POINT OF GRACE: Girls of grace
Shelley Breen, Terry Jones, Heather Payne and Denise Jones were just out of college when they began their journey as Point of Grace. A decade later, they have one platinum and five gold albums to their credit, 24 consecutive No. 1 singles, 14 Dove Awards (with four nominations for 2002) and two Grammy nods. For the group’s eighth album, the girls are once again blazing new trails.
Girls of Grace is more than just a collection of worship songs. It’s a conference, a devotional book, a journal and, most importantly, a movement that Point of Grace hopes will become a life-changing event for teenage girls. Denise Jones recently spoke with Amber Weigand-Buckley, managing editor for On Course magazine, about the group’s dream of influencing the decisions of a new generation of women.
PE: How was God working in Point of Grace when this new ministry got started?
JONES: Point of Grace has been together 12 years now, and at about our 10th anniversary we took some time off to [be] in our home churches and attend women’s Bible studies. During that time, God began to place in each of our hearts very different things. I was in a Bible study called Intimate Issues that dealt with the sexual aspects of marriage. God really began to speak to me about communicating with young girls about this issue because the world presents so many warped views of what sex is and what marriage is.
At the same time Terry was mentoring and discipling a group of eighth-grade girls from her church. It was very evident that someone needed to speak honestly to these girls. God was also working in the same way with Heather and Shelley.
One day a mom told Terry, “You all are finally old enough that I trust you to teach my daughter these sorts of things. Yet you’re still young enough that my daughter thinks you’re cool.” That clicked. It all came together and someone came up with the name Girls of Grace. It seemed so fitting to go along with the outstretched arm of Point of Grace.
PE: What were the first steps in the Girls of Grace ministry?
JONES: When we started out as Point of Grace, God had already placed in our hearts the desire to minister to teenage girls. In 1992, we joined hands with Mercy Ministries of America, a ministry for teenagers and young girls somewhere between the ages of 13-28. It deals with all kinds of issues whether it is unwanted pregnancy, anorexia, bulimia, abuse, depression or you name it. We all four were raised in godly families and felt very blessed, and we realized that one wrong turn and we could have ended up where these girls are now.
PE: What is the concept behind Girls of Grace?
JONES: We’ve taken ideas from teen girl magazines and books and found that there are three things that they consistently talk about — boys, family and friendships. We’ve added another: your personal walk with Jesus Christ.
We’ve stuck to a lot of Scripture, and it’s [important] to hear what God has to say about subjects like sex. We just try and give girls some real practical stuff. Heather talks about [having] personal time with God. Shelley talks about respecting parents and the importance of family and Terry talks about healthy friendships.
PE: What do you do at a Girls of Grace conference?
JONES: Concerts just don’t give us enough time to talk about important things. So we offer a Friday night concert and an all-day Saturday event. On Friday, we do a lot of praise and worship. Nancy from Mercy Ministries of America speaks, and she just flat-out presents the gospel. She speaks to girls like they are adults and she doesn’t baby them. Our purpose for doing that on Friday night is that we want girls to know up-front where their relationship stands with Jesus Christ. When we talk about sex and dating and God’s plan for their lives the next day, if they don’t understand in the first place that there is a God who cares for them at every place in their lives, how can they believe the other things we have to tell them?
PE: What was your main struggle as a teen when it came down to your relationship with Christ?
JONES: In junior high I was very focused on my relationship with Christ and with my friends, and I wanted to bring them to church or to the Lord. By the time I got to high school I was very distracted by my relationship with my boyfriend and I was very involved with basketball. When I failed, it did not occur to me that it was because I didn’t hear God’s voice. I was so engulfed in my own desires.
PE: What areas do you see teen girls really struggling with today?'
JONES: They struggle with identity mostly. Who they are. Who they are trying to please. It can show up in the way that they handle an eating disorder, maintain relationships or go about their day-to-day lives. We’re all distracted by these things. We’re all trying to impress the people around us — our parents, friends, peers, and ourselves.
Modesty is another big issue. These girls are bombarded with the world telling them what to wear and how to look “right.” We do this little fashion show part of the conference with some of the girls from the local host church who are all different sizes and builds.
We reinforce the idea that God has made us all beautiful. You can still look cool but dress in a way that shows everything that you do and everything that is in your heart is for God.
We have some great footage for the conference from fellow artists Michael W. Smith and Toby Mac who say that the first thing they loved about their wives is that their wives loved Jesus. The musicians comment that when they are at concerts and see girls dressed in an inappropriate way, they just have to turn away. It reinforces the idea that if girls really want a godly guy, they need to focus on their relationship with God and make that relationship shine through into every aspect of their lives.
PE: What is the main dating advice you try to pass to the girls you speak with?
JONES: In my dating experience I’ve realized that the real issue is a girl’s heart — what’s motivating her. It’s when they step across the cafeteria and sit with someone who always sits alone, and they do that because of the love that God has placed in their hearts. It’s when they serve their brother and sister and in some way help them with a chore, and not so that their brother will do something for them. When they have a heart for God, that’s when everything else will fall into place.
PE: What kind of results are you seeing from your conferences?
JONES: We have done four and we have been blown away at the responses. We had 9,000 girls at our first conference. We had 3,000 in Denver. It was sold out and we turned away more than 2,000. We had 4,500 in Grand Rapids and were also turning people away. We don’t even reach these numbers when we do a concert. It just goes to show how much this is needed. One of the comments that I continue to get over and over from girls is, “No one ever tried to talk to me about these topics before.”
PE: How have you seen girls’ lives change?
JONES: Girls have come together to form their own Girls of Grace study groups. They are walking through these issues and encouraging each other. There have also been decisions for Christ. We try to connect girls with the local host-church sponsors or youth leaders who can continue to minister and walk the walk with them.
PE: What is your definition of a girl of grace?
JONES: A girl of grace is someone who really knows how much Jesus loves her, with all her faults and all her good. And because of that love, it outpours into every aspect of her life.
PE: Do you have any final thoughts?
JONES: First Timothy 4:12 says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (NIV). That’s what we feel called to instill in the lives of the teen girls we minister to.
E-mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.