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Vineyard USA Celebrates Women's History Month

Throughout the month of March, VUSA will feature stories of women within our movement and offer fresh resources and suggestions for our churches, pastors and leaders to celebrate Women's History Month.

Cindy Nicholson Sept 16

Cindy Nicholson retired in September 2020 after 30 years of investing in the church planters and emerging female leaders of Vineyard USA.

The task force she pioneered with her husband Steve and a large national team helped 100+ church planters in the US and other countries prepare, launch, and make it through the wild waters of the first years of a new plant.

About her early Vineyard years, Cindy says, “Our church was a wild place to be, with around 300 people, mostly college students, young professionals, and young families, plus a few grannies and grandpas who prayed for all of us, God bless them. Most of the women in our church at that point could not get into the room, simply because of their stage of life. Something started stirring up in me where I really wanted women to get to Jesus, to learn all this stuff, and start moving in it. Nobody was saying “the women can’t come”, but it was all the little things that just weren’t always orchestrated well, like providing childcare or rooms for nursing. The thought that stirred inside me was ‘There has to be a different way to do this so that everyone really gets to play.’

As churches began planting out of ours, two of my dear friends and I started doing weekend conferences where we could all learn together, and not just on topics particular to women; they were the same conferences that everyone was doing, but with all of the worship and ministry time led by women, and all female speakers. We’d expand the circle each time so that more women in the movement had access to the things they saw Jesus doing.

It has been such an incredible privilege to be in the room when God is breaking shame, condemnation, and the voices in women’s heads that say “You can’t, you mustn’t, you’re not good enough, old enough, whatever enough to do what I’m calling you to do.” It has been a complete and utter joy to see the women in the movement be able to recognize their gifts, get their hands on mentoring, and step into the right places for their gifts to flourish. When we started, there were so few opportunities for that to happen, and now there are opportunities everywhere I look!

One thing that is true for women who are just now stepping into leadership is that there are examples, mentors, and coaches that didn’t exist before. You can see women who are like you and be mentored by them, and there are also way more men in the movement now who are comfortable mentoring women. My encouragement is to pay attention to what the Women’s Association and Multiply Vineyard are offering as far as mentoring and coaching. I’d also encourage finding a circle of women either locally or virtually who are pursuing what Jesus is calling you to. You encourage each other, challenge each other, and in prayer you pull the arrows out of each other’s backs when stuff happens.”

Cindy spent her final years of local church ministry as assistant pastor of the Evanston Vineyard in Illinois tending the intercessors and ministry prayer teams. She devotes her spare time to enjoying their eight gorgeous grandchildren, digging in her garden, writing, and playing piano.

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Vaneza Quintero Graphic

Vaneza Quintero se desempeña como co-pastora principal, pastora de adoración y ministerio de mujeres de Imperial Valley Vineyard, una iglesia bilingüe en El Centro, CA.

Vaneza creció en una familia cristiana en Mexicali y se mudó a Estados Unidos hace 14 años para plantar una iglesia con su esposo Rubén. “Aunque siempre pensé en servir al Señor, creo que el llamado al pastoreo paso gradualmente. Éramos pastores de niños y jóvenes, y he dirigido la adoración durante 26 años, y luego hubo un momento en que Dios nos llamó a ambos a ser pastores. Nos preparó para plantar, pensábamos en España, pero en el último momento nos llamó a Estados Unidos. Hubo un momento en que Dios nos llamó a ambos individualmente, pero también juntos para venir y plantar una iglesia”. 

Vaneza dice: “Culturalmente, crecí en un lugar donde no está bien visto que las mujeres sean pastoras. Pero en nuestra iglesia, nuestro pastor siempre apoyó a las mujeres en el liderazgo y fue en contra de nuestra cultura de preparar bien a las mujeres para el liderazgo. Creo que esto se debe a que la madre de nuestro pastor era una muy buena líder y nuestra pastora era una líder natural. Por eso siempre han promovido y visto el potencial de las mujeres. Creo que creían más en mí como líder que yo. Era un poco insegura en algunas áreas, pero siempre vieron potencial en mí. Mi líder de adoración por más de 20 años también fue una mujer y parte de mi crecimiento musical y espiritual vino de ella”. 

