HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn (BP) – What does God’s faithfulness have to do with your leadership? At Lifeway Women’s Leadership Forum, women studied God’s faithfulness and examined how it transforms their leadership in ministry, the workplace and their homes.
“The beauty of this event is that no matter where a woman is leading, there is something here to equip her,” said Becky Loyd, director of Lifeway Women. “There are so many ways women lead every day – in their homes, workplaces and churches. As they learn to glorify the Lord in all of their lives, we are privileged to walk alongside them in equipping and encouraging them to serve and lead.”
On Nov. 9-10, more than 600 women from 28 states gathered at First Baptist Hendersonville for Lifeway Women’s Leadership Forum. Women were trained and inspired for leadership as they learned from main session speakers and seasoned leaders in breakout sessions on ministry training, personal equipping, general leadership and student ministry.
This year’s Women’s Leadership Forum theme was “Faithful,” based on 1 Thessalonians 5:24: “He who calls you is faithful; he will do it.”
“This year’s event focused on God’s faithfulness – in the way He calls us and gives us all we need for life and leadership,” said Kelly King, manager of women’s ministry training for Lifeway Christian Resources. “I saw His faithfulness in the interactions with those who attended and those who led breakout sessions and taught from the main stage. Women were encouraged that their leadership is necessary and vital to the church.”
God’s faithfulness and women in ministry
Opening the event, author and Bible study teacher Alexandra Hoover called women to a faith that holds fast.
“We can hold fast because He who promised is faithful,” Hoover said.
Walking through Hebrews 10:10-25, Hoover gave women a framework for holding fast in ministry. Challenging women to grow faith that does not waver, she reminded them that “even our ability to hold onto Christ as we await the fulfillment of His promises depends on His faithfulness.” Finally, she challenged believers to continue gathering together. “The enemy would love nothing more than for us to isolate in our faith.”
Based on 1 Thessalonians 5:24, writer and Bible teacher Caroline Saunders taught women that God is faithful to sanctify His people. Following God’s story from creation to restoration in Revelation, Saunders traced God’s faithfulness to grow His people in holiness. The call for Christians, she said, is to actively participate in the story of sanctification.
“To grow in godliness, we must grow God’s way,” Saunders said. “How is God growing you?”
Melissa Kruger, director of women’s initiatives for The Gospel Coalition, taught a theology of women in leadership based on Romans 16:1-16. She called out principles of women in leadership revealed in the closing of Paul’s letter.
“From the beginning, women have been a part of leading and serving in the church of Christ,” Kruger said. “We should be leading as brothers and sisters together.”
She encouraged women that although ministry is costly, it is a worthy calling. And she reminded women the ministry they do is necessary to the life of the church.
“When we work hard for the Lord, we are working for something that will never fade away,” Kruger said. “If you don’t serve as God has called you to serve, the whole body is going to limp along.”
Resting in God’s faithfulness
Derwin Gray, co-founder and lead pastor of Transformation Church in Indian Land, S.C., called women to remember that when everything is not enough, Jesus is, because He is faithful.
“If you don’t think you’re seen, you are seen by El-Roi, the God who sees,” Gray said. “If God seeing you is not enough, everyone seeing you will never be enough.”
Gray pointed women to Ephesians 6:10-12 and told them to be strengthened by the Lord. He said the enemy uses disappointment, despair and defeat to attack ministry leaders, but God calls us to resist by depending on Christ (Romans 5:16-18), determining to hope in Christ (Romans 8:22-26) and declaring victory in Christ (Romans 8:37-39).
Gray left women with a challenge to allow Christ to be enough in their lives and ministry. “Where is Jesus not enough in your life?” he asked.
As she discussed Peter’s denial of Jesus and restoration to Jesus in the Gospel of John, Melissa Spoelstra, Bible teacher and author, challenged women to listen to Jesus.
“Lack of listening to God limits our leadership,” Spoelstra said.
Pointing to the difference between Peter and Judas, Spoelstra told leaders the question wasn’t if they would struggle or sin but how they would respond when they did. “We need to embrace the humility plan,” she said.
Spoelstra reminded attendees they cannot do anything for Jesus without first being with Jesus.
“What would it look like if you took some of the energy you put into worry and scurry and control and instead put it into listening to God?” asked Spoelstra. “Don’t go home and try harder. Go home and listen longer.”
The State of Ministry to Women
This fall, Lifeway Research alongside Lifeway Women released the State of Ministry to Women report. King, Loyd and Anne Harrison, director of women’s ministries at First Baptist Church, Wichita Falls, Texas, discussed some of the findings from the study during a panel.
“Women’s ministry works,” Loyd said.
Pointing to the research, Loyd told leaders that women’s ministry gets women in the Word and connects them with women in their church and connects them intergenerationally. Harrison challenged women to show value to both younger and older women in women’s ministry.
In some cases, Loyd said, women are more likely to serve or have more opportunities to serve when there is a women’s ministry in their church. And King said some women whose churches have a women’s ministry feel more equipped to share their faith.
Alongside these encouraging trends, King and Loyd identified a few stats from the research that challenge churches. King pointed out that 83 percent of women’s ministry leaders are volunteers or unpaid staff members. And Loyd said only 5 percent of women’s ministry leaders are planning ministry alongside church staff.
But Harrison said one way pastors can support women’s ministry leaders is by using language of brothers and sisters in Christ. “We cover each other’s blind spots,” Harrison said.
Engaging gender questions
During a Q&A session, Katie McCoy, director of women’s ministry at Texas Baptists, answered questions about how moms can help their children with gender identity, why we’ve seen an increase in gender dysphoria and gender confusion in recent years and how to love people without affirming their decisions. McCoy reminded attendees, “There is nothing too hard for the Holy Spirit to convict. Watch how the Lord uses simple discipleship in the world.”
A survey of the room revealed questions on these topics resounded deeply with many of the women in attendance. And McCoy challenged and encouraged them to engage these conversations with boldness, conviction and compassion.
“The terms and technology have changed, but the Lord hasn’t,” McCoy said. “We are bringing the message of life and wholeness for a world that is broken.”
Equipping women in leadership
“Forum is my favorite event and a definite highlight of the year,” Harrison said. “Where else do you get to gather with hundreds of female Jesus-serving leaders of all ages from all over the country at a place that focuses on equipping and encouraging them?”
After two days packed with worship, leadership development, biblical teaching, practical breakout sessions and networking with women, leaders said they left Lifeway Women’s Leadership Forum equipped and encouraged for ministry and leadership.
“Forum gives the opportunity for any woman to customize her experience to grow in her leadership influence and skills by combining incredible main sessions with practical and helpful breakout sessions,” Harrison said. “In addition, the connections and networking that happens have produced friendships and ministry partnerships I never imagined. I walk away each year refreshed and grateful.”
The next Lifeway Women’s Leadership Forum will be held in Nashville Nov. 7-8, 2024. To register or get updates on speakers, breakout sessions and more, visit Lifeway.com/womensforum.