In a little less than two months I will officially retire as Women’s Pastor and the leader of Women’s Ministry at Vineyard Columbus. I say officially because I don’t believe we ever truly retire from Christian service. I intend to continue to serve at the church I have loved and been a part of my entire adult life while I’m still able and I’m still needed.
Serving women has been my passion and joy for as long as I can remember. I started out as a new Christian almost entirely in “co-ed” settings (Young Life during high school and InterVarsity during college), but I eventually gravitated towards women-only gatherings in my mid-twenties. It was with other women that I felt most at home, accepted, and understood. It was with other women that I felt safe enough to be myself and share my deepest doubts and fears. It was with other women that I found the confidence to develop and express the gifts I felt God had given me.
Throughout my time of serving women at Vineyard Columbus—starting in 1980 alongside Penny Meyer and then as Women’s Pastor for the past nineteen years—I have followed some basic values and principles. These shaped my vision for ministry and helped guide me regarding what to do and how to do it. They were the “targets on the wall” I aimed for when putting on Women’s Ministry events. And they form a foundation that I hope those coming after me can build upon.
It is in that vein that I would like to share with you the legacy I hope to leave behind when I officially retire as Woman’s Pastor at the end of 2020.
That women would know the Bible
My primary motivation has always been to help the women of our church think like Christians. Because when we think like Christians, we will truly be Christians! To me, this is what being a disciple of Jesus is all about—following His teachings and walking in His ways. To do this we must first know what He says. Over the years nothing has been more important to me than making sure women know the Bible, they understand the Bible, and they put the Bible into practice.
Many of our problems as Christians stem from the fact that we simply do not know the scriptures. We believe lies about ourselves and about God. We don’t know what He expects of us or how He wants us to live. A good life, on the other hand, is the result of walking in obedience to the God who created us and loves us (Psalm 1:1-3). I wholeheartedly believe what the Bible says about itself. That God’s Word is eternal—it will outlast everything and everyone on this earth (Isaiah 40:6-8; Matthew 5:17-18; 1 Peter 1:22-25). That as human beings we need God’s Word every bit as much as we need food (Deuteronomy 8:4; Matthew 4:4). That we will be able to endure any storm of life if we believe and obey what God has said (Matthew 7:24-27).
There are literally hundreds of other messages out there, targeting and pressuring women to conform to what they say (Romans 12:2). As Women’s Pastor, my goal was to make sure God’s message to women got through loud and clear! Every time we planned an event for women—a conference, a breakfast, a potluck, summer series, or a retreat—the central focus was on what the Lord had to say to us through the scriptures. My prayer is this never changes.
That woman would believe they are equals in God’s Kingdom.
Many churches and denominations teach that women are second class citizens in the kingdom of God—that there are certain positions they may not have in the church simply because they are women. We in Vineyard Columbus believe that men and women are equal in God’s kingdom (Galatians 3:26-29) and that the gifts and callings of God are not based on gender but on the will of the Father (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). We, therefore, place no restrictions on where or how a woman may serve in our church. The only criteria for her is whether she is gifted and called, same as a man.
Few things have given me as much joy as seeing women discover their God-given gifts and step into their God-ordained callings. I have always tried my best to identify what the Lord is doing in a woman’s life and guide her towards what He wants for her. I love how Paul compares the church to the human body in 1 Corinthians. According to him, each one has been given a gift, talent or ability to use for the benefit of the whole. He is the one who decides which one is which part, not us! So it doesn’t matter if we are on staff or not. It doesn’t matter if we’ve been to seminary or not. It doesn’t matter if we are married or single, if we have kids, if we never finished high school or we have a college degree. It doesn’t even matter if we have another job (which the apostle Paul did; Acts 18:1-3)! The will of the Father is what matters.
I love that our church has always encouraged women to aim high and pursue ministry opportunities like teaching, preaching, leading worship, starting a small group, or organizing outreaches. We have never relegated women to a back seat in the kingdom! I have been committed to raise women up, help them discover God’s call on their life, not simply within women’s ministry, but wherever He is calling them to serve. My prayer is this never changes.
That we would talk about the real problems of real women in church.
Nothing frustrates me more than seeing how out of touch ministries for women at churches can be! I never wanted us to be busy with bake sales or “socials” or even just Bible studies when there were other more pressing issues that needed addressing. I wanted us to be talking about the real things real women were dealing with—things like sexual abuse and brokenness, addictions, eating disorders, infertility, incarceration, and domestic violence (to name just a few). I never wanted only the “good girls” to feel welcome at church. I wanted all women to feel welcome, included, and that we had something relevant to say about what they were going through. I wanted this because I believe this is what Jesus would want.
Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 has always been an inspiration for me. Here we see Jesus breaking all cultural norms just so He can have a conversation with a nameless, very “damaged” woman. It is the longest personal conversation between Jesus and another person recorded in all the Gospels! He engages her with respect. He shows her dignity. He goes at her pace. But He gets at the heart of her problems. He does not shy away from bringing up something most in His day would have considered taboo. He brings it up because He loves her, and it is what must be addressed first before she can move on in life.
For nearly twenty years this has been a model of ministry for me. I have tried my best to discern the most pressing and real needs women—both big and small—that must be addressed first before they can move on with Jesus. I sincerely believe He has answers for any and every issue we might face. Like Him, we must not shy away from getting to the heart of our problems. My prayer is this never changes.
That we would build healthy Christian community among women.
Ask any girl in middle school, and she will tell you that navigating female friendships is a harrowing experience! That is because girls can be catty and cruel! There are times they are “sugar and spice and everything nice” but then there are those other times… Little girls eventually grow up to become women, and most women I know have at some point in their life been wounded by gossip or crushed by rejection at the hands of other women.
This is why from the very beginning (and long before I was ever Women’s Pastor) we have sought to create healthy community for women based on biblical values. We taught regularly about having a foundation of love and acceptance. We emphasized the importance of our words, the dangers of gossip and the call to always “speak the truth in love.” We modeled transparency about our weaknesses, so women would feel safe enough to be real and honest with each other about their own. We discouraged “cliques” and instead, made sure every woman coming to one of our events felt welcome and included, especially when she was courageous enough to come by herself!
One priority I have been most passionate about is building communities of culturally and racially diverse women. I am thrilled by the large number of women in our church who have joined in this passion! There is something truly powerful about coming together across these divides that is healing to the church and glorifying to Jesus! I believe this is an area where women can really lead out and lead the way.
While we are all still “sinners in process” and our communities are not “perfect”, I am so deeply grateful to the Lord for the networks of friendships, groups and communities that have formed, and the love that is being shown one woman to another! My prayer is this never changes.
I am thankful to the Lord for giving me the opportunity to serve women at Vineyard Columbus for as long as I have. He has been faithful and I know He will continue to be faithful to those who follow in my footsteps. My hope is that this “legacy” provides a solid and secure foundation that they can build on into the future.
 For a more in-depth discussion of Vineyard’s position on women in ministry, please check out these links: