I have had the opportunity to attend a few conference for women in the past year and there's one thing I have walked away from them all thinking. Conferences are wonderful for growing, learning, and being taught, but conferences are more amazing for connecting with other women. The relationships built at these events are something that can't even begin to be explained. It's this weird world that we live in where we can have so many online friendships that are indeed true, genuine, deep friendships, and something happens when these friendships, that are formed online, become the friendships that are built on sitting next to each other, and hugging each other. That is what happens at conferences.
For the past month on the podcast I have been mentioning an organization called Nourish that is hosting their first conference entitled the She's Brave Conference next Spring. I'd love for Miranda to tell you more about it.
Last year, my friend Shaunna and I felt the pull to create a community for women where they could go and be themselves without the fear of being judged. We felt like there was a void – there are mommy groups and church groups but not everyone fits into those categories. We kept hearing the same stories of women who were lonely and wanted friendships but didn't know where to find them. Churches do small groups and that works for so many people – but in our experiences, it was hard for women to find LONG LASTING friendships when most churches do small groups on a semester basis and things/people's/groups are always changing. And with bible studies or discussion questions or books to read for those types of groups, we found it was hard for women to feel like they had the time to get real and open up about what's really going on in their lives.
We were inspired by Shauna Niequist's book Bread & Wine and her love of gathering friends around a table. We felt drawn to the premise because we saw the potential for it to become a really safe space where there were no books or bible verses to hide behind. Just women, food, drinks and conversation. So Nourish began – we decided to launch in February and ask people to host. We now have 8 groups of women who meet once a month in different homes around our city. We group people almost solely by geographical location because we want diversity within our groups.
We get asked a lot if we are a women's ministry and jokingly refer to ourselves as the un-ministry ministry. As followers of Christ ourselves, we hope to bring women to Christ, but we are taking a quieter approach. This isn't a community where you'll get thumped over the head with theology or sermons – you are welcome no matter what. We have women from the age of 20 up to 60, of varying religions, sexual orientations, marital status, etc. It was our sincere hope that when those far from Christ came to gather around our tables, they would get a glimpse of Christ followers who were just as jacked up, confused, broken and hurting as they were in their own lives. We wanted to show the imperfect, ugly, messy side of what it means to follow Jesus and let it be a quiet invitation to them to learn more if/when ready.
Our dream from the very beginning was to put together a women's conference that embodied what our monthly dinners did – true, authentic, messy community. We longed for women to get together in a safe place and hear from other women about messy topics like addiction, infidelity, eating disorders, abortion, motherhood, singleness, etc. We wanted them to hear from speakers who had real life experiences in these areas and be able to let go of shame or guilt or whatever was holding them back from feeling loved and valued.
We dove right in and created the She's Brave Conference which is a weekend long event that will feature a keynote session with Glennon Doyle Melton and a meet and greet with her afterwards. We'll hear from author/blogger Sarah Mae from Sarah Mae Writes and Proverbs 31 Ministry's Lisa Allen. There will also be multiple breakout sessions led by women who will speak truthfully and honestly about their struggles, etc. A marketplace filled with goodies from Fashion + Compassion (an organization that allows vulnerable women to create and earn a livable wage) a social event on Friday night, and meals all day on Saturday. The event will be held in uptown Charlotte, NC on March 4-6, 2016.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post from Nourish