Vaneza dice que su parte favorita de pastorear es ayudar a las personas a conocer la voluntad de Dios para sus vidas. “Creo que eso es lo que Dios me ha llamado a hacer: llevar a la gente a Él y ayudarles a conocer su voluntad para ellos mientras vivimos en un mundo quebrantado. Recientemente he estado asesorando a un grupo de pastoras a través de la Asociación de Mujeres, y este es el primer grupo de tutoría en español. Sinceramente, he aprendido mucho sobre liderazgo. Me gusta aprender y creo que cuando enseño, aprendo más”. Vaneza también es orgullosa madre de tres hombres adolescentes que sirven a Dios y sirven en la iglesia, y les enseña a respetar y valorar el trabajo de las mujeres.

A otras pastoras, Vaneza les dice: “No se den por vencidas. Dios siempre es mejor de lo que pedimos. Con Dios puedes hacer cualquier cosa”. 

Recomendación de libro:

Una Vida Mejor by Christy Muller

Vaneza Quintero serves as the Co-Senior Pastor, Worship, and Women’s Ministry Pastor of Imperial Valley Vineyard, a bilingual church in El Centro, CA. 

Vaneza grew up in a Christian family in Mexicali and moved to the US 14 years ago to plant a church with her husband Rubén. “Even though I always thought about serving the Lord, I think the call to pastoring happened gradually. We were children and youth pastors, and I’ve led worship for 26 years, and then there was a moment when God called both of us to be pastors. He prepared us to plant, we thought in Spain, but at the last moment, he called us to the US. There was a moment when God called us both individually, but also together to come and plant a church.”  

Vaneza says, “Culturally, I grew up in a place where it’s not ok for women to be pastors. But in our church, our pastor always supported women in leadership and went against our culture to really prepare women well for leadership. I think this is because our pastor’s mother was a very good leader, and our female pastor was a natural leader. So they’ve always promoted and seen the potential in women. I think they believed more in me as a leader than I did. I was a little insecure in some areas, but they always saw potential in me. My worship leader for more than 20 years was also a woman and part of my musical and spiritual growth came from her.” 

Vaneza says her favorite part about pastoring is helping people know the will of God for their lives. “I think that’s what God has called me to do, to lead people to Him and help them know his will for them as we live in a corrupt and broken world. Recently I have been mentoring a group of pastors through the Women’s Association, and this is the first mentorship group in Spanish. Honestly, I have been learning a lot about leadership. I like to learn, and I think that when I teach I learn the most.” Vaneza is also the proud mother of three teenage men who serve God and serve in the church, and she teaches them to respect and value the work of women.

To other female pastors, Vaneza says, “Don’t give up. God is always better than we ask. With God, you can do anything.” 

Book Recommendation: 

Una Vida Mejor by Christy Muller

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Amanda Clark Graphic

Amanda Clark is the lead pastor at Branches Vineyard in northern Indiana and serves on Vineyard USA’s Ordination Team.

While Amanda has found her home in the Vineyard, she was raised in a different religious environment. She says, “I grew up in a midwest church that began in the Jesus People Revival, but over the years it devolved into a charismatic faith healing cult. At first, it was really cool and people saw incredible miracles and healings. But over time the leader took it in a direction where people were told that if they had enough faith God would heal them from any disease, so people were encouraged not to go to the doctor or take medicine. The result was really deadly as people died from things like diabetes and appendicitis. Aside from the Jonestown Massacre, it has the highest number of documented deaths of any cult in the US. The church closed when I was 9, and we were done at that point but I still spent the next 10 years wondering if it was ok to take medicine and if girls could wear pants.”

