Girls may be able to sit for longer periods of time than boys but that doesn't mean they don't benefit from a break now and then, said pastor and writer Tim Wright.
"They've found that what's good for the boys is also good for the girls,'' said Wright of Phoenix, Ariz.
It seems that churches are following his advice when it comes to how they're structuring their groups.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Lea Lohsi (left) and Kaylee Nelson, both 10, of Altoona work on their nature badges by creating sand jars at the meeting of Pioneer Girls at Altoona Bible Church.
In his book, "Searching for Tom Sawyer: How Parents and Congregations Can Stop the Exodus of Boys from Church,'' Wright advocates taking frequents breaks during instruction to accommodate a boy's need to stretch and release energy.
Although girls seem to remain attentive longer, he believes a break can help them, too.
He has other tips, such as keeping boys and girls separate when they're younger.
At Pleasant Valley Assembly of God Church in Altoona, elementary-age girls and boys are in separate groups, which Wright recommends.
They combine the two when the kids get older, which Wright said is OK once the children are established in their identities and have a pattern of going to church.
The girls' program at Pleasant Valley Assembly of God, is similar to the Girls Scouts, said Girls Ministry Coordinator Barbara Brantner.
It's divided into age groups, with girls ages kindergarten through sixth grade in the younger group and older girls, ages sixth grade through eighth grade in the older group. Teen girls in ninth through 12th grade are in the oldest group, Brantner said.
However, the majority of girls are in the elementary-age group. By the time they are teens, they prefer the youth group that mixes boys and girls, Brantner said. But that's OK with her, as long as they keep coming to some type of youth group at the church, she said.
"For so many of them, it's the only thing in their lives that has some consistency,'' she said, "and they really need something like that.''
The girls' groups, which average about 60 girls, also run a "store'' twice a year where the girls can buy knickknacks, purses, lip gloss, brushes and other items that church members and group teachers have either purchased or donated, Brantner said. The cost to the girls is usually under $1.
"We try to fill it up with all the things girls like,'' she said.
At Altoona Bible Church, girls can join Pioneer Girls in the third grade and continue with the program through senior high.
Lydia Kenepp, club coordinator, said the program focuses on hands-on learning and teaches girls about making God real in everyday life.
Girls can earn badges in skills such as cooking, selecting healthy foods and first aid as well as Bible badges that teach them how to pray or to know that Jesus is their friend, she said.
Each weekly session includes a Bible study and focuses on lessons such as making good choices, how to be a friend and how to handle being bullied.
Once the girls reach junior high, the program changes and they focus on Christian service, Kenepp said.
At the elementary level, "the focus is on getting your heart right, learning how to treat others. You can't serve if your heart is not right," she said.
Service projects include making meals for the Altoona Rescue Mission to serve to the men at its homeless shelter and making freezeable meals for moms who just had babies or a church member recovering from surgery.
The teenage girls also send cards to people and prepare gift baskets for missionaries.
Kenepp said about 20 to 30 percent of the girls complete the entire program, beginning in third grade through senior high school.
At Grace Family Bible Church, Duncansville, boys and girls are grouped together from preschool through second grade. Then the boys join the Christian Service Brigade and girls join Girls of Grace, a program that takes them from third grade through senior high.
At their weekly meetings, the girls learn about God and usually focus on a memory verse, said Coordinator Sue Bettwy. She said the leaders for the three groups - fourth through sixth, junior high and senior high - make the lesson appropriate for the age group and the girls' comprehension.
A craft time is included each week. Bettwy said, where the older girls might learn how to crochet or do stenciling. They make Christmas cards for seniors and other cards.
The girls have several group activities a year, too. A cookout and bonfire kick offs the program in the fall, a get-together with their Pals is held at Christmas and a pinewood derby race that includes the boys is held in March.
The Pals are adult women in the church who are 18 or older. Each one connects with a girl or Gal in the program. Through the Gals and Pals program, girls have an older person who is a friend and sometimes a confidante.
Bettwy believes it is beneficial to have separate programs for the boys and girls.
"Girls are able to spend time with their girlfriends. They get to meet different people because they don't always go to the same school," she said.
Bettwy believes the girls are more willing to open up and talk about their day when they are not in a mixed crowd and receive spiritual insight from their leaders.
She also teaches them to look beyond their world, by initiating discussions on news events and seeking their opinions.
"We're there to guide them," she said.
Religion Editor Linda Gracey also contributed to this story.