Women learn leadership through service at Embrace Leadership Trainingby Emily Rojas
As women from churches across North Carolina gathered at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary on April 11 and 12 to participate in the Embrace Leadership Training, they learned about leadership from a unique perspective. This year’s conference theme, “Serving as Designed,” was based on 1 Corinthians 12:8 and placed a special focus on how Christian leaders can serve others by recognizing and utilizing their unique, God-given spiritual gifts.
Embrace is the women’s ministry of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) and is directed by Ashley Allen. This year, women's ministry leaders from 18 different churches in North Carolina attended the Embrace Leadership Training. Embrace has held these training sessions biannually since 2010 — the sessions include keynote speakers and break out sessions, a time of worship and fellowship, and the opportunity to serve others through prayer and a short mission project.
Throughout the leadership training, speakers encouraged the participants to know that as Christians, they have been given specific spiritual gifts, and these gifts have a purpose in God’s Kingdom. Allen reminded those in attendance that regardless of what God has called them to do, He has equipped them to do it.
Allen opened the conference and was followed by Carolyn O’Neal, the conference’s keynote speaker and the director of women’s ministry at Houston’s First Baptist Church in Texas. O’Neal spoke from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and shared the importance of choosing to enjoy every season of life; to know that God does everything for a reason, and He will be glorified in every situation. “Even in the darkest days, the sun still shines. And it might not be the sun, but it might be the Son,” she said.
O’Neal also spoke from John 15:16 — she encouraged the participants to realize that God chose them and appointed them to bear fruit that will last. She reminded the audience that God will use them when they step out and use the spiritual gifts He has given them. O’Neal also asked the audience to write two letters: a letter to God and a second letter written as though it were from God. She urged participants to write what they felt God was speaking to them in the second letter. These letters were collected to be mailed to the women in the next few months.
The leadership training also included time for the women to attend break out sessions. The sessions offered training in three stages of ministry: sketch, model and masterpiece. The sketch sessions offered training in the basics of forming a women’s ministry — they provided insight into casting a vision, engaging women, and creating a team to launch a successful ministry. The model sessions built on the sketch sessions — they focused on outreach, teaching and dealing with problems in an already existing ministry. Finally, the masterpiece sessions addressed relationships between younger and older women in a ministry. These sessions concentrated on ways in which women of different generations can work together, including how older women can help equip younger women for leadership and how younger women can take on a leadership role.
In addition to this time of personal growth, the Embrace Leadership Training also provided participants with distinct opportunities to serve others. One of these opportunities was a time of prayer for women who work in red-light districts. The participants prayed that these women would stop the life they are living, yield to God, and move forward on His path for their lives.
Women at the conference also got the chance to physically serve others by participating in short mission projects in the Wake Forest community. Participants were assigned to seven different mission projects. One project involved engaging customers at a laundromat — the participants in this project paid to have customers’ laundry washed and dried and used the opportunity to serve and plant gospel seeds. Another group sorted food at a food pantry. Yet another group washed windshields, pumped gas, and handed out water at a local gas station. They also prayed with customers and handed out gospel tracts. This group, however, did more than serve the gas station’s customers — they left the project having gained a friendship with a Muslim man who worked there. Deborah Brogden, a member of this team, said that the group’s actions at the gas station had an impact on this man. “He said, ‘You’ve blessed me by being here,’” she said.