Meet the Women’s Ministry Group
One of the ways we have been developing the work and ministry of FIEC for more than a decade is by investing in the biblical ministry of women in our churches. Elisabeth Smyth introduces us to the Women’s Ministry Group which helps to shape this work across the Fellowship.
The Women’s Ministry Group can trace its roots back to 2003, when the wives of three FIEC pastors set up a small committee to offer better support for women across the Fellowship.
Their original vision centred primarily on supporting and encouraging pastors’ wives. But it also encompassed a desire to support women in FIEC churches generally; particularly to help counteract society’s increasingly egalitarian values.
14 years on, the way women’s ministry is carried out in many of our churches has changed, and so has the structure of FIEC’s staff team. So how does that original vision look now and what burden does FIEC still have to embed the value that God places on women in ministry into its activities?
Well, now that original team has evolved into the Women’s Ministry Group (WMG).
The purpose of this new group is not so very different from the original vision; its aim is to work alongside me as Women’s Ministry Coordinator: ‘To support the delivery of an effective ministry to and amongst the pastors’ wives and women’s workers of FIEC churches.’
Three areas of support
This purpose could best be described as a ‘work in progress’, there is always so much more we would wish to be doing if time and resources allowed! But here are three areas in which FIEC, through the WMG, is seeking to serve our churches in their support of women in ministry:
Mainly via our bi-monthly electronic newsletter called For Women. This includes reviews of books as well as blogs, web articles, training courses, materials and other resources such as conferences. There is also news and reports alongside articles to help inform, encourage and equip women whether or not they are engaged in a formalised women’s ministry. Anyone can subscribe to For Women by clicking ‘Receive our newsletters’ at the top of the FIEC website – apparently there are a number of men who do so!
As part of this communication work we also plan to increase the number of articles and resources for women which are published on the FIEC website, authored by women from this team and our churches.
FIEC now organises two annual conferences specifically for women ministering in our churches.
Thrive has been running for six years now and is a 48-hour event for women’s workers – those who have been set apart for word or pastoral ministry among women in our churches. The aim is to facilitate a time of spiritual and physical refreshment through the ministry of God’s word, through fellowship with those involved in similar work, and through being in relaxing surroundings.
2017 saw the first Ministry Wives’ Retreat, a long-awaited event with very similar aims to Thrive but for those married to men ministering in our churches.
The WMG also has input into the organisation and planning of the FIEC Leaders’ Conference, to which all ministry wives and women’s workers are warmly invited, as well as the Pastors’ Network day conferences.
This is perhaps the slowest growing area, seeking to help people make connections beyond their own local church. This may be for the purpose of encouraging ministry friendships; input of professional knowledge; or exchange of ideas of best practice involving women’s ministry.
It may also involve members of the WMG helping church leadership teams to think through biblical women’s ministry in our churches.
Our prayer is that we may become a more effective conduit for such connections as we build up a clearer picture of what is happening within and between our churches.
Who’s on the team?
The membership of the WMG is deliberately varied. The eight non-staff members include: pastors’ wives; an elder’s wife; a church planter’s wife; FIEC Directors’ wives; and married and single women’s workers.
[from left to right: Sarah Allen, Jane McNabb, Bethan Akrill, Annie Leggett, Ursula Stevens, Linda Allcock, Leonie Lucas, Kath Paterson, Elisabeth Smyth, Becky Russell]
Each member is heavily involved in the ministry of their local church, churches which are of varying size and geographical location, as well as having links with many other evangelical groupings and organisations. The giftings, ages, backgrounds and experience of these members vary too, all of which helps to bring a robustness and vibrancy to discussions at the group’s meetings for which I am immensely thankful.
There are many godly and gifted people in our churches who support us in many different ways by giving their time and God-given talents to benefit the wider Fellowship of churches that make up FIEC. I thank God for those who encourage, challenge and support me through their involvement in the Women’s Ministry Group, knowing that their service extends far beyond the confines of our meetings.
As Melissa B Kruger has said:
“Women’s ministry is ultimately not about women. Nor is it about programs. It’s about the glory of God and the health of his church.”*
*Endorsement of Word-Filled Women’s Ministry, edited by Gloria Furman and Kathleen B Nielson.