By Kendell Richmond • San Diego, California
Looking back, I understand that at first my reason for attending church had very little, if anything, to do with God. Instead, I believe my eldest sister puts it best; it was my own form of rebellion. In a time when I felt that my family had fallen apart, I found something that was my own, something I am sorry to say my family was unable to understand, something that I decided they would be unable to mess up. I found an activity, something that kept me busy, but soon that activity gave way to great friends, and from friends a family that at the time I believed was more stable than my own.
Regardless of the turmoil that my family faced, they had raised me to be strong and independent. Upon finding comfort in a church, I was hit by the need to truly understand, to question, to come to my own conclusions and develop a personal faith. Luckily for me the church I had found was more than willing to answer my questions; I have to say that more important than the actual youth group were the small groups within it. Based on grade and gender, we met once a week for Bible study. My group became more than a book club—I made my very best friends within this group. Each of us came from different experiences, we bounced ideas off the others, we discussed, we pried, we laughed, we cried, we confided. Together we found answers and stumbled upon more questions. We grew together and independently, finally becoming the young women we are today—able to take what we have learned and face the world.
I believe that there is more to a church than a building, more to a pastor than a man who is able to read aloud from the Bible. A church, when successful, becomes a family. For instance, I participated in a “big sister/little sister” program, but my “little sisters” went their own ways and at some point I “adopted” a younger “brother.” Even though he was two years younger than me, we got along wonderfully. The need to have someone hold
you accountable for your actions is never more prominent when trying to follow the example of Christ; yet with friends it is often far easier to justify your mistakes. I found out that with this family (and with a boy two years my younger watching my example!) there was no room for mistakes. While I might be able to justify teenage foolishness within my small group of girls facing the same issues, I cared too much for my younger brother to slip up.
I am unable to tell you what is effective for a teenage girl. I can only tell you what worked for me. Accountability, friendship, family—to make mistakes and learn from them instead of pretending they never happened at the risk of becoming a hypocrite—to realize that we are not perfect, and are not expected to be. That’s what worked for me.