'Spiritual growth, not entertainment' seen in today's women's ministries

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Continuing spiritual and numerical growth in women's ministries in Southern Baptist churches were cited as signs of encouragement for the future by a speaker in the Women's Enrichment Ministry Leadership Forum, Nov. 14-16 at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Rhonda Kelley, coordinator of women's ministries at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, said, "... we need to always ask if what we're doing is making an impact in the lives of women."

She listed several observations about the current health of women's ministries, beginning with her belief that the focus in churches is "on spiritual growth, not entertainment. Our women are not going to spend a lot of time on fluff."

Also, Kelley said she sees women's ministries moving from periodic, special events to ongoing programs.

"We used to focus on special events because people don't like to make a commitment," she said. "But if they come to events and like them, they want more."

Women's ministries are working effectively with other church ministries and programs, Kelley said, "not just doing their own thing."

In another observation, she said there is an increased focus on ministry rather than activities. "Women are not just getting together for the sake of getting together."

While earlier versions of women's ministries focused on large group events, Kelley said the current trend is more toward small group gatherings.

"That's why small group Bible studies and mentoring relationships are so important," she said.

In a related area, she said today's women's ministries are more team-led than leader-led.

Also, she cited an increase in cross-generational relationships among women rather than age-graded activities.

In another area, Kelley praised the increasing support of Southern Baptist Convention entities for women's ministry. "We see this at the national level -- LifeWay, Woman's Missionary Union and the North American Mission Board. We also see it at the state and associational levels."

She also reported seeing "vibrant women's ministries in all sizes of churches."

Finally, Kelley praised a "continuing interest in hands-on involvement in missions and ministry.

"That's why you want to make sure your women's ministry provides opportunities to do missions, to do evangelism and to do ministry, not just talk about it," she said.

The forum was sponsored by LifeWay's discipleship and family division and drew approximately 300 participants to the agency's Nashville, Tenn., facilities.

(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo title: TRENDS.

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