Missing: Young Adult Women
The Salvation Army in New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa are missing out when it comes to engaging young adult women in our movement. WM advocate Rosy Keane shares insight into why, and how the 'She Speaks' young adult's initiative might be just what your Division needs.
I am passionate about women being connected to each other and Christ. Through the work I do with The Salvation Army Women’s Ministries in our territory, I seek to identify the needs and opportunities for women throughout our community and advocate for creative resources that will affect positive change.
Over the past five years, as I have travelled in New Zealand for my role I have begun to notice that from ‘women’s nights’ to Sunday morning meetings, the young adult women (17–35-year-olds) are largely missing from our gatherings.
They’re globally connected, justice-minded and, through the advent of social media, they’re used to having a voice. So how will The Salvation Army meet the needs and opportunities represented by these young adults?
We know that each generation has their own patterns of behaviour, pressing concerns and ways of ‘doing church’ that energise them when connecting into their community. Pew Research Centre has tracked the trend of young adults establishing their life, future and families in a completely different manner to previous generations. Young adults’ living situations are different, they’re having fewer children, changing careers more often, pursuing higher education and, if they’re getting married at all, then it’s later in life. This means that models of church life from years gone by don’t connect with young adults in the same way. They’re globally connected, justice-minded and, through the advent of social media, they’re used to having a voice. So how will The Salvation Army meet the needs and opportunities represented by these young adults?
‘She Speaks’ is a night for young adult women to get mobilised in their life and faith. It is one vital avenue in connecting with young adult women, and we’d love to bring it to your division or region.
‘She Speaks’: The 'how to'
The mission of ‘She Speaks’ is to platform and connect young adult women in relevant, like-minded and empowering communities.
‘She Speaks’ are hosted in a local café, at night from 7pm to 8:30pm, with an expert speaker on a subject that young adult women want to hear more about, and two local Salvationist artists. These nights are intimate and filled with prayer and conversation. A café is both neutral and familiar territory, as many women bring friends who aren’t connected to The Salvation Army. A platter of food is provided, to get the conversation flowing, and coffee is available to purchase (some divisions have chosen to make the coffee free).
Each speaker and artist is promoted with a bio and a custom ‘She Speaks’ poster, which has become a recognisable brand to our target audience on social media.
‘She Speaks’ is an intentionally all-female event, as statistics and research show women don’t get the opportunity to speak as experts, serve in leadership roles or talk in groups as often as men do. We value developing women’s voices and platforms in this short-form supportive environment, with the view of women gaining confidence to contribute to the wider community.
Our 'She Speaks' speakers
The speakers have the opportunity to share in two parts, with a break in the middle for conversation.
Our first-ever ‘She Speaks’ speaker was Commissioner Janine Donaldson, who spoke on ‘Holy Courage’ and what it takes to be a joyful, thoughtful leader in an environment that is often male-dominated and highly pressurised. Janine also shared insight into overcoming imposter syndrome and sexism, when people constantly underestimate your ability as a leader because you are a woman.
Kaitlyn Bunz was a guest speaker at ‘She Speaks’ Christchurch last year. Kaitlyn shared about her role as an International Youth Abolitionist, fundraising for the international justice organisation Hagar
New Zealand and her upcoming trip to Cambodia to see first-hand the change that her work was making in that community.
‘She Speaks’ Artists
‘She Speaks’ has two debuting local artists who perform and then engage in a question and answer time, and space is given for the attendees to ask them about their craft. We intentionally seek to develop and platform young women who will thrive with the added exposure and encouragement. Something special happens as we all become part of supporting a woman’s emerging talent.
From spoken word, to painters, to dancers, to musicians, ‘She Speaks’ shows we value the creative expressions of community and what they teach us about ourselves and God.
At one of Wellington’s ‘She Speaks’ meetings, young artist Brooke Carpenter spoke about her lifelong love of dancing being challenged by members of the church as ‘not really worship’, and how she had to fight hard to see her training and performance as an expression of love toward God and her community. Members of the crowd were able to affirm her in all they’d seen and witnessed of her craft and character in their own lives.
‘She Speaks’ Zoom
In June 2020 we hosted our first-ever ‘She Speaks’ via Zoom, with advocate, artist and activist Jean Nangwala from Zambia. Jean is currently interning with the International Social Justice Commission, and her passion to help survivors of sexual assault process their trauma and find Christ in the pain, made for an intense, healing night. We had 65 young adult women from around the world tune in. (You can view the recording on our Facebook Page Salvation Army Women’s Ministries).
Our guest artists were illustrator Charlie Robinson from Westgate Corps, and musicians Robin, Deane and Chantelle from Hamilton City Corps. Their artistry and interviews filled us with inspiration to begin our own creative projects, and understand the healing and hope that these forms of art provide.
The Zoom Breakout Rooms provided an extra level of connection and intimacy, and people were able to discuss this complicated topic at their own level of comfort. We look forward to hosting more Zoom ‘She Speaks’ on intense subjects like this, open worldwide to all young adult women. Videos of the post-online events will be available to view on our Facebook Page.
‘She Speaks’ has proved to be a powerful way to connect with young adult women in the ways that mean most to them, while platforming the women of The Salvation Army and developing their voice.
Host a ‘She Speaks’ with us: Territorial Women’s Ministries would love to partner with your division to host a ‘She Speaks’ night. Please contact your Divisional Director of Women’s Ministries to discuss if ‘She Speaks’ could be what your young adult women are waiting for.
Want a She Speaks but you're outside the age-range? Get in contact with your local Salvation Army leaders or Corps Officers to see what's on offer, and connect with the Divisional Director of Women's Ministries who oversees opportunities for women in your division. You could even partner together to run a similar night using the She Speaks 'How To' format - name it something unique to your community, advertise to your people and gather women together in the name of Jesus!
by Rosy Keane, written for 'War Cry' magazine, 22 August 2020, p14-15) - You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.