Pre-Event: Leading Women in the Local Church

Oct. 9, 2014 Leslie Bennett, Linda Green, Susan Hunt

Session Transcript

Leslie Bennett: My name is Leslie Bennett; I am the Southeast Regional Ambassador for Revive Our Hearts-as of about four months ago. [laughter] So if I ever look like, "Aaah, I don't know what I'm doing!" it's true, I don't know what I'm doing. But oh, do I have a heart for women's ministry! Because I was a women's ministry leader for twelve years at Northeast Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina.

I have brought two other women with me today who I consider two women whom I would look to for counsel. They have such experience and wisdom! Of course, Susan wrote the book on women's ministry, we know that, and Linda has a very vibrant and growing women's ministry. These women have such a passion for this, and they're such strong leaders. You will be so blessed by them.

We hope to encourage you. If you're here today already in ministry, we want to help sharpen that for you. If you're here and you're thinking, Oh, somebody's asked me to maybe start something in my church. I don't know how to begin! We might not be able to answer all of your questions, but we can definitely steer you in the right place, and Revive Our Hearts would love to come alongside you as you go forward.

These women pour themselves out for women all over the place-not just the women in their churches, but really all over the country.

The way we want to do this is we're going to start by sort of laying some foundational work. We get certain questions over and over again, so we're assuming you have some of those, and we're going to address those. We're hoping, at the end, that you'll have some questions you'll want to ask, to really tailor this to your needs even more. So the last fifteen minutes or so we will open up the floor for questions and allow you to bring some topics up that maybe we didn't address.

May I pray for us as we begin?

Heavenly Father, thank You so much for this group of ladies, these leaders, Father, that you have put upon on their heart for other women a love to serve other women. For those that are doing it faithfully now, Father, would You use this time to equip, to encourage, to sharpen us, to strengthen us?

Lord, some of us might need redirection in our ministries, as I did six years ago in the ministry that I led. I thank You for how You just put me on a whole new path as I was introduced to biblical womanhood.

Father, we just commit this session to You. May You be glorified and honored. May the Lord Jesus Christ be high and lifted up over these next sixty minutes. Lord, I would just pray and ask that for our ministries and churches as well, that You would be pouring out Your grace and Your power. You'd be calling women into their unique and most beautiful design, Lord.

We want to multiply that message and replicate it in as many women as we possibly can. So, Father, we just commit this time to You. In Jesus' Name, amen.

I've already told you a little bit about myself, and you're going to meet Linda and Susan. I asked them if they would share, as they introduce themselves. . . We've all got a story, don't we, of something that's happened in ministry? Either something that caught us off-guard or an unexpected or funny thing that happened or a challenge or whatever.

I'm going to begin with that, first, and then let Linda take it over from here. I think the moment I will never forget, in ministry-it was a number of years ago. In our Thursday morning Bible study, we had been meeting in a different location and we were asked to move, so all of that required a different set-up and a different mic system.

And we were trying new things that particular year. On the first day, I had to wear one of those cordless mikes that kind of clip onto your shirt, and I wasn't used to that. I was used to standing at a podium like this, and it was all new, and so they were hooking me up and whatever.

And so, being unfamiliar with all that, at a break, I decided to go to the restroom. [laughter] And I went to the restroom with the mic on! [laughter] I won't do that again! Thankfully, I think I've come a long way since then, but that's my moment in ministry I will never forget. It was quite funny-we all got a great laugh out of it.

I want you to meet Linda Green. Tell them about yourself, your ministry, and share a moment with them.

Linda Green: My name is Linda Green. I am the women's ministry director for a church called The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois. It's a church of a couple thousand people. We are multi-site, and our church has probably over a thousand women.

So it's a little challenging to get to know all of them, but it's also a great blessing. I've been on staff, I'm going into my eighteenth year. I began as a children's ministry director; there was no women's ministry in the church, and I just had a great passion for it, so I'll share a little bit more about that later-God opened the door for me.

Leslie: I think all three of us have had a chance to initiate a women's ministry, so we'll share some tips on that.

Linda: Yes. The thing that came to my mind when Leslie asked me this question: I was asked to give an announcement one Sunday morning at church. Our church holds about seven hundred or eight hundred people, and they like to keep things moving because we have three services. So they don't want any lag time.

In the effort to get up and give my announcement-we have about five to seven steps up to the platform-I go racing up those steps and fell flat on my face! So you have that moment . . . I just curtsied and then went on with my announcement! [laughter]

Leslie: Every time I meet with Linda or talk with Linda I'm always learning something from her. She has started a blog, and I wanted to share that with you. It's called Chosen and Called. You might want to check that out. It's good stuff; she's a good writer and a great leader.

So Susan . . .

