I fell away away from the life that they had trained me for, I believe that it was their faithful, diligent prayers that brought me back into a life of complete surrender to Jesus Christ. And they knew, even before I did, who my husband was going to be. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer whether you are a young woman praying for your friends, your parents, your children – or you are a woman praying for the young women you desire to mentor and disciple.
Leslie Ludy: Here are some final thoughts that I want to share with you. You may feel unqualified and unprepared to step into this raging battle over today’s young women, but I want to encourage you to remember that what God calls you to He will also equip you for. Ask Him for the grace to shine as a light in the midst of a perverse generation (as it says in Philippians 2:15), and remember that He will be faithful to guide your steps.
Thanks for listening today! If you enjoyed this podcast please visit setapart.org for more resources on this subject. I pray you have a blessed and Christ-centered week.