Taking the lead: WMU-NC at top of missions game
    August 25 2010 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Asst. Managing Editor

    Staying true to missions.

    That’s how Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) has stayed at the top in enrollment among Baptist state conventions affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

    “We have a lot of people who want to start it because it’s what they grew up with,” said Ruby Fulbright, WMU-NC executive director-treasurer. “It’s been good.”

    In a report of statistical leaders released recently, WMU-NC leads the nation in enrollment. It is the only church program area in which North Carolina was listed as a national leader. 

    The 2009 SBC statistics list WMU-NC’s enrollment at 99,041, topping Georgia (81,249), Alabama (72,324), South Carolina (73,284), and Texas (60,784 — which includes both conventions).

    In 2009 WMU-NC added 149 groups in 69 churches, and “more and more churches” are including WMU-NC in their budgets, Fulbright said. 

    BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

    Ruby Fulbright

    Fulbright estimated 2,500-2,600 BSC churches have WMU in some “fashion” — in other words, the church might have Girls in Action or GAs and Women on Mission. WMU offers missions education for all ages. They do not keep figures for total number of organizations.

    WMU-NC partners with other churches to promote missions education.

    More than 300 churches affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina have some form of WMU-NC. They have even helped Methodist and Presbyterian churches with basic curriculum.

    Fulbright credits “listening” for WMU-NC’s growth. Before and during the move out of the BSC staff building in 2008, leaders listened to pastors, director of missions and women across the state to find out what they wanted in WMU-NC.

    She describes the response as “amazing.”  

    Through the turmoil
    In North Carolina, Fulbright and WMU-NC have been on a “demanding, soul-searching, sometimes painful” journey since they exercised their autonomy and assumed total responsibility for their payroll and program. 

    “Our biggest struggle is financial but continually God provides,” Fulbright said In 2009, WMU-NC dipped into its reserves but so far in 2010, they’ve met budget, despite a harsh winter and cancelled church services during WMU emphasis week. At its annual meeting in April, WMU-NC cut its budget 10 percent, freezing salaries and decreasing staff benefits.

    In spite of cutbacks employees have stayed, and volunteer leaders have taken on more responsibility within the organization.

    Fulbright said the “show of dedication and commitment to our cause … is comforting … even when they’re not sure if the paychecks coming.”

    Fulbright has been surprised through the whole ordeal to learn “the whole world is watching.” She’s received notes from outside North Carolina saying: “We’re watching to see how you are handling this. Fulbright often says, “We’re building this airplane while we fly.”

    “Our faith is more authentic when the world sees us live it out day by day in relationships, work, on good and bad days,” Fulbright said.  

    Unlikely leader
    Moving from place to place while growing up, Fulbright said her family were members of missions-minded churches. She was at GA camp in Texas when she felt called to missions.

    She and her husband, Ellis Sr., were missionaries with the International Mission Board.

    “I believe so much in what we do because of all the support we received as missionaries,” she said. And it is missionaries she sees as the biggest supporters of WMU-NC.

    For a long time, Fulbright declined the leader position, feeling she was not executive director-treasurer material. In May, Fulbright passed her eighth year as leader of WMU-NC.

    She said the challenge then and now is the same: “wanting to engage more people in missions.”

    WMU-NC faces the same image challenge as national WMU. Fulbright emphasizes that WMU “is not little old women sitting around reading a magazine.”

    The wise counsel of God and Christian brothers and sisters has always been important to Fulbright. She’s seen many women who “have stood strong for us” in spite of opposition. She sees women finding creative ways to be involved, and she appreciates the support of certain pastors, directors of missions and fellow missionaries.  

    Planning celebration
    WMU-NC is getting ready to celebrate a special anniversary. On Jan. 8, 2011, the organization will be 125 years old. A special celebration is planned in connection with its annual Missions Extravaganza at Ridgecrest Conference Center. April 8-10. WMU-NC will share a 125-day prayer guide in commemoration of the event.  

    Heck-Jones Offering
    The harsh winter kept many churches from meeting during the WMU Focus Week and some plans to highlight the offering were postponed or cancelled. The Heck-Jones Offering that supports WMU-NC has suffered.

    Through July, offering income was approximately $289,000 toward the 2010 goal of $1.3 million. Offering materials are available at (866) 210-8602 or jbranch@wmunc.org.  

    What’s happening?
    WMU-NC spent five weekends from May through July on college campuses training around 350 associational leaders.

    They stayed in the dorms and shared bathrooms at Chowan, Gardner-Webb, Wingate and Campbell universities and Mars Hill College.

    “It was kind of fun,” Fulbright said.

    This summer women have been on mission trips to New York, Massachusetts, and Raleigh.

    WMU-NC is developing its professional and young women’s networks.

    The young women’s network is related to SHINE efforts.

    Jan High, leadership development consultant, has been integral in helping with the professional women. Eastern and western events are in the works for professional women.

    WMU-NC has names and contact information for about 100 women across the state who have expressed interest in this network.

    “Right now we are still trying to get things geared up,” High said.

    Contact (919) 882-2344, ext. 206, or jhigh@wmunc.org.

    Related story
    Young women should let their light SHINE
    8/25/2010 5:35:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Asst. Managing Editor | with 1 comments

Gene Scarborough
This is a heart-lifting story and I congratulate WMU for changing with the times and finding ways to be relevant!

I have always been impressed because my mother, Lucretia Williams Scarborough, of SC and now retired in GA has been the classic WMU dedicated-to-missions woman like those who pricked our consciences to support Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong along with every other missionary sent. When our small new mission church outside Atlanta could find no man to take the R.A.'s, momma volunteered to lead, convinced us boys needed to know about missions. She didn't make any issues over how men were supposed to lead the boys--she just said, "I'll do it!"

There may be many mega churches having "coffee clutches" or AWANA programs now, but I still think WMU is the "real deal." As a Pastor, I could never do without the ladies of the church promoting missions and doing local ministry. I never encountered a "bossy WMU" in any church I served.

God has used WMU, probably, as the most powerful and inspiring group in Baptist history. I hope 125 years is just the beginning. We have no real purpose other than Missions to draw us together. As soon as we started debating and judging over theological issues, we lost our good image of a ministering and truely evangelical group of Baptist Christians.

Maybe WMU will have just the right touch to enable us to respect each other once more!!!
8/26/2010 6:26:07 AM

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