The global COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world in countless ways. Life for millions has taken many unexpected twists and turns since the spring of 2020.
Some people have endured hardships and great loss. Some have had a reawakening to what their priorities should be. Some have made big life changes or decisions. And some have fanned the flame of a tiny spark of a long-held dream.
Twanna Henderson falls into the last category.
Henderson is the national director of Converge Women’s Bridge Network, a place to connect women from all 10 Converge districts. She started Bridge Network when she realized women in ministry need support and encouragement. Whether a pastor’s wife, a church staff member, a ministry leader or a missionary, in order to be supported, encouraged and equipped, a woman needs other women to come alongside her. This is Bridge Network’s mission.
Henderson chose to include “bridge” in the name of this much-needed service because she saw it as a way to bring together women from Converge districts.
“Every district is independent and determines what things look like for them,” she said. “Our role is to come alongside and support their women serving in various roles. We are not coming to be dictating or controlling, but we’re really asking, ‘How can we support you? How can we provide ministry or services you may not have access to through your district?’”
Bridge Network provides services to women in different life stages and roles, including women’s ministry development coaching. It conducts insightful workshops at many Converge national conferences, such as Unleash. Henderson also produces the podcast T Time: Spiritual Conversations For, With & About Women. Each episode features a special female guest to inspire women. They come from all walks of life.
Another helpful tool is featured on the Bridge Network web page: free e-learning courses, available to any woman wanting tips and information about a variety of subjects. Courses cover such topics as time management, building better teams, conquering the fear of public speaking, anger management, goal setting and managing pressure.
When God calls a pastor, he calls the whole family. So, a pastor’s wife plays a big part in a church’s ministry. To help navigate this important role, Henderson and her team provide cohorts for them.
“We reach out to pastors’ wives in Converge districts and allow them the opportunity to connect with one another,” Henderson said. “We provide a safe place for them to network. They are able to talk about and deal with some of those heart issues one can’t really share with everybody.
“Bridge Network is a safe place to come together, connect, get support and be a support to one another. We partner with the ministry Alongside Pastors’ Wives to achieve this.”
The pandemic sparks a desire for local change
In addition to directing Bridge Network, Henderson is a pastor’s wife herself, a mother and an executive minister at her family’s church, New Beginnings Church in Matthews, North Carolina. But even with all her roles and responsibilities she found time for reflection during the pandemic and decided to take a shot at changing the world in yet another way.
“For a while, I have wanted to make a difference in my town by providing some fresh perspective and fresh ideas,” she said. “It had been on my radar, but there was never the right season. While going through the pandemic, I thought, ‘What’s next?’ Serving my community had been on the backburner for me, and I just had not taken the leap.”
Henderson felt the time was right to serve her community. So, this past fall she ran town commissioner, an elected non-partisan position in her city. And she won.
Not only did Henderson become one of Mint Hill, North Carolina’s, four elected town commissioners, she became the first person of color ever to be elected to the town board in the city of 27,000. Winning the seat also put an end to the board’s being comprised entirely of white men.
Her historic win created something of a local media blitz, with Henderson’s election covered on The Charlotte Observer’s front page and by Charlotte’s four major network television stations. The public wanted to know how she felt about being the first person of color elected to the town board. The fact that it is 2021 and “firsts” are still happening for people of color was not lost on the community, a Charlotte suburb.
Realizing it took until 2021 for Mint Hill to elect a person of color to the town board makes Henderson a bit sad but, at the same time, also hopeful.
“It is something that just had not happened in our town,” she said. “But the encouraging thing is that it speaks to how our town is progressing and is open to different things.”
As town commissioner, Henderson sits on the board that works alongside Mint Hill’s mayor. The board is tasked with passing certain town ordinances or laws, as well as acting as a liaison with developers, planners and state officials.
Two roles, one mission
“When I was campaigning, I met many different people in our town I would not have known otherwise,” Henderson said. “It was really good to have conversations and connect with them on a different level.”
While campaigning, she also realized the people in her city are, as Converge always says, better together. She is hoping her newly elected role will allow her to be an example of Christ in a new light.
“I think a lot of times we look at ministry and think only about what we do in the church,” Henderson said. “Ministry is so much more than what we do inside church walls. I think that we have the opportunity to be the light of Christ wherever we are.”
Wise words for women pondering their own dream
As she works and serves, Henderson hopes to be an inspiration to women who may feel they are being pulled to something bigger than themselves. But they may be hesitant about following their dreams, whether starting a new ministry, making a career change, launching a new business or making a big location move. They may be women who have put their passions and dreams on hold, thinking of them as something to do someday.
To the woman fearful to take a step of faith into something new, Henderson encourages, “Of course, the first thing is to pray to get confirmation in your spirit it is what the Lord has for you. That doesn’t mean you’re going to know all the specifics of the how and the what. But you need to get confirmation from the Lord first. Get a yes from him.”
Henderson also encourages women to take an honest look at the season of life they are in. Sometimes the season is right to make a change. And sometimes God is telling you yes but asking you to wait.
Evaluating life’s circumstances requires taking inventory of available resources and support. Henderson says life doesn’t need to be perfect ― it never is. But women need to be honest about whether or not they are in a season to make their dream work.
“From a practical standpoint, are things in place that make this dream feasible and possible?” she asked.
Henderson also suggests they ask the people who care about them and are their support system if they can envision them attempting their dream.
“Not everyone in your life has to be on the same page as you,” she said. “But there are people close to you who can encourage you. There needs to be someone in your corner who says, ‘Yeah, you can do this,’ and that is important in chasing your dreams.”
God’s ambassador with a future and a hope
No matter what Henderson’s role, whether pastor’s wife, director of Bridge Network or town commissioner, she hopes to inspire women to look for different ways and places to be the light of Jesus.
“Whatever we do, we are truly his representatives,” she said. “We truly are his ambassadors.”
She quotes her favorite Scripture: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11, ESV).
“I think it just speaks to whatever you’re seeking to do, and it gives a sense of calm and peace,” she said. “God’s got this. And that Scripture really says he knows the plans he has for us. And those are good plans. So, if we trust his plan, we’ll see their fruition.”