Christian girls are wonderful, gifted, complicated and, at times, aggravating. They are also ready to step out and turn their world upside down for Christ. Their leaders need to get ready and hang on for the ride.
The first Girls’ Ministry Forum, hosted by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention Feb. 26-27 at LifeWay’s home office in Nashville, Tenn., attracted about 200 people from 16 states. Large group sessions offered leaders and girls time to sit together and hear speakers and panels, while breakout sessions were specific for each age group.
Jaye Martin, director of women’s programs at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., led "Gifted2Go," a conference for high school-age girls. She encouraged the girls to discover their spiritual gifts and use them to meet challenges and greet opportunities that God places in their paths.
"God intended for all of us to work together," Martin said. "There is one head: Christ; one body: the church; and many parts: all of us. A job that looks impossible when we look at it from the aspect of doing it alone suddenly seems much more doable when we look at it broken into parts, with other people coming along with us."
She reminded the girls that God bestows spiritual gifts when individuals receive Christ. She said understanding of these gifts may unfold over a period of years.
"I became a Christian when I was 6," she said, "so I really didn’t understand about my spiritual gifts. As I grew, though, I began to understand. People who [receive Christ] as adults may discover these gifts almost immediately."
A panel of girls’ ministry leaders – Pam Gibbs, LifeWay’s girls’ ministry specialist; Leslie Hudson, a girls’ ministry leader from First Baptist Church, Dickson, Tenn.; Jimmie Davis, girls’ ministry director at First Baptist Church, Spartanburg, S.C.; and Leslie Hallowell, director of girls’ ministry at Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis, Tenn. – fielded questions submitted by the conference attendees.
The panel members were asked what advice they would give a church that was building a girls’ ministry from the ground up.
"Our girls’ ministry grew from the fact that we saw our student ministers come and go," Hudson said. "We had three in six years. Two of the moms and I realized that our girls were particularly drawn to us. I was a Sunday school teacher. We just looked and saw the girls were coming to us anyway, so it made sense for us to be the core leadership for the ministry."
Gibbs said, "Be careful that you don’t make the girls’ ministry event-driven. As you begin with the big kick-off, remember that it’s in the small groups that real ministry and relationships happen with these girls."
Davis encouraged attendees to first pray about beginning a girls’ ministry, then seek the pastor’s and student minister’s blessing on the work. "You will need to do this ministry under their authority, so let them know that is your intention," Davis said. "Emphasize that you in no way want this ministry to be something just out there on your own, but that your want it to fit into their ministry plan."
South from Alaska
While bad weather in the Northeast kept at least two registered attendees from making it to the conference, a small group from Alaska was able to make it.
Crystal Hoffman, girls’ ministry leader from Anchorage Baptist Temple, and three others came to learn more about ministering to girls.
"I was very interested in learning more about intergenerational ministry," Hoffman said. "We need for our girls to connect with women of their mothers’ and their grandmothers’ generations. These women in our church can be models of godly women and can model godly marriages. The girls need to see that."
Hoffman said ministry is Alaska is hard. "In many cases you have ministers who come and go quickly. They come up there with good intentions, but the climate can get to people who are unaccustomed to the long, dark winters. Alaska also has the isolation issue. Getting away is hard and very expensive. There is a [disproportionate] problem with alcohol and drug abuse and suicide in Alaska. We have to be intentional to keep our students engaged in church."
Amy Pierson, director of girls’ ministry for grades seven through 12 at Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, Texas, and author of "Table for Two," a soon-to-be released girls’ ministry book from LifeWay, called the forum a tremendous opportunity to network with other women involved in girls’ ministry. "I usually go home beat at the end of every day, but working with girls and their moms is a great opportunity from God. It’s good for us to share ideas."
Next year’s Girls’ Ministry Forum will be Feb. 25-26 in Nashville, Tenn. LifeWay also offers an Inside Girls Ministry blog.
Sidebar: Q&A with Pam Gibbs - LifeWay's girls' ministry specialist.