“The Church of Jesus Christ needs women who not only are smart but who have SMARTS (Spiritual, Mature, Able, Responsible, Teachable, Sensitive). Those women will live godly lives, will care more about developing their character than their charisma, will love God more than they love their own lives, and will boast not in their own power but in the Master’s power,” said Elizabeth Inrig (MA[BS], 1993).
As national director of women’s ministry for the Evangelical Free Church of America, Elizabeth seeks such women to join her in serving the next generation of Christian women. Her ministry centers on the Word of God and is designed to help women understand their identity and attain their potential in Christ. “The church needs women,” she said, “who love women, and who love God’s Word.”
Elizabeth’s journey began when she was a young girl in Vancouver, Canada. Raised in a family that loved Christ, she learned early the value of having a woman of God in her life. “As a little girl, I watched my mother use her skill in making and baking shortbread to build relationships with many younger women. Together, my mother and the woman who had come to see her rolled out the dough, cut it into shapes, and popped it in the oven. Then they would sit on the sofa and ‘have a read.’ That was when my mother opened the Bible and read a text to answer the young woman’s questions. Though she didn’t know what it was called, she was mentoring.”
Elizabeth never intended to work with women. She earned her degree in education and became a schoolteacher. But despite her vows never to marry a preacher (“I wasn’t sure what they did with their time!”), Elizabeth married Gary Inrig (ThM, 1969; DMin, 1984). He brought her as his young bride in 1966 to Dallas, Texas, where he was enrolled in seminary. There she sat under the teaching of the professors’ wives—women like Geraldine Walvoord, Jeanne Hendricks, Doris Witmer, and others. “They were important women in my life,” remembers Elizabeth. Years later she returned to DTS to earn her own master’s degree.
It was on the Inrigs’ return to Canada that Elizabeth first learned to lead small-group Bible studies. Her perspective on ministry began to change, due to Gary’s influence. “Gary encouraged me to use my gifts in the context of the local church—for the good of women, the health of the local church, and the glory of God. He urged me to see these open doors as entrustments from God rather than intrusions.”
The young mother of three soon found herself moving beyond the safe confines of home and family into the church, teaching and leading women into deeper relationships with the Lord. “I like to teach women how to study the Bible,” said Elizabeth. Taking women from our skeptical culture into the Word of God became the focus of her ministry.
Six years ago the Evangelical Free Church of America invited Elizabeth to be their national director of women’s ministry. Drawing on her experiences in the local church, she has developed training tools for women to use while starting and maintaining their own women’s ministries. Recently her national leadership team has begun to teach “Equipping Celebrations,” a national EFCA initiative in which Elizabeth and women involved in local-church ministries equip other women in the basics of a healthy women’s ministry.
What is unique about Elizabeth’s perspective? “I’m a team builder,” she said, pointing to the team of nearly one hundred women who serve with her in the women’s ministry at Trinity Evangelical Free Church in Redlands, California, where she and her husband serve now. “Together we minister to more than five hundred women on a weekly basis in Bible studies and outreaches.”
She recently designed an internship program at Trinity in which a small group of committed women take a ten-day program of intense study and teaching. They learn Bible, theology, and practical strategies in order to be better equipped to start or sustain a local women’s ministry. “This is how I reproduce myself,” said Elizabeth.
To those considering women’s ministry in the church Elizabeth advises, “Volunteer to work with the women in your church, even if it isn’t a job. Get to know some older godly women who are doing women’s ministry in their church. The greatest advocate for a young woman wanting to serve God is an older woman who recognizes a teachable spirit within her. And rejoice in your God-given responsibility of ministering to women.”
Excerpted from New Doors in Ministry to Women, by Sue Edwards (MA[BS], 1989) and Kelley Mathews (ThM, 2000). Printed with permission from Kregel Publications.
About the Contributors
Dr. Edwards’s heartbeat is to reinforce ministry partnerships between men and women, which strengthen church and parachurch organizations locally and worldwide. She has over forty years of experience in Bible teaching, educational ministries, leading ministry to women, retreat and conference speaking, training teams and teachers, overseeing staff, and writing curriculum. As former minister to women at her local church she experienced healthy men and women partnerships on staff, and her passion is to pass on what she has learned. She is the author of “The Discover Together Series”, currently providing thirteen inductive Bible studies for women (www.discovertogetherseries.com), co-author of five leadership books for women, and co-editor of “Invitation to Educational Ministry, Foundations of Transformative Christian Education.” Dr. Edwards’s research and teaching interests include coaching and instructing women to teach the Bible and organic mentoring. Married to David for forty-six years, she especially enjoys romping with their five grandchildren and their two west highland terriers.