On behalf of our elders, I am thrilled to introduce you to Sarah Asire, our new Director of Women’s Ministry. For a little over five years, Liz Stratton served in this role. When we sent Abe Stratton out to preach an hour away, of course, his family went with him. What a gift the Strattons have been.
But the Lord always has more gifts for his church, and Sarah is one of them. Our Women’s Ministry is thoughtfully designed, lovingly led, and centered on the Word. It’s also a strategic way in which our elders are shepherding our women—and by extension our families, our children, and our church—in the Scriptures.
The Women’s Ministry Director role is a member of our staff team. Whenever a role opens up like this, our elders ask a number of questions. Importantly, what does this minsitry need from a leader? In this ministry, we need a woman who can protect the vision, a woman who is excited about shared leadership, a woman with tested administrative chops, and importantly a woman of the Word. Also, while this role is mostly behind-the-scenes and supportive of other leaders, this woman must be able to speak for and to women and to our church as appropriate. Sarah is wonderfully suited for this assignment.
If you don’t know her already, we want you to know Sarah. If you already know Sarah, no doubt you’ll want to know her better.
With no further ado, Sarah, her story, and the how and why of women’s ministry at Heritage.
Sarah, thank you for taking some time to introduce yourself. Let’s start with your family and family life. Introduce us to your people and what each of you are up to these days.
I really appreciate this opportunity for the church family to know more about me and my family. Chad and I have been married for 19 years and we have been blessed with three wonderful children. Haddon is our 15-year-old son who enjoys playing JV baseball for the Greenville Hurricanes. He loves aviation and would like to be a pilot in the Air Force someday. Kaelyn is 13 and loves spending time with her friends and is a great babysitter. Our youngest is Addison, who is 9 and full of drama that keeps us all laughing. Since moving to Greenville, Chad has been working in construction. Most of my time is spent homeschooling our three kids and I also occasionally work as an RN in Urgent Care.
Tell us how you got here. How did you come to faith in Christ and how did you come to Heritage in Greenville?
I had the blessing of growing up in a Christian home. I was the 3rd of 4 girls in my family. My parents valued God and the church, and we were there whenever the doors were open. As a child I strived to please my parents and teachers, often struggling with a proud motivation of looking like a “good Christian girl” mainly to please those around me.
When I was 12 years old I attended a youth event where I remember being extremely convicted when the preacher spoke on taking ownership of your walk with the Lord and that we are not Christians because of the faith of our parents. I was convicted about my prideful heart and saw myself as God sees me—a sinner, deserving punishment. Only Christ’s perfect sacrifice could provide the payment for my sin. I asked God for forgiveness in Jesus’ name and I was baptized shortly thereafter.
I attended Bob Jones University from 1998-2002 and God continued to work in my heart and life as I continued to battle a prideful motivation of pleasing others over God. God brought me to the realization that he cares more about my heart than about the appearance of external obedience.
I met Chad after graduation and we were married in 2004. We lived in Atlanta, Georgia until 2006 when we moved to Portland, Oregon to help in a small suburban church. This was such an amazing time of growth for us in our individual lives and in our marriage. Being so far from all of our friends and family deepened our dependance on God, one another, and our church family.
In 2020, God began impressing upon our hearts that we needed to make a change in our children’s education. Our kids had been in public school up until this point and when they began learning virtually we had a window into their classrooms and it was deeply concerning to us. Also, my father passed away during this time and left my mother and elderly grandmother as they were in the process of moving from Atlanta to the Greenville area. Through much prayer and discussion, we decided to move back east to be closer to family and allow me to homeschool our children.
We were already familiar with Heritage because Chad had attended while he was in college and we had tracked with the church during the six months prior to our move. When we moved to Greenville in July 2021 we arrived on a Saturday and the very next day attended Heritage for Sunday morning worship. We were so confident that this was the right place for our family to grow in the Lord and serve him that we never went anywhere else.
You have some background in church ministry and in ministry to women specifically, including your time at Heritage. Tell us that story.
I have always loved being a part of women’s ministry. I value the opportunity to gather around the Word as women and grow in our love for God and in our love for one another.
In 2018, my husband Chad encouraged me to take a leadership role as part of the women’s ministry team in the church he was pastoring. This was a very stretching and challenging time for me. One of the greatest things that God revealed was that I needed to grow in my understanding of the Word and the great privilege of assisting women in this as well. I wanted to help the women I was serving to go beyond a superficial reading of the Bible, and believe with the Lord’s help, they could be great students of the Word. We hosted a Bible Study workshop for the women based on Jen Wilkin’s book, Women of the Word, to provide practical tools for women who had never been taught to study God’s Word. We also transitioned to using some better resources in order to go deeper into the Word. Just prior to moving, I had gifted the two other ladies on our women’s ministry team with the book, Word-Filled Women’s Ministry, by Gloria Furman & Kathleen Nielson with a prayer that God would continue to grow the ladies in this important task. I also felt the need to continue to grow in my exposition of the Word.
I remember as we were driving through California on our cross-country move I got a text from my sister telling me about a Simeon Trust Women’s Workshop, which just so happened to be scheduled at Heritage. I wasn’t familiar with Simeon Trust but as I looked into it I was eager to participate and attended the workshop at Heritage that fall. I was so encouraged and excited by what I learned and felt better equipped to study God’s Word.
I also began participating in our women’s Bible study in the fall of 2021. My first opportunity to lead a small group was for the women’s Bible study last fall in 1 & 2 Thessalonians. This spring, I again led a small group for the Psalms study and have had the opportunity to teach two of the large group sessions. If you had told me 10 years ago this was where God was going to lead me, I would never have believed you, but by his grace alone he has equipped and grown me in ways I never thought possible.
