LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–More 200 women from nine states and Canada attended this year’s Women’s Leadership Consultation for training female leaders for local church ministry.
An annual event that alternates each year between the six seminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention, this year’s featured speakers were authors Mary Kassian and Dorothy Patterson, both known across the evangelical world for challenging women to think biblically on such matters as their God-ordained roles in the church and home.
Heather King, director of women’s programs at Southern Seminary, said the number of attendees at the Feb. 10-12 conference demonstrates a hunger among evangelical women for in-depth training for ministry.
“The responses I heard confirmed our theory that women, even if not called to be fulltime seminary students, desire to be equipped and as effective in their ministries as possible,” King said.
“Women’s ministry leaders want to be challenged and desire training that will impact their ministries not [only] for the coming year, but for years to come.”
Kassian, in addressing the conference’s plenary sessions, used 2 Timothy 3 to encourage women to be wise — and not `weak-willed’ — women of the Word, while Patterson taught from Esther, encouraging women to develop leadership styles that glorify God.
Among the books Kassian has authored are “The Feminist Gospel: The Movement to Unite Feminism With the Church” and “Women, Creation and the Fall.” Patterson is the author of such books as “Where’s Mom? The High Calling of Wives and Mothers” and “The Family: Unchanging Principles for Changing Times.”
King said the conference’s planners focused on several issues around which they built the event.
“We began to ask ourselves, ‘What are the key issues that leaders must understand, even if they are unaware of the importance of such issues?’” King said. “The list was long, but we narrowed it to four key issues that a women’s ministry leader must understand”:
— The challenges of ministry in a postmodern world.
— Exercising leadership centered on the glory of God.
— The necessity of God’s Word.
— The influence of the gender debate on the current culture.
The four central issues then were used as a springboard for equipping women’s leaders in the local church, especially for reaching and ministering to other women with the Gospel.
Mary Mohler, director of Seminary Wives Institute (SWI) at Southern Seminary, said the conference is crucial in equipping equippers.
“That factor alone makes it very unusual as far as women’s conferences go,” Mohler said. “We purposefully planned a full program of speakers who confronted today’s issues of leadership head-on and in a most effective way. The results of such training were evident immediately.
“Women ordered recordings of what they heard in record numbers. Their feedback to me personally indicated their gratitude for the opportunity to be encouraged but at the same time challenged to not only press on but to aim higher in their pursuit to be wise women who are guided by the Word of God.
“Others told me that this conference simply set a new standard for excellence in leadership training for women,” Mohler said. “Given the gifted speakers on the program, we expected nothing less and give God glory for the pleasing results.”
Participants said they were both encouraged and challenged. Tina Tindle of Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala., described the conference as a weekend of spiritual refreshing.
“Our speakers this week are teaching us about being a wise woman, and they’re doing that scripturally,” Tindle said. “That refreshes our memories [and] it refreshes our hearts. Then we can go and relate it to the women that we are ministering to.”
Lorie Looney, a master of divinity student at Southern Seminary from Tallassee, Ala., said the “countercultural” nature of the conference’s teaching enabled her to see contemporary issues more clearly in light of Scripture.
“We, as women today, are reflecting Christ and His commands in the culture,” she said. “It’s sort of like we’re getting a chance to counterattack the culture if we correctly understand and define God’s Word.”