Women in Ministry Conference encourages women to work in courage

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by Kaitlin Warrington — March 1, 2013

ABILENE – Being a woman in ministry requires both courage and encouragement, said speakers at the Texas Baptists Women in Ministry En{in}Courage conference held at Logsdon Seminary Feb. 22. The conference focused on helping women identify or remember their ministry calling from the Lord and to walk courageously.

“We named the conference En{in}Courage to emphasize both the encouragement that women in ministry and those who support them need, but also to respect the fact that women in ministry and their supporters are living in courage as they step out and follow God’s call,” said Meredith Stone, Texas Baptists’ Women in Ministry specialist.

The conference equipped female students exploring vocational ministry, current women serving in ministry and those within the church exploring the role of women in ministry and leadership.

“Women who minister in Texas Baptist life often do not have many other female ministers with whom to have community and to share struggles and successes,” Stone said. “Women ministers, whether they are chaplains, children’s ministers, pastors, missionaries, or student pastors, are still the minority in our context. This conference provided an opportunity for encouragement, equipping and being together with others who share in their journey.”

Danielle Shroyer, pastor of Journey Church in Dallas and the keynote conference speaker, reminded the women at the conference not to fear or become discouraged as they walk their ministry journey, explaining the call that God gave the prophet Ezekiel to be hardheaded in his focus and not to be dismayed during his journey.

“Ezekiel saw what was but he stood firmly on the reality of what will be and what ought to be,” Shroyer said. “We also must choose to live in this reality with resolute clarity even if it seems silly.”

Women must remember their calling to speak truth into people’s lives and minister to them in the name of Christ. They can move beyond fear to live in courage to fulfill their calling, she said.

“Fear removes our center. It paralyzes us. It shatters us,” she said. “And when we are shattered, we become less than we were made to be. We are not to dismay. We are to trust and safeguard our hard headedness in what the world regards as foolish hope.”

In order to have a steady heart without paralyzing fear, women in ministry must acknowledge the fear and then let it go out of their lives, she said. Some of this fear can be tied to wanting to lead well in their ministries and discovering their way in ministry.

“We already know what we are to do. Maybe not five years worth or two months worth of what we are to do. But right now, in this moment, the Spirit beckons to us, telling us what to do with this moment. We create our futures one moment at a time. We gain steady, courageous hearts one moment at a time…. and we do know the one who makes a way for us in the future. He is a sure and steady guide,” Shroyer said.

Griselda Escobar, a chaplain at Hospice of East Texas in Tyler, urged women to stand encouraged in the calling the Lord has placed on their lives.

“He has opened doors that I could never had imagined. I’m so grateful for all the women who have invested in me. Day after day, I become a little braver in how I see my calling and my ministry. I seek now to invest in others. And support and love those who have the same or similar callings.” Escobar said.

She challenged women in ministry to be brave in following the calling the Lord has laid on their hearts, for He will lead them where he wants them to go, she said.

The conference offered breakout sessions and panel discussions to equip, stretch and strengthen each of the groups attending.

Panel discussions led by women working as pastors, chaplains, children’s ministers and more as well as other church leaders supporting them discussed stepping out in courage to work in ministry, living in courage as women in ministry and being an encouragement to women following the Lord’s calling.

In her breakout session, Kyndall Renfro, pastor of Covenant Baptist Church in San Antonio, encouraged young women who soon will begin their ministries to celebrate the things that are going well and how they see God moving among the church.

She stressed how important it is for ministers to take care of themselves – scheduling activities into their schedule that help them be healthy physically, emotionally and spiritually, and to lean into their ministry strengths, not feeling like they have to know every theological detail or be well equipped in each ministry area.

“We need to have the courage to just be who we are and understand that who we have been created to be is enough,” Renfro said.

Taylor Sandlin, pastor of Southland Baptist Church in San Angelo, led a session on the Lord’s Supper, stating that this metaphor should guide the way churches view women ministering in the church.

“The table gives us the picture of family, and this is the beautiful picture of God,” he said. “If the entire family is not sitting at the table, it is not the Lord’s supper. Our life together is illegitimate if we are not all together…. So why is it important that we make sure that both men and women have a seat at all things in the church? It’s because we are not practicing the gospel if we are not.”

Because of this, Sandlin believes the foundation for the Lord’s table should guide all decisions within the church and the roles men and women hold.

“When we come to discuss the finance committee, for example, we say, ‘What does it mean for the table of the finance committee to look like the kingdom of God.’ Well, it probably means that there are men and women who serve on this committee who come from different financial levels, backgrounds and education levels,” he said.

Sandlin also encouraged the men attending the conference to stand up for women in ministry passionately following the Lord’s calling in their lives. They should take a firm stand rather than seeing women in ministry being a conversation they “can duck out of at anytime,” he said.

“If I believe that the kingdom of God is the fulfillment of Acts 2 when God’s Spirit falls on all people, then I need to speak up for the women around me and stick my neck out for them,” he said. “The church and the kingdom will be blessed when we step beyond our assumptions into what God is doing today.”

Photos by Kristen Harris, a student at Logsdon Seminary in Abilene.

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