Susan Hunt: I'm Susan Hunt. I live in the Atlanta area-the Marietta section of Atlanta. I'm married to a pastor who is now retired. We celebrated our fiftieth anniversary this year, and if you want to see pictures later, I've gathered up all of them. [applause]

Three kids, twelve grandkids . . . I first got into women's ministry because, as a young pastor, my husband felt very strongly that we should have women's ministry in the church that was consistent with the doctrine he was teaching in the church. So he got me into it, and then later on I was asked to be the director of women's ministry for our denomination, and I did that for about fifteen years.

When I started that, twenty-seven years ago, there were no resources, there were no True Women Conferences, there was nothing. But that was a good thing for me. I went to the Word, I studied, and landed on Titus 2 and became passionate about it. And I'm more so today than I was then.

I think one of my most unsettling moments was, I was speaking at a church somewhere and I'd been introduced. I was there; everything had been set to begin the talk. And I got to the podium and was just ready to start, and suddenly the women sitting right in front of me at a table-this had been a dinner-just jumped up screaming.

Somebody had turned a candle over, and everything caught on fire! It was really hard to recapture the moment. [laughter] We did.

Leslie: It think we should put this on the Leader's Connection on our website-let all of you put your ministry moments in there. That would be a lot of fun!

Thank you, Susan, for pioneering for all of us. And even through her books and teachings, there's no telling how many hundreds of churches have followed her, and she has consulted with them and been a spiritual mother to so many.

How many of you have heard that women's ministry is dead and is no longer needed, has served its purpose-and we just need to get rid of it in the church? I'm hearing this on blogs and I'm reading it, and so I asked Susan if she would counter that perspective that I'm seeing more and more women speak about.

Susan: Leslie, let me say that I think you're so wise to start with this question, because it forces us to really think about the answer. We could just dismiss it, but that's not a very wise thing to do. The question is out there, and so we need to really stop and think.

Let's think first of all, why are they asking this question? I think the first place we have to look is at ourselves. I'm afraid that, over the years, too many women's ministries have been built not on a Word-driven ministry, but on personality- or event- or task-driven ministry. You can kind of figure in your head what that means.

Any ministry that is not Word-driven every step of the way will become irrelevant. So we must look at that first. The second thing, though, is I do think that it's quite likely that this has grown out of . . . I don't want to say an accommodation to culture, but perhaps the culture has influenced us, even if we didn't realize it was influencing us.

There is not just indifference to the gender issue today, there is hostility. We know that. Even this morning, I heard a snippet on the news about a school that is telling the teachers to not refer to the children as boys and girls, that they should come up with some pet name.

I can't remember-they came up with something very silly that could refer to anything. Yeah, "purple penguins" was the nickname that they could call, and that way they wouldn't distinguish between girls and boys. So this is what we're up against!

How do we counter, whichever the cause? And I think it's a blend of the cause. Number one, we need to acknowledge that if we're going to have women's ministry, it must be built on solid biblical principles. There is a strong gospel imperative, I believe, for women's ministry. I've tried to give that in the book Women's Ministry in the Local Church.

I won't go over and unpack that whole book here, but those principles are there, and we need to build our ministries on strong biblical principles.

But I think the second thing is we do need to look at the culture and acknowledge that it is denying gender. Rather than driving us to say, "So we don't need women's ministries," I would say, "So there is an even stronger reason for needing women's ministry today!" Because if the only message that's being heard on gender is from culture, we've given up.

So women's ministry needs to be built on strong biblical principles, and we need to be teaching biblical womanhood to women so that they can counter what's in the culture.

Leslie: Women are going to learn about womanhood somewhere, and it's going to be the world, if the church does not begin to teach about womanhood. I shared in the pre-event for leaders that the statement I hear more than anything else when women are taught these principles is, "Why has no one ever taught me this before? Why have I never heard this?"

So thank you so much for addressing that.

Let's talk about the driving force of the ministry, then. Now that we have the biblical foundation for it, what should be a driving force in our women's ministries?

Susan: I think the driving force must be the same driving force that drives our lives, and it is profoundly simple. We're put here to glorify God. That is our chief end; it is our primary purpose. We're here to glorify God. Women's ministry is not about women; it is about glorifying God by serving His Church, doing what He told us to do-discipling, making disciples. And all discipleship is not to be gender-specific, but Titus 2 tells us that some is.

The church must have some place where women are teaching women what it means to be a woman according to God's Word. But ultimately that driving force of any ministry-and of our lives-is the glory of God, to display His glory in this world. One way we do that is by loving His Church and making disciples.

Leslie: Amen. And what I've also learned from you, Susan, is-our authority is . . .

Susan: His Word. Our only rule to know how to glorify Him is His Word.

Leslie: Thank you, thank you. Linda, I know you have a real passion for women's ministry to not be about just womanhood. I've learned from you that it needs to be about the gospel. And I'd love for you to share with us, what does that look like at your church, and how does that flesh itself out? A gospel-centered women's ministry?

