Why we need more attention on advocating for women in ministry

By Meredith Stone
Director, Baptist Women in Ministry
Adapted from a longer article in Baptist News Global

Baptist Women in Ministry 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 last June, has provided both.

While the report’s metrics demonstrated 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.

Meredith Stone

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.

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.

BWIM Month of Advocacy

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.

1. 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. See the suggestions listed on this page.

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 may advocate. The work of moving women in ministry forward is going to take all of us.

2. 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 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, there can be no better time of year to honor women’s value in Christ’s work of redemption in our world.

What you can do to advocate for women in ministry

During the 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.

BWIM Month of Advocacy Calendar

The calendar offers suggestions on something you can do every day during March to advocate for women in ministry.

Looking back: Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching

In 2007, Baptist Women in Ministry invited Baptist churches to participate in Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching by having a woman preach during the month of February.

This invitation became an annual event, one that has been a deeply significant source of joy and discovery for many churches as they have celebrated the giftedness of women.

The annual preaching month was named for Martha Stearns Marshall, an eighteenth-century Separate Baptist woman with a legacy of powerful preaching. In 2019, BWIM redreamed (and renamed) this emphasis to feature, in addition to Martha, three other significant Baptist preachers: Edna Lee de Gutiérrez, Ella Pearson Mitchell, and Helen Barrett Montgomery.  

Even though the initiative has now expanded into BWIM Month of Advocacy, the resources developed for use during the month of preaching initiative are still available for use as church’s invite women to preach as a part of the larger initiative.