Serita Jakes, first lady of The Potter's House megachurch in Dallas, where her husband, T.D. Jakes, is the lead pastor, draws from her personal and ministerial experiences to understand the struggles teenage girls of the current generation often face in her new book, The Princess Within For Teens.
Growing up as the daughter of a coal miner, Jakes experienced self-esteem issues that led her astray even though her peers encouraged her to embrace her potential.
As the leader of an all-girls program, Jakes has also witnessed the consequences that can happen when teenage girls are not empowered and encouraged to live life knowing they were made for God-given royalty, despite their circumstances.
Jakes taps into subjects such as the influence of social media on self-esteem and communication, while also shares stories of how she overcame complex issues while a teenager living in West Virginia.
The Princess Within For Teens is designed to be a guide book for young girls to understand that there is more to life than their growing pains, which Jakes says can only come from living a Christ-honoring life.
Below is an edited transcript of Jakes' interview with The Christian Post.
CP: You have a large ministry platform that allows you to reach women of all ages but why did you choose to focus on teenage girls in this book?
Jakes: I work as the director of women and children's affairs at our church so I've been working with our Junior Debutante and Distinctively Debutante Program for 18 years. This book is just a bridge into the conversations we have with the girls because we found out that the girls were suffering from low self-worth, sexual abuse and living in impoverished homes. I needed to compel them to rise above their situations as they sat beside girls that had every advantage in what life has to offer, and girls from the finest schools sitting next to girls from inner-city schools have linked arms and have started celebrating femininity and the opportunity that they are all royalty.
CP: What were some of the challenges you faced as a teenage girl and how did they shape you?
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Jakes: My experiences have shaped my compassion. I have an opportunity to get the girls who dress in designer clothes to mingle with the girls like me who wore off-brand store clothes from a coal-mining town in West Virginia. To let girls know that they're not better than anybody but no one is better than them, either. As a child, I was insecure about my upbringing and my weight and I was made to feel ashamed because my parents drank but now I see myself ministering to girls with those issues.
The eyes are the window to the soul and if you take a moment to look past the makeup, the scars and the weight and you look into the piercing reality that that's a hurting individual, it makes you stand up and take responsibility to make sure that person doesn't grow up the same way you did.
CP: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
Jakes: I wish I had listened to the positive voices that were stronger than the negative voices because I had a tendency to focus on the minor. Those who grew up with me would say, "You're going to grow up to be somebody, you have grace and potential." They applauded me and alluded my excellence but if I had just held on to that longer, perhaps I wouldn't have derailed but I knew that I was trained up with a positive background and I knew the way even though I veered off it. However, if I would have listened to the beckoning voice of my family and eventually to the Lord, I would've known that I was made and born for royalty, not in riches but in royal inheritance, grace, and class. That's what I'm hoping The Princess Within For Teens will do for girls.
CP: You encourage your readers to keep a journal and write to the "Secret Keeper," or God. How is this an effective way to cope with teen growing pains?
Jakes: The Secret Keeper's identity is actually the fact that we're writing down our prayers instead of speaking them. When we write our vision and we read what we write and then write it again, we start becoming it because we start doing those affirmations. Our prayer journals can become a way of life because anything we do long enough, becomes a habit. It's also an educational habit we use in classrooms because anything that is a repetition gets ingrained in our minds and becomes a pattern. So, journaling is an opportunity for girls to go back from time to time and remind themselves where they were and then they're able to overcome anything because if they did it once, they can do it again.
CP: We live in a culture where teenagers obsess over their social media image and are less concerned about their relationships and lives outside for those media platforms. What implications can this have on girls as they enter their teen years?
Jakes: Social media has impacted our children in such a way that they think people who they don't really see or have never met are their actual friends. They have entire relationships with people who are not who they pretend to be. The Princess Within For Teens is an opportunity for girls at a book club, sitting by the pool or at a pajama party to start talking candidly about what they're going through so they can realize they're not the only ones. So, we're giving them an opportunity through social media to talk about their journey and we're trying to get back to what is an acceptable expression of femininity.
CP: You write about the pressure girl's face such as the need to have an ideal body weight and height, and while most people point the finger at media, who is actually to blame for that?
Jakes: Just like shame, blame is both a noun and a verb. You can be a recipient and a giver of both. We all have to take an equal responsibility to what our children are exposed to and counter it with positivity. Unfortunately, a lot of parents work and can't monitor what their children are exposed to during the day and especially during the summer. So, somehow we've got to infiltrate the school campuses with so much going on like shootings, new drugs and gang rapings. We've got to whisper in the ear and hearts of our teens because everything else around them is so loud, sometimes it takes a calming, not confrontational approach to parallel their lives and ours….the world that my grandchildren consider normal blows my socks off from time to time but I have to fix my face and plunge right on in and deal with it.
CP: Teen years can be the most difficult and oftentimes teens are not able to confide in their parents because effective communication is lacking. How can that type of parent-child relationship be mended?
Jakes: I just finished a parenting session on how to listen without judging. We should be able to sit down as parents of teen girls who generally talk in sound bites of 140 characters or less and not interrupt them and allow the issues of their heart to flow and let them know that they're not alone. We should also share with them transparently that everyone goes through similar things. This is one of the most talented generations and one of the most overlooked resources that our nation has and we have to tap into it. We've got to reach this generation and let them know that they are not just generation x, but generation now.