Highlights From More Than 25 Years of Ministry to Women in New England

The beginnings: In 1989 Beverly Weinhold, a widely respected Bible teacher and former InterVarsity staff member, pioneered the regional work of ministry to women in cooperation with Evangelical Association of New England (EANE, which is now Vision New England). She had two thoughts in mind: to help women grow in their faith, especially through the inductive study of God’s Word, and to train and equip leaders who can grow “Titus 2” women.

The first Women in the Word (WIW) conference was held in 1990 in Burlington, MA, along with the Coalition of Bible Study Leaders that met quarterly at the home of Joanna Mockler in Wayland, MA. In the fall of 1991 Maggie Rowe followed Bev as the Coordinator (Director); her leadership helped bring this ministry to maturity. Maggie’s experience as a teacher and pastor’s wife with regional connections helped root the ministry within the local church while expanding its regional impact.

  • 1992: First combined effort of EANE’s Women’s Ministries and the Ockenga Institute when the two groups jointly presented “Growing Women in Ministry” with Bev Weinhold as keynote speaker. The mailing list surpassed 200 this year.
  • 1993: Creation of the first New England Speakers Directory for Women’s Ministries, as well as the first WIW conference held south of Boston (Cape Cod), in keeping with the mission to move the conference each year to a different area of New England. Gail MacDonald was the keynote speaker.
  • 1994 – 1997: Maggie’s prayer letter expanded and led to the printing of the first Woman to Woman newsletter. “W2W” began as a regional resource but with increasing demand continued to expand its outreach. In 1995 the first annual Summit of Christian Women Leaders was held. Jan Carlberg was the keynote speaker that year for WIW, which continued to expand its outreach to women throughout New England. In 1996 a liaison was established between Christian women in New England and the “Galilee Women,” and ministry support was initiated for Bridges for Peace, an evangelical relief agency based in Jerusalem.
  • 1998: The WIW conference held in Maine sold out nearly two months in advance when First Baptist of Portland reached full capacity of over 650 women. The third edition of our Speakers Directory was published. Over 2,500 women were now on our regional mailing list, each added by individual request. Maggie Rowe announced her decision to retire as Director of Women’s Ministries.
  • 1999: In January Linda Moore assumed the role of Women’s Ministry Director. Linda, a former nurse and a musician, is also a pastor’s wife with extensive experience developing women’s ministry at the local level, helping churches effectively impact ministry throughout New England. Women in the Word expanded to two consecutive days and the attendance exceeded 1,100 women. 3,000 women were now on the mailing list.
  • 2000: Marked the 10th year of Vision New England’s Women’s Ministries. Over 1,000 women attended the WIW conference with Gail MacDonald as the keynote speaker. A website for Women’s Ministries was under development.
  • 2001: The Leadership Training for Women initiative was launched with 12 core curriculum classes along three tracks. These classes were held for the first time in conjunction with the Women in the Word conference. Three years later 12 additional classes were added. The ministry applied for and received a Day Foundation matching grant for the development and promotion of our Leadership Training initiative.
  • 2002: Bev Weinhold taught the first “Hot Topic” Forum on Abuse in the Church and Christian Homes. The fourth edition of our Speakers Directory was published. The ministry established a Peer Mentoring email initiative for women leaders.
  • 2003: We held a satellite Leadership Conference at Trinity Covenant Church in Manchester, CT. Over 1,000 women attended WIW. The first daylong Ministry Wives track was held in conjunction with WIW, with approximately 40 women participating. Two women received their Level One Certificate in Women’s Ministries.
  • 2004 – 2005: A fall leadership conference drew over 80 women leaders for two days of intensive training and networking. An Advisory Board was established. Serving on this board were Jan Carlberg, Nancy Frick, Janna Hoiberg, Joanna Mockler, Linda Moore, and Beverly Weinhold.
  • 2006: The annual WIW conference was preceded by a daylong Pre-Women in the Word Leadership Conference with 200 women in attendance. We modernized the Woman to Woman newsletter from a print format to an email distribution. The fifth edition of our Speakers Directory was produced.

by design ministries:

