This past weekend, approximately 80 women from around our Foursquare Mid-Atlantic District gathered together at Crosspointe retreat facility in Christiansburg, VA for our first-ever conference for women in leadership ministry (WILM). The theme this year was “Have One, Be One,” and we focused on mentoring–having a mentor and being a mentor.
Each church was invited to send one woman in leadership and three women, ages 30 and under, in whom they see ministry leadership potential. As a result, nearly half the women who attended were under 30! There was some discomfort in the room by those who came with their pastor’s wife — they didn’t know anyone and I think they weren’t quite sure what the conference was about. But this atmosphere was quickly replaced by excitement, greater comfort with others who were there (thanks to a fantastic ice breaker led by one of the mentees who came), and a sense of profound significance at the trailblazing aspect of what we were doing (we believe this was the first-ever WILM conference in Foursquare).
The event was hosted by our District Supervisor, Pastor Harriet Mouer, a true servant and shepherd. She shared with us stories of her mentees and mentors (some so encouraging and others so heart-rending, but all of them authentic and valuable). She also demonstrated the importance of using God’s eyes to see the value in our mentees through a hands-on exercise involving Queen Anne’s Lace, a flowering weed. She described how people casually pass by Queen Anne’s Lace, dismissing it as a weed, and therefore not appreciating its intricacy and beauty. She provided each of us a magnifying glass and some Queen Anne’s Lace and asked us to examine it with her. She helped us to see that each head of Queen Anne’s Lace is composed of a network of approximately 3,000 little flowers. In that way, it’s a picture of mentoring. And, as in mentoring, it is so small that it often goes unnoticed. But when we use God’s eyes (magnifying glasses), we can see the significance of the mentoring network, as well as the unique value of each little flower. This exercise was SO effective at making the point that mentors are to see mentees with God’s eyes — seeing, appreciating, and magnifying what is so unique and wonderful about them that others don’t yet recognize. It was very compelling.
The conference also offered six workshops, led by women in our district. They included:
• How to Identify, Develop, and Release Mentees
• Maximizing the Mentoring Experience from the Mentee’s Perspective
• Juggling It All: Mentoring with Competing Responsibilities and Demands
• Embracing How God Made Me and Helping Others Do the Same
• Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling: Building Credibility as a Woman in Ministry
• Biblical Reasons for Mentoring Women in Leadership Ministry
The handouts from each workshop were distributed to every woman, so even if you weren’t able to attend a workshop, you could benefit from the material presented at each one. Brilliant!
I had the privilege of leading the workshop on Biblical Reasons for Mentoring Women in Leadership Ministry. We focused on what the Bible says about mentoring, and then on what the Bible says about women leaders. The emphasis was on the Gospel Story and the context that provides for navigating trip-up verses about women not being allowed to speak in church or that women can’t have authority over men. The questions I received focused on submission, hurts experienced in mentoring, and the verses in 1 Tim 2 that most often are used to preclude women in leadership ministry. For my handout, I used a chart that summarizes my research and thinking on this more-expansive-than-a-workshop allows topic. If you’d like a copy of the chart (“Biblical Reasons for Women in Leadership Ministry: At a Glance”), let me know!
Our featured guest for the weekend was Pastor Deborah Boles from a Foursquare church in Exeter, CA. She is an intense and effective mentor, having mentored several hundred women in the past 25 years. She spoke to us about the history of mentoring, her mentors, how she became involved in mentoring, what mentors are to do (and not do), and the significance of wearing a beautiful apron to signify a commitment to serving with the heart of Jesus. I’ve never before wanted to wear an apron; but now I do and I want to get a classy, ornate one!
Pastor Deborah’s method of mentoring has been forged in the furnace of extreme suffering. She shared with us some of her stories of loss, darkness, tragedy, and spiritual attack. This suffering produced perseverance, character, and hope in her, which in turn shaped her mentoring of other women. “I’m here to kill you, girls!” she proclaimed (to which some of us responded with nervous laughter). It’s only in death that we can bear fruit, experience true joy and intimacy with the Lord, and know first-hand the power of resurrection.
In the midst of the darkest season of her life, the Lord gave Pastor Deborah a gift — a knowledge and understanding of the richness of an ancient Jewish purification tradition called a Mikvah. “Mikvah” means “collection of waters,” and the Mikvah is designed to cleanse us of anything separating us from God. This concept is captured today in Christian baptism. In Pastor Deborah’s adaptation of the Mikvah, she uses a mixture of elements, including myrrh, salt, and hyssop, and washes a woman’s head, face, hands, and feet. During the washing of each part, the woman is prayed for, given prophetic words, and washed clean of brokenness, sin, or past hurts. At the end, the woman is anointed with oil for the purposes of God. The Mikvah is healing and restorative, and afterwards, the woman who has experienced it can proclaim in her heart, “I’m alive!”
Pastor Deborah, with the assistance of Pastor Harriet, demonstrated the adapted Mikvah process on Pastor Heather Thrower. It was so powerful watching the Lord work within Pastor Heather right before our eyes. We were so incredibly moved that by the end of it, every woman in the room wanted the same experience! Everyone paired up and performed the Mikvah on their partner.
I wish you could have seen what I saw! Women who didn’t know each other were praying for one another. Older women were weeping over younger women. Younger women were prophesying over older women. Reconciliation happened as women who were at odds with one another blessed each other. Mothers washed daughters’ feet. Mentors anointed mentees with oil. Strangers became sisters. Women were healed, broken hearts were bound up, and areas of darkness were brought to light.
There were other amazing things that happened throughout the rest of the weekend, as well. Our worship, led by Lynn Brooks and a team of 20-somethings from her church in the Baltimore area, was powerful! One woman told me that the presence of God was so heavy in the room that it almost was too much to take – she felt like she had to run out! Another woman said that she felt the presence of the Spirit so powerfully that she was sure women were baptized in the Spirit that night. Women were weeping, receiving revelation, offering prophetic words to the group, and laying on their faces before God. It was incredible!
Also, I saw women take huge steps of faith, difficult steps of obedience, and bold steps of victory as they battled spiritually for their promises from God. Women gave, stretched, grew, and became open to the things of God that they never previously had experienced. And I saw women refreshed by revelation and much needed rest. We claim our inheritance as image bearers when we rest like He rests, don’t we?
Perhaps most significantly, I saw women disciple others, pursue new mentoring relationships, and overcome obstacles they faced to being a disciple and to being a discipler. That was the point!
I saw this conference as being in the same vein as the Kingdom Ways & Means (KWAM) conferences that Niki and I have been doing. While the structure, atmosphere, and size was different, the objectives were the same: to identify, mobilize, equip, and “send out” a generation of harvest laborers; to develop a generation of servant leaders who will be bold, courageous, and act — who will advance God’s kingdom, by answering their unique call with five simple words: “Here am I. Send me!”
To date, no other ministry experience has been more fulfilling for me than when I am working towards these objectives — whether it’s through KWAM, FMA, or individual discipleship. And this conference was no different! I encountered God this weekend more powerfully than I ever have before, and I am confident that many of the women who came would say the same about themselves.
Well done, Mid-Atlantic District women, Pastor Harriet, Pastor Deboroah, and the WILM team!!!