Amanda’s husband grew up in the same church, and they reconnected as teenagers. “Justin and I got married at 19 & 23 and he was going to a Vineyard Church so I started going with him. The thing I had been wrestling with was that I wanted the Holy Spirit; I was too convinced of God’s power to throw that stuff out, but I didn’t want the abuse and misuse of the Holy Spirit that I saw growing up. When I came to the Vineyard I felt like I found a place where I was experiencing what I wanted, where we practiced the gifts of the Holy Spirit but it didn’t feel manipulative or hyped-up. Kingdom of God theology was new to me and it gave me the framework for why we use the gifts of the Spirit. That was a turning point for me and I quickly felt like this was a place I wanted to make home.” 

Amanda’s journey to becoming a pastor was a long one. “The church I grew up in was decidedly complementarian. I came to the Vineyard in 2005, and by 2008 I was working on staff as the office manager. I attended the conference where it was formally announced that women were allowed to hold any level of leadership that the spirit called them to and the body confirmed, and I was so offended. Five years later my pastor, who was open to women in ministry, invited me to take a preaching class and I realized I loved it. A couple of years later my sister and her husband were called to plant out of that church and we joined them. I was invited to take a preaching class for women by Ray Befus, and I was really afraid to go. He kept emailing me and I finally gave in. He brought in a woman to teach with and the Lord told me right away that she was safe. She taught us how to exegete a passage, write a sermon, and deliver it, and again I realized I loved it. As I was on a church plant team and everyone does everything, I was asked to start preaching and I felt ok about it. My mentor at the time encouraged me to go to seminary, and I went not because I wanted to be a pastor but because I wanted to be a faithful teacher of the Word. I spent seven years on a deep dive into women in ministry and then in 2018 I felt like the Holy Spirit said, ‘You’ve done enough research, you need to make a decision about women as pastors,’ and I felt like I could stand in front of God with a clean conscience.” 

Amanda says that infusing Kingdom of God theology into her church is her biggest agenda as a pastor. “Something I’ve loved in Jay’s leadership is the emphasis on connecting the teaching of the Kingdom of God and partnering with the Holy Spirit in justice ministries. Salvation is so much bigger than saving our souls and ensuring a place in heaven; the kingdom came to change people’s lives in real-time, and I’m working very slowly to take my church on a journey to having a bigger picture of God’s Kingdom and what that means for how we care for and be among the poor, oppressed and marginalized.”

To other Vineyard pastors, Amanda says, “When I look back I see that it was a lot of the male pastors and leaders around me who called me up, encouraged my gifts and asked my opinion, who listened to what I had to say. To men, I would say it’s critical to look for the women around you who you can encourage and elevate. To women, I would say that it’s a good time to be a woman in the Vineyard. The conversation has sped up in the last few years and I think we’ll continue to see more opportunities for women to lead and pastor. I wonder if there are women who have been holding back. It’s time…let’s go!” 

Book Recommendations:

Half the Church by Carolyn Custis James

Lime Green by Dr. Jackie Roese

Tell Her Story by Nijay Gupta

Does God Really Like Me? by Cyd & Geoff Holsclaw

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Maxine Burgin Graphic

Maxine Burgin is the Site Pastor of The Syracuse Vineyard’s Northside Site. The Syracuse Vineyard Church is a multi-generational, multi-ethnic, and multi-site church in Central New York. 

Maxine was born and raised in Syracuse, NY. She didn’t grow up in church but met Jesus as a sophomore in high school. Maxine says, “From the moment I said yes to Jesus I’ve been madly in love with Him! He instantly became the center of my life and has remained there ever since.”

The supernatural realm was always something that fascinated Maxine. “I could see and sense things from a very young age, and at one point considered myself psychic! Once I connected with Jesus the veil of misunderstanding lifted and things became quite clear as my gifts of discernment, prophecy, and words of knowledge increased and I grew closer to the Father by reading His Word and spending time with Him in prayer.” 

At church, Maxine was a “super volunteer” because of her involvement with the Prayer Team, Children’s Ministry, Small Groups, and inviting people to come to church and get involved.

