The faithful women who make up Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) have been the backbone of the Southern Baptist Convention for more than 100 years. Often, when men’s leadership has failed, WMU has stepped up to do what needs to be done.
In the nineteenth century, women controlled very little money, but they established “Cent Societies” to support missions, contributing pennies from the “butter and egg” money they were generally allowed to keep. They gave sacrificially, not only to support missions, but on more than one occasion they’ve worked overtime to bail out state and national Baptist entities in danger of bankruptcy.
WMU is responsible for the annual promotions that raise millions of dollars for missions. WMU is responsible for coordinating networks of women who minister in an impressive variety of ways. And, WMU has been the primary leader in teaching children about missions thorugh the years.
Although WMU started programs for both boys and girls through the years, the “Royal Ambassador” (RA) program for boys was later taken over by the SBC Brotherhood Commission, if I’m not mistaken. When the SBC reorganized in the 1990s and eliminated the Brotherhood Commission, the responsibility for producing mission materials for RAs and Challengers (for older boys) fell to the newly reorganized North American Mission Board (NAMB).
Now, as NAMB reorganizes again and downsizes, producing missions education matierials for boys has become a low priority. Once again, WMU has stepped up, accepting responsibility for developing quality materials to help churches teach boys and young men about missions. Steve Heartsill, a former RA and former pastor, has been named managing editor for RA and Challenger resources, according to an April 26 press release from WMU.
While many churches have gravitated away from missions programs for children, often in favor of more legalistic club-like programs, awareness of missions has suffered. That’s a shame. Let’s hope that WMU’s willingness to assume responsibility for RA and Challenger materials will lead to a resurgence in participation among boys as well as girls.
When it comes to missions education, nobody does it better than WMU.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.