Dear 18-year old Heather

Blogs about Heather, girls ministry

A friend of mine, Katie, posted a letter to her 18-year old self, inspired by Nicole Nordeman’s song “Dear Me.” Katie encouraged those who read it to use it as a writing activity to write their own letter to themselves. Here is mine:

Dear 18-year old Heather,

Greetings from you, 10 years from now. You’re now wiser, funnier, out of that awkward phase, and you finally know how to do your hair and makeup. You’re also hopelessly in love, in your dream job, and living a life that you didn’t expect…but you’re endlessly grateful for.

But it wasn’t easy getting here. Currently you’re living in regret of some choices you made your junior year of high school–trusting the wrong people, trying to “party,” and falling for the wrong guys. You’re trying to “remake” your life, but you find yourself unable to figure out who you really are, because you really really want to be liked but you also really really love Jesus. Cling to your moral compass and do what is right, even when it’s tough. Right around the corner is a season where you’ll befriend a ton of Christian nerds, just like you.

Let’s get real though: Give the world a break and quit being so angry. Not everyone is against you, and many will offer you help. Accept it. Especially when your grandpa offers to put the downpayment down on a new car…that would have been nice. But also accept kindness from others. You’ll find a mentor in your first year of college who will teach you what it is like to be loved. She’ll be the first person to ever tell you that you are beautiful. Soak it in, and live in that truth.

Each person who comes into your life enters for a reason. Take more time to invest in people, and consider putting down your walls and allowing people in more. Consider wisely who to share your story with, as not everyone can handle it; but do make sure to tell it. Never stop writing, never stop preaching, and soak in others’ stories as much as possible…they make yours better.

Also, drop the expectation that you’ll be married by the end of college. Or even by 25. That was silly. But do date bravely, and heal bravely from each guy who breaks your heart. One day you’ll find a man who loves you so deeply, that you will finally understand God’s love for you.

Take care of all aspects of your health. Eat good food. Stay active. Find a therapist. Go to the doctor regularly. Laugh a lot. Save your money and don’t take out credit cards. Make sure that you investigate neighborhoods before you move there…but definitely test out living by yourself. You are going to love that part.

Remember that your most important job right now is to take care of your sister. Be nicer to her. Teach her kindness, love, and grace. Don’t just teach her God’s stories, but live them out in your interactions with her. Love her fiercely, because she will be your best friend one day.

Right now you’ve decided on college, but you’re nervous about majoring in youth ministry. And you’re even more nervous about one day being a youth pastor. Embrace your calling…the more you live it out, the more it will make sense. Don’t be afraid to get plugged into a church quickly in Bolivar.

Don’t count middle schoolers out. Right now you want to work with high school ministry because you are one. But one day you’ll fall in love with the adolescent brain, think puberty is the best stage of life ever, and make poop jokes a regular part of your vernacular. Your lifelong search to balance justice and grace will perfect itself working with middle schoolers. Your desire to nurture will be fulfilled with this age group. Learn from as many youth ministry gurus as possible, and stay humble.

Don’t be afraid to call out injustice, even when it’s uncomfortable. Don’t listen to people who tell you that you’re obnoxious and to speak softer. Your only regrets will lie around not speaking up for yourself when it really mattered. Be loud. Laugh loud. Stand up for people, and through that you’ll inspire others to stand up.

Last, listen for friendships that will last for your lifetime. Invest more clearly into people who are important to you, but who might be hard. One day your closest friends will be people who need a little work, but who are also patient with you and your work. Never give up on your family, and embrace your friends’ families as your own when your own is tough. And take a deep breath: one day you and your mom and are going to love and support each other.

Cling tight to faith. Some days it will be all you have, and those will be your best days. And when you have more (and most days you will), never forget who you are and where you came from.


28-year old Heather

Tips for Male Pastors Interacting With Girls

girls ministry, women

If you know me, you know I am a MOMMA. BEAR. I am protective of my teenagers, especially my girls.

Don’t be stupid.

As you read the rest of this article, I’m going to tell you to drop your guard a little. Don’t read that as “I’m the only person who can/needs to do this in their life” because that will lead to “I’ve just been fired and am on a sexual offender list.” Am I being dramatic? Of course. I’m a female.

Always have another leader with you, especially if you are meeting with a girl in private. Always gauge where a girl’s personal boundaries are, and don’t cross them. If you feel that a relationship is getting inappropriate, always get another leader involved. There are many things that your female leaders need to lead on in their lives…but this article isn’t about female leaders. It’s about male leaders interacting with female students.

Don’t be afraid to be appropriately affectionate.

Girls need love from men. It’s like ingrained in us. When we get it in a healthy way, we don’t feel the need to seek it out otherwise. It is perfectly okay to give hugs or pats on the shoulder–whatever you are most comfortable with. Be fatherly. Be appropriate. Be affectionate in a way that is comfortable for both you and others.

