The following article was written by Charlotte Rakestraw, GCI Social Media & Communications Coordinator, after attending the 2019 Women’s Leadership Forum in Hickory.
From being greeted at the hotel door, and meeting new faces the first night, to the end when we all knew each other’s name and felt like sisters in Christ, the Women in Church Leadership Forum held in Hickory in April, was a delight and honor to participate in.
Pastoral Resident Elizabeth Mullins hosted and led the group of women leaders from the Southeast US. In our opening session, we discussed the importance of a women-only development gathering, and the nuances between different phenomena like inhibition and prohibition. We spoke about the importance of understanding belonging in Christ. Fellowshipping with a group of like-minded women from different areas and backgrounds helped us understand our experiences better, to then better lead others as well.
The forum was co-hosted by Assistant Pastor Davina Winn, who led us Saturday morning in a spiritual meditation practice. We had an open discussion about our experiences while meditating and listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit instead of listening to our inner critic. Davina shared her own story about finding her authentic voice in leadership.
As a group we shared our church leadership stories, exploring our challenges while encouraging our sisters with advice and affirmation. Elizabeth led us again in a discussion on mentorship and gave resources for mentorship development, as well as the opportunity to form a cohort group in which we can have intentional ongoing support for one another.
We had some downtime to fellowship between sessions and unpack individual discussions together. During our lunch break, many of the ladies explored beautiful downtown Hickory and local establishments near the GC Hickory church building, where the forum was held.
Our final discussion focused on detaching from praise and criticism and reframing feedback and conflict. With Elizabeth’s guidance, these conversations helped the group rethink our roles and actions while working as part of a leadership team.
Afterward, each participant was encouraged to give anonymous feedback. Some highlights from the exit survey included appreciation that everyone had a voice and was given time to share their authentic stories.
The entire forum was organized to be a beautiful balance of learning and listening, while also highly participatory and discussion based. We loved the sister circle and appreciated the safe environment where everyone could be open and transparent. It was a unique opportunity to network with other women in GCI church leadership and celebrate the diversity of our female leaders within the church.