Embrace leader knows how to get things started
    November 2 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

    Ashley Allen is not only a self-starter; she ignites other things, as well.

    BR photo by Norman Jameson

    Ashley Allen, 31, is building Embrace for women and girls based on evangelism, ministry and discipleship.

    Allen, 31, is founding director of Embrace, the women’s ministry of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). Embrace arose after a painful separation of Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina from its BSC patron in 2007.

    During the discussions that led eventually to separation, BSC Executive Director-treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr. said the BSC would have a women’s ministry emanating from the Baptist staff building in Cary. A task force chaired by Phyllis Foy came up with Embrace as a name and idea and Allen was enlisted from Texas where she was finishing her PhD, teaching adjunctively in women’s programs and church administration at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and working as a chaplain with Marketplace Chaplains USA.

    When Allen was asked to put into words her vision for Embrace, she wrote that it would be based on the Great Commission, with evangelism, missions and discipleship at its core, and would engage older women to disciple younger women in a relationship encouraged in Titus 2. Her vision was strikingly similar to the broad outline of the task force.

    After Allen came on board in August 2009 she quickly started visiting churches and associations to listen to what women in the church were saying they needed. When she heard enough questions about how to study the Bible, how to witness to friends, how to share faith with their children and how best to support the ministries of their church, Allen wrote a training manual. She carried it on a two-week blitz of regional meetings at which women learned how to start an Embrace chapter in their churches. She answered further questions such as how to select Bible study curriculum, how to teach the Bible and how to bridge age gaps.

    She held a major training session in October at Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute. Two more sessions that will help ladies start Embrace in their churches are planned in 2011, including April 15-16 at Apex Baptist Church and Oct. 7-8 at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone.

    Embrace is not a program, but a process to help local church leaders engage women in missions, discipleship and evangelism.

    “These ladies are hungry to know how to do this and how to tailor it to their church,” Allen said. “They want to know how to go out and minister effectively. I think having these practical tools is what’s been lacking. They want to minister. They want to look like Christ and share Christ with their family and co workers.”  

    BR photo by Norman Jameson

    Ashley Allen, 31, is building Embrace for women and girls based on evangelism, ministry and discipleship.

    Embrace training very practical
    “Instead of saying, ‘This is how you prayer walk,’ we had ladies that were assigned to a prayer walking team,” Allen said. Trainers held a Muslim women’s “prayer tea” that teaches ladies how to pray for Muslim women.

    “I’ve been grateful for pastors and directors of missions who have provided open doors to speak in churches and who have welcomed Embrace in their churches,” Allen said.

    Counting those churches represented at meetings, or who download information from the Embrace site online www.embracenc.org, about 250 have embraced the new women’s department. She handles calls daily from women who say they are the Embrace leader for their church, but who are still “under the radar” for not having attended a training event. Overall Allen said Embrace is growing faster than she anticipated.  

    Allen from Texas
    Allen grew up near Dallas, Texas, and attended the First Baptist Church Academy. She is a journalism graduate of University of Texas and worked briefly on a newspaper in Corpus Christi before moving back to Dallas in 2001 to attend Southwestern Seminary.

    While a college student she started “Impulse” as a mechanism for upperclassmen to disciple freshmen. She intended to study law and enter politics but an internship for a U.S. senator convinced her otherwise.

    Through a study involving “Experiencing God” Allen realized that “serving Him” was what God wanted for her life and after several days praying at a rural house of her cousin’s, she felt perfect peace in setting her course toward full-time ministry.

    A wise college minister plugged her into areas to gain practical experience and she established a mentoring program at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin. She enlisted women mature in faith to mentor college girls.

    BSC photo

    Women at an Embrace training event at Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute take part in a Muslim prayer tea. The women wore head coverings and as they stood, kneeled and bowed, prayed for the salvation of Muslim women.

    After earning her master of arts degree in Christian education at Southwestern, she served as a chaplain with Marketplace Ministries before starting her doctoral work. The title of her dissertation is “A study of selected factors related to mentoring in women’s ministry leaders in selected Southern Baptist churches.”

    She had no interest in conducting doctoral research that would have “no bearing on the Kingdom,” she said. “That would be a waste of time and resources.”

    She trusted God and her response led her to the Baptist State Convention to embrace a new women’s ministry.

    “Women’s ministry is very important,” Allen said. “Look at the challenges facing women today. It is important to focus on every area of the body, women who are single, divorced, married, struggling with infertility, struggling with toddlers, they need help from God’s word. As we show them where and how to find that help, that will have great impact on communities.”

    “It’s been an incredible year,” Allen said. “To see how God has moved, to see the growth that’s occurred, at least from my perspective, it’s been neat and humbling.”

    Just launched is a version of Embrace called Girls Embrace Ministry, or GEM, specifically for girls in grades 7-12.

    “GEM is encouraging those girls to go out and take their faith seriously,” Allen said. “High school and junior high are such important parts of a girl’s life. They need to have people come alongside and disciple them, but they also need to be faithful and share Christ with those in the hallways and those who share a locker beside them.

    “We want to see girls involved in the ministry, to take ownership and take leadership in the ministry, under the direction of adults, so when they are in college and adulthood they are more likely to stay involved in ministry and in reaching people for Christ.”

    Embrace already has organized an international missions trip for women to Argentina and a trip to New York City. In Buenos Aires their work helped International Mission Board missionaries Mark and Melissa Hobson start five Bible studies, which led just recently to the start of a new church.

    Allen intends to return with another group to Buenos Aires May 27-June 4, 2011. Contact Allen at aallen@ncbaptist.org or call her directly at (919) 459-5559.  

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    Body Parts, a Biblical Recorder special series, is inspired by 1 Cor. 12:12.
    11/2/2010 10:23:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 1 comments

Dr. Bob Welch
North Carolina is very fortunate to have this very impressive young woman on it's Baptist state leadership staff. She was brilliant while at Southwestern and that excellence has continued there in her role as the Embrace Women's Ministry Leader.
Dr. Bob Welch
Dean, Emeritus
School of Educational Ministries
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
11/3/2010 11:07:07 AM

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