Over the next few weeks we will take a look on both sides of the blog at how we — as both youth ministers and parents — might love and disciple our boys and girls well and with prayerful, thoughtful intention, within their God-given genders. Last week, we looked at boys; this week, we will continue with a look at girls.
I have witnessed and experienced over a decade of various women’s and girls’ ministries in the local church. And while these structures for leading younger women have offered invaluable training in Biblical womanhood, too often what passes for “Biblical femininity” is merely cultural expectation varnished over with a few choice Bible verses.
For example, I have learned I can curate attractive “Girls Nights” through a simple recipe: begin with a photobooth (complete with popsicle-stick props and balloon arches), add a few creative DIY projects, mix in a theme-based snack table (or donut wall if you’re feeling fancy), stir in a talk on identity and, finally, sprinkle with glitter… lots of glitter. Voilà! You have a successful Girls Night complete with Instagram-worthy photos as proof of your success.
While it might sound silly, I’m actually not saying this formula is wrong. I love glitter! I’ve used this very Girl’s Night “recipe” a few times in my own ministry, and have attended even more like it. I have sat under sound teaching and genuine discipleship on womanhood at events such as these, many of which have offered a unique space for girls to feel comfortable, open to vulnerability, and encouraged through the teaching and leadership of other women.
Yet, as we mentioned in last week’s article on Biblical masculinity talks, there are ways in which these Girl’s Night Talks and events can be a misplaced or incomplete way of calling our teenage girls to Biblical womanhood.
Four Reasons Why the Best “Girl Talks” can be Deficient
- They Only Emphasize Select Verses
As I once heard it said, the enemy’s greatest battle is not for our students’ doctrine, but their delight. The totality of Scripture calls our girls to more than actions of obedience within their gender, but to affection and love for their creator.
We are often tempted to think that training young women in the way of the Lord means going only to the verses that specifically speak to women, like Proverbs 31 or Titus 2. Both of these pieces of Scripture are important, as they are both a part of the inspired revelation of God to His people. But that’s just it, they are meant to be a part of God’s revelation. They are irreplaceable in the discipleship of young women, but only insofar as they are studied along with the rest of God’s letter to His people. The Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, give our girls all they need. They need to study the stories of David and Daniel, just as much as the stories of Ruth and Esther. Why? Because every corner of Scripture is meant to comprise the much grander narrative of God’s redemption, glory, and grace, a narrative that reveals the beauty of women as they reflect the beauty of God.
- They Look to the Women Around Christ more than to Christ Himself
It can be easy in our Girl Talks to offer the women of the Bible as behavioral examples for our girls to follow – “love like Mary,” “have passion like Martha,” “sacrifice like the woman with the alabaster jar.” Yet, by only putting on display the women who surrounded Jesus, we offer our girls the same thing the world offers them. In this instance, our best Girl Talks become nothing more than a live version of their daily Instagram feed, which illustrates picture after picture of how others are living their “best lives”; ultimately, they will similarly realize their lives do not match up to the “women of the Bible.” They will only see yet another way in which they have failed to be a “good” woman.
I am not suggesting we never look into the lives of these women. They are God-breathed testimonies that need to be told. Their stories, however, were never meant to be about them, but rather about the one who transformed their lives and affections. Yes, these are beautiful examples of faithful women who walked with Christ, and they give us models to follow in the secondary and tertiary areas of being a woman. But if we truly want to encourage our girls to be Biblically faithful women, we must point them to their savior first.
Our girls our consistently being told that they are not enough, that they do not measure up. Instead of giving them a works-based gospel that says “here’s what you need to do,” we must offer them the saving gospel that tells them who they already are: loved. No, they do NOT measure up to a Proverbs 31 woman; no, they are NOT enough. But Christ IS enough, and His sacrifice on their behalf means that there is nothing left for them to measure up to. Our girls must first understand that because of Christ, they are fully justified and fully loved. Everything else flows from a life that is kept in this truth!
By giving our girls their narrative through the lens of Christ, we will have an abundance of opportunities to show them the beauty and necessity of biblical femininity. But if we pursue expectations or actions first, we will merely offer them another impossible standard to meet.
- They Focus at the Temporal Over the Eternal
Our current culture says one’s gender is either fluid, subjective or, at the very least, up for debate. What our students need is not well-crafted reason or rhetoric to counter the cultural narrative; they need a better narrative altogether.
Our girls need to see that their femininity is not defined by what they love or what they do. They are not more feminine when they wear dresses. They are no less a woman if they love sports or enjoy video games. Gender came by the creation of God as His image incarnate, not through a set of actions. The narrative of Scripture says that a woman is not a woman because she likes make-up and fashion. A woman is a woman because in Genesis, God said it was so.
Just like the rest of creation, gender was profoundly affected by the fall (every month, our girls experience a bodily reminder of this curse). On this side of the fall, male and female are pitted against each other rather than allies functioning in harmony; gender itself is muddled and confused, a matter of human decision instead of God-ordained truth. Yet we also know that God is here and now in the midst of restoring His creation back to its original, perfect design; one day, in the New Heavens and the New Earth, God’s image will be on stunning display as both male and female will work and worship as perfect partners, whole and fully united.
Knowing this, we can offer our students a foretaste of eternity now as we show them how to be co-creators, co-laborers, and co-worshipers for the purpose of knowing God and making Him known.
- They Center on the Home More Than the Church
As a redeemed people, we have been saved by grace into the family of God – the church. While earthly families are a gift from the Lord, they are temporary. Marriage is a beautiful picture of God and His bride, but there will actually be no marriage in heaven (Matt. 20:33). This should show us that our gender roles were never meant to be solely defined by marriage, but by the church.
When our Girl Talks are exclusively focused on romantic relationships, or only look at Proverbs 31 as instructions for a wife/mother, we disciple girls who see marriage as the highest aim and motherhood as the greatest call. We must remember that there are girls within our ministries who will never bear children in their physical bodies. There are girls our ministries who will experience (as Paul describes it) the greatest gift, a life of singleness. If this is true, then how are we teaching those girls what Biblical femininity looks like? We must consider how our messages might cause those equally beloved girls to feel as if they have failed, or that they are less than female, when they cannot or do not live out “the call” to a physical family.
This is the role of the church. We must first seek to show our girls what it means to be a woman in the church. The church is the manifold wisdom of God on display to the world (Eph. 3:10), and the church is God’s chosen instrument to tell a better narrative to the ever-changing systems of culture. It must be through the church that our greatest demonstration of masculinity and femininity are on display.
But how do we accomplish this with our students? Have Girl Talks that focus on male and female friendships, as well as relationships. Give opportunity for your girls to partner with Godly older women, and even to serve younger girls. With the same intentionality given to create separate spaces for boys and girls, create purposeful spaces for your male and female students to not merely sit together, but serve together, worship together, create together, and even disciple together.
As we seek to bring good news to a world in desperate search for meaning, the Scriptures tell us that it is the church who will proclaim the gospel as we bear the full image of God through the incarnate work of His people – male and female – together.