Even as the male-led Promise Keepers draw national attention with their rollercoaster financial operations, a significant number of church-related women’s groups are quietly attaining new strength.
Groups such as Women of Faith, Aspiring Women, Renewing the Heart (of Focus on the Family) and Time Out are drawing women by the tens of thousands. Largely evangelical in leadership, these women’s organizations are finding success not by imitating Promise Keepers but by bringing women together for relaxation, renewal and revival.
Mostly avoiding the PK focus on repentance, and rededication, the women’s groups aim at programs focusing on specific needs of women, reports Christianity Today (April 6). These include overcoming low self esteem, improving coping skills and offering practical advice on finances and household management.
The statistics show the burgeoning interest among these women. In 1997 some 197,000 women attended 15 regional conferences sponsored by Women of Faith; for 1998 leaders have projected at least doubling that total in 29 planned programs. Time Out and Aspiring Women gatherings are also finding growing interest.
Writer Mary Cagney, suggests that some 600,000 women in 1998 will be attending the rallies of these groups. Most meetings start on a Friday, and run through Saturday with admission being anywhere from $25 to $60. Attendees find choices in plenary sessions, smaller workshops focusing on specific programs, and a wide variety of merchandise displays with books, clothing, and bookstore items.
The author suggests the key to the movement’s success resides in a happy blend of several ingredients. These include borrowing from the popular, secular, self-improvement movements, a good deal of humor, featuring jokes with special meaning for females (“gynecological humor”), and planning for follow-up on the local level after the conference has concluded. To date, participation is encouraged by local churches in the evangelical world, with little involvement among Catholics or mainline Protestants.
However, it is altogether possible that the success of these endeavors will spark activity within the mainline, such the popularity of PK has done with the Evangelical Lutheran Church and its new Lutheran Men in Mission program.
(Christianity Today, 465 Gundersen Dr., Carol Stream, IL 60188)
— By Erling Jorstad