NASHVILLE (BP) – The call to leadership can be a challenge. And for many, the last two years have been marked by grief, loneliness and fear. At Lifeway Women’s Leadership Forum, women explored how to move forward with joy, hope, prayer, humility, unity, thanksgiving and contentment.
“This is a unique opportunity for like-minded women to gather and cheer one another on,” said Kelly King, manager of magazines and devotional publishing and women’s ministry training for Lifeway Christian Resources. “When we can say, ‘I see you, and you’re making a difference’ women are challenged to live on mission and echo the Gospel. We have the unique opportunity to pour back into women who are pouring out and serving in their local churches.”
On Nov. 10-12, 800 women from 32 states gathered at Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., for Lifeway Women’s Leadership Forum. Women with leadership influence in various spheres learned skills and strategies from main session speakers and from seasoned leaders in breakout sessions on topics focused on ministry training, personal equipping and general leadership. Another 150 women attended the event virtually.
“This is a place where we invest in women who are leading and ministering in their own churches, workplaces and communities,” said Becky Loyd, director of Lifeway Women. “These women are spiritual difference-makers who are committed to the spread of the Gospel in the places they are called.”
The theme for the weekend was “Forward,” based on Philippians 3:13: “Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead” (CSB).
“As leaders, even if you’ve felt a bit stuck or held back in recent years, God’s activity wasn’t stalled or inactive,” King said. “He continues to propel us forward.”
Moving forward with joy and hope
Author and Bible teacher Courtney Doctor kicked off the event talking about the importance of looking back in order to then move forward with joy.
Doctor said we are a small part of a much bigger relay race. She walked women through significant biblical moments that set the direction for the course of our race.
“You are joining in a long race. Those who have run the race before you are cheering you on,” Doctor said. “But your time with the baton is now. Run the race that is before you.”
Whitney Capps, one of the emcees for the forum, hosted a panel with authors and Bible teachers Elizabeth Woodson, Alexandra Hoover and Vaneetha Rendall Risner discussing what it looks like to move forward with joy. They said they have experienced joy in difficulties by knowing God, His Word and His calling.
King and Elizabeth Hyndman, editorial project leader for Lifeway Women, recorded a live episode of the Lifeway Women Marked Podcast with special guest Lauren Green McAfee, founder of Stand for Life. They discussed the implications of the Dobbs Supreme Court decision and practical ways for churches to support women, babies and families, including foster and adoptive families.
Author and speaker Jennifer Rothschild shared some of her personal journey, using Hebrews 12:2-3 and 2 Corinthians 4:18 to give women a vision for moving forward with hope even on the hardest days. She called women to choose an eternal perspective, endurance and emotional wisdom.
“You build more than you see,” Rothschild said. “That’s why you have to have an eternal perspective so that you don’t lose hope.”
Moving forward with prayer and unity
Derwin Gray, co-founder and lead pastor of Transformation Church, challenged women to invest in their prayer lives as they seek to move forward, reminding them that their ministries can only be as effective as their prayer lives.
“Prayer is more than talking to God or asking God for stuff,” Gray said. “Prayer is a sacred journey of becoming whom you were meant to be.”
Shane Pruitt, National Next Gen Director for the North American Mission Board, joined King for a conversation about Gen Z and connecting with this young generation. “Gen Z isn’t looking for cool leaders,” Pruitt said. “They’re looking for authentic ones.”
Georgia Brown, an event emcee, led a panel with Lifeway Girl’s brand specialist Amanda Mejias and two Gen Z women, Gabrielle Odom McCullough and Alexus Lee, discussing ways women of every generation can connect with and invest in the young women around them.
Moving forward with humility and thanksgiving
Author and Bible teacher Jen Wilkin taught on Philippians 2:1-18, calling women to lead with humility even in times of upheaval. She said that although inherently, we self-advocate, self-elevate and self-serve, “Christians should be known for playing favorites with everyone except themselves.”
When believers “adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5, CSB), Wilkin said, they will become lowly instead of lofty, poured out instead of puffed up. “Leaders do not hoard up good things to make much of themselves,” Wilkin said. “Are you looking for ways to be emptied out in ministry?”
Author and scholar Rebecca McLaughlin closed the event teaching from Philippians, calling women to move forward with thanksgiving and contentment in every circumstance. Based on Paul’s letter, she said believers should thank God for their siblings in Christ, circumstances, suffering and Savior.
“What are the hard things in your life you’re thankful for?” McLaughlin asked. “Jesus holds us close in our suffering. We can meet Him in profound and unique ways.”
“Our prayer is that women will be encouraged and equipped in the various places they lead,” King said. “We want them to be spiritually refreshed but also ready to go back into their spheres of influence with confidence in their calling.”
The next Lifeway Women’s Leadership Forum will be held Nov. 9-10, 2023. To register or get updates on speakers, breakout sessions and more, visit lifeway.com/forum. Digital access to this year’s event is available until Nov. 12, 2023.
“It is the core of our mission to encourage and equip women as they live out their calling,” Loyd said.