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New conference has teens saying, ‘You Go, Girl’

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Friday the 13th may sound like a bad-luck day to superstitious folks, but 140 girls and their leaders from 18 different churches in south Louisiana have a different opinion. Instead of hiding from black cats and broken mirrors, they gathered on the campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Sept. 13-14 for a unique time of uplifting praise, challenging messages, and building relationships.

The inaugural “You Go, Girl!” retreat was designed to encourage 6th-through-12th grade girls to grow in their relationships with God through biblical examples as well as the spiritual journeys of Christian leaders working with them. Retreat coordinator Judi Jackson explained that the idea for this kind of event has been growing in her heart for a long time.

“My husband [Allen] and I have been involved in youth ministry for over 20 years, and I have felt strongly that the girls that we worked with always benefited when offered events especially for them,” she said.

Through contacts with other ministry situations, Jackson was seeing different girls-only events being developed but nothing in the south Louisiana area.

“It took several years before I was brave enough to try this,” she added, “and now I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner.”

Jackson, under the support umbrella of the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans, recruited 14 seminary students and a local pastor’s wife to help plan the retreat and lead the small- and large-group sessions. Knowing that each of these women has a growing relationship with God and a specific call to serve Him in ministry, Jackson felt they would be ideal leaders for an event like this. And she was not disappointed. In fact, several retreat participants remarked how they liked that the speakers and small group leaders were closer to their own age, and could better relate to issues they are dealing with in their everyday lives.

The retreat began Friday evening with a “Go-Girl Celebration” featuring worship music by JoAnna Miley King and a spiritual journey story from Lorie Henry. Joining them on the program was Staci Green, who recently completed a two-year journeyman assignment in Cypress. Additional celebrations were held on Saturday with special presentations by Marsha Tayamen, Vicki Pearson, and Sara Beth Fentress, of the International Sports Federation. Offering an impromptu presentation on the Acteen Crosswalk program was 11th-grader Melody Blackwell of Destrehan, La.

Sprinkled between the celebrations were small-group Bible studies called “Go-Girl Gab Sessions.” During these times, the girls explored lessons from the lives of such biblical women as Mary and Martha, Rebekah, and Esther. Also offered on Saturday were one-time breakout groups on topics such as personal evangelism, sports in missions, self-esteem, fashion sense, friendship, and Christian ethics.

The leaders who brought girls to the event were treated to Bible study times led by Teresa Brady, wife of New Orleans’ Oak Park Baptist Church pastor Paul Brady. They also were challenged to pray for the girls in their care in a breakout session with Christi Gibson, seminary student and faculty wife.

Recreation played an important role in getting the girls to interact on Friday night as they met in the NOBTS Recreation Center for “Gym Explosion.” Kelli Bricking led the large group in several high-energy games and relays before dispersing them for free play throughout the seminary facility. Also offering teaching and administrative support were Theresa Nettles, Rebecca Scarbrough, Sherri Swinney, Kim Belcher, Kelly Priest, and Cindy Townsend.

Plans are already underway to repeat the “You Go, Girl!” experience next fall. For more information on how your youth girls can be involved, contact Judi Jackson at [email protected].
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: TEEN WORSHIP and TEEN LEADERS.

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