July 28, 1999

Texas WMU puts churches on mission
___By Ken Camp
___Texas Baptist Communications
___Every church can be a "Great Commission church," but it involves creating a missions mindset in the congregation and a missions lifestyle among members.
___That's the conviction of Joy Fenner and the goal of Woman's Missionary Union of Texas.
___"We want churches to have God's heart for the world," said Fenner, executive director-treasurer of Texas WMU. "And we believe that Woman's Missionary Union makes a difference in the local church having a missions worldview."
___That may mean offering traditional age-graded Southern Baptist missions organizations or developing new paradigms to fit specific contexts. It may involve promoting three seasonal missions offerings or a single annual offering. Whatever shape it takes, Texas WMU wants to help each church advance in its missions awareness and involvement, Fenner said.
___"We respond to the churches, meeting them where they are and helping them to grow in missions awareness and develop a missions mindset," she explained.
___Missions has been the singular focus of Texas WMU since its creation by women from a dozen churches who gathered at Austin's First Baptist Church in 1880ñsix years before the Baptist General Convention of Texas was formed.
___While the women met in the church basement, Anne Luther was being interviewed upstairs for missionary appointment to Brazil. Church historian Leon McBeth of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has noted that the WMU raised $35.45 for foreign missions at their first meeting, and they took it upon themselves to support Anne Luther and her new husband, William Buck Bagby.
___That kind of vital connection to missions continues to characterize Texas WMU, Fenner said. She points to the way WMU leads churches in praying for missions, giving to missions and becoming personally involved in mission action.
___These are contributions BGCT leaders consider immeasurably valuable.
___"WMU of Texas provides encouragement, prayer support and financial undergirding for many of the major ministries of the BGCT," said Bill Pinson, BGCT executive director.
___"Through its promotion of the Mary Hill Davis Offering for Texas missions, WMU informs and inspires Texas Baptists about the Texas mission field, while also helping to gather the funds necessary to reach the Texas mission field and build the Texas mission base."
___Pinson termed the relationship between the state convention and Texas WMU "a positive and productive partnership."
___"Although Woman's Missionary Union of Texas is a separate entity from the BGCT, electing their own officers and staff and receiving no Cooperative Program funds, WMU cooperates with the BGCT fully," he said, commending in particular Fenner, the rest of the Texas WMU staff and the organization's officers.
___Texas WMU has its own executive board, comprised of four at-large members, two language fellowship leaders, five elected officers, the executive director-treasurer and the director elected by each Texas Baptist association's WMU.
___The Mary Hill Davis Offering for Texas missions offers a prime example of both the autonomy and the voluntary cooperation existing between Texas WMU and the BGCT.
___Although the bulk of the money given to the offering funds BGCT-directed missions projects statewide, operating expenses for Texas WMU also are met through the Mary Hill Davis Offering. The WMU Executive Board sets the annual offering goal and the budget. Texas WMU leads in providing resources for the Week of Prayer for Texas Missions and in promoting the Texas missions offering.
___The BGCT treasurer's office receives, accounts and disburses offerings received from churches. The BGCT State Missions Commission administers the allocated funds according to the budget set by the WMU Executive Board. Necessary adjustments require the approval and involvement of both commission and WMU representatives.
___"The system assures accountability and integrity in the handling of the offering funds given by churches," Fenner said.
___The same degree of integrity on the part of a local church requires that only funds directed to the BGCT for Texas missions be promoted as the Mary Hill Davis Offering, she added.
___In addition to promoting prayer and giving to missions, a major responsibility for Texas WMU is to help develop ongoing missions awareness in local churches.
___Texas WMU trains and provides resources for leaders of Mission Friends, Girls in Action, Acteens and Women on Mission as they offer age-appropriate, gender-specific missions education.
___"We are nurturing a future for missions by working with children," Fenner said.
___While continuing the traditional missions organizations for preschoolers, girls and women, Texas WMU also provides the coeducational Children in Action, Youth on Mission and Adults on Mission programs.
___"There will always be a place for gender-specific missions education, but we are offering coeducational missions options to churches that choose them," Fenner said.
___Additionally, WMU Missions Innovators are available to help churches develop customized missions education to fit specific needs and cultural contexts. Twenty-one Texas Baptist associations have enlisted WMU Innovators to work on-site with associational leadership teams and individual churches.
___The goal is to introduce missions to churches where there is no ongoing missions education and to help churches that have a missions awareness to "advance in missions," Fenner explained.
___"We want to see each church take one step more--to go one step beyond where they are right now in missions," she said.
___For some congregations, this will include involving members in restorative justice ministries, prevention of family violence, Habitat for Humanity home building or other ministry projects in which Texas WMU is involved.
___In some congregations, it will mean finding ways to incorporate missions awareness into "women's ministries" programs.
___Carolyn Porterfield, associate executive director of Texas WMU, is facilitator of the Women of Purpose Network, a Texas Baptist group that includes both Women on Mission and women's ministries. It also involves representatives of restorative justice ministry, the Hope for Home and Women Strengthening Hispanic Families emphases, the Women Reaching Texas evangelistic effort, and the Baptist Nursing Fellowship and Ministers' Wives Fellowship.
___In the future, Fenner anticipates even closer working relations with women's ministries. Rather than seeing them as competing with WMU, she sees them as a potentially good starting place for involving women in the kind of Bible study that leads to a "heart for missions."
___"What we want, not only for women but for everyone in our churches, is more than missions education," she said. "It is spiritual development toward a missions lifestyle."

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