ATLANTA (BP) – A diverse group of 18 women is studying the perspectives and strategies women in Southern Baptist churches bring to the God-given task of fulfilling the Great Commission. Among these women is Rhonda Rhea, Pathway columnist and wife of Richie Rhea, pastor of First Baptist Church in Troy, Mo.
They comprise the Women’s Ministry Advisory Council appointed by Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. The council joins a list of advisory councils Page has appointed to provide insight into the needs, desires and goals of the many groups represented in SBC life.
“We are excited about encouraging our leaders in women’s ministries across our convention,” Page said when he announced plans to form the council. “Women, we appreciate you, and you are not alone!
“In each [advisory council] meeting, we have sought to educate and encourage various demographic subsets about the ‘proven and effective cooperative framework’ of our Southern Baptist Convention, foster open dialogue, and instill the essence of any and all concerns,” Page said. “We have sought to encourage confidence in the SBC way of doing missions.”
Advisory council member Chris Adams, senior lead women’s ministry specialist with LifeWay Christian Resources and a member of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., praised Page’s efforts.
“Many women in Southern Baptist churches do not feel valued as leaders though they want to make a Kingdom difference,” she noted at the advisory council’s first meeting. “The fact that the SBC Executive Committee has asked about women in our churches is huge. Thank you for affirming the value of women and encouraging the use of our spiritual gifts in ministry.”
Rhonda Kelley, an adjunct professor of women’s ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary where her husband Chuck Kelley is president, chairs the council.
“While the SBC has always valued the worth of women and followed the biblical guidelines for female roles in the church,” Rhonda Kelley said of the group, “there is a sincere desire to increase the involvement of Southern Baptist women in biblically appropriate ways at all levels of the convention and to provide the support services to maximize their service.”
Kelley, a member of First Baptist Church in New Orleans, referenced LifeWay Research indicating women comprise about 52 percent of church congregations. Historically, she said, women have often been the majority in church attendance and in participation in service projects.
Southern Baptist women are encouraged to participate in the advisory council’s online survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/SouthernBaptistWomen. In addition, comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kelley described input from women across the SBC as “essential for the task force to complete its important assignment.”
The advisory council will work throughout 2016 and present its findings to Page in an official report, expected to focus on ways to increase women’s participation in church and SBC life. The inaugural meeting was held Jan. 7-8 in Atlanta, convened by Ken Weathersby, SBC Executive Committee vice president for convention advancement.
Questions considered by the council at the first meeting centered on the ministries, training and resources the SBC provides for women; effective evangelistic methods and resources in reaching women with the Gospel; any additional support women might need from the SBC, and recommendations regarding women’s ministry to be made to the SBC Executive Committee.
Women from 14 states comprise the council, representing different age groups, stages of life, ethnic backgrounds, and ministry positions.