Lent Day 21 – Women of Faith
I’ve mentioned a few times working for a Christian company during the Lent Experiment. Today, I’m diving in and giving the deets on the story behind the story of Women of Faith – the Christian organization I spent over 13 years with in some form or fashion.
This post has randomly gained traction over the last week. My hunch is because of the passing of Luci Swindoll. Lucille Swindoll died on October 20, 2020. She lived a full and wonderful life for 88 years. While she is in a much better place now, she is greatly missed. Watch a tribute to Luci’s life, with the former Porch Pals. Below, I’ve written a few words on remembering Luci Swindoll.
Women of Faith Conferences
If you were a church-going Christian middle-age woman in the early 2000s, chances are – you know of, read a book by or attended a Women of Faith event. Women of Faith conferences started in the mid-90’s as a Christian’s women’s event. While they started small – they grew fast and quickly moved from churches to arenas.
In the Women of Faith hay-day – we would have over 20,000 women attending our events each weekend. With over 20 conferences a year – it was a lot to say the least.
They Hired Me
I originally interviewed for a web design position in the fall of 1999 at Women of Faith. For complicated reasons, I didn’t start until early 2000. By the time I had started, they had undergone a restructure as the whole dot com bubble was starting to burst. Since I had a multitude of web skills, not just design – they brought me on to juggle a number of projects.
While I went to church and did the motions, it wasn’t until I started working at Women of Faith that I understood the depths, variations, complications and grace of Christianity. If it wasn’t for working here, I don’t know if my faith would be anywhere near as strong as it is today. I had several mentors that came alongside me over the years – in different forms and fashions that helped make the person I am today.
Standing Up for Women
There are several things that WOF did – that had not been done before. Women preaching Jesus to crowds outside of a women’s ministry meeting? That’s typically not a Sunday morning in the old school evangelical Christianity world.
Inclusive not Exclusive
Women of Faith was a name that was inclusive of ALL women of faith – that were Christians. While I know some people like to point and say “Catholics are not Christians” or this religion or that – it wasn’t what we did at WOF. Women of Faith didn’t call out a religion as non-Christian – because who are we to judge?
Women on a Stage
Predominately the stage featured women. Yes, there was an occasional man who spoke – but it was mostly women. There wasn’t as huge of an all women show, traveling the country before Women of Faith. Not to this magnitude, reaching the amount of people we reached.
Transparency and Keeping it Real
I attribute the success of Women of Faith to the speakers who kept it real. Transparency was always present. A few memories of this:
Barbara Johnson – Having a homosexual son and sons that had died – these are topics most would not discuss openly.
Patsy Clairmont – Patsy would speak openly about her anxiety issues and how God helps her deal.
Sheila Walsh – Sheila had a rough childhood and has dealt with depression. Both topics she spoke about, bringing down the wall of shame and secrecy behind mental illness.
Luci Swindoll – Luci would speak about living a full life as a single woman.
Marilyn Meberg – Marilyn was a former professor and counselor – always delivered words of wisdom to empower, encourage women in their walk with Christ.
Thelma Wells – From the realities that she’s dealt with as a black woman to raising children, Thelma would bring the word to women in a way only Thelma could do.
While today, these subject aren’t near as taboo, 20-years ago they were. That transparency is what drove hundreds of thousands of women to arenas to see the Women of Faith conferences.
While Women of Faith was the main event, through-out the year – the WOFfice, as we affectionately called it – worked on a multitude of events.
From Marriage Builders to Children of Faith to Max Lucado’s 3:16 event and The Revolve Tour – Women of Faith events was so much more. In addition to those event, there were a multitude of other live events that the Women of Faith team was responsible for.
The Rise and Fall of Women of Faith
Women of Faith hit it’s hay-day in I’d say 2002. There were over 350k women who attended Women of Faith conferences that year. While attendance did start to decline, more so when we hit 2010 – it was a natural progression.