  • 2007: by design ministries became an independent entity when Vision New England discontinued all associations with its field ministries to focus solely on “evangelistic” efforts. In the interim period, as by design ministries transitioned to an independent nonprofit ministry, we were graciously included under the umbrella of Immanuel Church’s missions program.
  • 2008-2009: We began our newest ministry, Together Groups. By the fall of that year 11 groups were meeting across New England. Our first annual appreciation event for women leaders, Celebrate Together, was held. We started our weekly Summer Sampler newsletter series.
  • 2010-2012: The sixth edition of our Speakers Directory was produced. Two leadership curriculum classes on designing women’s ministries were published as “educational kits.” by design ministries established its presence on Facebook. We modified the “Summit” format to more of a “Retreat” format. Leadership classes were offered through partnerships with Monadnock Bible Conference in Jaffrey, NH. We continued to offer and expand our active Together Groups.
  • 2012-2013: by design is recognized by the government as a 501(c)(3) organization. Networking with the Haitian community in Roslindale, MA, created helpful dialogue and mutual participation in each other’s events. Our leadership training classes reached 267 women this year. Sixty percent of the women attending our events were involved in women’s ministries, with the other 40% involved in other areas of service within their church or Christian organization.
  • 2014: The seventh edition of our Speakers Directory was printed. Our third leadership training class was published. We hosted a leadership training day in partnership with Indonesian churches in Dover, NH. We continued to offer leadership training classes in Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Nearly 7,000 men and women have taken at least one of our leadership training classes since the program’s inception in 2001.
  • 2015: Three new staff members were added to our team. Kevin Cunningham came on board to oversee graphic design and video production, producing our annual newsletters and training videos. Pauline Morgan became our Together Group coordinator to help grow and strengthen these important support communities. And Kristi Stoughton became the Director of WeConnect, by design’s new ministry geared towards young women. She also filled the role of website developer, creating a new website for by design, and worked to develop our social media presence.
  • 2016: In addition to hosting local leadership training classes, we also hosted a large regional event on the topic of mentoring. Dr. Sue Edwards, co-author of the book Organic Mentoring, was our speaker.
  • 2017: We saw great fruit from our 2016 Organic Mentoring conference. Ladies are personally being more intentional about connecting and various churches are incorporating new strategies. Additionally, we created DVD’s from our Organic Mentoring Conference event and we have developed a team of four women who will be spearheading Mentoring Discussion Events at various churches. We’ve started the formation of a WeConnect core group of young millennial women. 7,363 women have taken at least one of our Leadership Training for Women classes.
  • 2018: We had the first live recording of two of our Leadership Training for Women classes. Over 7,500 women have taken these classes. We published the 8th edition of our Speakers Directory. We held our first Mentoring Discussion event at Centerpoint Church in Salem, NH with 80 women attending representing 14 different churches and we created a series of “Bridge Gen” articles for wide distribution. A new Together Group was initiated in the Greater Concord, NH area with Gail MacDonald as our speaker. We held overnight staff and WeConnect Millennial team retreats.
  • 2019: Our retreat with featured keynote speaker, Cynthia Fantasia, was sold out. We highlighted a Millennial Panel with our WeConnect Leadership Team and one of our gifted millennial women led one of our breakout sessions. In April, nearly 180 women attended a “Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth, Satisfy Your Soul” event featuring Jan Carlberg and the Chick Band from Trinity Baptist Church in Nashua, NH. We held three Mentoring Discussion Events at churches in New Hampshire and Maine. 7,778 women have attended our leadership training classes.
  • 2020: Maggie Rowe, the previous director of women’s ministries for Vision New England, was our featured retreat speaker, which included a special Saturday evening event. Our combined attendance was 138 – a new record! Our WeConnect team of millennials organized and facilitated our evening event as well as lead one of our breakout sessions. Our mentoring class was presented at the retreat. The three general session talks and our Friday night panel discussion were recorded and made available for purchase. We held a Mentoring Discussion event at a new church partner in February and our Caring Connections training class later in that month.
  • 2021: The pandemic made in-person meetings a distant memory! Because of our gifted staff and board members, we were able to make the transition to virtual gatherings. Zoom became the platform of choice for our Together Groups as well as the 16 live teaching presentations. These recorded sessions significantly expanded our outreach on our YouTube channel. Our annual retreat was done virtually with 116 women from four time zones participating! In spite of the challenges we faced, our ministry involved 398 women from 150 churches. 40% were new to our ministry. Our leadership training for women initiative now stands at 8,069. Heather North was hired as Kristi Stoughton’s new administrative assistant.