She says, “I was always evangelizing and pointing people to Jesus, but my journey into ministry as a career started with working as a Prayer Line Worker, Coordinator for YoungLives, and doing a pastoral internship with John Elmer.” 

Maxine has always been passionate about women and children discovering and living out the fullness of who they were created to be by God, and empowered to release that fullness into the world. “For children and youth, that means doing the stuff NOW and not waiting until they’re older to be and do what Jesus is inviting them to be and do. For women, that means comfortably owning their gifts, being confident in their calling, and leading without having to do so in a man’s shoes. And as a black woman, continuing to advocate for our humanity and femininity.” 

Maxine is happily married to Marvin Burgin Jr., and they have four sons and two daughters, aged from 11 to 21. 

Book Recommendation:

Sheila Rae, The Brave by Kevin Henkes

This is a children’s story about a young girl (mouse) named Sheila whose courage and fearlessness inspired her younger sister to be brave and fearless at a time when Sheila needed it the most. For Maxine, it’s a story about how overcoming fear is possible alone, but best done as part of a team.

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Jeanine Blount Graphic

Jeanine Blount serves as senior pastor of Crestwood Vineyard Church in Oklahoma City and works bi-vocationally as a senior IT developer for the Federal Aviation Administration. She also serves on the Vineyard USA Women’s Association leadership team where she heads a mentoring program for women who lead in churches.

Jeanine says that growing up she thought maybe she’d be a pastor’s wife. “It’s not that I didn’t grow up with female pastors, but I just didn’t see myself as a pastor. I went to seminary because I wanted to continue to learn and grow in the gifts, and Charles Bello, the Vineyard pastor that we were planting with ten years ago was continuing to give me more and more leadership. But I was in full mom mode at that stage with six kids ages 6-13 (including triplets), and leading the church was not on my radar. Then six years ago, I had one of those moments where God just sovereignly met me, and all of a sudden I felt personally responsible for the church. That was a big shift and something completely unexpected to me, and I was like, ‘Holy cow! What do I do with that?’ That’s when we started having conversations about transitioning from our founding pastor to my husband Brian and I co-leading. 

“I had the benefit of being involved in the planting of the church ten years ago, so from the get-go, even before I was in the senior role, our founding pastor was very vocal about women in leadership and I was always visible in some way or another. I think because we had a gradual shift from a male founding pastor who encouraged women in leadership to my husband and I co-leading, and then to me solo leading, I feel fully supported by my church.” In fact, Jeanine says that since they also have a female associate pastor, they have to actively work to make sure that men are visibly leading each Sunday.

In September of 2023, Jeanine became the solo lead pastor.  She says, “Our founding pastor Charles is still involved and doing the things that are fun for him but we have the benefit of all his years of wisdom and experience. We’ve all known each other for a very long time and he’s just as much a friend as he is our pastor, and that’s never going to change. It was never a question of ‘out with the old and in with the new.’ We’ve always been on the same team; it’s just who’s the one leading and who’s the one supporting. I would say without a doubt my two biggest cheerleaders on the planet are my husband and Charles.” 

“Being bi-vocational is in itself like a third calling. It’s a lot of time management, really good communication with your spouse, and really clear boundaries with your church with a strong leadership team that doesn’t require you to be in the middle of everything. And fortunately, I do have a second full-time job that is very flexible.” 

To other female pastors, Jeanine says, “Take ownership of your connectedness to other women in leadership and get the support that you need. It wasn’t until I actively started pursuing ways to get involved, and started developing relationships with other women pastors at the same level of leadership that I began to feel incredibly connected and supported. There are women out there who will support other women, and who are eager to help and mentor and just be a friend. I have yet to have a situation where another Vineyard pastor or leader has said, ‘No, sorry, not gonna help you’, even if it’s someone I’ve never met. So I love that the Vineyard supports each other in that kind of way.”

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Denise Rhrissorrakrai Graphic

Denise Rhrissorrakrai is the Executive Pastor at Hope Astoria in Queens, NY.

