In June of 2015, about 20 women gathered in London for a meeting to discuss women’s ministries in complementarian contexts around the world. Our hope was to learn from one another and encourage each other in our task.
We heard from women in Australia, South Africa, Europe, UAE, and the USA. Led by the Proclamation Trust, we first met at The Evangelical Ministry Assembly (EMA) and enjoyed excellent teaching and fellowship. Afterwards, we traveled to The Oast House Retreat Center to debrief, discuss, and get to know one another.
It was one of those gatherings that left me wanting to share with others the kingdom work being done by women in a variety of settings. I’ve asked these ladies to tell us a bit about their ministries, so that we can all glean from their wisdom and prayerfully support their labors around the world.
Today, we’ll get a glimpse into the ministry work of Carrie Sandom. She lives in Kent (about 30 miles south of London) and for the past four years has ministered at St John’s Church in Tunbridge Wells and has recently been appointed the Director of Women’s Ministry at the Proclamation Trust in London (two days a week).
Can you share with us a little about the culture where you live and the work you are doing?
Tunbridge Wells is a small town in the South East of England, once famous for its medicinal waters (think “Bath” but on a much smaller scale), but now part of the ever- increasing commuter belt around London. The town has excellent schools and there’s a scramble for places every year – which means there are lots of families living here, many of whom have moved out of London for a less frantic existence. This, I guess inevitably, means that the main idols here are the family, education and materialism – and people invest heavily in all three. Most homes are “dual income” families to cover the mortgage repayments on the house which means most women go back to work within about six months of having a child. The number of child-minders and nannies in the town (particularly those from Eastern Europe) has tripled in the last four years.
I wear two different hats. Most of my time (Sun-Wed) is spent ministering to the women at St John’s – coordinating the women’s Bible study groups, training new leaders, leading group Bible studies and one to one Bible studies, teaching and mentoring our ministry trainees and being part of the planning group for our senior members’ fellowship. The rest of the week (Thurs-Fri) I am based in London where I teach and tutor students studying at the Cornhill Training Course (a pre-seminary Bible handling course spread over two years with placements in the local church) and am involved in the wider ministry of the Proclamation Trust (hosting and leading the national “Women in Ministry” conference and running regional workshops for women wanting to study the bible in a little more depth.
What are some of the challenges of your ministry? What are some of the joys?
The biggest challenge at the moment is learning how to juggle these two roles, with two sets of colleagues, two team leaders, two pressing agendas and endless lists of things I could do. Having said that it is an enormous privilege to be able to serve in these two quite different ministry contexts, and keeping my feet firmly routed in the local church means I’m trying to model at the beginning of the week what I’m training the women students at Cornhill to do the rest of the week. My male colleagues at PT keep in touch with ‘real’ ministry by preaching in their local churches at the weekend but if I am to stay in touch with real ministry with women then I need to be working in the local church during the week.
The joys are many and numerous but always people related. Whether it’s seeing the gospel impact the life of a newly converted single mum and her hunger for God’s Word grow or seeing how the Bible study leaders grow in competence at handling the Word of God or the students at Cornhill leave for jobs where they will be passing onto others all that they have learned. Just recently two senior members of the congregation died and went to glory and it’s a privilege to be able to draw alongside their widows who are trusting the Lord in their sadness while also longing to be ‘finally home’.
In what ways have you seen the Lord at work?
We have seen a trickle of new believers this last year, many of whom are completely new to church, reading the Bible etc.. One woman works in an Investment Bank and is having to re-think many of her life choices, how to spend her money, use her time etc.. It’s thrilling to see how the Lord has gripped her heart and is changing her – everyone has noticed it! Then there’s a student at Cornhill who has been a Christian for many years but because she didn’t excel academically at school always thought she couldn’t be involved in Bible teaching ministry – but as her confidence in God’s Word has grown so has her ability to teach it faithfully and inspire others to do the same. Then there’s a lady in my Bible study group who has struggled with mental illness for many years but is more content now than she has ever been – not because the Lord has taken away her illness but because she is learning to trust Him through it. It is a privilege to be involved in the lives of these and so many other women and to see how the Lord is at work in them and through them.
How have you been encouraged or supported in your ministry by pastors and elders?
Ever since I was first encouraged to go to theological college so I could teach the Bible rather than algebra (I was a math teacher before then), I have been hugely encouraged by the pastors and elders of the churches where I have worked. I am theologically convinced that there are some roles in the local church that only men should have (just as there are some roles that only women should have) so being clear about where the boundaries lie has been important. That said, there is enormous freedom for women to minster to girls, young women and older women and my male colleagues have always encouraged me in what I’ve been doing. Just recently, my colleagues at St John’s were the ones who encouraged me to take on this wider role with the Proclamation Trust and train up more women who can then be trainers of others. And whenever I’m away speaking at a conference (whether in this country or overseas) they are hugely supportive in praying for me while I’m away and getting the church to do the same. I couldn’t do the things I’m doing without their support and encouragement.
For those reading this today, what are two specific ways we can pray for your work?
Every summer I study a book of the Bible and produce some notes and studies for the women at St John’s. I then teach it to the group leaders so they can then teach them to their groups. This year I’ve been working on 2 Timothy so you could pray that we really get to understand what guarding the gospel for the next generation means for us (and in particular how we can support our church leaders so they can teach God’s Word faithfully despite the challenges of living in a post-Christian country and culture).
I would love to do some more writing, perhaps about complementarian ministry and how it works out in the local church. This would be the natural follow-up to my first book “Different by Design” which looks at God’s design for men and women in the family, society and the church. However, experience has shown that it’s hard to write anything really substantial when I’m juggling other things. Perhaps you could pray that if writing some more is something the Lord would like me to do then He would make it obvious and it would happen somehow. One colleague suggested I should take a sabbatical – perhaps sometime in 2018!
Thank you so much for praying.
Carrie Sandom is the Director of Women’s Ministry at the Proclamation Trust in London where she teaches and mentors women studying at the Cornhill Training Course and runs Bible handling workshops for women as well as the annual Women in Ministry conference. She is also based at St John’s, Tunbridge Wells, where she coordinates the women’s ministry, training ministry trainees and leading small group and one to one Bible studies. She is a regular conference speaker and author of “Different by Design“. In her spare time she loves reading ‘whodunnits’, walking in the Lake District and catching up with friends over a really good cup of coffee!