Embrace leader knows how to get things started
Norman Jameson, BR Editor
November 02, 2010

Embrace leader knows how to get things started

Embrace leader knows how to get things started
Norman Jameson, BR Editor
November 02, 2010

Ashley Allen is not only a

self-starter; she ignites other things, as well.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Ashley Allen, 31, is building Embrace for women and girls based on evangelism, ministry and discipleship.

Allen, 31, is founding

director of Embrace, the women’s ministry of the Baptist State Convention of

North Carolina (BSC). Embrace arose after a painful separation of Woman’s

Missionary Union of North Carolina from its BSC patron in 2007.

During the discussions that

led eventually to separation, BSC Executive Director-treasurer Milton A.

Hollifield Jr. said the BSC would have a women’s ministry emanating from the

Baptist staff building in Cary. A task force chaired by Phyllis Foy came up

with Embrace as a name and idea and Allen was enlisted from Texas where she was

finishing her PhD, teaching adjunctively in women’s programs and church administration

at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and working as a chaplain with

Marketplace Chaplains USA.

When Allen was asked to put

into words her vision for Embrace, she wrote that it would be based on the

Great Commission, with evangelism, missions and discipleship at its core, and

would engage older women to disciple younger women in a relationship encouraged

in Titus 2.

Her vision was strikingly

similar to the broad outline of the task force.

After Allen came on board in

August 2009 she quickly started visiting churches and associations to listen to

what women in the church were saying they needed. When she heard enough

questions about how to study the Bible, how to witness to friends, how to share

faith with their children and how best to support the ministries of their

church, Allen wrote a training manual.

She carried it on a two-week

blitz of regional meetings at which women learned how to start an Embrace

chapter in their churches. She answered further questions such as how to select

Bible study curriculum, how to teach the Bible and how to bridge age gaps.

She held a major training

session in October at Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute. Two more sessions that

will help ladies start Embrace in their churches are planned in 2011, including

April 15-16 at Apex Baptist Church and Oct. 7-8 at Mount Vernon Baptist Church

in Boone.

Embrace is not a program,

but a process to help local church leaders engage women in missions,

discipleship and evangelism.

“These ladies are hungry to

know how to do this and how to tailor it to their church,” Allen said. “They

want to know how to go out and minister effectively. I think having these

practical tools is what’s been lacking. They want to minister. They want to

look like Christ and share Christ with their family and co workers.”

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Ashley Allen, 31, is building Embrace for women and girls based on evangelism, ministry and discipleship.

Embrace training very


“Instead of saying, ‘This is

how you prayer walk,’ we had ladies that were assigned to a prayer walking

team,” Allen said. Trainers held a Muslim women’s “prayer tea” that teaches

ladies how to pray for Muslim women.

“I’ve been grateful for

pastors and directors of missions who have provided open doors to speak in

churches and who have welcomed Embrace in their churches,” Allen said.

Counting those churches

represented at meetings, or who download information from the Embrace site

online www.embracenc.org, about 250 have embraced the new women’s department.

She handles calls daily from women who say they are the Embrace leader for

their church, but who are still “under the radar” for not having attended a

training event.

Overall Allen said Embrace

is growing faster than she anticipated.

Allen from Texas

Allen grew up near Dallas,

Texas, and attended the First Baptist Church Academy. She is a journalism

graduate of University of Texas and worked briefly on a newspaper in Corpus

Christi before moving back to Dallas in 2001 to attend Southwestern Seminary.

While a college student she

started “Impulse” as a mechanism for upperclassmen to disciple freshmen. She

intended to study law and enter politics but an internship for a U.S. senator

convinced her otherwise.

Through a study involving

“Experiencing God” Allen realized that “serving Him” was what God wanted for

her life and after several days praying at a rural house of her cousin’s, she

felt perfect peace in setting her course toward full-time ministry.

A wise college minister

plugged her into areas to gain practical experience and she established a

mentoring program at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin. She enlisted women

mature in faith to mentor college girls.

BSC photo

Women at an Embrace training event at Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute take part in a Muslim prayer tea. The women wore head coverings and as they stood, kneeled and bowed, prayed for the salvation of Muslim women.

After earning her master of

arts degree in Christian education at Southwestern, she served as a chaplain

with Marketplace Ministries before starting her doctoral work. The title of her

dissertation is “A study of selected factors related to mentoring in women’s

ministry leaders in selected Southern Baptist churches.”

She had no interest in

conducting doctoral research that would have “no bearing on the Kingdom,” she

said. “That would be a waste of time and resources.”

She trusted God and her

response led her to the Baptist State Convention to embrace a new women’s


“Women’s ministry is very

important,” Allen said. “Look at the challenges facing women today. It is

important to focus on every area of the body, women who are single, divorced,

married, struggling with infertility, struggling with toddlers, they need help

from God’s word. As we show them where and how to find that help, that will

have great impact on communities.”

“It’s been an incredible

year,” Allen said. “To see how God has moved, to see the growth that’s

occurred, at least from my perspective, it’s been neat and humbling.”

Just launched is a version

of Embrace called Girls Embrace Ministry, or GEM, specifically for girls in

grades 7-12.

“GEM is encouraging those

girls to go out and take their faith seriously,” Allen said. “High school and

junior high are such important parts of a girl’s life. They need to have people

come alongside and disciple them, but they also need to be faithful and share

Christ with those in the hallways and those who share a locker beside them.

“We want to see girls

involved in the ministry, to take ownership and take leadership in the

ministry, under the direction of adults, so when they are in college and

adulthood they are more likely to stay involved in ministry and in reaching

people for Christ.”

Embrace already has

organized an international missions trip for women to Argentina and a trip to

New York City. In Buenos Aires their work helped International Mission Board

missionaries Mark and Melissa Hobson start five Bible studies, which led just

recently to the start of a new church.

Allen intends to return with

another group to Buenos Aires May 27-June 4, 2011.

Contact Allen at

[email protected] or call her directly at (919) 459-5559.

Related story

Clyde’s Chapel embraces women’s ministry

Special series

Did you know you have a

large church staff? Your gifts through the Cooperative Program support a staff

resource at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina that exists to serve

your church.

Body Parts, a Biblical

Recorder special series, is inspired by 1 Cor. 12:12.