Linda: I think that a lot of women shy away from women's ministry because they think of the stereotypes that have been attached to women. So they have this picture that it means I have to homeschool, I have to wear long dresses-these things attached that really have nothing to do with the gospel.

The gospel is what defines us, and the gospel really is for men and women. I tell my women, God created us male and female so that we could glorify Him distinctively. We have different ways of bringing glory to Him. So I like to start with the gospel.

Susan has a great definition, if I can find it. A true woman is (help me with this). A true woman is a recipient of her redemption . . .

Susan: And a reflection, is that it?

Linda: Yes, I wrote this down and now I can't find it. She's a recipient of her redemption (I might get this out of order). Her purpose in all of life is to glorify God; her authority is God's Word; and her mission is to serve God and others. I think if women understand that it goes back to what Christ did for us and out of the overflow of what He did for us, we want to be is a reflection of what He's done for us. I think there are challenges. I think women are fearful today. I think the feminist ideologies are strong. I know that-maybe ten years ago-I read Mary's Kassian book The Feminist Mistake, and I thought, Oh my goodness, I have feminism in my life! I think it's so subtle.

There are challenges. I think another big challenge today is even getting women to come to our things. Women are busy, they are busy about many things, and they don't realize how important this truth is to their life and how it will just change their life, if they're living according to God's purposes.

Leslie: All three of us share a passion for Titus 2 ministry-older women, younger women coming together. Is that a struggle you're finding in your church? I hear that a lot: How do we make our ministry intergenerational, because we tend to separate the ages? I think that's true for many churches.

How would you encourage women to catch the vision for Titus 2-type ministry? And then I'm going to ask you about specific things you can do. How can we overcome that challenge?

Linda: I think the first place I started was just asking the Lord to give me a love for all women. I wanted to help them be drawn to women's ministry by the love that I had for them. When I came into ministry, our church was very segregated. We were separated by ages, so the older women didn't know the younger women and there was a yearning for that, and yet it was really mixed.

Women who were being steeped in God's Word had a desire to know older women who could help them walk that out. Women who were not in God's Word didn't necessarily want to have those relationships or didn't seem to be looking for that as much.

Older women, I found, had gotten very busy. They either had gone out and retired, or they were in that "sandwich" generation and were very busy caring for older parents and grandchildren. But one of the other challenges I found was older women who felt like, "What do I have to share with the younger women? I've made plenty of mistakes. Who would want to listen to me?"

So we had this dynamic going on. I started, really, with the grassroots-finding the mature women, younger and older, and bringing them together and beginning to let God work in us first. I began to share just go back to Titus 2. The principles of Titus 2 will never be outdated.

No matter whether it's technology that has changed things or busyness that has changed things, women were created for relationship. We need each other. And so I find that when we begin to create opportunities for women to come together to get to know other women, based on the Word of God and the gospel, God begins to do something amazing!

Leslie: One of the things that I share with my older ladies, to encourage them to mentor, because I hear the same thing: "I don't have anything to offer." Maybe they have the time, but they don't feel they have anything to offer. My encouragement to them is what I do-I share out of my failures more than anything I ever got right.

And if you're just willing to open up and say, "You know what, if I could go back and do it again, now that I've walked with the Lord a little bit longer and I know His truth, this is what I would like to go back and do." That's an excellent mentoring relationship.

So encourage your older ladies that maybe don't have the confidence to step out. And sometimes that looks like just bringing a casserole or offering to babysit or praying for someone, sharing a cup of coffee. It doesn't have to be anything too terribly formal. Susan, I would love to hear your ideas. Let's even get more specific about formal and informal ways that we can-in the context of the church-bring the older and younger together.

Susan: I think that, with anything, there is an educational and a relational component-with any discipleship. So we've got to do more than just say, "Older women should be in relationships with younger women." We've got to really answer the "why" question. We've got to go back to Scripture and show that from the Old Testament, over and over and over, one generation was told to tell the next generation.

The gospel is, in a sense, generational. We're to be passing it on. SoTitus 2 is not just a list of some behaviors that older women should teach younger women how to do. That's not what that's about. It is about biblical discipleship. So we need to start teaching to this big vision and that it doesn't start when a women, say, gets married.

But this is talking about from our little girls in kindergarten, even in the nursery, right on through our teens to our young women to our older women. Women need to be teaching women what it means to be a woman. Then we move into how to do that, but we need to teach it as a biblical principle, as a biblical mandate.

I really don't see where it's an optional thing. It is a gospel imperative, so that's what we need to first teach.

Leslie: And what might like that look like, in either a formal-type program or informal kinds of things? Can you all share that?

