By Jennifer Johnson
A few years ago I planned a special event for women in ministry, open to any lady on staff at a church or parachurch organization.
A few guys I know found it hard to understand.
“So it’s a women’s ministry event?”
“Not exactly. It’s for women who are in ministry.”
“Oh, you mean like women married to pastors?”
I don’t have anything against celebrating women or pastor’s wives (I happen to be both) but that’s not the audience I’m most interested in. Those groups enjoy plenty of conferences, blogs, and books developed especially for them. However, there are far fewer ways for women who are themselves pastors, directors, administrators, and leaders to connect with kindred spirits, especially in our movement, so I’m glad to see Blessing Ranch taking the initiative with “Beyond Her Story.” (See related article.)
However, I’m even more glad to see them creating ways for women to gather in person. Websites can be a starting point, but it’s hard to build a true network of support, mentoring, and friendship through a screen, and I think that’s the real need for our women in ministry. We all have more than we can read, listen to, or possibly absorb, but how many of us have too many strong Christian women rooting for us?
This spring I spoke in chapel at Cincinnati Christian University. My friend Mandy, who pastors a church in the city, dropped what she was doing when she saw it on Facebook that morning, hurried across town to attend the service, and e-mailed me with encouragement that afternoon.
My friend Laura messaged me, as well—“I ended up in too many meetings to come, but I hope it was a great morning.”
It never occurred to me that either of them would have thought to be there, and I was surprised at how much it meant to me.
I decided to find my own ways to proactively encourage the women in my own circle. I look up to many of them, like Laura and Mandy, so it’s easy to assume they don’t need my small efforts. But whether you’re a young woman on staff at your first church or you’re a 30-year ministry veteran, every woman trying to do something significant needs a tribe of others cheering her on.
So a few years ago at the NACC I organized an impromptu gathering of a few dozen women at a coffee shop near the convention center; it might be time to consider doing that again. A friend of mine just graduated from seminary and is looking for opportunities to write and blog; perhaps I can open a door or two. Another friend here on the East Coast occasionally gives my name when she can’t accept a speaking engagement or serve on a committee; I am quick to recommend her when groups I know need a speaker or consultant.
Woody Allen famously said 80 percent of life is just showing up. I hope many women visit Beyond Her Story to learn from each other, but I hope this new website also leads to more conversations, more camaraderie, and more last-minute drives to each other’s chapel services. In a “brotherhood” which has not yet decided how up-front its women are allowed to be, it’s important for us to start showing up for each other.