I think there is this notion that guys have to stick with guys and girls have to stick with girls–but that’s totally off. Everyone needs both genders in their life. There are many girls who don’t have redemptive relationships with their fathers, so many of them may look to you for that. Hear me out: Know your boundaries. But also listen up: My girls need appropriate men in their life. 

Be consistent.

Whoever you are in your relationship with your girls, just be consistent at it. Don’t be the typical youth worker who stays at a church for 18 months–that hurts more than you may realize. Teenagers feel like people come and go as it is, don’t add to that dramatization by making it a reality. And even if you don’t leave physically, here’s another one that you may not have thought of:

Don’t be awkward when puberty hits.

When they grow breasts and their shorts get shorter overnight, don’t put them at an arm’s length. Don’t get scared when teenagers’ bodies change. They’re pretty aware that they’re looking different. When you take away the affection and consistency you once offered, they notice that. And if YOU pull away from them, they WILL look for that affection somewhere else.

Do have women invest in them, shepherding them through this process. Your role is to stay consistent.

Be sensitive.

This seems like a no-brainer, but I am constantly reminded that it’s not. Sometimes girls get upset about things, and then guys think it’s funny…and then girls get even more ticked off because guys just don’t understand. This will be a theme throughout your entire life, so take heart: When a girl says be serious, time to get serious. If you can’t handle all the emotions, have another leader help you out.

Don’t shame them.

They’re not always going to want to play messy games, and you need to be okay with that. They are going to sin, and you can’t cast them away for that. Girls over-think things. If you say something rude to them, comment on their outfit, or do something else that is dumb, they will remember that. And they will replay it over and over. No pressure.

Just be affirming. That’s really all this sums up to.

Providing Perfection to Students

girls ministry, junior high ministry, youth ministry

During our Local Missions Trip, some of my precious junior high girls and I somehow found ourselves chilling in my office (how we fit so many of us in there kills me–we must have really been trying to escape those boys!).  We were playing board games, when one of them found my memory box. I was going through it, sharing funny stories about  the moments from past churches.

One of the girls then asked me, “Are you going to be here very long?”


Youth pastors in general have a problem with not sticking around very long. Add in the Millennial factor, and we’re flightier than migrating geese.  Our students in my church have especially been victims of youth leaders who were only around 2-3 years, with exception of our head director.

I don’t want to be one of those people who leaves when things get tough–and I’ve certainly had a boot camp in my first 8 months here! I want to remember, when I’m burned out from mission trips and kickoffs and spending so much time away from my one-eyed cat, that the reason I do this is to give my precious students some sort of consistency in their life. I may not be perfect, but what I can provide for them is exactly what they need.

So then, my girls and I sprinkled wish dust and painted our nails. And then played “Fodgeball” with the boys, fog machines, and strobe lights. A perfect night in junior high ministry.

What can you do to make sure that you stick with it? What can your church do?

The First Time

girls ministry, women, youth ministry

Last night I taught at a friend’s church. Something happened that I will never forget.

No, my teaching wasn’t amazing. I was sick, had a crazy busy week, and didn’t bring my A game.

After I taught, I talked to a few of the high school girls. They admitted to me that it was the first time they had heard a woman preach/teach in a room of not just girls.

My first reaction was: What. Whoa.

My second reaction was: This is special. I remember my first time hearing a woman preach. I will never forget it. I even mentioned that to a few of the girls, who told me they’d never forget this either. One of them even said that she was feeling the call to ministry, but had never heard a woman preach or met a woman youth minister.

My third (and the most lingering) reaction was: How crazy that just three years ago, I still was in the same boat. I had never heard a woman preach before, but I was teaching my small youth group out of pure faith that this was something that God had called me to do.

So humbling.

So exciting.

Needless to say, I gave that girl my contact information and encouraged her.  I get emails pretty often from young girls who are struggling with their call, but have no example and somehow find me from doing Google searches on the topic.  One of my greatest joys is being there as a support for these girls. I hope I never forget where I came from and how God has molded my heart, because now I’m excited that I get to begin molding others.

3 Basic Things Women Want in a Mentor

Contributions, girls ministry, women, youth ministry

Paul Turner’s blog is one of the first I read when I began reading student ministry blogs.  Paul began a series on Mentoring, and asked me to write a guest blog on what women youth workers look for in a mentor.

I wrote the blog and he forgot about it for an entire month…then had the nerve to ask me where it was. ;) I’m just glad I’m not the only person who feels like she is too busy to breathe at times!

Here it is!

As always: read, comment, and look through the other posts on his site. Cheers!


girls ministry, women

I’ve been super-busy lately; too busy to really blog or even think sometimes.  But I have made time to read (it helps I conduct a study time with my teens at work).

