Editor's note: This is the second article in a month-long series about women in ministry.
Aiming to foster a community of women who disciple each other in Christian faith, the Embrace ministry at Perkinsville Baptist Church offers programs and events that allow attendees to talk life and the gospel.
Embrace Women’s Ministry is a ministry of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina that Perkinsville has modeled its program after. The state Embrace ministry states that it helps churches develop women’s ministries that encourage and equip women to disciple others.
"(Embrace) represents a community of women who are like-minded that are going to hold me accountable, disciple me in the word and love me well," said Betsy Bolick.
Bolick and Stephanie Byrd are two women who help to organize the Embrace ministry. Byrd said that she loves that Embrace reaches all generations and allows women to find others to relate to.
"It’s not always that beautiful path that we think it should be," Byrd said. "I think it’s important to have women in ministry who are living life like you are and know that it can be hard."
Perkinsville Embrace offers quarterly events for women to attend to discuss topics like marriage or parenting through a Biblical lens. Around 40 women gathered at Perkinsville Baptist on March 1 to listen to a message about depression by Amanda Cottrell — a counselor through Mount Vernon Baptist Church. Cottrell primarily works with women and couples in her line of work, and said depression and anxiety are the top two issues that clients discuss.
Cottrell said almost all of the time she uses restoration therapy with her clients, in which she helps them to cope with their emotional pain, get them to a place of truth in Christ and then learn what to do different based on that truth.
Cottrell advised that humans are to grow while believing in God, taking their thoughts captive and aligning themselves with God’s truth in the midst of community. Cottrell quoted Jennie Allen, founder of If:Gathering, as saying that humans have between 9,000 and 60,000 thoughts a day — 80 percent of them are negative.
She also quoted H. Norman Wright, a counselor in California, who said that cases of depression and discouragement often come from thoughts, and then he referenced Philippians 4:8, Cottrell said. This scripture states, "Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise."
Cottrell offered four steps to create a new habit of thoughts: say what is felt, say what habit one would normally do, say the truth, and then say what will be done instead. She also said that Christians should be willing to allow community and be open to others, and to allow others to talk about their depression. She referenced Galatians 6:2, which states to "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
Women at Cottrell's talk were then asked to review discussion questions amongst themselves. Bolick said these events give women a chance to connect on these topics, and allows for the building of relationship and understanding.
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is hosting nine Embrace Roundtables throughout the state on March 14; one location is being offered at Perkinsville Baptist Church. According to BSCNC, those who attend will learn how various women’s ministries are engaging women in scripture, equipping them to share the gospel and disciple others, building leadership teams and helping ladies learn to mentor.
Registration for the March 14 event is $7 a person and covers materials and light refreshments. To register for the roundtables, visit ncbaptist.wufoo.com/forms/embrace-womens-roundtables-march-14-2020.
The next local Embrace event that Perkinsville Baptist will be hosting will be in May. Byrd said attendees of the May event will hear from a ministry member who will be sharing her testimony, and attendees will practice how to give a 15-second testimony.
Perkinsville's Embrace ministry also offers a "women of the word" mentorship-type program. Bolick said women are paired with those who are younger in age or newer in their faith to serve as a guide. The BSCNC's Embrace program referenced a scripture from Titus 2:3-5 that states, “Older women … encourage the young women … so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”
"We hope that they will live life together, be digging in the word together and keep one another accountable," Bolick said. "It is so encouraging to me to see faithful women that walk with Jesus, know the word, are filled with the holy spirit and are proclaiming the gospel. It pushes me and challenges me in a way that keeps me going."
Byrd said Embrace is not specifically just for Perkinsville Baptist members, and welcomes anyone who wants to attend and experience fellowship. She said some churches may not have an active women's ministry or one for women at all, and that their group does have guests come from other congregations.
Perkinsville Baptist also now offers Bible study gatherings Tuesday nights and Wednesday mornings.
If a woman was interested in becoming involved with Embrace but was unsure about their faith journey, Bolick said she would like to sit down and talk with them. Byrd added that this would give them an opportunity to "feel out where their story is," and said there was almost a guarantee that someone within the ministry would have a similar path. Bolick said she invites women to attend the bigger group meetings to get started.
For more information about the Perkinsville Baptist women's ministry, visit www.perkinsville.org/adults or search for "Embrace: Perkinsville Women" on Facebook.