More than 20,000 people gathered in Atlanta for Bishop T.D. Jakes' final "Woman, Thou Art Loosed" annual conference — ending an over two-decade-long journey aiming to set ladies free from "shackles of abandonment, low self-esteem and addiction."
The 65-year-old Dallas-based megachurch pastor of The Potter's House Church passed the torch to his daughter Sarah Jakes Roberts, who will spearhead the next set of Christian women leadership conferences for years to come under a new event name "Woman Evolve."
Jakes anointed his daughter with oil as he announced her new role.
"With every drop of oil that falls upon your head, may the strength and power of the Almighty God rest upon your life," Jakes told his daughter on stage.
"After 30 years of Woman, Thou Art Loosed! and 45 years of preaching the Gospel, the time has come that I must decrease, and you must increase," Jakes added. "This is not an inheritance; this is a calling. You are not standing on this stage for family legacy. This is not a favor, but a divine assignment that Woman, Thou Art Loosed! must evolve."
"We've just been 'loosed' to evolve into the next dimension," Jakes Roberts said in response to her father.
The final "Woman Thou Art Loosed" took place from Sept. 22 to 24 in the Georgia World Congress Center, where thousands worshiped Jesus in song and prayer. A variety of sermons, speeches and panel discussions were led by female pastors, Christian therapists, businesswomen and female entrepreneurs.
In one session on Friday, some speakers shared their faith-based struggles and victories, as well as tips for Christian ladies on how to best "crown" themselves free of "shame, insecurity, self-loathing and doubt."
Throughout the session, all seven speakers continued to reference a metaphorical "crown," which they said is worn by all Christian women.
"The crown," they said, is another way of saying a woman's "self-worth and value."
Therapy and prayer to keep the 'crown'
In the session, speakers shared the importance of Christians seeking professional counseling if needed to maintain and develop "their crown." The speakers stressed the idea that prayer alone isn't always the only solution to finding inner healing for Christian women.
"When I realized I was broken, I couldn't judge anybody else's brokenness," Natasha Stewart Gresham, a therapist who heads The Center of Counseling and Behavioral Health at The Potter's House Church.
"And sometimes when we're not broken in the same area, we sit in a seat of judgment. But we're all dirty. … God made us from the dust of the earth. … You can't judge anybody else's brokenness."
The therapist said The Potter's House offers free therapy with licensed counselors.
"Counseling and therapy is a safe place, where people can be transparent and take off the mask. And what we do is we fix your 'crown' without telling anybody," she said.
Jakes' wife, Serita, the executive director of The Potter's House women's ministry, warned that some women think that just because they are "Spirit-filled and washed in the blood of the Lamb," that "everything that happens to us can be fixed with prayer."
"Prayer is a tool. But, therapy is a strategy," Serita Jakes said. "If you need it, go get it. If you think you need it, you probably do. … We can't straighten your 'crown' if you're not going to be honest."
'Just pray about it'
Fantasia Barrino-Taylor, a Grammy award-winning artist, mother and wife, shared her experiences of struggling with inner burdens.
"The anointing that I carry on my life comes with a lot. … And for so long, I have prayed. … In my younger stages, I went through a whole lot because nobody understood. I didn't understand the things that I did," Barrino-Taylor said.
"I didn't know that I needed therapy. I come from church. I was a church kid. We were in church Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. But, I also come from: 'Just pray about it. … God's got it. You don't need therapy.'"
Barrino-Taylor recalls how she "walked this journey trying to [solely] pray about it" and didn't seek therapy for a long time. As a result, her burdens became "heavier and heavier."
"Now, I realize that in order for me to hit the stage, in order for me to do what I am doing, I have to have somebody to talk to. I have to have somebody to release. … I needed that. … And I know when I need to fill up my cup," she admitted.
'A crooked crown'
Jakes Roberts, the co-senior pastor of The Potter's House One in Los Angeles, California, said it's important for women to know their worth and value.
She recalled the time in her life when she first realized her "crown was crooked."
"I remember the first time I felt life shook me in such a way that it shifted my crown. Sometimes we don't even know we have a crown until something happens to us that makes us realize 'maybe I shouldn't be this confident, maybe I shouldn't be walking the way that I'm walking and carrying myself,'" Jakes Roberts said.
As the mother of a 6-year-old and a 13-year-old, Jakes Roberts is "keenly" aware of what happens "in-between" stages in life that makes women question their worth and their value.
"My daughter is 13. She's in middle school, and I see her having questions about herself and her identity and her intellect. And little by little, I see life chasing her crown. And so, my job as a mother, my job [is to keep] bringing women into her life to constantly reassure her … that 'her thoughts are normal.' I'm not here to isolate her or make her feel like she's some strange creature because she feels insecurity," Jakes Roberts stated.
"But to let her know that the journey of womanhood requires us to survive the earthquakes that chase our 'crowns' and hang on to them, trusting and believing that we really are daughters of the King."
'A crown in place'
Two of the youngest women who spoke on the panel include Jakes Roberts' daughter Makenzie Roberts and Disney Channel star Trinitee Stokes.
The two members of Generation Z shared how they maintain their self-worth and recognize their value to keep their "crowns" in place.
"Now, in the age of social media and TikTok and being able to listen to so many other people's opinions about me, I need to focus on what God says about me, and I need to focus on what I know about me, what's the truth about me, what God told me and act that out in my daily life," Stokes shared.
Last year, Stokes made history by becoming the youngest student admitted into Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, at 15. She is majoring in political communications and minoring in public diplomacy. Stokes is also the author of a book she published at age 12, titled Bold and Blessed. The book focuses on how Christians can love themselves and maintain self-value and worth.
Stokes shared that she often repeats positive affirmations to encourage and remind herself that she is "fearfully and wonderfully made in God's image."
"For me, sometimes that's coming off of social media for a bit. Sometimes that's spending time in the mirror every day. My mom taught me this, and I hate doing it sometimes. It's getting in the mirror every day and telling myself who I am. I stand in the mirror, and I tell myself: 'I am beautiful.' I tell myself that 'I am worthy of love,' and I tell myself that 'I love myself," Stokes continued.
"And I remind myself that when God created me, He created me with a purpose. And if no one else sees it, I see it. … When days get tough, when days get difficult, I sit there in the mirror. If I have to cry through it, I remind myself who I am, Whose I am, and what I am."
Makenzie Roberts said she told her mother she wanted to be part of the panel because she feels that Gen Z "needs a voice."
"I think that if there are at least 10 of us little women who are ready to change the world that we can, and we can flip this world upside down, and we can make a really big impact," Makenzie Roberts said.
"I think it's hard [to remember my value sometimes] because I'm always looking for approval, … that I need someone's approval to be myself or someone's approval to act the way I act."
Makenzie Roberts said her father encourages her to say 10 "I am" statements daily as positive affirmations, which she said encourages her to wear her "crown" boldly.
"It really does help me. … The only person's approval I need is my Jesus," she said laughing. "At the end of the day, I think that's all of our fears, is to feel like we're alone in our situations when really there are thousands of people and women going through the same things we are, [whether it's] abusive relationships at home, [they] feel like they're under a lot of pressure, [they] feel like they're not good enough."
Other Speakers in the nearly two-hour session included Kelly Cornish-Slaughter, the chief administrative officer for diverse segments at Wells Fargo; and Connie Orlando, the executive vice president and head of programming at Black Entertainment Television.