ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)--An overflow crowd of more than 1,850 women focused on ways to mentor ministry marriages at the Ministers' Wives Conference June 15 in Orlando, Fla.
Based on Titus 2:3-5, in which the Apostle Paul advises the young leader to "encourage the young women to love their husbands ... so that God's message will not be slandered," the theme "Mentoring Ministry Marriages" was selected because the Bible clearly challenges women to mentor other women, Rhonda Kelley, the conference president, said.
Kelley is professor of women's ministry and director of women's ministry programs at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and her husband Chuck Kelley is the seminary's president. She told the crowd, which included Mary Perdue, wife of Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, that the biblical mandate also applies to ministry wives.
This year's program featured Jackie Kendall of Power to Grow Ministries and author of "The Mentoring Mom" and the recently published "Free Yourself to Love (The Liberating Power of Forgiveness)." Kendall raised $16,000 to provide copies of the book to all attendees.
In her remarks, Kendall, who has ministered through teaching and counseling for more than 30 years, pointed out that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was mentored by her elder cousin, Elizabeth, who was "a little further along in her miracle."
Kendall urged the younger women in the room not to wait for older, experienced women to mentor them. "You go see Elizabeth," she said. "You go to the older woman."
Kendall said she would often "spy" on other women to see if their walk in Christ was worthy of emulating. "Watch for the women who are living it, not just speaking it," she said.
Focusing on forgiveness, Kendall shared three proverbs with the women: Being offended is inevitable, but staying there is by choice; we daily need to forgive one another for doing what we do best -- being human; and, if I go to bed angry with my spouse, I will wake up a little less in love in the morning.
Kendall said contrary to Ephesians 4:32, which exhorts believers to be "kind and compassionate to one another," many in the body of Christ are the "stingiest forgivers."
Pointing to her difficult upbringing, so difficult that two of her seven siblings committed suicide and the others face addictions, she added, "I've learned to forgive my dad who abused us and my mom who sat and watched it all. Why can't people forgive another staff member in the church?"
Freely forgive those who offend you, she said.
Tiffany Coburn, a member of First Baptist Church in Orlando and a singer with Walt Disney's Voices of Liberty, provided the special music for the luncheon.
During the gathering, Kelley recognized Nancy Sullivan, wife of John Sullivan, executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention, who has raised more than $300,000 for the Ministers' Wives Endowment Trust Fund, which enables the luncheon to be affordable for every minister's wife.
Designated contributions to the SBC Ministers' Wives Endowment may be sent to the Office of the Executive Director, Florida Baptist Convention, 1230 Hendricks Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32207.
Andrea Mullins of New Hope Publishers presented Kelley with an author's copy of her recently re-released Bible study, "Personal Holiness." Kelley also introduced the publication of Jo Ann Leavell's new book, "Don't Miss the Blessing," published by Pelican Publishing.
Officers for next year's luncheon in Phoenix, with the theme "Influential Joy," are Anne Wright of Marietta, Ga., president; Nancy Norwood of Scottsdale, Ariz., vice president; Mary Dighton of Lenexa, Kan., recording secretary-treasurer; and Julie Head of Mt. Pleasant, S.C., correspondence secretary.
Next year's featured speaker at the June 14 luncheon will be Lisa Harper, former director of Focus on the Family's national women's ministry, responsible for the development of the Renewing the Heart conferences. Author of "A Perfect Mess," Harper is one of the speakers of the 2010 Women of Faith's Imagine tour. Artist Kim Hill will provide the special music.
Luncheon tickets will be available through LifeWay Christian Resources' website, www.lifeway.com.
Always held on Tuesday during the SBC annual meeting, the luncheon is open to all wives of ministers -- pastors, staff members, chaplains, missionaries and denominational workers.
The SBC Ministers' Wives' Luncheon dates back to 1955, when two Georgia pastors' wives realized the importance of their state's ministers' wives' conference and decided that the national convention would benefit from such an organization. They made plans for a tea at the Muhlback Hotel in Kansas City during the 1956 convention and were overwhelmed by the response.
Shannon Baker is a national correspondent for BaptistLIFE, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.
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