Denise says her training to become an Executive Pastor has been a very wandering path. “As a woman entering a space where women weren’t originally ordained, I knew I wasn’t in control and knew I couldn’t chart my course so there was a sense of release from the beginning, and a need to trust God. I think if I were male, there would be a more set path of going to Bible college, becoming a youth pastor and then an associate pastor, then a senior pastor, but there wasn’t a prescribed path for me. I experienced a sense of call to ministry at a young age while I was at a youth retreat at my Assemblies of God church. That denomination didn’t ordain women at the time, so I didn’t quite know what to do with it, but it stuck with me through high school and college. I thought about going to seminary but ended up going to Harvard and became involved in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I eventually joined the staff of a church plant and put my career on hold, and it was a real joy.” Denise served on that staff for four years.

“We eventually found Hope Astoria and I was not expecting to be in pastoral ministry, even though that’s my passion. When I transitioned from my previous church, I wasn’t sure I would find a new church very easily, but I felt like God said, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll know when you’re home.’ 

I think my time with the church plant prepared me for this Executive Pastor role, as I was exposed to so many aspects of the life of the church. I am a believer that God doesn’t waste anything. When I hang out with young adults, I always encourage them that even if they’re puzzled about what it might be that they’re doing now and how it relates to the long term, to do it wholeheartedly because you never know what God is trying to instill in you.” 

To women who feel called to ministry, Denise would say, “Fix your eyes on God and what he would say about who you are. We can’t always foresee our path or what opportunities will open up, but He is faithful. He brings about good things, and really what he knows is best; it’s just not always in a prescribed way. 

There’s something so great about being able to just hold your hands up before God. It’s like Ignatian indifference. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care; you care deeply and you’re very invested, but you’re leaving the outcomes to God in a way where that brings a kind of peace and grace, like a blessedness and joy that comes from just being faithful to God. There are some really hard things that we have to process through and heal from, and I think God’s faithful to provide that. As we hang onto hope, and let God open the next step, I find God to be very faithful, and I trust that ultimately other women will too, even though the way is not always straightforward or easy.”

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About Women's History Month

How did March become designated as Women’s History Month?

History is the story of humanity, lived and passed on from generation to generation through the oral traditions of song, poetry, art, and storytelling, some of which are recorded and preserved in history books.

Our histories ground us in an identity larger than our individual lives, filling us with wisdom, inspiration, perspective, and caution from those who have walked this earth before us.

Unfortunately, women have been largely absent from the recorded historical narrative, de-centering the collective wisdom and unique contributions that women have made to civilization and societies since the dawn of time. This ‘historical invisibility’ has made it harder for women to place themselves in the narrative arc of history, robbing the world of the perspective and value women have embodied over generations.

Beginning in the 19th Century, a movement of women worldwide began to advocate for equality in all the spaces they inhabit. We see female suffragettes demanding to have their voices heard in voting, and we see marches protesting the abominable working conditions of women, calling for equal pay for equal work.

In 1909, National Women’s Day was unofficially celebrated for the first time in America, paving the way for nations around the world to set aside one day a year to celebrate the accomplishments of women and continue to call for equality.

In 1975, Sonoma County educators hosted their first ever ‘Women’s History Week’ to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8. Other school districts followed suit, causing President Jimmy Carter to enact the first-ever National Women’s History Week from March 2-8th,1980.

By 1987, Congress passed a joint resolution declaring the entire month of March as Women’s History Month.

Learn more about the Vineyard USA’s Women’s Association

Better Together: In Pursuit Of Beloved Community

A Vineyard USA Conference that seeks to thoughtfully discuss race, gender, reconciliation, and the multiethnic church, while moving us intentionally toward being the Beloved Community. April 15-18, 2024 / Columbus, OH

Learn More & Register

Resources & suggestions

To help you and your church celebrate

  1. As pastors and leaders, intentionally take some time in your staff meetings to engage with women’s history and the history of women in the Vineyard. Make sure that your staff and leadership have a copy of the ‘One In Christ’ booklet that VUSA has made available for download.
  2. If you are a pastor, responsible for preaching and teaching, take a few minutes to consider who you are platforming. If you don’t have women regularly preaching and teaching in your local church, please ask yourself why, and commit to greater intentionality in sharing pulpit time with women.
  3. Invite women to join your board or the eldership of your church.
  4. Read women theologians and authors, learn from female practitioners, and ask to be prayed for by other women pastors and leaders. 
  5. Take the time to consider up-and-coming female leaders in your church and consider paying for them to attend the Better Together Conference in Columbus OH. The Women’s Association gathers all day Monday and Tuesday, 15th and 16th April of that week! 

