ATLANTA (BP) — The Women’s Advisory Council began formulating recommendations during its third and final meeting to present to Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee.
Appointed by Page in January 2016, the council has sought to gather and share information about perspectives and strategies for women in Southern Baptist churches to help reach the U.S. and the world with the Gospel of our Jesus Christ.
Page also asked council members to suggest ways to increase the involvement of women in biblically appropriate ways at all levels of Southern Baptist life, identifying and providing support structures to maximize women’s service through their churches as well as in leadership on state and national boards and committees.
Council chairwoman Rhonda Kelley, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary president’s wife and a leader in women’s ministry, facilitated the March 30–31 meeting in Atlanta during which the council also reviewed findings from a survey it conducted in 2016 and received reports from work teams.
Kelley distributed an 80-page draft report to council members at the meeting, containing findings of 16 topics related to ministry to women compiled by council members and an analysis of the 20-question online survey.
According to the draft report, more than 3,600 women, representing all 50 states, responded to the survey. Those under age 35 comprised the largest group at 26 percent of respondents.
About 21 percent each were between ages 35–44, 45–54 and 55–64 while 11 percent of respondents were 65 or older.
The council sought to increase survey participation from younger women by submitting the survey to collegiate ministers for distribution and to increase the response rate of older women by distributing print copies to senior adult groups.
Among the trends in Southern Baptist churches’ ministry to women revealed in the survey are:
— While more than four out of five churches have organized ministry specifically for women (81.31 percent), fewer than 10 percent have a full-time church staff position for women’s ministry (9.4 percent).
— Just over one-third of the survey’s respondents serve in a lay leadership role in some type of ministry to women, ranging from Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) to women’s ministry Bible study or prayer groups (34.81 percent), while 3.68 percent serve in a paid full- or part-time role in ministry to women.
— One-fourth of respondents (24.99 percent) have received specific leadership training for work with women through various leadership conferences, LifeWay Women’s Leadership Forum and/or WMU.
— Nearly 83 percent of women said their churches offer Bible studies specifically for women and 81 percent said their church hosts special events specifically for women.
— Fewer than three out of 10 women responding to the survey (29.08 percent) said their church provides evangelism or discipleship training specifically for women.
The Women’s Advisory Council is composed of 18 women from 14 states and represents different age groups, stages of life, ethnic backgrounds and ministry positions.
Its final report will contain specific recommendations to address four questions that surfaced during the council’s initial meeting in January 2016.
— What ministries, training and resources are provided for Southern Baptist women?
— What evangelistic methods and resources are effective in reaching women with the Gospel?
— What additional support is needed by women across the convention?
— What recommendations should be made to the SBC Executive Committee for consideration to increase involvement of women in biblically appropriate ways in Southern Baptist life?
The council will present its final report to Page just prior to the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix at the “Many Faces of the SBC” booth in the exhibit hall on June 12.