Women’s Advisory Council Prepares Final Report
by Roger S. Oldham
Rhonda Kelley (center), chairwoman of the Women’s Advisory Council appointed by SBC Executive Committee President and CEO Frank S. Page, discusses draft recommendations with Page and Ken Weathersby, EC vice president for Convention advancement, during the council’s March 30–31 meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. Photos by Roger S. Oldham.
Women’s Advisory Council members (left to right) Jackie Anderson, Ana Melendez, and Myra Sermon review five of the sixteen research reports submitted by advisory council members during the council’s March 30–31 meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.
Women’s Advisory Council members (left to right) Brandi Biesiadecki, Lourdes Fernandez, and Davee Ly review five of the sixteen research reports submitted by advisory council members during the council’s March 30–31 meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.
Women’s Advisory Council Chairwoman Rhonda Kelley (right) leads the council in discussion of an analysis of the twenty-question survey commissioned by the advisory council during the council’s March 30–31 meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. Ann Iorg (left), Elizabeth Luter, and others participated in the conversation.
During its third and final meeting, the Women’s Advisory Council received reports from work teams, reviewed research findings from a survey it conducted in 2016, and began formulating specific recommendations to present to Frank S. Page, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee.
Appointed by Page in January 2016, the council has sought to gather and share information about perspectives and strategies for women in Southern Baptist churches to help reach our nation and the nations with the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Page also asked council members to suggest ways to increase the involvement of Southern Baptist women in biblically appropriate ways at all levels of Southern Baptist life, identifying and providing support structures to maximize women’s service through their churches as well as in leadership on state and national boards and committees.
Council Chairwoman Rhonda Kelley, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary president’s wife and a leader in women’s ministry, facilitated the March 30–31 meeting in Atlanta.
Kelley distributed an eighty-page draft report to council members at the meeting. The draft report contained research findings of sixteen topics related to ministry to women compiled by council members and an analysis of the twenty-question online survey.
According to the draft report, more than 3,600 women, representing all fifty states, responded to the survey. Those under age 35 comprised the largest group at 26 percent of respondents. About 21 percent each were between ages 35–44, 45–54, and 55–64, and 11 percent of respondents were 65 or older.
The council sought to increase participation from younger women by submitting the survey to collegiate ministers for distribution and to increase the response rate of older women by distributing print copies to senior adult groups.
Among the trends in Southern Baptist churches’ ministry to women revealed in the survey are:
- While more than four out of five churches have organized ministry specifically for women (81.31 percent), fewer than 10 percent have a full-time church staff position for women’s ministry (9.4 percent).
- Just over one-third of the survey’s respondents serve in a lay leadership role in some type of ministry to women, ranging from Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) to women’s ministry Bible study or prayer groups (34.81 percent), while only 3.68 percent serve in a paid full-time or part-time role in ministry to women.
- One-fourth of respondents (24.99 percent) have received specific leadership training for work with women through various leadership conferences, LifeWay Women’s Leadership Forum, and/or WMU training.
- Almost 83 percent of women said their churches offer Bible studies specifically for women, and 81 percent said their church hosts special events specifically for women.
- Fewer than three out of ten women responding to the survey (29.08 percent) said their church provides evangelism or discipleship training specifically for women.
The Women’s Advisory Council is composed of eighteen women from fourteen states and represents different age groups, stages of life, ethnic backgrounds, and ministry positions.
Its final report will contain specific recommendations to address four questions that surfaced during the council’s initial meeting in January 2016.
- What ministries, training, and resources are provided for Southern Baptist women?
- What evangelistic methods and resources are effective in reaching women with the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
- What additional support is needed by the women across the Convention?
- What recommendations should be made to the SBC Executive Committee for consideration to increase involvement of women in biblically appropriate ways in Southern Baptist life?
The council will present its final report to Page at the “Many Faces of the SBC” booth in the exhibit hall on June 12, just prior to the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.
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