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Building Trust to Witness Growth
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WendyPicIt's been a year now. The growth I've witnessed is sometimes subtle, dainty as a crocus in the morning sun and at other times emboldened and strong like a gigantic sunflower. I'm describing the growth I've seen in the five high school girls I've led over the past year. They're seniors this year and accompanying the 'we reign over the school' mentality is temptation, loss of focus on faith and distraction after distraction. I haven't even mentioned the raging hormones and the itch to break away and leave home that somehow gets brought up each time we meet. I've worked hard to make our bi-monthly meetings at my home as comfortable as possible. If there's anything I've learned about leading youth, it's that building a relationship based on trust is an absolute must if you expect to get anywhere with them or if you hope to observe any growth.

I know this because this is what was given to me. Everything about my life changed when I was fifteen. At a Christian camp I heard the message of salvation for the first time with unblocked ears, ears ready to listen. My youth leader prayed with me on a starry night filled with new promise. She didn't expect me to go through my list of sins, dumping them out during our prayer. Instead, she entrusted me in my newfound relationship with Christ and she continued to mentor me, repeatedly demonstrating authenticity and openness. She never acted as though she had to wear a mask of Christianity. If she'd been struggling with something she shared it with me and together we'd uplift her situation in prayer. Trust grew in that context. I thought more of her, respected her more, that she could be vulnerable with me.

This is how I try to lead. Early on in the mentoring process I knew I wanted the girls to trust me. As I've learned in my own life, trust is imperative if I hope to grow in a relationship. How do you build trust? One of the best ways I've learned to bridge that delicate feeling is to listen. I start by listening and paying attention to what's important to each high school girl. I make note of their birthdays. I create a place where they're always welcome to come.

Another thing that has worked well for me is laughter. I study their sense of humor. I find that when I take myself less seriously it helps as well. Being able to jeer myself can do wonders for developing bonds of trust. Finally, I don't act like I've got it all together, which is quite freeing because no one does. Teenagers appreciate this more than we could imagine. While keeping boundaries in check, I help them to see that I'm on this path with them, not constantly reminding them how far ahead of them I may or may not be.

In the past year alone we've made great strides together. One of the girls volunteered to pray for the whole group on Sunday. A first. Another girl is confiding in me and I've been informed some of the things she's sharing she's only told her close inner circle of friends. And yet another girl falling in love for the first time, admitted to trying to draw close to God every time she thinks of her long distance romance. Every time her boyfriend comes to mind she prays, for him, for them and then she confessed, she just prays. I delight in these girls. I didn't know how much God would swell my heart for them. I'm thankful He has done just that. I'm also grateful to recognize the fruit of the trust I've worked hard to build. Things may have begun slowly, but I see the progression. I observe the growth and I know if I'm seeing it, so is God. Their rewards await them in heaven.

I thank God for what those girls teach me.

Wendy Miller’s work has been published in inspirational books, online magazines and on numerous websites. She is passionate about encouraging women through writing and speaking, and currently Wendy leads a small group of seniors from her church. Raising her three little girls, writing novels, creating craft projects, and hiking are other ways she enjoys spending her time. Feel free to visit her blog to peek inside the window of her thoughts as she actively pursues what it means to follow the Lord. Wendy's Website

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trust, mentoring, discipling
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