Why I Bring My Girls to Waves Girls Conference...
I have been the youth pastor at Forest Park UMC, in Panama City, FL, for four years now. This has been my first full time position, and the first time I have been the director of a youth ministry. There is definitely a learning curve when you first start out; finding out how to best communicate with students and parents, how to navigate a new church leadership structure, what do you do during office hours, etc. I think I adapted to a lot of it fairly well, and pretty quickly.
Then, I ran into a question I had never given much thought to: How do I best minister to Middle and High School girls?
This wasn’t a big deal at first, but somewhere in my second year I looked around and realized, well over half of our crew were all Middle School girls! Suddenly it became even more important to find ways to connect with my girls.
Well, I learned early in my life, often the smartest thing to do is find out what others do, or have done, and borrow from them. A friend who also worked in youth ministry told me about the Waves Conference. I was intrigued, and had nothing to lose from simply trying it; so, I started advertising it to my group.
That first year, going to Waves almost didn’t happen though. I was only able to convince three girls that they should give it a try. I figured that if they enjoyed it, they would be able to help convince others to go in following years. The only problem was, I didn’t have a single female chaperone! I was asking everyone I could think of, just trying to get someone who was able to be there. I was able to get a college student to commit to come back for the weekend in order to help make sure our girls could go, but I still needed at least one other female adult to go too. Eventually, our women’s director gave me the number for someone who knew that we were at our “make it or break it” point for being able to go. I called her up and ask if she could simply make herself available to go with our girls so that they did not miss out on this opportunity. After much prayer and hesitation, she said yes.
Her and the girls had a great time, and enjoyed the experience enough that, about a month or so after the conference, the girls approached me about wanting to start a girl’s Bible study; and they knew exactly who they wanted to lead it!
In the following years, I have been able to not only recruit more girls to go, but new adult leaders too. Each year so far, I have had at least one chaperone who has never served in youth ministry before, but by the end of the weekend, end up falling in love with our girls, and wanting to do more with them.
Every year my girls are impressed with the teaching, and excited for worship. As a youth pastor, I could not hope for more from an event, they passionately participate in worship and eagerly soak up the teaching; but I have to say, the relationship building has been, by far, the most rewarding outcome from the conference. Whether it is my High Schoolers trying to reach out to the Middle Schoolers, or how they begin to include and reach out to new girls, or to the women who help chaperone.
I started out this article by bringing up a question that came up in my ministry: How do I best minister to Middle and High School girls?
I believe that the answer is the same for all those we minister to; it’s all about relationships. As a twenty-something male youth pastor, I will never fully understand my girls. What I can do is show them that I care by creating opportunities for them to be poured into them, for them to have fun, and build their friendships. I love being able to introduce my girls to Godly women from our church whom they do not often interact with naturally; and giving them an environment that helps them foster intergenerational friendships that lead to deeper connections. Hearing the women comment, too, on how much they enjoy the conference, and how they treasure getting to know some of our youth; Waves has quickly become one of the most impactful events that our church participates in each year.