Susan: I've looked at this and thought about it and tried it a zillion different ways, and I've talked to women in so many different churches over so many different years. It was probably ten to fifteen years ago that we began to weigh, to look in our own church, as sort of a laboratory to help me to know how to help other churches. "This just isn't working. It's not going deep, it's not going wide; it's not becoming the culture of our church."

The informal, which is maybe really the ideal, is not going to happen unless first of all there is the formal. It's not going to happen to a great degree. Too often, the stories we hear are ones that have happened right here, at one of these conferences. I think it was the last one that a woman went to the podium and said, "Six months ago I asked an older woman in our church if she would spiritually mother me, and she agreed. And I have not heard a word from her since, and I'm devastated."

And the same thing happened then-women groaned. But I said to that young woman, "I know you're devastated, but that woman agreed so quickly because she really wanted to do that, and I suspect that she's more devastated than you are. Every day she wakes up and she thinks, What have I gotten myself into? I have no idea what to do! And she feels more and more guilty."

This is where a women's ministry can step in and we develop what we call a small group model, and all the information for that is in this women's ministry resource notebook, which is in the resource center. There's a whole section on setting up these small group ministries with a Titus 2 leader, not necessarily the oldest woman in the group.

In fact, we try to recruit older women who really don't feel that they could lead the group, but we try to have them in the group. After doing this for several years, what we see is we almost don't need the groups anymore. The only reason we need them is for new women coming into the church. We encourage women to stay in a group for three years, but women understand biblical womanhood, that's what they study in these groups. They understand how to have relationships with one another; they know what to do. It's not just, "Well, we'll get together for lunch, and then where does this go?" Rather, they have a very intentional way to go about it. There's actually training for Titus 2 leaders also in here.

It's just glorious to me that it's changed the culture of the church! Little girls in our church introduce me and other older women as their spiritual mother. They talk the language. They know Titus 2. As one young woman said, "We take Titus 2 seriously here, and it has changed our church." I won't go into the details of it, but it is in here if you want it.

Leslie: Mention the three books that you use for curriculum. That might be good.

Susan: Well, the three that we recommend in here, simply because those were the three when I wrote this; there are others that you could use. We start with Spiritual Mothering, then they go to True Woman, then The Legacy of Biblical Womanhood. I would probably insert in there, now though, True Woman 101: Divine Design.

Another book that I've done since then is Prayers of the Bible, which really makes that applicable to women. But you select a curriculum. You don't just send women out there and say, "Go to it!" You're not teaching them how to do it. Too often in the church we tell people to do stuff, and we do not train them how to do it. So this is giving them the tools.

Linda: Susan, how big was your church that you did this in?

Susan: The first church that we did this in, before my husband retired, was about seven hundred. The church we're in now is actually a church plant of about two hundred. So it works-it just works, whatever the size.

Linda: I was going to say, first of all, when I started women's ministry, our leaders didn't even have an idea of where to begin, and I didn't have an idea of where to begin. We happened to be at a Desiring God conference, and my pastor said, "You can trust anything at this conference." And so, this book-Susan's book, Women's Ministry in the Local Church-was the book that I picked up, and I read it, I think, three times.

So if you're starting from scratch, this really helps you start at the foundation. Like she said, kingdom-oriented ministry, not felt-need ministry.

In my church, we already had a lot of programs going on, and I had to be careful to work under the leadership without trying to compete with other things. So I began what's called "Titus 2 Training," and it started by invitation. I just looked for women who loved God's Word and were willing to submit themselves to its authority.

I started with about twenty-eight or thirty women, and it was intergenerational. I intentionally had older and younger, single, married, with and without children, empty-nesters. And we studied a couple of books. I took Susan's definition that I had read in her book of what a true woman is, and I would teach through that.

So each week I would teach an aspect of how we reflect the gospel. Then we studied at the time, Nancy's book Becoming God's True Woman. Actually, she edited it and there were multiple authors. Now we use True Woman 101: Divine Design.

I can't say enough about that curriculum. It is biblical and yet it's just stunning-Nancy's and Mary Kassian's curriculum. By the way, we only met once a month on a Thursday evening so that women who were doing other things in other small groups could still be a part of this and catch the vision.

A great part of my goal here was to spread the vision, to get a vision cultivated in the church.

The second semester we did Spiritual Mothering, which is also by Susan. That book really unpacks Titus 2 and really helps women see that spiritual mothering and mentoring is more than friendship. It is a mandate of the church. This was a one-year track. This year I'm just starting to make it a two-year track.

I've had, now, about 175 women go through this class. It's just grassroots. Women are seeing this, and now they are going out and wanting to do that themselves. It's been a huge blessing. Next spring, I think, they're coming out with part two-True Woman 201. That would be a great tool for you, and I think we're going to get to that in a little bit also.

We are very blessed to have some great materials now. Susan said there was nothing. Susan started by writing materials for us, and now we are just increasingly blessed in this area.

