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NAD Women’s Ministries Leaders Gain the Keys to Ministry Success at the Inaugural Passionate Leader Summit

Praise team singing on a stage in front of a crowd.

The praise team leading attendees in song at the North American Division's (NAD) "Passionate Leader Summit" for Women's Ministries leaders, held from February 1-4, 2024, at the NAD headquarters in Columbia, Maryland. Photo: Pieter Damsteegt

What is a passionate leader?

The North American Division’s (NAD) inaugural “Passionate Leader Summit” for Women’s Ministries leaders, held at the NAD headquarters in Columbia, Maryland, from February 1-4, 2024, tackled this query through inspiring messages, worships, interactive workshops, and moving testimonials. NAD Women’s Ministries leader DeeAnn Bragaw and her team drew inspiration from Psalm 37:5 (CLV) – “Let the Lord lead you and trust Him to help.”

“The Holy Spirit is inviting you to do what Jesus did surrender,” Bragaw said early on, continuing, “This reality is the key to being a passionate, Christ-like, effective leader.” She added that while the words “lead” and “surrender” seem opposed, “The most effective godly leadership happens as a result of complete surrender.”

Anastacia Ferguson-Bansie, associate pastor of Atholton Seventh-day Adventist Church and Chesapeake Conference Women’s Ministries field director, continued the theme of surrender in the opening keynote titled “Chains.” Her message centered on the Israelites’ pleas to return to Egypt in Exodus 14 when Pharaoh’s army approached them at the Red Sea. She paralleled their slave mentality with our bondage to sin, guilt, shame, and self-doubt. 

Women dropping plastic chains at the foot of a wooden cross

Attendees of the North American Division's (NAD) inaugural Passionate Leaders summit cast the plastic chains set on each table at the foot of a cross at the front of the room as a symbol of liberation from sin and shame. Photo: Pieter Damsteegt

Ferguson-Bansie weaved personal anecdotes into her message, illustrating God’s ability to help us reach greater heights in life or ministry during challenging times. One such moment was her mother’s miraculous healing from a near-death experience; another was her journey from the bottom of her class to the top seven years after her neighbor taught her to read. She stressed that only the mental chains of the enemy not the naysayers, low budget, or lack of volunteers — can weaken our reach.

Before offering a prayer of consecration, Ferguson-Bansie urged the women to cast the plastic chains set on each table at the foot of a cross at the front of the room. “Are you facing a roadblock in your ministry? Are you facing challenges and hardships that are too much for you to bear? Are you facing the issues of life? Take off those chains!” She underscored Moses’ response to the doubting Israelites at the Red Sea “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. Look to Jesus.” As the praise team sang, “I hear the chains falling,” and plastic chains dropped, an almost tangible sense of liberation filled the air.

Empowerment, Equipping, and Fellowship

For many, the opportunity to expand their ministry toolkit and resources was a highlight of this summit. “What I enjoyed most was the trainings and the networking. I gained a wealth of information about how to be an effective leader [and met] so many people who can come and help [me] and [my] ministry,” said Gertrude Okyere, a youth leader from the New Jersey Conference, who is considering transitioning into Women’s Ministries.

A white woman standing and speaking into a mic hugs a black woman who is seated. Both have their eyes closed

The NAD Passionate Leaders Summit fostered a natural sense of camaraderie among the Women's Ministries leaders present. Photo: Pieter Damsteegt

For Okyere and other leaders, the summit offered a plethora of practical topics, including fostering God-confidence, emotional intelligence, overcoming negative self-talk, conflict management and effective communication, transformational leadership, building successful teams, and even an interactive workshop on how to share your story and prepare an impactful sermon. All sessions incorporated hands-on activities and discussions among women at their tables. Notably, participants were seated within their unions all weekend, culminating in a discussion on Feb. 4 on how to integrate what they had learned in their territory. The final session, by design, touched on mentorship as discipleship, i.e., becoming leaders who will then make more leaders.

Marthe Hall, a pastor’s wife and Women’s Ministries team member from the Maritime Conference, was particularly encouraged by one of several sessions on developing a stronger sense of worth as a daughter of God. She described a presentation with a slide listing our inadequacies and doubts on one side, with Jesus’s response on the other side; for instance, you say, “I am not enough,” and Jesus says,“I am.” She stated, “If you collaborate with Him, it’s bound to be OK. It might not be perfect. But knowing that I’m working with the Perfect One, … that’s extremely encouraging and takes a lot of pressure off.”

