By Meredith Stone, December 1, 2022
Baptist Women in Ministry (BWIM) researches and publishes the State of Women in Baptist Life Report to provide statistics and analysis for women in ministry among Baptists that might serve as a metric and motivator for progress. The most recent report, released this past June, has provided both.
While the report’s metrics demonstrated that incremental progress has been made in some areas, the realities and experiences for women in ministry among Baptists are still far from ideal, equal, equitable, and thriving.
The consistent response from Baptist leaders who have engaged the report has been personal and corporate motivation to take the next steps in moving women in ministry forward. The consensus is that it’s time to do more, especially among Baptists where a gap exists between what we profess about women in ministry and what we practice.
One of BWIM’s advocacy initiatives for the past 15 years has been a month in which we encourage churches to invite a woman to preach. BWIM began promoting Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching in February 2007. In 2019, the initiative was renamed BWIM Month of Preaching, and reimagined to include remembrance of three other significant women preachers.
Since 2007, we have recorded 2,616 instances of church participation in Martha Stearns Marshall or BWIM Month of Preaching.
BWIM’s advocacy through Month of Preaching has impacted Baptists by introducing numerous congregations to women’s voices in the pulpit. Additionally, it has given more women opportunities to use their God-given callings and gifts through preaching. Congregational participation in Month of Preaching has made a significant difference in elevating women’s voices and ministry for the past 15 years.
And it’s time to do more.
So in March 2023 we are inviting individuals and churches to take the next step in affirming, valuing, and elevating women in ministry through participation in BWIM Month of Advocacy.
We have adapted the BWIM Month of Preaching initiative into BWIM Month of Advocacy in two significant ways.
First, while we think it is still important to have a set time of the year to feature women’s preaching, moving women in ministry forward is going to take more than just having a woman preach once a year.
Furthermore, for congregations in which women preach on a regular basis, we want to provide tangible ways to engage the next steps in creating faith spaces that are equal and equitable for women, spaces where women can thrive.
So during BWIM Month of Advocacy, we are still encouraging churches to invite women to preach, AND we are encouraging both churches and individuals to take additional steps in advocating for women in ministry.
We have included a growing list of ways to advocate for women in ministry on the BWIM Month of Advocacy webpage such as:
- Advocate for the ordination of women in ministry in your church
- Advocate for pay equity, paid paternity leave, and professional development opportunities for women in ministry in your church
- Schedule sexual misconduct, harassment, and assault training for leaders in your congregation
- Give a scholarship to a college or seminary woman preparing for ministry
- Advocate for women to be elected to community and denominational boards and committees
- Implement spiritual formation resources that are empowering to women and girls
- Evaluate the art in your church and add pieces which include women
- Evaluate the songs and liturgies used in your corporate worship and add pieces that have inclusive language for people and expansive language for God
- If you are a male minister or leader, find one opportunity that you have been given which you might be able to share with a woman instead of accepting it yourself
- …and more.
We hope congregational leaders will engage one form of advocacy from this list each year in addition to inviting a woman to preach.
But this list also includes ways individuals who are not congregational leaders can advocate as well. The work of moving women in ministry forward is going to take all of us.
Second, we are moving BWIM Month of Advocacy from February to March.
We encourage congregations to make any special focus for worship or education in February centered on racial justice and reconciliation in alignment with Black History Month. While advocacy for women in ministry is much needed, the work of confronting racism, engaging Black history, and motivating our congregations toward racial justice and reconciliation is extremely vital to our collective representation of Christ in the world.
March, on the other hand, is Women’s History Month and includes International Women’s Day each year on March 8. Making Baptist advocacy for women in ministry coincide with national and global attention on women’s rights will provide a fruitful avenue to connect with larger discussions about women’s equality during the month of March.
Additionally, March often includes the Church’s Lenten observance and sometimes even the celebration of Easter Sunday. In honor of the fact that women were the first evangelists commissioned to preach the good news of Jesus’ resurrection (Matt. 28:10; Mark 16:7; Luke 24:5-11; John 20:17-18), there can be no better time of year to honor women’s value in Christ’s work of redemption in our world.
In the past five months since the release of the State of Women in Baptist Life Report 2021, we have heard from countless Baptist leaders that they are ready to do more so that the statistics look differently when the next report is released. We offer BWIM Month of Advocacy as one way that we can take the next steps.
We hope you will begin making plans to participate in BWIM Month of Advocacy this coming March, and that you will join us in creating a more equitable Baptist world for women in ministry and leadership.
Meredith Stone is the executive director at Baptist Women in Ministry.