WELL equips women for new ministry context, communicating the gospel for obedient transformation

by Jessica King on July 8, 2024 in Stories of Impact

“Strong perfume and casseroles” is just one of many memorable responses Dr. Katie McCoy, director of Women’s Ministry for Texas Baptists, receives when she asks women what comes to mind when they hear the phrase “women’s ministry.”

Opening up her WELL—Women Equipped to Learn and Lead—Conference on June 21 and 22 at First Baptist Church of Midland in Midland, Texas, she explained how the changing context for ministry to women necessitated changes that will lead to more gospel transformation.

McCoy told conference attendees that while previous generations of women’s ministry have been event-focused, “COVID completely changed our ministry context.” Four years after the onset of the pandemic, women’s ministries are seeing that “people don’t want to go back to exactly what they were doing before 2020.”

People are seeking a different approach to ministry that they can’t quite put their finger on, McCoy said. She suggested a small shift in the language, substituting “ministry to women” for “women’s ministry,” and gave attendees three practical shifts to make: formation-driven versus event-driven, personal presence versus professional programs and connect and contribute versus come and consume. 

“You can see the effects of going deeper in discipleship and one's walk with Christ in the personal choices that the women in your ministry are making,” said McCoy. “We need a shift not only in what we're doing in ministry but the why and how we're doing it as well.” 

McCoy called attendees to invest in the women in their ministries through discipleship, prioritizing personal connection and giving women “a seat at the table” by contributing to the life of their ministries.

“We think we need more left brain, more arguments, more Bible studies, more logic, more reasoned defenses of the faith to keep people staying and invested in the church, when what we really need is relational connection, emotional bonds, group and identity formation,” said McCoy. 

WELL attendees were taken through three teaching sessions with McCoy and Jonathan Smith, director of Church Heath and Growth at Texas Baptists. The weekend also included three book discussion sessions entitled “Practicing the Way: Be with Jesus. Become Like Him. Do As He Did” by John Mark Comer, “You Are a Theologian: An Invitation to Know and Love God Well” by Jen Wilkin and J.T. English and “To Be a Woman: The Confusion Over Female Identity and How Christians Can Respond” by Dr. McCoy. 

“I like to say that WELL is not your mama's women's conference,” said McCoy. “We are going to be investing in you and equipping you to grow in your skill, in your ministry capacity and in your leadership development so that you are prepared for the future of women's ministry,” said McCoy. 

Sharing the gospel in an engaging, applicable way 

In his first session, Smith taught attendees how to connect and engage with people on a personal level, but most importantly “how to help them engage with their Heavenly Father.”

“The ultimate end of gospel communication is not to inform, but for sin-laden lives to be obediently transformed,” said Smith. “Gospel communication is for obedient transformation.” 

Smith took attendees through his own message-building “me, we, God, you, they” method.

The “me” section opens up the message with something that God has done in the speaker’s life, what God has allowed them to experience and challenges they’ve walked through to be relatable to the people they are engaging, said Smith. The “we” section takes the tension from the biblical text and passes that tension to the congregation. This brings people into the line of thinking of what the message is going to be about. Smith’s next section is the most important. The “God” section of the message helps people understand the Bible. Smith said he always starts building the message in the God section first but does not typically start communicating in it. The “you, they” sections exist to make sure that the congregation has an opportunity to obey God’s word and it is the speaker’s responsibility to show what obedience should look like. 

“If there's not a declaration that you are saying that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, and the only way, then you have not taught the totality of the Scripture,” said Smith. “If you do not specifically help them to obey, then you missed a gospel opportunity.”

In his second session, Smith went in depth about the “God” and “you, they” sections of his method. He began by suggesting his preferred structure for teaching scripture. 

“So if you want to inform, have points. But if you want to teach for transformation, have one clear main truth,” said Smith. “This is all about the context, but we need to speak in such a way where people can hear it, digest it and live in it.”

Smith suggests that attendees preparing a message should ask themselves, “What will help our disciples grow the most? What’s the main point?” He pointed out that Scripture often has one central idea, but more content tends to be created around that central idea than what is actually in scripture. 

“When we want it to sink deep and penetrate into their hearts and minds and soul with longevity, where their devotion on Tuesday is to sit and ask themselves, ‘Jesus Christ is the light of the world. Lord, why am I standing in the shadows and not in the light of your goodness?’ If that's the goal, then we teach one point,” said Smith. 

To conclude his session, Smith spoke to the “you, they” section of message creation. He taught attendees that if they do not give people a practical application to obey the scripture being taught, they are actually doing their congregation a disservice. 

“If you don't take this extra step and you don't help them see exactly what to obey, they will obey none,” said Smith. “They will assume that obedience is for someone else and not for them.”

‘Better equipped to go and share’

WELL attendee Angel Parisi said she got “way more than I had bargained for” at the conference. 

“I thought I was just coming to a theology conference to learn a deeper dive into doctrine, and what I got was so much more. I feel better equipped to go share the gospel in an effective way, to communicate better,” said Parisi. 

Another attendee, Yvette Newberg, said that she wasn't sure what to expect from WELL but ended up learning that the conference isn't about “gender in the pastorate” but about “equipping and empowering the other half of the church.” 

Attendees thanked McCoy and Smith for their insight and hospitality, and the Texas Baptists  Missions Foundation for providing the resources needed to support the event. 

Learn more about the Texas Baptists Women’s Ministry and how it can be a resource to you and your congregation at txb.org/womensministry.

Texas Baptists is a movement of God’s people to share Christ and show love by strengthening churches and ministers, engaging culture and connecting the nations to Jesus.

The ministry of the convention is made possible by giving through the Texas Baptists Cooperative Program, Mary Hill Davis Offering® for Texas Missions, Texas Baptists Worldwide and Texas Baptist Missions Foundation. Thank you for your faithful and generous support.

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