As I’ve talked about recently, I make it of importance to constantly surround myself, through reading/news/media/etc, with material that challenges my worldview.  A year ago I read “Year of Biblical Womanhood” by Rachel Held Evans.  It was definitely something that challenged my existing worldview, and I was told to check out “Voices of the True Woman Movement: A Call to Counter-Revolution” by Nancy Leigh DeMoss (and others, including John Piper). Can’t get much more polar opposite than that; ha!  Here is an excerpt I loved on page 122, one that anyone can relate to and grow from:

A real stone like (a wedding ring diamond) can take a good scrubbing, you know. Authentic jewelry is not as delicate as we think. That’s why God can say, as He did in Zechariah 13:9, “I will…refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested.” I long to be a jewel that does not cringe when God chooses to give my soul a hard scrubbing every now and then.

Now I’m not glorifying the suffering it takes to polish my faith. But I AM glorifying the God whose image is reflected on the surface of any smile that is forced to fight through pain and problems to get there…It will be the glow of HIS godliness in your life–HIS patience, HIS perseverance, gleaming through your eyes.

The fire hurts. But it really does make things clearer and allow for God to shine through.

This article isn’t about Miley (It’s about you, jerk!)

Contributions, girls ministry, unchurched, youth ministry,

Okay, that was the name I came up with AFTER this was already published. I’m semi-glad I went with the first one ;)

miley cyrus rock bottom

This article originally appeared at:

In an interview with Sunday People, Miley Cyrus said, “I have so many f**king issues.  I am so f**ked up -– everyone does dumb stuff when they are messed up.”

If you keep up with the news in any sort of fashion, you know–at least, on the surface–what is going on with Miley. Some say that she’s a mess and that we can’t let our children around her.  Others say that her behavior is nothing new, that she’s just being your average 20-year old; so why are we all tripping over it?

Here is what I have to say:

Miley is broken.  So are we.

Miley has been in scandal after scandal over the years, as all stars have.  And frankly, it’s easy to sit here and judge her; she’s in the spotlight for all the world to see.  But I have to ask myself: If I were in her position, and people saw my baggage and what was going through, how would I feel about their reactions, if they reacted the same way that we are reacting to her?

Miley came out with a new video on Monday from her new single “Wrecking Ball.”  Unlike “We Can’t Stop,” this is raw.  The lyrics show a glimpse of what is going on.  Here are some of the lyrics:

I put you high up in the sky
And now, you’re not coming down
It slowly turned, you let me burn
And now, we’re ashes on the ground

Don’t you ever say I just walked away
I will always want you
I can’t live a lie, running for my life
I will always want you

I came in like a wrecking ball
I never hit so hard in love
All I wanted was to break your walls
All you ever did was wreck me

Obviously, Miley is going through something. From her disconnected relationship with her father, to her on-again, off-again relationship with her fiancee, to just growing up (she’s 20 years old!); she’s dealing with things.

Let me ask you something–are these issues all that different from any other 20 year old?  Not really.  But because she is in the limelight, she is being judged.  Being 20 years old is hard enough; you are trying to discover your identity and define your place in this world.  Now imagine being a girl who spent her childhood as a star?  Imagine your family business being aired for all to see?  Imagine trying to be 20, but everyone judges every move you make because it isn’t “Disney-esque?”

Another issue I see–and I’m going to be blunt:  For us to sit here and judge Miley, who to our knowledge does not have a redeeming relationship with God, is wrong.  Also, what good is it going to do?  Is condemning her honestly going to lead her to Christ?  What if, instead, there were Christians in her life who supported her, provided her guidance, and maintained a “safe zone” should she slip?  By demonstrating Christ through our actions, we are building a bridge that can show Miley Truth.  How would you have liked it, if in your rock bottom, a bunch of people just started putting your business on blast, talking about how much you have changed, how despicable you are, and how they don’t want you in their homes or around their families?

(And to be even more frank: talking about Miley in a way that does not edify her is gossip.)

That is NOT CHRIST, guys. He met sinners where they were and lived life with them; yes,  He gave them truth, yet he lived life with them regardless.  Paul says in Romans that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!  Not when we had our act together, but when were still in our messed up rock-bottom.

I’ve been reading through Romans lately and meditating on the passages.  The first chapter of Romans sets up the story of Creation and The Fall. Then Paul lays it thick in the first verse of chapter 2 (emphasis added):

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.

