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Christian Women’s Leadership Center equips women through online learning

The Christian Women’s Leadership Center, an initiative of national WMU, offers lifelong learning opportunities for Christian women. CWLC’s leadership certificate program features nine online courses designed to help participants develop their gifts and skills in serving Christ. (WMU photo by Trennis Henderson)


BIRMINGHAM, Ala.(BP) – Christian Women’s Leadership Center, an initiative of Woman’s Missionary Union, has offered lifelong learning opportunities for Christian women for more than 20 years.

While the Leadership Center’s overall vision and goals remain unchanged, the practical details of providing those learning opportunities are continually being fine-tuned to keep pace with growing and changing needs.

Today, “the primary component of CWLC is online learning,” explained CWLC Coordinator Kristy Carr, who also serves as national WMU’s senior hub manager. She said CWLC currently offers “nine solid, insightful courses for the purpose of leadership development.” 

The nine courses explore such diverse topics as “Women Leaders from the Past,” “Biblical and Theological Foundations of Leadership” and “Leading with Integrity.” The self-paced courses are available online to participants on a rotating basis each quarter.

Church and community leadership

The CWLC was established by national WMU in 1999 in partnership with Samford University. Housed on Samford’s campus for more than a decade, it primarily focused on leadership education opportunities for college women and networking events for professional women in the Birmingham area.

In recent years, the center’s home moved to the national WMU building as the CWLC’s focus shifted to “equipping Christian laywomen in the area of leadership in the context of their Christian faith,” Carr said.

As early as 2013, CWLC began offering online leadership training for women seeking resources in the area of church and community leadership. Today, CWLC has expanded to include a full certificate program for women who complete the nine online courses which represent about 150 hours of coursework.

“Through CWLC, we recognize and we celebrate the giftedness of women,” Carr said. “We seek to assist them in developing their gifts and skills in serving Christ as they undertake leadership opportunities and responsibilities.”

Helping leaders get out of the box

Ina Rios, president of New York WMU, was among the recipients of last year’s Candy P. Phillips WMU Leadership Award. The annual award, established in 2019, provides funding for emerging leaders to enroll in CWLC’s online certificate program.

Affirming the impact of her CWLC learning experience, Rios said, “For me, it gave me a deeper understanding of what’s required to be a faithful leader that wants to work within the Great Commission and it gave me tools on how to be a better leader.”

When it comes to pursuing leadership training and ministry opportunities, “women have to get out of the box,” Rios said. “We have to see things differently so we can see what the Lord is doing in other places and in other ways.

“When we get out of the box, we become energized. By being energized, other people get energized and the Lord gets glorified and the church gets edified.”

At the forefront of online learning

Amanda Martinsen, leadership development consultant and resource coordinator for WMU of North Carolina, serves as a CWLC course facilitator for the program’s “Missional Living” course. She said the course is designed for participants to examine “what it looks like to be on mission with God every single day, the way that God is using them not only in their churches, but in their communities.”

Martinsen noted that CWLC has been “at the forefront of a lot of the online learning” since its online courses were well established “long before the pandemic hit.”

“It was wonderful to already have that in place and to be able to point people to that resource,” she said, “especially in light of the last year that we’ve walked through of church looking so different.”

Citing student reflections about their CWLC learning experiences, Carr shared that one participant wrote: “I took these courses to become a better leader and, in the process, I became a better follower, a better communicator, a better planner. I became a woman God can use.”

As WMU emphasizes “making disciples of Jesus who live on mission,” CWLC’s focus on equipping women leaders God can use is one practical step in achieving that goal.

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The Christian Women’s Leadership Center is funded in part by the Dr. Eleanor Terry Endowment for Christian Women’s Leadership. The fund, managed by the WMU Foundation, honors the memory of Dr. Terry, who helped plan CWLC’s launch and direction. To donate or to learn more, visit wmufoundation.com/womens-leadership-development.

    About the Author

  • Trennis Henderson/WMU national correspondent
    Trennis Henderson is the national correspondent for WMU (Woman’s Missionary Union). A Baptist journalist for more than 35 years, Henderson is a former editor of the Western Recorder of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Arkansas Baptist News state convention newsjournal.Read All by Trennis Henderson/WMU national correspondent ›