Supporting Women in Ministry
Over the past year, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary launched new initiatives to support women preparing for and currently serving in ministry contexts. Led by Darrell Yoder, instructor of Christian ministries and director of the Pirsig Fellowship and Talking Points at GRTS, and Dr. Tara Kram, associate dean, GRTS conducted a survey of female GRTS alumni to provide feedback on their experience in GRTS ministry programs. They also facilitated an evening event with 20 female alumni and current students to connect and share their experiences both in seminary and in ministry. According to both Yoder and Kram, the purpose of the new initiatives is to understand the experiences of women in GRTS ministry programs and provide support to them as they often feel alone or isolated in male-dominant seminary and ministry settings.
The surveys and focus groups of GRTS female alumni and students provided valuable insight for Yoder and Kram. They found that while women often felt supported by their professors, they (particularly younger women) did not always feel supported by their male peers. They also found that women desire mentoring experiences to prepare them for what they may experience in a ministry setting.
“We are working to support women who are in our ministry programs in some intentional ways,” Yoder said. “We have asked two alumni to plan two events each fall and spring semester that will provide opportunities for students to connect, encourage one another and hear from women who are in leadership roles.”
GRTS alumni Brenda DeVries (M.Div. ’16) and Jennifer McCormick-Bridgewater (M.Div. ’20) are serving as the leaders of these initiatives and are tasked with planning the events, engaging with students and alumni and assessing the ongoing needs of women pursuing ministry. DeVries serves as pastor of The Journey Church in Grandville and has continued to engage with the GRTS community even after completion of her degree by leading worship in GRTS chapel, being a part of a pastoral panel and teaching for Ministry Residency sessions, mentoring students and taking other classes. McCormick-Bridgewater was the highest honor graduate for GRTS in May 2020 and has served GRTS as a teaching assistant, academic tutor and Urban Cohort mentor. Both DeVries and McCormick-Bridgewater exemplify the servant leadership needed to support their fellow women in ministry and are already leading these new initiatives with excellence.
The first event, coordinated by DeVries and McCormick-Bridgewater, was held on Feb. 21 event and featured writer Kinita Schripsema who spoke about women living into their ministry calling as their authentic selves. The March and April events were canceled due to COVID-19, but a time of prayer, encouragement and fellowship was held virtually on May 15.
For more information regarding this initiative, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.