Leslie: What that has looked like at my church is a True Woman discipleship program. We also meet monthly, and it's a take-off. . . I've gotten all my information from Susan's materials. But we've adapted it to our church. That's an encouragement to you as well-you don't have to pick up what someone else is doing.

You need to really take that before the Lord and have Him show you what His vision is for your women at your church. We meet monthly and we're using, now, the newer resources that we have: True Woman 101: Divine Design; Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, and in 2015, as Linda mentioned, True Woman 201: Interior Design-I've gotten a sneak peek at that, and a couple of ladies in here have, and it's an excellent study on Titus 2.

That's a formal program, but you may already have groups in place right now. With our Bible study we tried to be very intentional to just mix up the age groups. We kind of put our women in groups, rather than let them sign up for groups, and so since we had that ability, we intentionally mixed up the age groups, and it has been really neat to see women beginning to catch the vision and get excited-when a woman looks to her right, there's an older woman, and she looks to her left and sees a younger woman.

They're getting that concept of linking arms. Other things we've done, informally, to try to promote Titus 2 spiritual mothering, is to have testimonies at your Bible studies or your events and have women who are in the spiritual mothering relationship get up and share.

Put an article in your newsletter or on your church's website, things like that. Get the stories out there about the blessings of these relationships. As the leader of the ministry, everybody's watching the leader, right? I always make sure that I'm doing this as well.

As the women see me listening and going to the older women with questions, asking them to pour into my life-and then also meeting with younger women . . . It takes time, but as you model and live that out, then more women will see what you're doing and, again, it will encourage them.

Maybe it's just you-that's the only relationship-that's where you begin at your church. So those are even some informal kinds of ways that you can encourage the spiritual mothering and the Titus 2 ministry.

Let's talk about . . . Susan, if you could address this. What we're seeing now, in this age of technology and the busyness of the culture that we live in, women are more isolated and lonely than ever before! How does this impact women's ministry, and how do we try to facilitate genuine biblical community, which doesn't happen on Facebook?

Susan: This is not just a women's issue. It is a church issue. Again we must go back to that educational component. We need to teach a biblical apologetic for community. The church needs to teach this to everybody: our men, women, young people. We need to understand that the church is a family-and all of the implications of that. The beauty of covenant family life.

We need to teach the biblical apologetic for it, but then begin to provide ways . . . and Titus 2 groups are a wonderful way for this, even providing ways for our teenage girls. Mary and I did a book for teenage girls on biblical womanhood, and so a lot of groups that have Titus 2 discipleship groups . . . some of the women in that are doing Titus 2 discipleship with teen and preteen girls.

So all of those kinds of things, in particularly the once-a-month. That's amazing how much you can begin to connect. It takes a little while, but you can really begin to connect even through monthly meetings.

Technology is here; it is a way of life now, and so we need to use it for discipleship. We need to take advantage of it and find good ways. Have a Titus 2 group, or whatever, but then have your emails, where you can have email conversations and you communicate with one another and send prayer requests, and things like that.

It's okay to use this technology. We just don't want the technology to dictate to us, and we don't want to isolate from face-to-face times. I'm really sort of finding, though, like with our grandchildren, they're beginning to tire somewhat of not having face-to-face conversations. They're not doing some of the technology conversation as much. They're saying, "We want to have some face-to-face time."

But even though they may be wanting it, we still need to teach them why they want it.

Leslie: Would you encourage online Bible studies and things like that? Does that serve a particular woman, who's maybe working or a single mom or someone like that, who really maybe can't be a part of that smaller group? How do you feel about that?

Susan: I haven't done it, so I really can't speak to it too much, but I know so many younger women who are a lot more savvy with all of that than I would be. How some even, like missionary women who are doing Bible studies with women in other places.

There really are advantages and things you can do, with Skype and all of that, you can do that. But I think we need, in our local churches, to do everything we can to bring people together out of their isolation-face-to-face time. Women's ministry is such a good way to do that and connect women with special events, with retreats.

All of these things give women that face time, to really connect. Even to plan things for the church family-plan activities and things for the church family, to get together as families.

Leslie: There's a real danger of a women's ministry having its own agenda, separate from the church. So Susan, just keep talking for another minute-and then I'm coming back to you, Linda. Can you speak honestly about the negative effects of a cavalier women's ministry?

Susan: It goes back to what I said with that first question: If our women's ministry is not built upon solid biblical reasons for that ministry, and if the leadership is not maintaining a laser-focus on those principles, training new leaders. Don't just assume you put it in place, you train leaders, and then it's done.

But every time new leaders come in, there's continual training: "These are our reasons for doing this." You have questions that you're continually evaluating. If there's not that then we will become personality- or event- or task-driven, and that normally will degenerate into competition and divisiveness.

