The Year of the Lord’s Favor!
A Spiritual Retreat for Women in Ministry and Leadership
By Crystal Schmalz
The Women of Vision Leadership Retreat took place on September 2-3, 2016, and was not just another woman’s conference or ladies retreat. This retreat was focused on ministering to licensed female leaders in our movement and women pursuing leadership and ministry within their local context. It was an incredible weekend of making heart connections, mentoring, prayer, preaching, learning, friendship building and encouragement. Twenty-six women from around the country came to the retreat at the Pallottine Renewal Center near Saint Louis, MO. Speakers Claudette Walker, Nancy Norris, Karen Peyton, Crystal Schmalz, and Rosalynn Austin spoke to our hearts, minds, and souls from the Word of God. We were blessed by their ministry, leadership, and example to mentor and continue our growth as female leaders in the Church.
The weekend began with a time of fellowship at a local Starbucks where women were able to connect and greet one another. Women sat on the brown leather couches with Starbucks coffee and or Frappuccino’s in hand. Discussions centered on getting to know one another and raising questions about women in ministry and leadership. From there, women arrived at the retreat center which sits in the countryside. Women were greeted by large green trees, flowers, and retreat center which sits on eighty acres of beautiful countryside land. The retreat center hosted both double and single rooms, and we were blessed to have the entire retreat center to ourselves for the weekend. A chapel, private meeting rooms, conference rooms, sitting rooms, an outside butterfly garden, a campfire, a pool, an exercise room, a hospitality room, a coffee bar, and a cafeteria were among some of the wonderful amenities we enjoyed!
Our first session was given by Sister Nancy Norris, a St. Louisin who ministers and works with her husband David Norris in higher education. Both have given of their lives and talents to help mentor the next generation and provide sound biblical teaching. Nancy spoke from her heart about some of her experiences in ministry. Her “Carpet Squares” was unique, refreshing, and used all of the five senses as she passed out a real carpet square to each woman. Throughout her teaching session she spoke about some of the struggles, the blessings, and times of learning she had through church planting and ministering to people. Looking out at the retreat attendees sitting in the circle you could see hearts being touched and lives being changed and transformed by the life experience being shared. The carpet square symbolized the parts of life we do not expect or know are coming in ministry and leadership, and how much of our ministry is shaped by how we use and interpret what God has given, i.e. our carpet squares.
In our next session we had a round table teaching session where several different women shared different stories about women in the Bible, in leadership, and shared their own personal experiences of leadership. We had six break out rooms, and every ten minutes groups of women switched from one room to the next. It was a great way to break up the typical lecture style and get the voices of several women involved in the conversation. Women heard about named female leaders in the Bible such as Junia, Phoebe, Nympha, Priscilla, Mary Magdalene, Tryphena, Tryphosa, and many others. Our round table facilitators were Mary Jo McConnell, Nancy Norris, Crystal Schmalz, Rosalynn Austin, Angela Eddy, and Karen Peyton.
Afterwards we enjoyed a wonderful meal in the cafeteria. It was nice to have all of our meals prepared for us. No cooking for the women! The retreat provided dinner, a hot breakfast, and lunch on Saturday. Food tastes all the better when there are no dishes and clean up afterwards! Women enjoyed this relaxing environment and were able to share a meal with other women, and find the support, mentorship, and encouragement they needed. Women need to see other women ministers if they are going to be able to accept their call into the ministry.
Our Friday evening session began after a break and free time where women could roam around the grounds, find a quiet peaceful place to rest, and use several rooms which were available for one on one mentoring sessions, private journaling, and prayer. One of our retreat Motto’s was “all sessions are optional,” because we wanted women to have the freedom to retreat and select sessions which fit their needs.
Our worship service began with a centering prayer which brought us together in unity and acknowledged the presence of God already within our midst. Praise and worship leader Jessie Crawford and her dynamic team of praise singers ushered our hearts into musical worship to God. Looking around the sanctuary you could see raised hands, tears on people’s faces, and a freedom in worship. We resided in a circle chapel which was perfect for our retreat theme which was Isaiah 61, “The Year of the Lord’s Favor.” The circle chapel represented the full circle of life, as we had women from all generations, ages, walks of life, different cultures and ethnicities, and women who are involved in diverse ministries from around the country. We had female pastors, preachers, teachers, prophets, and apostles attend representing the ministry gifts of Ephesians 4. Women spoke about their callings to education, church planting, administration, pastoral care, preaching and teaching, both national and foreign missions, ministry of helps, and serving in different areas of ministry. Several women were licensed with the United Pentecostal Church International or in the process of licensure, and many women felt a call to pursue their license by the end of the retreat.
The worship service continued with a keynote sermon by Crystal Schmalz, a licensed minister with the UPCI who has a passion and burden to help provide pastoral care for women in ministry and leadership. She hosted and planned the retreat from a vision God gave her to have a retreat for licensed women ministers and those pursuing leadership in the Church. Her sermon was titled “The Year of the Lord’s Favor,” using the scripture text Isaiah 61 as a reference. She preached with fervor and anointing, as God had placed a prophetic message upon her heart for the women who attended the retreat. The message spoke about God’s favor and calling for women in leadership and ministry in our movement. The prophetic nature of Isaiah 61 came out in the sermon, as God was calling women to restoration, healing, renewal, building, and a double portion in these last days. The message encouraged women to step out in faith and claim the Year of the Lord’s Favor in their own life and ministry.