Addressing Needs

When Bragaw came to the NAD in 2021, the Women’s Ministries department did a comprehensive survey of NAD directors’ needs. A standout response was an updated, video-based leadership training building on and contextualizing the existing General Conference leadership training for North America. Notably, this summit served as an introduction to the NAD Women's Ministries Passionate Leader training, which will be available on the Adventist Learning Community website in coming months.

A woman sitting down at a conference table looks at papers reading core beliefs

The NAD's Passionate Leaders Summit, held Feb. 1-4, 2024, at the NAD headquarters in Columbia, MD, responded to Women's Ministries leaders training needs, as expressed on a comprehensive survey. Photo: Pieter Damsteegt

As Bragaw consulted with her advisory comprised of union Women’s Ministries directors division-wide pre-summit, a union director shared the name “Passionate Leader,” which she had used for a training years prior. Said Bragaw, “We all got so excited about that because we felt like the term embodies who our Women's Ministries directors are. They are passionate about serving women, loving women, and drawing women to Jesus.” She added, “A passionate leader is not only willing to grow in her leadership; she also nurtures and opens the door for other leaders.”

Complementing the mentorship focus was the camaraderie that developed naturally among the women. Vickie Danley, Women’s Ministries co-chair at her church within the Iowa-Missouri Conference, shared, “Knowing that other women have the same ups and downs, the same problems, it’s been a joy to know I’m not by myself.”

Chomburi Kim, the event’s makeup artist, echoed Danley’s sentiments. Kim, who was not a churchgoer, had been introduced to Adventism a few years ago through a contract doing makeup for Hope Channel. She gave a testimony near the end of the summit that watching the slides and being around women leaders had dramatically changed her life. After the weekend, she felt she was not alone in her healing journey and was looking forward to reading the Bible gifted to her by Bragaw and Erica Jones Smith, NAD Women’s Ministries assistant director. “Now I know my worth. I know I can help somebody. I really do feel like the Holy Spirit and God put me here,” she stated, smiling.

A smiling woman standing in front of a crowd, speaking

Early in the North American Division’s (NAD) inaugural “Passionate Leader Summit” for Women’s Ministries leaders, held at the NAD headquarters in Columbia, Maryland, from February 1-4, 2024, the division's Women's Ministries leader, DeeAnn Bragaw, defined the term "passionate leader." Photo: Pieter Damsteegt

Bragaw concluded, “I am incredibly grateful to Jesus because I have seen the Holy Spirit working, encouraging, touching, convicting, prompting, inspiring, and equipping,” she said, adding that she and Smith had been moved by women coming up to them all weekend, saying, “I so needed this. I’m going back better equipped. Knowing that they said, this is our need, and we have met that need, I am so happy.”

Moving Forward with a Surrendered Heart

On Sabbath, February 3, Ann Roda, vice president of mission integration and spiritual care for Adventist HealthCare, recounted the familiar story of Hannah in 1 Samuel. Hannah traveled annually to Shiloh with her husband, Elkanah, and his other wife, Peninnah, to worship and sacrifice to the Lord. Despite her tearful prayers, Hannah remained barren. Worse, she had no safe space, as Penninah was verbally abusive and Elkanah caring but clueless. But one year later, her prayer changed, as did God’s answer.

Roda explained that palal, the Hebrew word for prayer, signifies both supplication  or asking for something, and being willing to be judged. “Hannah, in her anguish … got to the point [where] she said, ‘Okay, God, I'm throwing it all down. Judge me. What is it? What is stopping this prayer from being answered?’” Hannah got naked before God and experienced true conversion. Fully surrendered, she bore a son the following year. “When we challenge God in that way, He’ll respond,” said Roda.

Roda urged the Women's Ministries leaders to follow Hannah’s example by asking God, “Point out anything in me that offends you” (Psalm 139:24, NLT). “In conversations I’ve had with all of you, you’ve got some big visions. And you’re gonna do it … because you’re called to be leaders,” she said, then cautioned that ministry requires sacrifice, “letting go of the vision, the plans, the to-do lists, the 150 women we want to attend our events. Let go and let God, then sit back and see what God’s going to do. When He becomes our greatest need, everything else falls into place.”


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Coming soon – Passionate Leader training modules will be available on the Adventist Learning Community - For info on these and other Women’s Ministries offerings, visit