On the weekend, I went with friends to a women's conference. The speaker, Mary Beth McGreevy came highly recommended by one of my friends. In years past, my friends and I have attended women's events, often featuring well-known speakers, only to come away disappointed. We were not disappointed on Saturday.
It was not an elaborate conference, and that was refreshing. I've been on women's committees before, and been involved in the planning of a conference, and it's a huge task. Keeping things simple is a good idea. Rather than sitting in an auditorium, the intimate setting allowed us to sit at round tables that could hold 6-8 women. I am not sure how many women were there; perhaps 80 or so. But it was a perfect number, and I liked having a place to sit at to take notes.
The theme of the day was "In But Not of the World: Jesus' Prayer For His Own," and she took her three messages from John 17. She discussed the fact that the world is a foreign field, that it is a battlefield, and that it is a mission field. The messages were not geared toward how these affected us as women. There was nothing in anything she said which could not have been appreciated by a gentleman attending. She was intent on equipping us, not addressing an issue in terms of our gender alone. There are times to talk about gender, but too many women's conferences couch everything in terms of gender, and that often gives an incomplete picture.
In her last session, as she talked about how we are to address our culture as a mission field, she referred to Richard Neibuhr's Christ and Culture, and discussed the various options for addressing culture: separation, integration, and transformation. She spoke about how individuals can build bridges with those in the world as part of transforming the culture. She reminded us that the purpose of the church is to produce disciples, not legislate morality. She encouraged us to build relationships with people, to be respectful toward them, to listen to them; to earn the right to speak into their lives.
McGreevy did not make this day about her. I have been to far too many women's events where the speaker has done nothing but adorn her personal life history with snippets of biblical truth here and there, rather than beginning with God. I had almost given up on women's events, but this was a good one. It was about God.
I think the ladies who organized this day have a lot to teach others about women's conferences. Focus on God. Keep it simple. Don't make it more about womanhood and less about God. Help women by equipping them with content that will spur Spirit-led decisions, not simply following lists or methods. By far the best content is that which can carry us into a myriad of life situations and circumstances.
This was a very small-scale event, but it was by far among the best I have ever attended. Size does not matter. I came away blessed, and I hope to return when they have another event.