November 5, 2007

Christian Teen Conference for Girls Has Feel of Combined Church Service, Slumber Party

By Rhoda Fukushima, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

Nov. 5--This weekend, Heather Howison, 14, will attend Revolve, a Christian teen conference in Minneapolis, with other girls from her church. As part of the bonding, the 58 teens and their six female chaperones are squeezing in a slumber party at Howison's Eden Prairie house -- all of them.

The slumber party is a way for the girls to keep the momentum from the conference alive and to reinforce its theme -- that God loves and cherishes them -- away from the distractions of everyday life.

"We wanted to celebrate being women, being together," says Heather Flies, junior high pastor at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, which Howison attends. "Boys are good. I'm a big fan of boys. But it's good to celebrate with women."

The combination conference/slumber party is not uncommon for girls who attend Revolve, says Christy Atwood, an event marketing specialist with the tour. Eighty percent of attendees come in groups of 10 or more.

"It really does have the feel of a church service, concert and slumber party all rolled into one," she says.

Created in 2005, Revolve is one of a handful of Christian conferences aimed at teen girls. The Girls of Grace conference, based in Tennessee, is a program of Point of Grace, a popular Christian female quartet. On the other side of the pond, Soul Sista reaches Christian teen girls (and older) in England.

Now in its third year, the Revolve tour is produced by Women of Faith. Minneapolis is the eighth stop on the 14-city tour and is

expected to draw more than 8,000 girls.

This year's tour features names well-known in Christian circles, including singer Natalie Grant and author Max Lucado (and his daughter Jenna Lucado). The Lucados will talk about the importance of father-daughter relationships. After discussing her struggle with bulimia on the first tour, Grant will focus on healthy self-esteem this time.

This year's conference features Hawk Nelson, a pop-punk band from Canada; KJ52, a Christian rapper; and Ayiesha Woods, a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter.

"On our stage, people who are seen as icons really get down to a real level," Atwood says. "They're really straight with the girls. They can connect with them at their level."

Dr. Pamela Erwin, a professor of youth ministry and practical theology at Bethel University, says the conference brings young women together to celebrate being a follower of Christ, which she considers a good thing. But Erwin says the conference takes cues from pop culture, which presents a too-narrow view of what it means to be a woman and what it means to be feminine, she says.

She points to T-shirts for sale on the Web site with slogans like "This Girl Is God's Princess" or "Take a Giggle Break."

"I think often a particularly narrow view of femininity limits young women," Erwin says. "That is what really saddens me -- that there are so many young women trying to fit this image that who they are gets lost."

Howison doesn't know what to expect at this year's tour, her second. But if the first tour is any indication, certain teachings may really stick, she says.

"When you hear things from your parents, it's, like, 'OK, whatever,' " Howison says. "When you hear it from someone else, like your youth pastor or at a conference like this, I kind of think you listen more and don't blow it off."

Howison's mother, Valerie Howison, agrees.

"It gives them an opportunity to hear the message from other people's perspectives and experiences but often with the same core message," she says.

Rhoda Fukushima can be reached at [email protected] or 651-228-5444.


What: The Revolve Tour, a two-day conference for Christian teen girls

When: 5:30-9:30 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday

Where: Target Center, 600 First Ave. N., Mpls

Cost: $69

Info: Register at register-now.asp


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