So many pastors are scared to death of women's ministry because of horror stories. They've had to deal with the latter kind of ministry in their churches. And they're just scared of it, because they've had these horror stories. We have a lot to overcome when that's happened, and we need to be patient with those pastors.

We must realize that women's ministry is not the objective. A healthy, gospel-driven church is the objective. We must be sure that women's ministry is supporting and encouraging every ministry in the church-that we're life-givers, we're helpers to every other ministry. [applause]

Leslie: Yes, I feel strongly about that, too. Thank you.

Linda: I just wanted to add to that: When I came into women's ministry, we had just gone through . . . I won't say a big church split; it was kind of a splinter. A couple of hundred people left, and it was largely due to women gossiping and spreading things that got out of control.

So just like Susan said, I think there was a little bit of, "What are you going to do with women's ministry?" So it was a real opportunity. I think my leaders trusted me, because I had been on staff, but they were gun-shy. It's been really great. For years I would come to them and tell them what I was doing.

There was no men's ministry then at all, at the time. But over the last eight years as they have seen the fruit that has come from us coming alongside of them, under their authority, and coming alongside to encourage and help them rather than resisting their authority. It's just been a wonderful thing to see, and now they are wanting to have a men's ministry that teaches the men how to glorify God. So that resonates with me very much, that we do have to make sure that we are not going about . . . I think men have been affected by feminism much more than we think, and I think they're frankly kind of nervous about women at times. We don't want to give them any more reason for that.

Leslie: Give us some right and wrong ways to work with male leadership, Linda. I'm going to switch this conversation, just tilt it a little bit. Counsel us in that area. We're called to influence. How can we be influencers of the male leaders, yet at the same time submit to their authority?

Linda: I'd really had some practice on this. I was on staff already. I was one of only two women on staff, and I'm a strong woman, myself, so I was learning how to use my influence rather than my strength all along. Hebrews 13:17 says, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you."

First Peter 3 talks about Sarah, who submitted to Abraham by putting her hope in God. I think as women's ministry directors, that's very applicable. Our hope, our eyes need to be on the Lord. This ministry's not about us. It's not our agenda. We are to serve the Lord, and we come under our leaders and we serve them, and that is serving the Lord.

Now that doesn't mean that the Lord hasn't given us a vision and some valuable assets that we can use to help our men, but we have to go to them in the right spirit. I have learned that sometimes it's just a matter of praying and waiting on the Lord, and then going in God's timing and appealing to our leaders. But always waiting on the Lord, not feeling any need to push my own agenda.

I had a woman in my ministry-she used to help run a huge company, and she worked over many men. She has joined my women's ministry team. She came to me not that long ago and said, "I have learned so much from you-the way you wait upon the Lord. And I'm seeing God work in our leaders because you have trusted His timing and His way."

It reminded me of how much our women are watching us, and how important what we do is. Sometimes it's not what you do or say, but it's very often about how you're living and acting that out. As women's ministry leaders-wow, we are in a really key place and we need to be careful.

God's timing is often different than ours, but God will move ahead, and He will move the men in our church as we pray for them and encourage them and wait on Him.

Leslie: We can trust Him when we don't get the answer back that we want. The first thing I tell myself is, "I don't see the big picture. I totally trust You, God. These men see the big picture. I don't. I see my tiny little corner. And so what I'm asking for, I trust You, Lord, that that 'no' is the right answer for me, even if I can't see that."

The other thing I'd like to encourage you to do is, be committed to pray for the pastors and leaders of your church, and teach your women to do that. The best resource that I have loved over the years is " Thirty Days of Praying for Your Pastor." You can get it through Revive Our Heart's website.

There's a separate one for praying for your pastor's wife. This was my way to just influence, encourage, admire, respect my leaders-was to be faithful to pray, and they knew it. And I tried to teach my women to do that, too. We need to be the "praying engine" of the church. Men pray as well, so it's not delegated down to us, but we should be that praying engine.

A quick question-if a woman here is being asked to initiate a women's ministry at her church, what would be your advice, telling her how to get started? What are one or two or three things she should do to get started?

Linda: I would say the first thing is get on your knees and pray. Before I really started, I just really cried out to the Lord, "I have no idea what to do here!" I probably have never prayed as much and just went very slow. I would not rush-I would go slowly.

Susan's book is great. It's not step-by-step. This is a book that will saturate your mind with a biblical apologetic. You need to get your mind around that before you start anything. Because women's ministry is ultimately not about programs. It's really helping women to come into a deeper relationship with their Savior and to grasp that they have been fearfully and wonderfully made in a way to reflect Him in a way that man do not and cannot.

So you want to be careful about starting programs, especially in a day and age when women are so busy doing many things. Whatever you do, you want it to be very intentional and very instructional and practical. The foundation has to be the gospel. Women don't know . . . they may have heard the gospel, but they don't know, "What does this look like?"

So how can we help them to see, "What does biblical womanhood look like?" in a way that leads to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness.