The heart of our organized women’s ministry is our women’s Bible study. For those less familiar with our plans and purposes, why is this central for us and how does it work?
One thing that drew our family to Heritage was the central focus on the Word in all aspects of ministry. This is the case for Women’s Ministry and specifically in the women’s Bible study where we endeavor to equip women to know, love, and live out the Word. The Women’s Ministry hosts an annual banquet each year around Christmas, a retreat for women every two years, and a handful of smaller gatherings for our women. But the heart, as you said, is the Bible study, which informs all of our interactions in those other venues.
This question is focused on the shape of our Bible study. But I should say first that the women’s Bible study is not intended to be the primary source of Biblical teaching for the women of Heritage. The primary point of instruction for all of our members is the Lord’s Day gathering. The women’s Bible study is supplemental, bringing women together of all ages for all kinds of guided and healthy interactions around the Word—interactions we pray that will shape our roles in the home and the church as disciples of our Lord.
Our women’s Bible study is a Bible study. We provide content that is accessible to women at all stages of their spiritual walk. Typically, we alternate between material written by gifted women in our own body and material we adopt or adapt, sometimes including video teaching.
There are two studies each year—winter/spring and fall and they typically last anywhere from 6–10 weeks. We accommodate schedules and offer a morning and evening session for each study. This pattern and pace is just right. I personally appreciate the spacing and time allotted as life is so busy and the commitment is not overwhelming as a participant or as a teacher. I am often surprised at how quickly the study passes which leaves me looking forward to the next one.
The studies follow a 3-part structure:
- First, personal study during the week of the given text using a provided workbook.
- Second, a small group discussion time led by a leader who facilitates the discussion.
- Third, a large group teaching time.
The small group discussion is such a sweet and importnat time. There’s a reason why we come together to study, not only to be taught but to help one another grow in the Word. This time allows women to ask questions or share what God has revealed in his Word. The small group leaders are to be spiritually mature women within the membership of Heritage who are willing to be equipped to lead. The small group leaders are selected from women who are participants of the study and have a love for God’s Word. These leaders love our ladies and one another. They also invest thier time sacrificially, meeting each Sunday afternoon throughout the Bible study terms with the teachers to discuss the upcoming text and to pray for the ladies.
In addition to small group meetings, our weekly Bible study includes a large group time of formal instruction in the Word. This teaching is from a woman teacher within the membership of Heritage or through a video series. This time is for the purpose of expositing the text for further explanation and personal application. The women who teach must first attend a Simeon Trust Women’s Workshop or take the Simeon Trust online First Principles Class. These women share a desire to grow in their ability to teach the Word of God to help other women move toward Christlikeness.
Some churches have a running women’s Bible study without interruption. We have a few reasons for the pace and pattern of our study. One of those reasons, as you have indicated, is to see that leaders and material are adaquately prepared and supported. Tell us more about that.
As far as the teaching, we are always making plans for future studies, even years in advance. We select content in advance and all of this is overseen by our elders. For example, our current study through the Psalms has been in preparation for the better part of the last year so that several of us can teach with confidence in the text and confidence as teachers.
One way we serve our women is by making sure that our teachers and small group leaders are encouraged and supported. One of my responsibilities is to shepherd what we call our teaching guild, a small group of ladies that meet to plan and encourage one another in their Word work.
In addition, small group leaders and teachers meet weekly on Sunday afternoons during the weeks when our Bible study meets. This Sunday discussion time helps in our understanding of the passage and to identify anything that has the potential to be confusing.
I have been greatly blessed by the humble hearts of the ladies who participate as small group leaders. We do not always lead perfectly, but there is a great desire to grow and improve as we lead these discussions and promote a response to God’s Word through prayer, repentance, obedience, and sharing. This weekly meeting also ensures that we know and care for one another as leaders, that none of us are without the support we need. I’m convinced that one reason our Bible study small group conversations are so healthy is because of this weekly Sunday afternoon meeting among our leaders.
What excites you most about this role?
I can’t pick one thing. How about two? I am excited to lead in a role like this in a church where our elders pray for, guide, and support our women. They do this for the whole church and they do this for our women through this ministry. In some churches, the women’s ministry can take on a life and a mind of its own. But that is not the case here. Throughout this process it was clear to me that our elders are thoughtfully tending to the flock and this part of the minsitry.
I am also overwhelmed by the gifting that God has provided our church in such godly women. We have so many women with a deep knowledge of God and his Word, the ability to teach other women, as well as the desire to excel in hospitality and encouragement. We don’t have some women who are passionate about relationships and others about the Bible. We have women with a variety of gifts coming together around the Word in order to disciple one another and serve their church.
I am humbled to be a part of this group of women and it is my desire to encourage those already refining these gifts and to see growth in those who never imagined God would give them to such things.
Thank you for loving our women and for ministering the Word, Sarah! One final question: how can we pray for you and our women?
Please pray that God would equip and strengthen me for this work and that I would honor and glorify him in all I do and say. Pray that the women of this body would desire to know God and his Word better and that we would grow in our love for him and for one another, in showing hospitality, and in bearing one another’s burdens in Christ’s name.
Pray for the women involved in leading. It is my prayer for God to grow our small group Bible study leaders in their ability and confidence to lead discussions around the Word. I want to see women of all generations and backgrounds ministering to one another in these ways and these women are stirring up their sisters with their example.
Also pray that the fruit of this ministry would extend into our families and beyond as we seek to share Christ with our friends and neighbors.