NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Ministry leadership always has its rewards and its challenges. But leading through the COVID-19 pandemic brought new meaning to leading through crisis.
“A lot of our confidence has been shaken over the past couple of years in the midst of the pandemic,” said Kelly King, women’s ministry specialist at Lifeway Christian Resources. “The pandemic has forced leaders to trust in the Lord for their confidence and not in their own abilities.”
The Lifeway Women’s Leadership Forum brought together more than 800 women from 30 states at Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., to learn from one another and sought-after ministry leaders, including Kelly Minter, Elizabeth Woodson, Carey Nieuwhof, Kristi McLelland, Tara-Leigh Cobble and Whitney Capps, who emceed the event. Worship leader and author Lauren Chandler led worship at the three-day event, Nov. 11-13. Nearly 200 women from 37 states and Canada joined online.
The theme was “Confident,” with Jeremiah 17:7 serving as the foundational Scripture: “The person who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence indeed is the Lord, is blessed.”
“We wanted the women who attended this event to have a renewed sense of moving forward because God’s character is unchanging and He is faithful,” said King.
Author and Bible teacher Kelly Minter kicked off the event by reminding the audience of the apostle Paul’s prayer for the Colossian church that they would grow spiritually, especially in the “knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,” (Colossians 1:9). “As we walk this life in the will of God, with various life experience, our knowledge of the living God grows,” Minter said.
Teaching from Colossians 1:9-14, Minter asked, “What’s your end game? Is it that your life would be ‘worthy and pleasing to God?” Minter said we often do things to please others, but Paul’s prayer was that our lives would be pleasing to God.
“A right heart comes before a productive ministry,” she said. “I feel like we get this backwards. The tendency is to skip over what is pleasing to the Lord and go straight to having a productive ministry. We have to walk worthy of the Lord and fully pleasing to Him before we have a fruit-producing ministry.”
Minter admitted that while ministry is a wonderful calling, it can also be tiring. She noted that part of Paul’s prayer is that we would be “strengthened according to his glorious might.” She ended her session by praying Paul’s prayer over the women and encouraging them to pray the same prayer for themselves and the women in their ministries.
During his general session presentation, pastor and leadership expert Carey Nieuwhof talked about the dangers of burnout and how to address this very real issue.
“When I’m in a busy season, I get in the stress spiral because I’m mismanaging the three assets I get every day: time, energy, priorities,” he said. He then went on to offer some practical ways to block off time so leaders can complete priorities and “do what you’re best at when you’re at your best.” He encouraged them not to let their priorities get hijacked by other things.
Reflecting on Proverbs 4:23, Nieuwhof reminded his listeners to “guard your hearts, for everything you do flows from it.”
Teaching from 1 Samuel 17 on Friday (Nov. 12), King reminded the audience that David could confidently battle the giant Goliath in public because he confidently walked with God in private. “David knew he could trust God because of how God had provided for him in the past,” King said. She encouraged them to recount the times God had been faithful in the past.
“David was confident because he knew the victory belonged to the Lord,” she said. “Not only does our confidence come from God; our confidence gives credit to God. We can live and lead in confidence because of Christ’s victory on the cross. ”
During the three-day event, women attended breakout sessions on topics such as leading through change, developing disciples, multicultural ministry and preparing for ministry in a post-pandemic world.
During her session Friday night, Bible teacher Elizabeth Woodson reminded the audience of God’s sovereignty.
“If last year taught us anything, it’s that we’re not in control and unexpected things happen,” Woodson said. “Jesus is still in control. Nothing will thwart His plans. God has a plan He has set forth in motion, and He is going to accomplish His plan.”
Bible teacher Kristi McLelland wrapped up the event reminding women what it means to follow Jesus, encouraging them to set God’s Word upon their hearts and to live on mission with Him.
“Practicing the way of Jesus is partnering with Him to repair the world,” she said. “Being a follower requires moving with God because Jesus is always on the move.”
McLelland ended the conference by praying over the audience and commissioning them back into the world and their ministries. Reminding them, “your confidence can fully rest in Jesus.”
The next Lifeway Women’s Leadership Forum will be held Nov. 10-12, 2022. Learn more at lifeway.com/womensevents.