Every February now since 2007, Baptist Women in Ministry has invited churches to participate in our Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching. We ask that churches sometime during February invite a woman into their pulpit. The last few years we have had 200 or more churches participate, and it has been a beautiful thing.

But this year, this year I am dreaming bigger, hoping for more. No, not bigger numbers or more church participation. This year I am hoping that churches will embrace a new Martha vision. This year I hope that churches will invite young preachers, new-to-the-pulpit preachers into their pulpits. I hope that churches will invite women who rarely have opportunity to preach to be their Martha. Think about it . . . what if 200 churches together said, “We believe in young preachers. We support new preachers. AND we believe in them and want to support them so much that we will invite them into our pulpit. We will invite women who have never, ever preached before. We will invite women who are not often in the pulpit to be our Martha. We will be an affirming church for young preachers!”

Imagine what that kind of encouragement would look like, what it would feel like to college women, to seminary women, to seasoned women ministers who are never given opportunities in their own churches to preach. Imagine, just imagine.

This year our dream is bigger, our hope is broader. We invite YOUR church to be a Martha church, a church that stands with 200 other churches in their support of new and young preachers. This year our dream is that Martha Stearns Marshall Month will open doors and brighten the pathway for women just beginning their ministry journey or inexperienced preachers seeking to explore their giftedness.

Pastors sometimes say to me, “Oh our church has women preach all the time. We are good with women in the pulpit.” But this year, I challenge you to make Martha Stearns Marshall Month a time for YOUR church to encourage, to support, to give a place of opportunity to a new preacher. YOUR church could change her life!

Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.