Leadership in focus at women’s Priority Conference

Meredith Flynn —  May 25, 2015

Editor’s note: The following post is a report from the Priority Women’s Resource Conference held in Decatur, Ill., in April. For a full list of ways to get involved in Illinois Baptist Women’s Ministry, go to www.IBSA.org/womensmissions.

HEARTLAND | Lisa Sergent

“You’ve got to minister outside the four walls of your church,” Carmen Halsey told women gathered in Decatur for IBSA’s Priority Women’s Resource Conference.

“When we meet a need, we earn the right to share the gospel. We’ve got to be women who are willing to speak and share our stories…Leadership development involves every one of us.”

Leadership was the focus of the April 24-25 meeting, formerly known as the Women’s Missions Celebration. More than 430 women representing 108 churches came to Decatur for plenary sessions and breakouts designed to give them tools to put to use in their own churches and communities.

“We’re part of a local body that God has put together,” said Halsey, IBSA’s director of Women’s Ministry and Missions. “Why would we want to be trained and equipped if we’re not going to do ministry?”

During the two-day conference, Illinois leaders and national speakers made clear the main message of the meeting: Leadership requires action.

More than a mist

Sowell_blogKimberly Sowell (right), founder of Kingdom Heart Ministries, told the women that leadership means meeting needs. Addressing them during a large-group session in Decatur, Sowell shared the story of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10. In the parable, the priest and the Levite chose to continue down the road to do the things deemed important by them, she recounted. Only the Samaritan man chose to help the beaten man and see to his wellbeing.

Like the priest and the Levite, Sowell said, we get caught up in our religious duties and can get our priorities out of order. “Whatever we choose to do is most important to us.”

When prioritizing our lives, Sowell noted, “There are certain things we should all be involved in; coming into the house of God, worshipping God and studying God’s Word so we can get filled up with the power of the Holy Spirit so it will power us up to go out into this world and be living water.”

However, she cautioned, “Let it not be said of us that in our exuberance we drown out the sounds of the cries for help.”

Following God’s leadership—even as he transforms us—was also a key discussion point at the conference.

“We are not called to stay the same,” said speaker and author Rachel Lovingood. “We are to be informed, we are to be transformed…We are called to be intentional and practical with our lives.”

Reading from James 4:13-17, Lovingood sprayed her travel-size can of hairspray into the air to demonstrate the temporary nature of a fine mist and said, “If I’m obsessed with controlling my own life, it’s just a mist and will have no impact…If I’m willing to give up my own life and invest where God chooses, then the impact can be immeasurable.”

This is only done through a reliance on Christ, she said. “We are doing the best we can sometimes, but we’re doing it by our own strength. We need to rely on Him.”

Speaker Rachel Lovingood asked women at the meeting to stand arm-in-arm to demonstrate unity. "There is no telling what can happen in the state of Illinois if we start getting together,” she said. Photo by Lisa Sergent

Speaker Rachel Lovingood asked women at the meeting to stand arm-in-arm to demonstrate unity. “There is no telling what can happen in the state of Illinois if we start getting together,” she said. Photo by Lisa Sergent

Focus on missions
To kick off the Decatur meeting, Halsey and others spoke on needs in Illinois and abroad, and how organizations like Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) can help engage women in missions. Clella Lee brought greetings from National WMU, headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., and Jill McNicol was re-elected president of Illinois’ state chapter. McNicol is a member of First Baptist Church in Patoka.

Women also elected members of WMU’s lead team, who will serve in a variety of roles throughout the year to organize missions opportunities for children, teens and adults in Illinois.

Early Saturday morning, some meeting attenders participated in a 5K Run/Walk for Missions. Around 30 walkers and runners assembled in Decatur for the inaugural event.

Going home changed
In the meeting’s final session, pastor’s wife and International Mission Board global missions catalyst Lori McDaniel emphasized the importance of faith in women’s lives. “You’ll be ready for tomorrow if you’re OK with God interrupting your normal,” McDaniel said. “God’s interruptions are never convenient.”

She said women have got to stop asking themselves “what if” questions and follow God. “We have so much faith that we’re not going to go backwards. But, we have so much fear that we’re not going to go forward.”

Recounting the Bible story of Gideon, McDaniel said, “God raised Gideon up to be a judge, but not before Gideon back-talked God and showed a lack of faith.” Just as he eventually accepted his assignment, “If we’re going to be ready for tomorrow, then we’ve got to accept the assignment that we’ve been sent,” McDaniel said. “In your ordinary life you have room for an extraordinary God. Where in your life is He at work in a way that can only be explained by Him?”

“Are you going home changed?” Halsey asked the women at the end of the conference.

“Tomorrow begins today,” she said. “We have a personal choice to make whether we are going to live our lives with intention or let someone else decide it for us.”

Read the current issue of the Illinois Baptist online at http://ibonline.IBSA.org.

Meredith Flynn


Meredith is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.