In which it’s time


A few years ago, I woke up on a Saturday morning with a rant on my mind. It was sparked by nothing in partcular, just one of those things I felt like writing. So after breakfast and during the tinies’ morning cartoons, I sat in our old brown leather chair and pounded out a quick post about women’s ministry. It took about 30 minutes, all told. I pressed publish and hopped off my soapbox, ready to move on.

So here is my suggestion: Please stop treating womens’ ministry like a Safe Club for the Little Ladies to Play Church.

We are smart. We are brave. We want to change the world. We run marathons for our sisters, not so that we can lose weight. We have more to offer to the church than our mad decorating skills. I look around and I can see that these women can offer strategic leadership, wisdom, counsel and even, yes, teaching.  We want to give and serve and make a difference. We want to be challenged. We want to read books and talk politics, theology and current events. We want to wrestle through our theology. We want to listen to each other. We want to worship, we want to intercede for our sisters and weep with those who weep, rejoice with those that rejoice, to create life and art and justice with intention.

And then, as these things always go, it was one of the first posts I wrote that went, well, I guess as “viral” as I’ve ever written – which of course is a relative term. That little rant was picked up by magazines and bloggers and Facebook and Pinterest. It was dissected and parsed and refuted and celebrated from one end of our little Internet ghetto to the other. ChurchLeaders picked it up and then it became one of their top posts of 2011. Even now, two years later, it’s one of my most read posts every week.

(If I would have known people were going to actually read the damn thing, I probably would have worded a few things differently.)

I read that post now and it seems like a lifetime ago. A lot has changed in me and in my opinions since that post was written. First of all, I’ve sworn off the concept of “Open Letters” entirely because I think they’re a passive-aggressive cop-out, designed to make us sound inclusive and holy when we’re really just wanting to rant on a soapbox without ramifications or relationship. And second, I was painting in broad strokes, a bit sloppy, and general. I lacked grace and nuance. And finally, I’ve had my bluff called so completely, so entirely, in terms of my views on women’s ministry that – wouldn’t you know it? – being with women and coming alongside of other women has become tied up with my sense of calling and vocation and work.

Serves me right, eh?

But the core of that post – the longing for more, the longing for women to arise, to gather, to rest in their created worth, to know their belovedness – is true.

As the years have passed, a few of my friends actually wanted to do something about this. For me, it started with a phone call with Jennie Allen a few years ago. Amazingly, I’d never heard of her – we move in different circles and come from different traditions – but right off the bat, I loved her. I loved her curiosity, her passion, her intensity, her focus, her sense of fun. We connected on that phone call and she talked about the seed of this idea and I thought, well, if she’s part of it, I want to be there. Then I discovered her work and then we went to Haiti together last October and it became even more clear to me that this was, well, good. Together with a group of her advisors (think Jen Hatmaker, Ann Voskamp, Angie Smith, Christine Caine, and about 50 more women), she’s pulled together a crazy dream.

(Even the leadership team is a crazy mish-mish of ideologies and theologies and priorities. It’s a risk to gather.)

But here is our dream: we want to gather, equip, and unleash the next generation of women to live out their purpose.

And we want to all do it together, instead of divided and apart. This is community driven, story driven, friendship-driven gathering. And I want to invite you to join us.


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A fresh, deep, honest space for a new generation of women to wrestle with the essential question: IF God is real… THEN what? This 2-day conference brings women together and wrestles out how to live out the calling God has placed on our lives. // Austin, TX Feb. 7–8 2014

We’re still in the planning stages, so a lot of details will follow. In the meantime, mark the date on your calendar, sign up for the e-newsletter for announcements, and start tucking away a bit of money for your flight.

This dream for a gathering was born out of relationships, one after another. More and more women in our generation were looking at each other and saying “You, too? ME, TOO!” about these things. And we found each other somehow in living rooms and airports, conferences and blogs, and now we want to gather intentionally to unleash and equip a generation of women who are loved and free.

We’re a very different bunch – which, I’ll be honest, intimidates me. I’m not sure how I feel about all these different theologies and denominations, opinions and passions, all gathered together in one place, but I’ll tell you what: it’s worth the risk to me. It’s worth it.

If I believe that God’s global church is big and glorious and inclusive, then I want to meet my sisters with arms wide open, with ears to hear and eyes to see.

This is the time.  And I’m planning on showing up.


Read more about the IF:Gathering today here:

Jennie Allen
Lindsey Nobles
Jen Hatmaker
Lore Ferguson
Sarah Markley
Logan Wolfram
Kelly Stamps 




faith, If, women
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  • InspiredRD

    I’m so excited about this, mostly because of the mish mash of strong women from incredibly different backgrounds. Something big is happening here…

    • Sarah Bessey

      The thing that scares me is the thing that makes it awesome, right? So true.

  • lindseyrnobles

    I’m showing up with you. In awe. Amazed. Thankful. And Petrified.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Same here, girl…

  • hopejem

    Oh how I love this! I will do everything in my power to be there. This is my passion and my calling and I don’t want to miss it.

    • Sarah Bessey

      So thankful for you, Jem!

  • rachel lee

    my passion is HERE.

    i will be there if i have to walk on my hands.

    • jennieallen

      I like you.

    • Sarah Bessey


  • Jada

    :-) this makes me happy! Actually, so very thrilled to see how God has and is continuing to use you, your journey and your voice!

  • Melanie

    Ima going on the aer lingus website RIGHT NOW!!!!

    • Sarah Bessey

      Good girl!

  • Jamie Ivey

    So excited!

  • Sherry Naron

    I’m so there! Maybe I can finally meet you, Sarah, after admiring your writing for so long, and hearing so much about you from Kelley. Even better, Austin is driving distance for me from Houston.