Leslie: I would also just add to what Linda said, it's also finding like-minded women to come alongside you and pray with you and then make sure that you receive that clear vision from your pastor. You have to have the vision from your pastor! Until you have that, you have nowhere to begin. We pray and ask God to give us a vision, but we need marching orders from our pastor.

We're going to go ahead and open up the floor now, for questions. Try to ask your question as succinctly as you possibly can, so we can hear from many.

Woman #1: We're doing a church plant in Ocala, Florida. We have nine members so far. I have presented to the pastors to do a women's ministry, but I don't know what to do to ask for a budget. What do you suggest?

Susan: The one budget item I would say, to start with, is money for a nursery for women's Bible study. [applause] Then you can begin reaching out to young moms who will flat-out tell you, "I'm coming because it's a morning out with a nursery, and I don't have to take a turn." And that's okay. We need to minister to them in that way. So start with that, and then build as you need it.

Women #2: How much do you pay those women, those nursery workers? Minimum wage?

Susan: I really don't know that. I would say it would depend upon your church, your community, what your church can afford to pay. Even though it may not be minimum wage, it may be an amount that will help some mom.

Leslie: I would say pay them fairly, and then maybe have a rotation of volunteers if you can't pay for enough people.

Woman #3: Hello. I have a question about the books. If you do True Woman 101 (which we've done; we love that book; it's great-get it) and you do Susan's Spiritual Mothering, how often do you rotate through those books in your group? Or do you constantly look for new books or after a certain amount of time are you not in the group anymore?

Linda: In our church it's been a one-year track. We're changing it now to a two-year track. It would be a whole new group of women. I wanted to get as many women through this curriculum, which just cultivated their understanding of biblical womanhood.

We've gone on, then, and started a Titus 2 Training 2 class, and so then we've added other curriculum into that. I think it just depends. There are a lot of great resources. Lies Women Believe also had a great impact on our women.

You can study God's Word, straight from the Word, and then just say, "How can we bring glory to Him?" There are many things you can do.

Leslie: You can decide whether to make it a two- or three-year program, or you can just make it open-ended. We started ours as a two-year program; now we've been together three years. There are so many good resources out there, we want to keep growing together, so we're continuing in some of our groups.

It's just a decision you'll have to make-it works either way. Next question?

Woman #4: We are blessed with a young church-a lot of young mothers and children. The hard side of that is that we don't have as many older women to mentor into them. A lot of the older women are in a place of life where they're back to work, and they don't have the time to pour into the younger women.

And then some of those women feel like they've "been there, done that." How do you pull those women who have the ability, but they don't have that hunger any more, to pour into women?

Susan: Again, you've got to have that teaching element, you've got to cast the vision and show them biblically that this is a biblical mandate. The reality is many women simply don't have time to put something else into their lives. It's all they can do to get to Sunday morning worship and those things that they do with their families.

But the once-a-month time does seem to work, and women want those opportunities with other women. So that's helpful. But also, even beginning with some special events, periodically, where it's a beautiful evening for women to come together, and then you can start casting that vision-at that point.

Linda: When we started the ministry, we had a Saturday morning and called it "Becoming a Woman of Influence." And we strategically had young women-all the way up to older women-and I was telling Susan, we asked a ninety-year-old woman to come and share her testimony.

She quoted Psalm 46 to us by memory. The lingering memory of her testimony (she's now gone to be with the Lord) . . . I've had so many young women who got the vision of wanting to finish the race strong, just from that event. They then began to desire to be with those older women to find out, "How do I do that?"

So you can start with an event and then you can get the interest, find women who are interested, and then catch them and bring them into something else.

Leslie: Keep praying; keep pressing on. If you're trying to change the culture at your church, that's not going to happen overnight. It's a continual praying, seeking the Lord, teaching, putting it before women, challenging them that if they want a mentor, to ask. Both the older and the younger. That doesn't have to be an age definition, necessarily. Just keep pressing away-thank you for your heart for that.

Woman #5: I think, Miss Susan, you're the one who mentioned that it has to start with the formal first before it goes to the informal. Can you touch base a little bit about that? We've been talking about the formal and how that is classes and book studies and getting together as groups.

But on the informal, is that more one-on-one, and then if that is one-on-one, what does that look like? How does that play out, maybe with the busyness of a mom staying at home and needing that spiritual mothering?

Susan: I'm not saying that you never have the informal if you don't have the formal first, but I'm saying it's rare. Women are unsure of themselves. But if they have been through the training, then it just becomes a way of life. It's conversations in the hall at church. It's picking up the phone and calling a young mom. It just becomes a way of life.

And sometimes those informal relationships will move into actual Bible studies together or book studies together. Sometimes it's just an encouragement thing, but they've got to know what it feels and looks like-they've got to have done it.

