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Women’s missions, enrichment leaders hold first meeting, discuss cooperation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Southern Baptist Convention agency and state convention leaders in women’s missions and women’s enrichment ministry ended their first joint meeting Dec. 11 with an informal agreement to undertake a cooperative effort to symbolize their commitment to reaching women for Christ.
They agreed to pray for direction about the effort. No timetable was set for reaching a decision.
“I feel this meeting was a first big step in showing support and cooperation,” Dellanna O’Brien, executive director of Woman’s Missionary Union, said. “There was a strong feeling of unity in diversity. We recognize that we have distinctives no one wants to lose, but we believe there are ways we can work together to reach women for Christ.”
Chris Adams, women’s enrichment specialist in the Sunday School Board’s discipleship and family development division, said, “Just the fact that we were able to get together in the same room is so important. We want to see women grow to become all God wants them to be. I pray this is just the beginning of many things.”
Representatives from 25 state conventions, Woman’s Missionary Union, the Sunday School Board and the North American Mission Board participated in the six-hour meeting.
Missions education and support among women is the primary assignment of WMU. Women’s enrichment ministries which focuses on discipleship was a new assignment given to the Sunday School Board in the denominational restructuring, “Covenant for a New Century.” The North American Mission Board recently employed a staff member, Jaye Martin, as director of women’s evangelism.
Sixteen of the 28 state convention participants in the meeting have responsibilities for Women on Mission (WMU missions program for women) and women’s enrichment ministry. Others have responsibilities for one of the two areas.
After small-group discussions on ways to build bridges in churches between participants in missions and enrichment ministries, participants identified several needs for possible future exploration. They included:
— produce a print piece describing the goals and purposes of Women on Mission and women’s enrichment ministry to educate leaders and members about both;
— model events that include elements of enrichment and missions;
— work to break down stereotypes about both groups;
— develop a women’s ministry resource list including products from the three national agencies;
— consider ministry to women in churches as the umbrella that includes missions and enrichment;
— recommend churches have women’s advisory councils with representatives from enrichment and missions programs; and
— include information about Women on Mission in enrichment periodicals and information about women’s enrichment ministries in WMU periodicals.
Earlier in the meeting, state leaders reported on ways they are seeing God at work among women.
Carolyn Porterfield, associate executive director of WMU for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, said a Women of Purpose Network has been established in the state with representatives from eight groups: Baptist Nursing Fellowship, Criminal Justice Ministries, Hope for Home, Ministers Wives Fellowship, Women on Mission, Women Reaching Texas, Women Strengthening Hispanic Families and Women’s Ministries.
“We’re finding ways to network together, promote each other’s events and just to know one another in our state,” Porterfield said.
Carrol Kelley, WMU interim executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, said WMU staff members visited 60 of 67 associations this year.
“We discovered women were doing far more than we knew they were doing in ministry, prayer and supporting each other,” Kelley said. “We also saw that women don’t always see the importance of small things they are doing. We don’t know the stories; therefore, we are not encouraging and affirming our women.”
Cindy Still, a member of the missions education and ministry team, Missouri Baptist Convention, said two women’s enrichment ministry representatives will be added to the state WMU council next year, and three joint events are planned for 1998.
Ruth Wood, director of women and family ministries for the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, said missions and enrichment ministry have been combined annually for 11 years in the Woman to Woman Conference which this year drew 1,100 women.
Adams and O’Brien agreed it is likely additional joint meetings will be held to continue the dialogue and find additional ways to work together. National agency representatives will study feedback sheets from participants and propose next steps.
“Women need to know Jesus. Women need to know what their gifts are. We need to use those gifts to help others know Jesus. That’s the bottom line,” Laura Savage, WMU consultant for adult women, said.

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  • Linda Lawson