Baptist churches have relied on and enjoyed the good gifts of women for four hundred years now, since the first days of the existence of those churches. And Baptist churches throughout our history have nurtured the gifts of women– some churches have nurtured those gifts more effectively than others and some churches have nurtured more publicly and formally than others.
Baptist congregations have had the opportunity to shape and guide its youngest members—its boys and girls. Our churches have given girls and boys places to study, to develop spiritually, to give of themselves, to be involved. But sometimes as churches we provide activities, programs, and studies but we forget that girls and boys are actually paying close attention.
We forget that by our encouraging them to follow God, to listen to the voice of God—THAT SOMETIMES THEY WILL DO THAT. And we end up surprised—surprised that God has been at work, surprised when a young girl or teenage boy expresses a sense of calling to ministry.
So how can we be more attentive, more intentional, in nurturing giftedness and a sense of calling, especially with our girls and young women?
We need to be teaching and preaching the foundational truth that we are all made in the image of God. We are ALL made in the image of God– men and women, boys and girls. We need to say out loud over and over again that God BLESSED the creation of women just as God BLESSED the creation of men.
We need to tell the stories of women in the Bible. We tell the story of Moses, but we need to be telling the story of Miriam too. She had a gift, a role to play, a calling. We need to tell the story of Esther, whom God called to save her people. We need to tell the story of Mary Magdalene, whom Jesus commissioned to go and tell about his resurrection.
We need to provide girls and young women with visual reminders that God gifts ALL people for leadership. Our worship services need to have women visible in leadership roles—reading scripture, praying, making announcements, greeting guests, and preaching. Having women leaders each week in worship is a great lesson for our children and for us.
We can also include children in ordinations. I recently attended the ordination of Kellie Denton at First Baptist Church, Gainesville, Georgia, and was so moved as the children with whom she serves surrounded her and who stood together with her during the ordination prayer.
One last thought–we need to be attentive to girls and teenagers who have gifts and passions that could well be a sign that they are called to ministry. We need to listen to them talk, ask them questions, and observe what they do and how they respond to what they are learning. We need to be attentive!
These were just a few thoughts I have been pondering. So what does your congregation do to nurture and encourage young girls and teenager girls?
Pam Durso is the executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.