Read & Listen

Why should Vineyard celebrate Women’s History Month?

Melanie Forsythe-Lee
VUSA Women's Association Leader

1. Women’s history is Biblical.

Long before any laws were enacted to acknowledge the vital role of women in history, Christians have been relying on the testimony and prophetic witness of dozens of women in scripture whose very lives have been instrumental in our understanding of God.

Sarah, Hagar, Leah, Rachel, Tamar, Miriam, Rahab, Deborah, Delilah, Hannah, Bathsheba, Naomi, Ruth, Esther, Elisabeth, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Martha and Mary, Pricilla, and Lydia are just a sampling of real women spanning generations, who found themselves caught up in the story of God. They were diverse in culture, economic status, and social standing, and the testimony of their lives lived thousands of years ago still speaks to us today.

2. Women’s history is Church history.

Women have been integral to the development of the church over the last 2000 years. We see women serving as missionaries and nuns, running abbeys, nursing, teaching, leading, defending their nations, and mentoring their children in the ways of God. We see women funding the building of cathedrals, prophesying, and writing personal accounts full of Holy Spirit wisdom, tender truths, and honest struggles.

We see women as catalysts for renewal and revival, empowered with gifts of healing and miracles, evangelism, and social justice. We see women in the sciences, founding churches, and advocating for the abolition of slavery and child labor laws. All of these things, and many more, happened despite the prevailing cultural norms of society and church culture that attempted to sideline or minimize the voice of women.

The faithful witness of women in Christianity is something to be celebrated as evidence of God’s prevailing love and desire that women be equal partakers in the grace of God and the gift of local church expression. 

3. Women’s history is Vineyard history.

When set against the backdrop of more than 2000 years of Christianity, our 41 years as the Vineyard movement might seem like a tiny minnow in an ocean of church history. Vineyard has, however, played a significant role in seeing women released to pastor and lead at all levels of church leadership and governance.

Women such as Dianne Leman, Cindy Nicholson, and Rose Madrid-Swetman, along with many others, found themselves commissioned by the Holy Spirit to pray, lead and advocate for the freedom that female pastors in the Vineyard now experience.

This was no easy task, as these new Vineyard pastors came from many different streams of Christianity, bound together in this new movement through a simple, but powerful prayer: ‘Come, Holy Spirit’. The common denominator of belonging in the Vineyard was a desire for the Holy Spirit and the signs that follow, but it took decades before a clear, discernible path was developed for women to pastor alongside men.

Thanks to advocates such as Bert Waggoner, Rich Nathan, and others, in 2006 the Vineyard USA Board of Directors released (in part) the following statement; “In response to the message of the Kingdom, the leadership of the Vineyard movement will encourage, train, and empower women at all levels of leadership, both local and trans-local. The movement as a whole welcomes the participation of women in leadership in all areas of ministry”.

In the subsequent years, we have seen women respond to the calling of God to lead, pastor, and plant churches all over the world. According to the latest VUSA Census, 22.3% of Senior Pastors and 48.4% of church leadership in Vineyard USA are women.

It is also important for us to remember and honor the sacrifices of the first generation of male and female pastors in the Vineyard that enabled us to live out this Kingdom vision of ‘oneness’. We do not want to take for granted the mandate we have been given in the Vineyard for men and women to co-labor together to see the Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

Melanie

We see women as catalysts for renewal and revival, empowered with gifts of healing and miracles, evangelism, and social justice."