Pam Gibbs is passionate about girls ministry not only because she knows it’s a great need, but more importantly, because she has seen the fruit that comes when adults invest in the lives of girls.
“Do not give up on these girls. The fruit is not going to come for a long time, and that makes ministry hard, but after adolescence they will come back and thank you,” said Gibbs, Girls Ministry Specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources.
“We have a generation of girls who have no one mentoring or discipling them. The next generation depends on the church stepping up and doing what the church is supposed to do.”
Gibbs is the plenary speaker for the Girls Embrace Ministry (GEM) retreat Feb. 3-4 at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.
GEM is a ministry of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina that seeks to encourage 7th-12th grade girls to walk with Christ in their everyday circumstances and to begin building a legacy of faithfulness.
Gibbs said girls today face more challenges than she ever thought possible, and the intensity of these issues continues to deepen. From lacking a sense of self-identity and value to struggling with what it means to be modest, girls struggle with a number of issues and they need to know where to turn for help.
“I really want them to grasp God’s love for them,” she said. “I want them to come away from the retreat with a sense of the depth and height and breadth of God’s love that is beyond comprehension.”
Girls also need to learn how to process their faith in a digital world. “We have the most connected generation in history – but we are the most disconnected generation,” Gibbs said.
“We are relying on technology to do things we were supposed to do face-to-face.”
Today’s generation is also a busy generation, and so Gibbs encouraged girls ministry leaders to focus on building community and less on doing activities and events. Girls ministry cannot become just another item on the to-do list that gets crossed off each week.
“Be really intentional in ministry,” she said. “Girls ministry is all about relationships.”
The GEM retreat is an opportunity for girls and their leaders to discover the value of mentoring and the lifelong difference it can make. Many adults are hesitant to mentor because they do not think they know enough to mentor, and they doubt anyone wants them as a mentor.
Gibbs said the reality is just the opposite.
“This generation is saying, ‘please disciple me,’” Gibbs said. “They are craving mentoring. Only a godly woman can teach a girl how to be a godly woman.”
Ashley Allen, Director of Embrace Women’s Missions and Ministries, said many adult women are still working through things that happened to them as girls and teenagers. Whether they lacked godly role models in their life or did not have someone to mentor or disciple them, what happens during childhood and adolescence impacts adulthood.
“Older, mature women in Christ investing in younger women who are just beginning or learning to walk with the Lord is a biblical mandate outlined in Scripture,” Allen said. “Titus 2:3-5 outlines this principle for women of all ages in the church.”
The theme for this year’s GEM retreat is “More precious than jewels,” based on Proverbs 31:10. The weekend retreat will include worship, plenary sessions and break out sessions.
“Our desire is to help girls and their leaders understand their worth in Jesus Christ,” Allen said. “He alone has made them worthy because of what He has done and who He is. We want girls to understand that their worth is not based on what they do.”
Break out sessions will be offered for girls as well as their leaders. Cathy Moffett, director of student ministries at Burlington Christian Academy, is leading a break out session for girls about peer pressure and a session for leaders on understanding issues girls face today.
“One of the issues girls face is not having good role models,” Moffett said.
“We’ll look biblically at how to be empowered to help girls face different issues, how to build healthy relationships, and how to build the right discipleship steps into their lives during this season.”
Moffett will also address the issue of identity and the idolatry that comes when girls try to find their identity in anything other than God. She will help girls learn to base their opinion of themselves not on what others think about them, but on the fact that God loves them where they are.
“Girls need to be encouraged and they need help finding their way,” Moffett said.
“A lot of the messages girls get are destructive. They need people who care about them. I deeply care about them. I want to see them joyfully becoming the women God intended them to be.”
The breakout sessions are based on input from girls and girls ministry leaders from across the state about the topics they most wanted to learn about.
Break out session topics include:
Topics for girls: “Sharing my faith with my peeps,” “Face time with God,” “Mean girls,” “Living pure in an impure world” and “Who am I: Identity in Christ.”
Topics for leaders: “Setting a godly example,” “Social media savvy,” “Connecting with parents,” “Mentoring generation millennial” and “Praying for the girls in your ministry.”