Women find encouragement, cultivate relationships during Thrive Collective workshop

Women gather Saturday, April 22, at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention for Thrive Collective.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – On Saturday, April 22, more than 60 Women’s Ministry leaders from churches all around Arkansas gathered at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention for a one-day interactive workshop entitled “Thrive Collective: Growing Together as Women’s Ministry Leaders.”  

The day was designed for women who lead to come together and find encouragement, practical tools, and connection with other leaders as they serve the women in their local church.  

In keeping with the Arkansas Baptists Women theme for the year of “Growing Together,” the sessions were designed to provide rich teaching content, real life leadership stories from Arkansas women, and discussion time around the table for the women to share and learn together. Lori McDaniel from Grace Point Church in Bentonville led the first session, “Creating Ministry Environments for Women to Thrive.” This session focused on how to help shape discipleship ministry that results in deep and lasting spiritual fruit in the lives of women.  

McDaniel shared how “every day with Jesus is a discipleship lab where we are invited to learn and to unlearn rhythms in our own heart.” McDaniel taught from John 4, where Jesus encountered the Samaritan Woman as he traveled through Samaria, which was not the typical path for that day. She said that Jesus kept the end in mind and encouraged the women to “keep the end in mind” and ask, “what is the aim” in ministry?” “Who is it your women’s ministry is reaching, and who are they discipling?”  

McDaniel was then joined by Traci Smith, from Central Baptist Church in Jonesboro. Smith serves on the Women’s Ministry Network Team as a network leader for the northeast area of Arkansas. Smith shared her story of how God changed her mindset toward how she approached discipling ministry.  

The next session, “Creating Pathways for Young Leaders to Thrive” was led by Shari Edwards, who serves as the Network Coordinator for Arkansas Baptists Women. In this session, women were challenged to consider what does it mean for women who lead in various capacities in the church to cultivate next generation leaders? She provided practical ways for older leaders and younger leaders to connect. “Older leaders can be proactive about intentionally providing opportunities for younger leaders to shadow or apprentice and serve alongside them in ministry.” “Younger leaders can seek out older women who are leading and ask to meet with them and get to know their leadership journey.”  

Emily Watson joined Edwards for a conversation about her journey as a younger leader. Watson serves as Director of Connections and Community Ministry at Eastside Baptist in Fort Smith. She is also on the Women’s Ministry Network Team as a network leader for the Fort Smith area. Watson shared insights about her journey as a young leader and some practical ways the women in her church have come together as different generations.  

Each session was followed by intentional questions for the women to work through together around their table. The women were encouraged to write down questions they would like to be answered during the last session of the day, which was a Q & A panel featuring the Women’s Ministry Network Team.  

Tammy Gillmore, who is the women’s ministry director at Sulphur Rock Baptist and part of the Women’s Ministry Network in Batesville, had this to say about the event: “Days such as this are so important as we gather and refresh and grow in where the Lord wants to lead us next. I encourage leaders to just clear that busy calendar and take time such as this for you. Our state is simply blessed with women who know and love God and want to enrich and empower us all.”  

Stella Williams serves on the Women’s Ministry team at Central Baptist in North Little Rock, and it was her first time to attend this event.  

“Thrive Collective was a wonderful opportunity to meet other ladies in this state to not only make new friends but to hear about what they are doing in their ministries. We got to share ideas with each other and answer questions together, which was fun. I also got to enjoy the day with a young new leader on my team. The workshop really gave us time to get to know each other more as well as giving us solid information to help us lead our Women’s Ministry better together. It really strengthened us as a team. The teaching sessions were very helpful. They both confirmed and convicted me about the direction of our Women’s Ministry. I was confirmed in how I’m cultivating the next generation but convicted about who we are reaching as a ministry. Lori McDaniel’s question, ‘are we making disciples or are we just moving the sheep from one corral to another?’ was thought-provoking for sure. I came home with a renewed sense of commitment to keep the main thing in focus: the glory of God and making disciples. All decisions we make going forward concerning women’s ministry will be made through those lenses. I feel very blessed to be part of the state convention where we have such great resources for women like the Thrive Collective,” Williams said.  

Edwards, who serves as the Network Coordinator for Arkansas Baptists Women, encourages women who serve in their local church to get connected to the Network group in their area.  

“Arkansas Baptists Women’s Ministry Networks offer an opportunity for leaders to gather in regional groups to share ideas, discuss strategy, and get to know one another. Our desire is to cultivate relationships among women who lead in the local church as we connect, equip, support and encourage women’s ministry leaders in each region of the state,” she said. 

If you missed Thrive Collective but would like to hear the sessions, you can listen to upcoming episodes on Inspire on the Go podcast and download the handouts for each session. Find out more and get connected to the network leader in your area at absc.org/women. 

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