(From the Among Women booklet handed out at conference, written by Phyllis Swartz):
The Among Women conversation of today can continue in your home community. Here are some tips for making it happen:
1. Gather a small group of women representing different spheres. This is a conversation, not a program. For this conversation, the number of women should be small enough that women can sit in a room together, see each other’s expressions, and hear the tones of each other’s voices.
2. Invite women who are ready and able to both talk and listen. People who are fresh in pain may need, instead, the help of a support group. The women you choose for this conversation need to be strong enough to ask hard questions and to answer hard questions. These women should be willing and able to speak for other women in their spheres who may not be able to talk openly at this time.
3. Focus on listening to stories instead of debating issues and concepts. The idea for an Among Women conversation is to hear from women, themselves, how God has interacted with them in their spheres.
4. Identify specific foci—the joys of the spheres, the challenges of the spheres, how the church can support and extend the ministries of women in the spheres.
5. Plan for a variety of listening/sharing processes. Here are a few examples:
Around-the-circle short responses to a question;
Individual reflection and then self-reporting to the group;
Dyad dialogues about a specific question and then reporting each other’s thoughts about that question to the group;
Question-asking in front of the group of one woman by the other women;
Inner and outer circle dialogues.
(If you have questions about these processes and want ideas for more, please contact Lynette Showalter at email@example.com.)
6. Find a skilled facilitator. Women need to feel safe to talk about their lives. Find a facilitator who is a sensitive leader and can help women both talk and listen.
7. Set a supportive ambiance. It’s easier to talk when well-cared for. Beauty, good food, comforting drinks, comfortable seating, and quiet places to reflect all increase the quality of the conversation.
8. Assemble a support team who can provide the setting for this conversation and who will pray for the participants.
9. Be sure participants in the conversation and the team supporting the conversation all operate with the following understandings:
That confidences will be kept;
That dignity will be preserved;
That God has varied sanctified plans for women;
That according to Psalm 119:130, the “utterance of hearts gives understanding.”
10. Before and throughout the conversations stop to pray, and at the end commission each other to work for God, each in her own sphere.
Or, perhaps, you’d rather scale the conversation smaller—maybe one-on-one, possibly for a year-long, intentional relationship for learning, understanding, and encouragement.