Church and Home
By Emily Faison
trying to navigate girl world, truth can often be veiled in the murkiness of everything our culture presents as good. Girls must navigate technology-oriented social challenges and screen-driven sexuality—on top of good old-fashioned female emotions and girl politics. We know the human struggle with sexuality is age-old, but it seems each new generation encounters sexuality from a different vantage point.
The good news is that though some details of these challenges may be unique to this upcoming generation, solutions are still rooted in Scripture. The speakers at Shine! rely on the truth of God’s Word to guide everything they speak about, from body image to smartphone apps. In each session, whether for moms, youth leaders, or girls, the most simple and yet most important message of all is that we are women created in God’s image. Whether an uncertain adolescent or a seasoned mentor, women find purpose, identity, and accountability in God.
Beth Bryant’s first session for girls focuses on identity. Pushing back against the cultural norm of putting price tags on girls based on beauty, talent, athleticism, popularity, and performance, Beth shows girls they are already bought with the price of Christ’s blood. Rather than being defined by their failures or their talents, girls learn their intrinsic value and identity come from being created in the image of God. That knowledge “gives them freedom to live as God’s Girls—freedom to grow and change and learn and love and develop into the women He has created them to be,” says Beth.
After laying this foundation of identity as “God’s Girls,” attendees learn the physical truth regarding girls’ bodies as created by God. Surveys conducted by the Shine! team make it clear girls are already learning much about sexuality, their bodies, and relationships from non-scriptural sources, at earlier and earlier ages. By relying on the scientific truth of God’s creation in coordination with the truth of Scripture, Rachel Bryant, an RN in the OB/GYN field, presents the basics of what girls need to understand about their bodies: God created male and female, determined by chromosomes; that women are carefully and specifically designed; that humans are intentionally created and not mistakes; and that God designed sex for married man and woman only. “The truth society forgets is that this is the best plan,” Rachel teaches.
These sessions build a comfortable, safe space that lends itself well to the Q & A time, when girls can ask any questions they have about their bodies, sexuality, relationships, friendships, and more, and receive an honest answer without judgment. Through these sessions and the Q & A time that follows, Rachel and Beth show girls how to apply practically what it means to be “God’s Girls” in everyday life at school, church, and home. Girls are equipped with strategies to keep themselves safe; they learn how to exit uncomfortable situations; and they also learn practical strategies for stronger communication with parents and friends. When girls learn God intentionally and carefully created their bodies in His image, they are better able to understand the importance of taking care of their bodies. They are better prepared to navigate relationships with friends, with boys, with their teammates and classmates, and with their families.
Meanwhile, moms and youth leaders hear sessions on leading by example, being prepared to handle the heavy topics girls face, understanding technology trends popular among the girls they mentor, with practical tips for helping girls navigate a tech-saturated youth culture.
“You are going to stand before God and be accountable for your girls someday, whether as a mom, a youth leader, or a pastor” says Sarah Sargent. The first step toward reaching and understanding girls is for parents and leaders to learn just what girls are aware of, surrounded by, and even participating in. As in previous sessions, practicality is central to everything Ana Batts and Sarah Sargent teach. “We would never drop our girls off in a city we know nothing about and expect them to stay safe or find their way out,” explains Sarah. “Yet we do this every day. We leave them in ‘Internet City’ or ‘Smartphone Village,’ and we assume they will be safe.” Sarah combats this naiveté by making parents and leaders aware of various apps, software, and popular sites and providing solutions for keeping teens safe online—just like you would in a new destination.
While Sarah offers practical solutions for leading in a digital age, Ana challenges women to make practical changes to increase their influence on girls’ lives. These sessions are saturated in Scripture and prayer, as they remind women of the responsibility they have. Ultimately, Ana and Sarah remind women grace is not a one-time gift for moms and leaders or the girls they influence. Women know the goal of keeping girls on a godly path can end up looking like a list of dos and don’ts. But we also know Jesus came for more than just a list of dos and don’ts. Our emphasis on “the list” can cause us to miss out on our identity as God’s Girls, redeemed recipients of love and grace. Just as the girls learn about their identity as God’s Girl, the adults get a reminder about the gift of grace that allows us to dwell in Christ.
From mom to grandmother, youth leader, or mentor, we have generational responsibilities to young women. All Shine! speakers explore tools, strategies, and resources to equip women of all ages and influence to have conversations about what it means to be one of “God’s Girls.” By the time the girls and sponsors leave, they are ready for conversations on the drive home and coming weeks to compound what they learn at Shine! Many of these conversations will be tough, and implementing all of these strategies may be challenging, but the eternal results are worth it.
About the Writer: Emily Faison graduated in 2016 from Florida State University with a M.A. in Literature. Learn more about the Shine! Conference: www.fwbshine.com.