“We had this plan of where we wanted to go, but then God derailed it in an awesome and cool way that we weren’t able to foresee,” says Nicole Miller, the director of girls’ ministries at Women of Grace (WGUSA). Nicole is speaking about Sisters Mentoring with a Mission (SMM), a ministry of Women of Grace.
First called Sisterhood of Mary and Martha, SMM began in 1909 in Philadelphia, Pa., when Mary Bauman, a pastor’s wife, started a girls’ club in her home. They read the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible and decided they wanted to pattern their lives after the two women. In 1913, SMM became a national ministry with 35 groups. The organization aimed to not only teach girls about Jesus but also to help them learn how to minister to others and support the work of the church.
Nicole has been involved with the work of SMM since 2003. During her freshman year at Grace College, she prayed for a way for God to use her. She felt God lay on her heart the desire to work with girls. Following that call, and being a youth ministry student at the time, she reached out to Viki Rife, then the director of girls’ ministries at Women of Grace USA, the women’s ministry arm of the Charis Fellowship. SMM had recently moved from being a ministry under CE National to WGUSA.
“It was really neat to see God’s timing because it really has been beneficial for the two ministries to be tied together and move forward together,” says Nicole.
Her first endeavor with SMM was helping to rewrite the 12-year-old curriculum. She continued to volunteer for WGUSA until 2009 when she began to raise missions support for a different ministry she was pursing.
“I thought if I’m raising support to do ministry, why not do it with a ministry I love?” she says.
She then became the girls ministry coordinator for WGUSA while also working on her master’s degree. Working alongside Viki, they began to dream what SMM could be in the future.
In 2013, SMM celebrated its 100-year birthday, and Nicole and a team of women were able to host a banquet for girls called “Daughters of the King” at Momentum Youth Conference. Since then, she has gone back to Momentum every year to speak during a Power Track for girls. In August 2014, she stepped into the role of director of girls’ ministries and joined the board of WGUSA.
Around the same time, a church-sponsored SMM group that was meeting in a public school in Winona Lake, Ind., was discontinued. In looking for for ways to continue the group, Nicole and her team wondered what it would look like to be in the schools without church support. They obtained insurance, gathered a volunteer team of female students from Grace College, and re-introduced SMM as an after-school program.
Women in the community saw the opportunity to share the love of Christ in the schools. As a result, a teacher at another elementary school in the same district began an SMM after-school program.
Since then, SMM has moved into three other elementary schools as an after-school program and continues to follow a group of middle school and high school girls who were once a part of the elementary group. The after-school programs started with 21 girls and six volunteers and have grown to 170 girls and 35 to 40 volunteers, just in the school programs.
“We opened up the opportunity for girls to come, be loved on, and connect with adult women who love and care about them and talk about Jesus!” she says.
SMM, as an after-school program, is a prototype for how it can be a community-based ministry with collaboration with churches.
“We want to see what it would look like to start with a small group and see God use it to expand and grow a gender-specific ministry,” she says.
Nicole is on track to finish a doctoral degree in educational ministries this year. In the future, she hopes to implement a leadership training module for women who work with girls. She continues to work as the director of girls’ ministry and on the board of WGUSA.