The regular line-up for Women of Faith featured women who were older. Traveling became more complicated. In 2016, the Women of Faith conferences as the regular attendees knew it – retired. In 2017, a Women of Faith documentary was released. Patsy Clairmont and Jan Silvious did a short tour – but for Women of Faith conferences as the regulars knew it are done.
History of Women of Faith
Here is a brief history of Women of Faith. At just 19, I was in college and got a job at New Life Clinics – answering the phone for their radio show. The founder, Steve Arterburn also founded Women of Faith. The New Life offices were right next to the WOF offices (WOFfices as we affectionately called them.)
Fast forward a year, I started at WOF. Shortly after I joined the company, WOF was acquired by Thomas Nelson Publishers.
In 2014, Women of Faith was sold to WME – also known as Willow Morris Endeavors. There, WOF lived under the Live Events umbrella.
In 2017, the Women of Faith brand – as well as The Belong Tour (another event put on by the WOF team) sold to GJ Reynolds and Alita Reynolds. Since then, the live events were dissolved and the only remaining element that is not associated with the original team is social media.
My Time at WOF
I started Women of Faith in 2000, left in 2011 after Zeke was born.
LYNN (That’s right Lynn, so calling you out. You know I adore you.) talked me into returning in (which I know she would say, it was your choice. I know, I know.) I returned in 2015 until new ownership took over in mid-2017.
While I don’t identify with the evangelical Christian movement of today, I look back at my time at WOF and know that I was there for a reason.
The Team Behind Women of Faith
The team behind WOF was extraordinary. Having to do all of the work that was done, you know God was in the mix. We were a small but fierce team. The majority of us, were women – which let me tell you, could be quite a struggle – but we did it. We created amazing things that changed lives.
You may remember Mary Graham as the Emcee and President of Women of Faith. Mary is and was everything. This woman has stories that will make you laugh and the ability to put God into all stories. She was a wonderful mentor and sweet friend who I can’t praise enough.
I’ve been able to see Mary Graham a few times over the last few years. Each time is a delight. Mary is obsessed with babies, and seeing that I had 4 babies while working at WOF – she has held and loved each one of them. She retired a while back and no longer does social media.
Some of my closest friendships were built at Women of Faith. While at times I wanted to pull my hair out, I can say this… from the bottom of my heart, I wouldn’t have traded my time there for anything.
Sure, there were a ton of things about working for a Christian organization that I loathed. There were things that I didn’t agree with, people that I just didn’t get along with and office politics that just down right sucked. But can’t anyone say that about any company that they’ve work for?
There you have it. The rise and fall of Women of Faith.
Remembering Luci Swindoll
Luci Swindoll, wow. What a life she led. I learned a few days before her passing that she was ill. Immediately, I was flooded with memories of working with Luci. She was just someone you don’t forget.
One of my favorite memories was at her home. Luci had opened her home so that we could do a video shoot. Her home is what changed the way I thought of decorating. Every piece had a story – and ever since that visit to Luci’s house, I’ve tried to remember that before buying some off the shelf piece at Home Goods.
Luci Swindoll was a ball of energy. As the years passed, her wisdom and humor never failed. Thank you Luci. You are unforgettable. Until we meet again… I’ll bring the champs.
Best Luci Swindoll Quotes
Here are a few of my favorite Luci Swindoll quotes.
A life of adventure is ours for the taking, whether we’re seven or seventy. Life for the most part is what me make it. We have been given a responsibility to live it fully, joyfully, completely, and richly,in whatever span of time God grants us on this earth.
There is something electrifying about individuals with adventuresome spirits. They see life through a different lens. They almost emit electricity because nothing about them is dull or uninteresting or unplugged.
Don’t just be interested, be INTERESTING.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. It just makes life all the harder. It’ll all come out in the wash anyway, because God’s glory eventually will eclipse everything that goes wrong on this earth. Lighten up and learn to laugh at yourself. None of us is infallible. We make mistakes in life, and more often than not, they’re funny. Sometimes, being your own source of comedy is the most fun of all.
Adventure is an attitude, not a behavior.