The service continued with preacher Claudette Walker who came to the pulpit to deliver the sermon for the evening. Sister Walker stepped to the pulpit with two Bible’s and a full notebook in hand. She had prayed and fasted for a direct Word from God and spent much time in study and preparation. The title of her sermon was “We Are Complete in Him,” taken from the scripture reference Colossians 2:10 where Paul says “ye are complete in him” (KJV). Sister Walker preached with authority and anointing as she spoke into the lives of the women encouraging them to have Jesus Christ at the center of their ministry and worship. She asked women to hold their hands open in all aspects of their ministry, to allow God to move freely and openly. Claudette spoke from her own life experience and ministry and shared a list of things which we often believe make us complete or whole: our health, our spouse, our financial security, our ministry, etc. It was a powerful sermon and a direct word from God which led into a special time of communion and an altar call of prayer. Only time will tell the lives which have been changed, transformed, and ministered unto from these powerful words from God through this retreat.
After the worship service, the women of the retreat adjourned to a time of fellowship and some rest. Women played scrabble, swam in the pool, talked, and I even heard there was a late night rendezvous to White Castle for burgers and fries.
Saturday morning began with a time of fellowship at breakfast and a chapel morning devotion given by licensed minister Rosalynn Austin. She was able to minister to the women from a place of storytelling and encouragement as she shared a beautiful word from God. She spoke about her own health struggles and her journey in learning to trust God and let God unfold her story and ministry. It was a great way to start the morning, and great to hear more of her story and a message from God.
Afterwards, Mary Jo McConnell an avid journalist encouraged women to enjoy a time of reflection and journaling around the retreat campus.
We then gathered together for our next teaching session given by Karen Peyton who has been a licensed minister with the UPCI, missionary, and preacher for several years. She spoke to the women about “The Lie in Their Right Hand,” and how we must always be willing to inspect our hearts and minds as we are in ministry and leadership. Are we doing ministry for ourselves or for God? Are we working out of our own selfish ambition, or are we seeking to serve God with all we are and do? It was a wonderful time of teaching and reflection. Truly, the scripture about the older women teaching the younger women came forward in this session as we gleaned from Karen’s ministry wisdom and experience.
We then went into a Discussion Panel where retreat attendees could ask questions freely. Some of the questions which surfaced were: How do you know you are called to preach? What do I do with the authority God has given me in mixed gender environments? How do you balance a ministry of preaching and caring for young children and family? What do you do when your leadership or pastor does not believe in women in ministry? How do you step out in faith into your calling? What advice or mentorship do you give to other women wanting to pursue ministry and leadership? Many of these questions are questions women in leadership face every day as they step into their God-given callings and ministries.
After the discussion and answer time we adjourned to lunch and there was a spirit of fellowship and fun. Leaders sat at different tables and women were able to share stories and life experiences. Many women were blessed by making lifelong friendships. God was moving in these conversations to encourage women through the gift of talking and sharing!
After lunch, we met in the conference room for a session on mentoring by Claudette Walker. She spoke from the heart about what to look for in mentoring relationships and what to avoid. She spoke about how a mentor is supposed to point you to Jesus Christ, not themselves. She taught us to be weary of those who collect people unto themselves as opposed to pointing them to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. She spoke about her own experiences of finding mentors, and the organic nature of mentoring. She ended the session in the anointing power of God as a supernatural prayer session erupted. Chains were loosed. Minds were healed. Women were commissioned to minister, lead, and serve. It was powerful!
The concluding session was by Crystal Schmalz who did an activity about “Dreaming With God” where she read some stories and shared from her own life experiences as a younger female in leadership. She spoke about some of the struggles and hurdles women face as they step out in faith. She passed out Dream Cards and asked the women in the retreat to step out in faith and name their callings and dreams. Several women shared their dreams aloud. No dream was the same. Each dream was unique and special, because we are a body of many members and giftings. It is very powerful to be able to name your calling and speak it aloud within community. When we invoke the name of Jesus upon our lives and ministry, we will never be the same!
The retreat was wonderful and many were blessed by their time with God and community. We want to say a big thank you to the planning committee for their hard work on this project: Mary Jo McConnell, Karen Peyton, Nancy Norris, Angela Eddy, Kathleen Fiorini, and Crystal Schmalz. We also want to say thank you to our preachers: Claudette Walker, Karen Peyton, Nancy Norris, Crystal Schmalz, and Rosalynn Austin. The retreat would not have been possible without these women of God who gave of their time and who came of their own financial resources as this was a dream with no budget! We want to say thank you to New Life Center and Pastor Aaron Batchelor for helping out with the printing cost of our retreat materials. We also are thankful to some of our silent partners who gave to support and sponsor women to attend the retreat. We thank you, and know God is blessing you for your giving. And finally, we want to say a big thank you to all of our retreat attendees! This retreat was for you and about you, and we want to thank you for attending and being a part of this ministry venture! Until next year…Women of Vision Leadership Retreat 2017. You can visit the Women of Vision Leadership webpage at crystalschmalz.com/retreats for more information.
Copyright 2016 Crystal Schmalz and Women of Vision Leadership