December 2016 -January 2017
Beyond the Walls
Shine: Resetting the Norm
By Emily Faison
Nearly two years ago, I sat down with Diana Bryant, chairman of the WNAC Board, for a cup of coffee. She shared her vision for a conference that showed Free Will Baptist girls their worth in God. She described a weekend retreat-style conference with seminars and Q-and-A’s, a change of pace from hyperactive youth camps or everyday Sunday School. As Diana and I talked about what that conference would look like, how we could engage young women, and communicate such an important message, I told her the conference needed to feel authentic and transparent. Caught in a deluge of programs, from both within the church and without, teen girls today tune out at the mere hint of inauthenticity. This conference could not be just a day-long sermon, but an outreach where girls would hear biblical truth from godly women across our denomination.
Extensive media influence, questions of gender identity, and constantly updating technologies are everyday life for today’s girls. This isn’t just the world of unchurched kids but the daily scene for kids in our youth groups. Additionally, girls face their own unique challenges growing up. While the human nature that feeds schoolhouse gossip, shifting friendships, and uncertain popularity doesn’t change from generation to generation, the technologies that house teen drama have changed, and parents can be clueless. As one mom noted after the first Shine! conference: “I had no idea of all the things they face and temptations they try to endure...I found out things about our teen girls I didn’t know they were exposed to.”
Students are learning everything they know about sexuality and gender identity from their environment, which is often comprised of classmates and the media they watch and hear. Students in Free Will Baptist youth groups have friends who are gay and know classmates who identify with a gender different from that of their birth. The media landscape is filled with athletes and entertainers who abuse their wives, and women who are simultaneously shamed and praised for their looks on television. All of those instances comprise the cultural landscape young women navigate daily. Without trying, girls absorb these cultural norms. Young women learn their value is dependent on others: their friends, boyfriends, and their peers at the mall on a Friday night.
This is why Shine! is crucial. “So many areas of our culture and the media portray values involving self image, relationships, and sexuality as truth, when in reality, they are in direct opposition to what God’s Word teaches,” Diana told me. “We have a responsibility to our daughters to teach them the truth.”
Our students shouldn’t have to follow expectations set by worldly idols. We can change the narrative. We can reset the norms. “Culture bombards our teens with messages that do not align with God’s Word,” said WNAC Director Elizabeth Hodges. “We can turn a blind eye, or we can teach our teens to filter each message through the sieve of God’s Word.” By equipping girls, and their moms and youth leaders, with straightforward facts about gender and sexuality, information about technology, and Scripture, girls are able to learn principles they can apply to their everyday lives in school, church, and the broader culture. WNAC’s goal in bringing Shine! to Free Will Baptist girls is to address current issues facing teens, to provide a safe place to discuss questions and issues weighing on their hearts and minds.
Between new technologies and constantly evolving ideals in television, movies, and music, cultural issues pressing on girls today include realities their parents and youth leaders never dreamed young people would have to face. As Diana and I talked about the importance of reaching out to young women that day so many months ago, I couldn’t help but think about how incredibly needed this conference was. A generation of young women is rising up among Free Will Baptists, and we cannot lose them to a culture that does not serve the Lord.
“Satan is bombarding our girls with lies, and we are seeing the results of that in our homes, our churches, and our world,” Diana said. “But what a difference an army of godly young women would make in our families and our churches!”
About the Writer: Florida native Emily Faison is the interactive editor for Brief Media, located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A prolific writer and blogger, Emily earned a M.A. in Literature from Florida State University in 2015. Learn more about shine: www.WNAC.org
In addition to teaching Free Will Baptist girls, Shine! offers seminars to mothers and youth leaders, covering new technology and other elements of contemporary culture in which today’s girls find themselves immersed. Seminars for girls are taught by Rachel Bryant and Beth Bryant, while adults seminars are led by Sarah Sargent and Ana Batts. Shine! 2017 will be held at Heritage FWB Church in Columbus, Ohio, November 11. Free Will Baptist girls are fighting a battle for their hearts and minds. Pray the Lord uses Shine! to turn their hearts toward Him. Register at www.WNAC.org.