    • idelette

      What, you’ll be there tooooooooooo!

      • Sherry Naron

        Of course! San Antonio is around the corner from me :) I don’t see why i couldn’t come and this sounds Ahhhmazing!!!!

    • Sarah Bessey

      That makes me so happy! Now if we can just get Kelley and Idelette and Tina all there, too…..

      • Sherry Naron

        I’m making it my goal to make that happen!! Come visit Texas, girls!!

  • Jenny E

    I live in Texas! I could crash on my sister’s couch! I could bring her with me! So many yays…

    • Sarah Bessey

      Right on!

  • Mary Lee Downey

    I can not wait!!! I would not miss this for the world!

  • jennieallen

    Oh I love you sister friend. Let’s do this thing.

  • michaboyett

    Sounds like a perfect reason for me to take a little trip to Austin. :)

    • Sarah Bessey

      Now that’s more like.

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  • sacwriter

    Is there room at that conference for a few preacher men who want to:

    1. Listen to what you courageous ladies are saying and not talk for a change?
    2. Bring along a few of our women friends who we are seeking to push out of the nest?
    3. Be those guys who truly desire to champion your cause?

    If there is room for a few guys like that, let us know

    • Sarah Bessey

      You know, what? I don’t know! I’ll have to find out. And thank you.

      • sacwriter

        Thanks for checking. I know of at least a half dozen women whose way I would love to pay to go to this conference. I would be honored to just come with them and hear what they’re hearing. Alternatively, I could get the recordings if they become available.

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  • Amanda Williams

    Yep. I am so in.

    • Sarah Bessey

      That makes me glad – I can’t wait to meet you in real life, Amanda!

  • Cara

    I’m SO excited about this.
    I have never experienced the level of connection as this conference has brought about today. People from everywhere, so many backgrounds and ideas and faith traditions, are all excited about this. It’s on my calendar. I would just love to meet you in person, friend. Your words have continued to encourage, challenge and inspire me.
    Here’s to more of that!

    • Sarah Bessey


  • Micky ScottBey Jones

    Sarah, this looks like a beautiful idea. An interesting mix (one gal writes for The Gospel Coalition and your book is Jesus Feminist – wow!) and the three parts look like a powerful combination.

    Can I make a suggestion? I guess I’m going to anyway…seek out the voices of Black women, Native women, women scholars – some who blog and some who likely don’t but would offer valuable contributions to a gathering like this. Don’t let this be another “progressive” Christian event/movement that excludes so many of us. As I started looking at the names connected with the project and looking at blogs and realizing none of them look like me I was disheartened. So, please, as you guys continue to plan, would you consider this concern?

    Here are women you might consider:

    Joannah Saxton
    Enuma Okoro
    the super brilliant Lisa Sharon Harper
    Mary Kate Morse professor at George Fox Evangelical Seminary -

    Sadly, I don’t know of any Native Women to point to, but I am sure they are out there and asking Randy Woodley would be a great place to start. This is a very, very short list and there are others. And perhaps you are already looking and asking, it’s just not apparent from the lists I’ve seen associated with the event so far.


    • idelette

      Like. Like. Like And Amen.

    • Elizabeth

      I had the same thought when I looked through the photos of everyone involved.

      And, I agree it is an interesting mix!

      • Sarah Bessey

        Me, too.

    • Preston Yancey

      Tara Jenkins and Bianca Olthoff, to name a few, are part of IF’s leadership.

      • Micky ScottBey Jones

        I saw those two, are there others? I can’t find any others.

        • Sarah Bessey

          The full “core team” (or whatever it’s called!) will be out in a few days. But yes, a few more. But not enough.

    • Sarah Bessey

      In complete agreement. The leadership team does have a few more voices but that is absolutely the heart of it. I am 100% with you on that.

      • Micky ScottBey Jones

        Would you share this concern with them? I don’t know how much influence you have but it’s worth a try. It takes all of us raising this concern, not just women of color.

        • Sarah Bessey

          Have already done so, Micky, and will continue. Am doing my best to make sure all voices are listened to and affirmed and welcomed at the table.

  • Tomas de Torquemada

    This place it’s an inbred feminist freak zone. I have much work to do purging the church of this crypto-Jewish doctrine of demons.

  • Grace at {Gabbing with Grace}

    This looks amazing & man…a great opportunity to meet nearly everyone in one swoop! Makes me so proud to be a woman of this generation. snaps, snaps, sister.

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  • Sarah Westphal

    Sarah–Do you think it could ever happen that one of these awesome conferences become ‘international’ in Canada? For that matter, are there ever any conferences of this sort in Canada? *sigh*

    Sorry, I am just discouraged that all the awesome conferences are in TX, as far away from me (NB, Canada) as could be possible.

  • Stephanie Sheaffer

    Sounds fascinating and appealing. So many strong, capable, and compassionate women are bound to move mountains! :)


    (1) Who is your target demographic?

    (2) How will this conference be different from allume?

    (3) Will there be “sponsors” and brands at this conference?

    (4) What would you say is the primary mission/vision of the conference?

    I’ll be following along on twitter.

    Also? I LOVE Austin. Good choice.

  • Anna Notario

    It is time! Stoked to be apart of this.

  • Julie Anna Johnson

    For those of us who can’t make it to Austin, will there be an online simulcast?

  • Pam Anderson

    Amen. Ready to be used by God… and for more than decorating. :-)

  • Tamara

    I wish I’d seen this post sooner! I co-lead a similar gathering of women called Convergence here in the northwest, in Portland. It’s call Convergence and we bring together women who lead in the way of Jesus. We’re in our 8th year. Check out our website: I’m excited for you and this new venture! If you want to share resources sometime, let me know!