Paul continues in chapter three:

None is righteous, no not one…For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

If I had people judge me at my rock-bottom the way Miley is being judged, I would probably have been turned off from God.  I wasn’t perfect; I shook my toosh too (in fact, twerking is not a new term).  I wasn’t wise about my relationships with boys, I cursed like a sailor, and I was teaching Sunday School on Sundays hungover.  I wasn’t where I needed to be.  Even now, I don’t make the wisest decisions sometimes.  But I have people who have honest conversations with me, who don’t judge me, yet still give me Truth.  They don’t condemn me, they don’t act self-righteous.  They invite me to live a raw life with them, helping me through my sin and being patient with me when I don’t get it right away.

Here  is my idea–I think we should be talking about Miley and other pop culture icons with our students. But instead of focusing on what Miley is doing wrong, what if we were to ask: “If you saw one of your friends going through this, what would you do?”  “If you were in this situation, what would you want people to do for you?”  Instead of alienating Miley’s situation, let’s try to identify, empathize, and exhort her.

Humble yourself.  Think about your rock-bottom.  What got you out of it?  How can you translate that to working with your students in their rock-bottoms?

3 Things We’re Getting Wrong Reaching Girls

Contributions, girls ministry, women, youth ministry

I had the privilege of guest-posting over on this blog!

I first read Titus’s blog when a mutual friend of ours posted a link. I digged it. I commented. He saw my comment. He messaged me on FB, because he saw we had all of these mutual friends and it freaked him out. Then we realized we literally lived in the same part of St. Louis at the same time, and he pastored some church members who I used to go to church with. Whaaaat? So I had to show some NoCo love and guest post for him. This is one of my favorites! :)

3 Things We’re Getting Wrong Reaching Girls: a Guest Post About Student Ministry.

Do You Believe in Soulmates?

girls ministry, women, youth ministry

In May, I posted this post that explains a little bit of what I have been wrestling with, in regards to how we talk to our teenagers about sex, specifically teenage girls. We have played the shame game for long enough, and I want to redirect youth ministry to a more loving and honest approach to the “sex talk.”

One of my friends that I grew up with posted on my personal Facebook page this article: My Husband Is Not My Soul Mate

This article is one I have read before and orates really well the myth behind having a “soul mate.” Too often we tell our teenage girls to just “Wait for God to put that perfect man in your life” (which I already ranted about) or to “Pray for your future soulmate.”

We say these things with good intentions, and I think there are good principles here; but what are we implying?

  • That they WILL get married. Not necessarily true
  • That there is ONE person out there for them. What a tiring search!
  • That their self-worth is found in a man. Absolutely not.

So what are a a few ways things we can do?

If it happens, it happens.

I think that teaching our teenagers (especially girls) that relationships are beautiful and that if they happen, they happen, that’s wonderful. But not necessarily promised.

First Love isn’t the Only Love

I think we need to teach them that the first person they date is not the one; in fact, there are many potential possibilities of the one! There have been men in my life who I honestly could have lived a good, long life with. But that doesn’t mean they are my “soul mate.” And:

There are other fish in the sea.

If you pass up a “good opportunity” in pursuit of something (or someone) else, that opportunity is not lost forever. Of course, popular music and movies would teach you different.  Like I said, I have passed up some opportunities because:

God may still be preparing you. 

I think it’s funny that we pray, “And God, I pray for my future husband that you are preparing for me.  One day I realized: Maybe it’s me God is preparing for him. Why do we assume it’s the other person who God is working on?  It’s pretty audacious for me to think that I’m the one waiting, when in reality there may be a guy who God has in mind to run into my path soon, but I’m the one who’s not prepared.  Just. Saying.

Re-define “the perfect mate.”

Bust the bubbles of reality. I used to make lists of what my future husband should be like. I wish I could find the Bible Journal from middle (even high) school that had a points system, including:

  • If he loves Jesus +25 points.
  • Attends church every Sunday +25
  • Nice face +10 points.
  • Nice body +10 points.
  • Abs +10 points
  • Taller than me +15
  • Has a sense of humor +15 points.
  • Plays guitar +10 points.
  • Thinks my parents are stupid too +10 points.
  • Smokes -50 points
  • Does drugs -100 points
  • Must have 90 points in order to date me.

I’m not even kidding.

But as I get older— do I really care that he’s not the best at writing with perfect grammar? Okay, let’s skip that one. But does he HAVE to be over six feet tall? I’m pretty short as it is. Why do I care about things that don’t honestly matter?  What do perfect abs have to do with anything; we’re all gonna get fat when we get old anyway.

All I’m sayin’ is:

Let’s be realistic and honest with our teenagers. Let’s not shame them into thinking that they HAVE to date or have relationships with the opposite sex in one, concrete way. Live life with them, let them experience what marriage is like by having married couples invest in them, and let them see that singleness is not for ugly people and creepers who are miserable.

If this stuff isn’t true, then I am one sad, miserable, 23 year old and I should invest in some cats, liposuction, and therapy.