We hear it every year. “Our church already supports women in ministry!” “We have a woman preaching in our pulpit all the time, so we don’t need to participate in BWIM Month of Preaching.”
For this, we say, “Amen!” We give thanks for churches that have created a cultural where seeing women lead in various ways is the norm on any given Sunday.
However, this is not the case for many churches, or for most Baptist women, across the United States. That’s why BWIM Month of Preaching is necessary.
For the churches who may already have ways of empowering women in ministry, we hope this month is a chance for you to ask a college or seminary student, since women students have less chances to do pulpit supply in local congregations.
You could ask a woman who may not get the opportunity to explore her calling and gifts in her Baptist congregation. Maybe the woman she needs to see preach for the first time is herself.
Baptist Women in Ministry established this emphasis in 2007 (formerly named Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching), and each year, it has been a special time for us to share photos highlighting a plethora of Baptist women standing behind pulpits.
For those in the Baptist community who might never have a woman in their pulpit, maybe these pictures somehow reach their social media feed, and they are able to see a vision of women’s equality that they never thought possible.
As a part of 2022 BWIM Month of Preaching, we introduced a children’s bulletin which features a coloring page on the front. There are two versions – one with the preacher wearing a stole, and one with the preacher not wearing a stole – to account for differences in worship style.
Because we believe the need for understanding extends to all in God’s community, including the youngest among us, these children’s worship bulletins become another way to help young people see women leading from the pulpit.
This act of seeing and creating vision has been embraced by congregations like Second Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Though they regularly have women preach and lead, they used BWIM Month of Preaching as an opportunity to invite Starlette Thomas into their pulpit, to publish a week-long series of blogs written by church members affirming women in ministry, and to create and show a video during worship featuring congregation members praising women in leadership throughout the congregation.
In this way, BWIM Month of Preaching became an opportunity for Second Baptist to affirm not just women in ministry, but all women in their congregation.
BWIM is excited to continue this annual emphasis in future years, however BWIM Month of Preaching is moving to a different month in 2023 because BWIM wants to freely celebrate Black History Month in February as well as engage in racial equity work throughout the year.
We encourage congregations who have not traditionally celebrated Black History Month to consider doing so in 2023 and to explore ways your congregation might join the work of racial reconciliation.
Women are not the only individuals that many congregations have not been able to see.
Even though last Sunday officially concluded BWIM Month of Preaching 2022, we invite churches to continue sharing photos with us and we will post them on our social media sites during Women’s History Month in March.
We welcome, encourage and celebrate the ways that churches are highlighting the gifts and graces of women in congregations throughout the year.
This is why BWIM Month of Preaching is necessary. Not because women should be seen in the pulpit during one month a year, but because creating a vision for elevating women’s voices and gifts takes all of us regularly and creatively changing the picture of what God’s beloved community looks like.
Will you join us?
Associate director of Baptist Women in Ministry and the author of Manners and Money: A Manual on Preaching Etiquette, published by Nurturing Faith Books.