Women in Ministry Meet to Discuss Refocus, Rebrand
By: Laura Poff
The Territorial Women’s Ministries Department kicked off the New Year Jan. 5-6 with two days of engaged conversation at territorial headquarters, discussing how to best attract, equip and release women for ministry through The Salvation Army in the Southern Territory. The participants represented great diversity in age, cultural background and present roles in The Salvation Army and arrived ready to share their experiences and their heart for ministering to women.
Commissioner Debi Bell, territorial president of women’s ministries, shared with the nearly 50 invitees that, “We need to give a new generation the chance to speak about what they want to see happen while, at the same time, assure that we care for women of all generations. We see this gathering as an expansion of how we reach women.”
“Officers, soldiers and employees from across the Southern Territory met together for the purpose of responding to the need for evaluating our ministry to women in the communities where we serve,” said Colonel Heidi Bailey, “and to, together, develop a relevant strategy to advance the appeal and helpfulness of our future women’s ministry, through grassroots feedback.”
The sessions, facilitated by Captain Maureen Diffley, primarily focused on the sharing of concerns and hopes for women in general, ministry to women and current corps programming. Many spoke of a lack of depth and relational time in existing programs. Others voiced concern that younger women are not joining women’s ministries now and may not join when they older. Participants indicated that this suggests that existing practices do not meet felt or actual needs. A consistent emerging theme was the need to refocus on forming authentic relationships and building a community, rather than on planning highly organized weekly meetings.
Lt. Colonel Karol Seiler addressed the challenge of changes on Friday morning, “Change is hard, and it can be painful and doesn’t happen overnight. “It’s easier to leave everything the way that it is. It can be especially hard to motivate others who don’t see a need for change.”
As the sessions continued, emerging themes were identified, and the need for change was evident. Several aspects of change were addressed, including visual communication of changes, graphics and logos, potential challenges to implementation and how to address each of those challenges. The participants reached a consensus that it is essential to consult people in all levels of leadership as a strategy and tools for widespread changes are developed.
The Territorial Women’s Ministries Department committed to continue the conversation with the participants of these meetings and to hold further conversations with officers, soldiers and employees at the divisional level. Participants were encouraged to share their ongoing feedback as THQ shares developments and addresses practical and technical questions, so that corps officers and members can freely make changes and meet accountability expectations.
The THQ Women’s Ministry team was very encouraged by many of the participants’ responses to the gathering. Lieutenant Katie Tate shared, “It was wonderful to see the future of The Salvation Army, as all of the women were in agreement that being intentional and authentic is key for a successful ministry!” Major Wilma Mason echoed Lieutenant Tate’s thoughts; “My heart is so encouraged by where we are moving with women’s ministry. Purposeful connectedness will take effort, but the outcomes will surly be God honoring!” And may Catherine Booth’s words continue to encourage all of us; “There is no improving the future without disturbing the present.”