Most women do. Some women, it just seems to be intrinsic to who they are and they just do it. As one woman said, "I've been doing this as long as I can remember-I just didn't know what to call it." [laughter] And that's true. But it's going to be different for women in the different seasons of life. It's hard to put a definition to it, except that it's always focused on helping women to glorify God and live under the authority of His Word. That's the focus.

Leslie: Thank you. Go ahead . . .

Woman #6: I come from a church that is very small and has really gone downhill. Pastor had brought to my attention that he'd like me to try and start a women's ministry, because I do enjoy that. Our women seem to be very stagnant, so what would be a trigger point to get them motivated-to catch their attention right off the bat? And I'm talking women of all ages, from eighteen to about eighty years old. There would probably be ten to twelve women who would come, but I don't know how to trigger them, to get them excited.

Susan: Well, a big piece has already been put in place-your pastor wants it. A lot of women have to try and get that first. What I would suggest is the same thing that has been said-pray. You and your pastor have done that. Gather a small group of women, maybe even say "women who would like to study why we should have a women's ministry in the local church."

The leader's guide for that is in this women's ministry leader's notebook. Take that small group of women through and let them become passionate, and then it will start flowing out from there. This also, and so many of the other things we've talked about, like how to build community-there are lots and lots of resources and suggestions in here on how to do those various things.

Leslie: Are you here alone, or do you have other women with you?

Woman #6: I'm the only woman from my church.

Leslie: Well, another idea would be to try to get your women engaged and involved from your excitement, coming back from this conference alone-and finding that little smaller group and maybe even doing a True Woman night and show the videos in someone's home to get women excited. There's a lot you can do, even just thinking about True Woman and taking that back.

Linda: Another thing I just want to mention, a book that was really a jump starter among our women was we read Radical Womanhood by Carolyn McCulley, and that shows you the history of feminism, and it got a fire under us! First of all, it helped us to recognize feminism in our own hearts, but it really kind of got us, like "We want to take back what the enemy has stolen!" He has stolen our femininity, really-or our understanding of femininity.

So that book, Lies Women Believe, a lot of these resources, just kind of pull you back from where we've all drifted. That was very helpful to us.

Leslie: We'll take just one more question, but I promise you, we won't leave, we won't run out of the room. So those of you who are still standing, just come and you can still ask your questions when we conclude.

Woman #7: We have just begun doing the True Woman 101. We've done about three lessons, and I've been thoroughly enjoying. We do have a great differentiation in ages-older and younger. But it's different every week. Sometimes we have four; sometimes we have twelve.

The older women are wonderful, and they interact very well. The younger women-even my age and younger-aren't doing that much, and it's like pulling teeth to get the discussion when you're asking those questions afterward. How can we get them not to just sit there, like, "Duh?"-to interact.

Susan: Are they doing their homework? Are they not sharing because they haven't done their homework?

Woman #7: Well, I don't even know if we're doing this right, but basically, we are watching the video and then we are just doing the questions afterward. We are starting brand-new. We haven't done a ladies' Bible study in a long time. We had a ladies' group and it was task-oriented, and it died.

So we are trying to start a ladies' Bible study.

Linda: Are they doing the homework before they come?

Woman #7: No. My husband is the pastor, and he and I both watch the video first. We go over all the questions so that at least I know what we're going to be talking about in that session. So should I give them the questions?

Linda: Do they have a copy of the book?

Woman #7: No, they do not.

Linda: Well, that's what I would do. Give them a copy of the book, have them do one chapter at a time.

Woman #7: See, I thought that would even be too much for some of them, especially for the younger ladies.

Linda: We do one chapter a month.

Woman #7: We're doing it once a month.

Linda: I think once they get into it-at least in my experience, once they get into it, they're brought into it right away. This is such a colorful, well-written book. The young women in our study are very engaged, but they come having read the chapter. You can have them watch the video online.

Woman #7: That's a good idea.

Linda: I've done both: I've brought the video into my living room. By the way, we meet in our homes so we can model biblical hospitality.

Woman #8: I wanted to say something about the babysitting. We have a local college, and we hire college students. They will take any amount of money. [laughter]

Leslie: Use college students for your babysitters. How many of you are trying to start a women's ministry, so we can just get an idea? Okay, a smaller percentage. We're out of time, but I'm going to ask Susan if she would pray for all of you as leaders, and we'll close that way.

Susan: Let's pray. Father in heaven, I thank You for each woman in this room, and I thank You for the churches they represent, for the pastors who shepherd those flocks, and I pray that You will plant the vision that You have for each of those churches in the hearts of these women. That You will impassion them with what their church needs at this time, but Lord that You will also prepare the hearts of the male leadership of those churches and that hearts might be knit together as they move forward in seeking to disciple women to glorify You by living out our creation design and our redemptive calling. In the Name of Jesus, amen.