I have long been an advocate for Baptist female ministers. I mean… I am one. And I have experienced first-hand, in a variety of contexts, just how difficult it can be, specifically in a Baptist church context. This is why the organization, Baptist Women in Ministry (BWIM), is so close to my heart. When I struggle to find my place, when hurtful or inappropriate comments are made, when I feel like my feminine voice isn’t respected or heard, I have a place to turn for support, advice, and care. Thanks be to God!

Which is why it might surprise you to discover that I get a little uneasy during BWIM’s Women’s Month of Preaching. I know this initiative is necessary. I know that some churches need an extra push to get women in the pulpit and I am so grateful that I have had so many opportunities to preach during the month of February because of it. But that gratitude has also come with lament. Why does it take this much effort to elevate women in the pulpit? Why can’t every Sunday be women’s day of preaching? Why does it seem like some churches use this month to check off a box so they don’t have to think about it the rest of the year? And what about churches like 2BC, where women, myself included, are given the opportunity to preach throughout the year—what do we do with this day?

In the past, I had resolved to celebrate this month by ensuring that it wasn’t me in our pulpit for women’s month of preaching—you hear me enough. I made it my goal to suggest and lift up other women who may not have the same access to the pulpit that I do. And that was good. But my soul was still restless and a couple years ago I finally realized why.

Women’s Month of Preaching, while good and very necessary, only elevated one sliver of ministry: preaching. There is so much more that goes into ministry and leadership in the church. I wanted to hold up the teachers and caregivers, the committee leaders, deacons, and countless others who lead and serve with love and care but may never step into the pulpit.

One day, I heard Meredith Stone, the Executive Director of BWIM, share a new idea. Meredith pointed out that we might need a new approach to affirming women in ministry. Ministry is happening all over the church, not just in the preaching on Sunday mornings and if we want female pastors to be able to lead from the pulpit, we’re going to need to attend to the leadership of women at all levels of church life.

Yes! This! This is what has been missing from our annual women in ministry emphasis. This is why I am very excited that BWIM has shifted from Women’s Month of Preaching to Women’s Month of Advocacy.

This month we will join with Baptist Women in Ministry to advocate and celebrate women in leadership throughout Baptist life and beyond. We will do this in several ways:

We will come alongside BWIM:

  • We will share their posts and stats on our social media presence—calling us all to pay attention to the realities facing women in the church today.
  • We will participate in their book club. You are invited to join Baptist Women in Ministry for their Spring Book Club as they read “When God Whispered My Name: Stories of Journey Told by Baptist Women Called to Ministry!” This book, filled with holy whispers, is a tribute to the ministries of nineteen women with “Baptist-ness” as their heritage–including Arkansas natives, Jenna Sullivan and Carolyn Staley! Purchase your book soon and begin reading these amazing stories. Some of the writers of the book will join the discussion each week. This book club will meet on Zoom for one hour March 7, 14, and 21 at 12:30 p.m. Eastern/11:30 a.m. central. Books are now available and can be ordered from most places where books are sold. Register Today!

We will study together:

  • On Sunday, March 5, in lieu of communal worship, we will meet in house churches as we study the theological and biblical support for women in ministry. These “house churches” will meet all over the city at various times and will be led by women (much like the early church). It’s not too late to sign up, but hurry!

We will celebrate our female leaders:

  • Throughout the month of March, various women in leadership at 2BC will share why they said yes to serving at Second. You will find these brief testimonies on our Facebook and Instagram stories. At the end of the month, they will be compiled into a blog post for those who do not use social media.
  • Lois Davis, with your help, has created a beautiful piece of art that will be displayed in the back of the sanctuary throughout the month of March. This piece features the names of women who have shaped and led our church over the years.

We will celebrate women in our community and beyond:

  • Twice each week we will post “Profiles in Courage”—interviews with women in our community and in our Baptist and religious orbit whose work has influenced our congregation. We will give these women with a small gift basket as a symbol of our appreciation for their ministry.

We will hear a new female voice in the pulpit:

  • We are so excited to welcome our very own Lani Allenbaugh to the pulpit for the first time in honor of Women’s Month of Advocacy. Lani has been a member at 2BC since 2007 and has served in various leadership roles including Chair of Deacons in 2022.

Lani has a minister’s heart–serving God’s people both inside and outside the walls of the church. She is a Teacher Librarian at Robinson High School who uses her library and role to cultivate a safe place for teenagers to grow and learn. She is a liturgist at heart who journeys intentionally through the Christian year and loves to lead others to do the same. Lani has a pastoral presence and loves to show genuine hospitality whenever possible. She even recently bought what she lovingly calls her “small group couch” –a couch that can seat whoever needs a comfortable place for conversation and discipleship.

Lani also has a deep love for the outdoors–a love that has been cultivated by her adventurous outdoorsy husband, Joel.

You won’t want to miss Lani’s preaching in worship on March 19!

I am so very excited for this month of advocacy and deeply grateful to be in a church that dreams with the prophet Joel and with Peter of a day when sons and daughters, men and women will prophesy (Acts 2:17-18). But more importantly, I’m inspired by a church who is willing to do their part to make this dream a reality on earth as it is in heaven.

-Rev. Brittany Stillwell, Associate Pastor with Students and Families

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