The Rise and Fall of Women of Faith Conferences

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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. 

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 along side me over the years – in different forms and fashions that helped make the person I currently am. 

Standing Up for Women

There are several things that Women of Faith did – that had not been done before.

marilyn-meberg-patsy-clairmont

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:

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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. 

Live Events

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. 

the revolve tour - christian teen conference

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. 

women of faith conferences

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 and Patsy and Jan Silvious did a short tour – but for Women of Faith conferences as the regulars knew it – they were over. 

Women of Faith Sold

When I started Women of Faith – it was owned by Steve Arterburn and New Life Clinics. It was then sold to Thomas Nelson Publishers. In 2014 (ish) – Women of Faith sold to WME – William Morris Endeavors and 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 Renyolds. 

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. 

The Team Behind Women of Faith

The team behind Women of Faith was extraordinary. Having to do all of the work that was done, looking back – God most definitely had a hand it it. We were a small but fierce team. The majority of us, were women – which let me tell you can be quite a struggle – but we did it.

women of faith conferences

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. 

Mary Graham, the President of Women of Faith – up until 2012, 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.

the belong tour

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 a long 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. 

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