Connecting women through ministry
Thousands of miles from family as a Marine Corps wife in Okinawa, Japan, Jodie Anker learned how a church family could close physical and emotional distance to build community.
As the new director of women’s ministries for Triad Baptist Church, Anker wants to similarly connect women to each other and Jesus Christ amid the loneliness and isolation of the COVID-19 world, and post-pandemic U.S.
“There’s no way I could have gone through what I experienced as a military wife alone,” she said. “Women’s ministry is vital in pointing others toward Christ. As women we seek relationship and crave that social and personal connection with others. The pandemic in particular has highlighted a lot of needs.
“I want every woman who walks through our doors to feel loved on, prayed over, supported, and pointed toward Christ.”
A door opened
Despite the benefits she’d experienced herself from women’s ministry and her own involvement, Anker wasn’t initially sure she was the best candidate to follow Shannon Warden as women’s ministries leader.
Before moving to the Kernersville area with her family in 2015, Anker had led children’s ministry for Topsail Baptist Church in Hampstead, N.C., and planned several of its community outreach events — from Vacation Bible Schools and Fall Festivals to Chili Cook-offs.
“I had met Shannon through a SNAC (Sunday Night Adult Class) she had led a few years ago on marriage and the family, and had developed a friendship,” said Anker, who joined Triad with her husband, Matt, and their children Olivianna, 15, Titus, 12, and Sophia, 10, in 2016.
While house hunting, they saw an ad for Awana on the Triad Baptist Church sign and felt immediately drawn to the church because of their own Awana club experience.
“When Shannon and other church leaders approached me about the women’s ministry leadership position, I told them I’d pray about it,” Anker said of her first major leadership opportunity at Triad.
“I wasn’t sure I was the best fit because I’d always worked with children.”
That view changed during a September 2020 drive to visit Matt in Portsmouth, Virginia, while he served a month-long deployment with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. (He’s a lieutenant colonel and communications officer).
“As I drove and prayed and thought about the opportunity, Jesus spoke to my heart and gave me such an excitement for it,” Anker said. “I did not think it would be fair to anyone under this ministry if their leader was not excited about it themselves.
“The Lord flooded my mind and heart with so many ideas and options. God opened the door and my heart to it, and I said ‘Yes!’ ”
Anker will head the overall women’s ministry while Warden will lead its events team and continue to direct Triad’s Life Support Counseling ministry.
Conversation with Shannon Warden and Jodie Anker
Originally from Colorado and Washington State respectively, Jodie and Matt met while students at Pensacola Christian College in Pensacola, Florida.
Anker uses her early childhood education degree to homeschool her children. At Triad, she’s served with Matt in the Upward Sports program, volunteered for Vacation Bible School, and prays for and talks to women about abortion alternatives for Not Forgotten Ministries in Winston-Salem.
New direction, new ministries
As for her women’s ministries plans for 2021 and beyond, Anker said, “More than anything, I want to do simple, fun things that allow women in our church to have fun and fellowship and, through the church and its many other ministries, come together and heal post-COVID.
“Women’s lives have been turned upside down and many have not been able to physically come to church and be together with other women for months. Men are a key part of the ministry’s success in giving us the time and opportunity to plug in and make these connections.”
A Ladies Prayer walk March 20 was the first of several outdoor events Anker and team planned for 2021. Several new ministries also will be launched under the women’s ministry umbrella.
Those include the TBC Ladies Serve women’s service corps led by member Catherine Nifong which will spotlight ministries across the church each monthly and service opportunities for women, and the Beauty from Ashes support group led by Amanda Wazlavek for women left by their husbands.
Anker believes all the opportunities will help address one of the biggest challenges she sees as the new women’s ministry director at Triad — serving women from such a broad range of ages and backgrounds.
“That was one of the first things God laid on my heart,” she said. “There are pockets of women who don’t know where they fit.
“While there is no one blanket ministry that could possibly reach everyone all the time, our desire is to reach most women and create new ministries to fill gaps and meet needs,” Anker said.
Anker said she’s not discouraged about the pandemic’s impact on women’s ministries at Triad and plans to keep moving forward, reaching out, and finding new and creative ways to adapt.
“The world is pretty dark and depressing but that only means the church can shine brighter,” she said. “We have a great opportunity to grow and reach out and be a bright light in the community.”