When a Woman Is a Catalytic Leader

In the fall of 1939 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Fort Worth, Texas, a group of student wives felt the need for an organization for wives on the campus. For over 70 years now, Southwestern has invested in student wives through this organization.

Metochai, evolving from the Greek word meaning partners, seeks to prepare ladies to be partners in ministry with their husbands. Metochai also provides spiritual growth and fellowship opportunities. This equipping ministry was formed when a few women stepped forward to meet a need. One lady in particular emerged as an influential catalytic leader, a name few of you will know: Neppie Scarborough

Neppie-ScarboroughWe don’t know much about Neppie Scarborough, except that she served faithfully alongside her husband, Dr. Lee R. Scarborough, the president of Southwestern Seminary from 1914-1942. What we do know is that she was a champion of “Metochai”, the student wives organization that was established in 1939. This ministry appears to have been one of her pet projects, as illustrated in a document recently found in the archives.

According to the seminary’s historical account, there were questions about the purpose of Metochai among the men students. What did the women do in that meeting? Was it necessary? Helpful? (Remember, that was a different day.) After the group met for a few months, Dr. Scarborough asked his wife to bring a message in Chapel regarding Metochai, to explain its purpose as she saw it.

Help your husband to be and to do his best in his glorious callingWith wit, winsomeness, and a quiet confidence, Neppie delivered a compelling justification for Metochai’s existence, mixing spiritual ideals with practical, common sense. Undoubtedly her stature as the wife of the seminary president added a punch to her message. We don’t know for certain, but I suspect she put all the questions regarding Metochai to rest.

Twenty first century ministry wives may think a message delivered on April 12, 1940 would be hopelessly outdated. Yet notice the timelessness of these principles. Neppie’s words are remarkably applicable for us today. Here are a few excerpts:

The preacher is honored with the highest calling among men. He is called by the Supreme Being to render the supreme service to humanity’s supreme need . . . We’d like to be the kind of wives you need, feeling that is our calling . . . We’d like to ‘boost you up’ or ‘bring you down a buttonhole or two’, as the case may demand; to be something of a leveling influence in your life; to be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with you in your glorious life.

This club is demonstrating day by day the determination to make preparation for this work – as your helpmeets. We realize that the nature of the work demands the best in equipping- mentally, morally, physically, and spiritually.

It should be noted that now all SBC seminaries have programs specifically designed to prepare wives for ministry. Neppie’s leadership still ripples today.

Speaking of the ministry wife’s personal life, she said,

. . . each soldier must wear her own armor. She should first be her best and then be herself. . . . Preparation counts much but character counts more.

Finally, her concluding appeal:

Humbly, gladly we would give of our best to the Master in loving, loyal, trustful hearts, surrendered wills, willing hands and consecrated lives, helping you to be and to do your best in your glorious calling. To this end we covet your sympathetic interest and earnest prayers.

Thank you, Neppie, for your catalytic efforts. Thousands of us are better for them. You can read Neppie’s entire message here.

Though we may not find ourselves addressing a room full of seminarians, we can each can be a catalyst in the moments God gives us to lead. It might be at Starbucks or well-timed phone call. It could be arranging a small gathering in our home for local women. We are each other’s “people” and we need to create space and time for community.

Where do YOU need to create a gathering to help a woman “wear her own armor” well?

Published March 27, 2015