Disciples: Professional Women are Leaving the Church. Polished is Bringing Them Back
Texas woman Kat Armstrong founded a nonprofit ministry to share Jesus with young professional women.
This article is part of an exclusive series by The Stream called “Disciples,” featuring people who approach cultural transformation with gospel-minded action.
Kat Armstrong was working full time and pursuing a graduate degree from Dallas Theological Seminary when she noticed a trend — more and more professional women who didn’t know Jesus.
Joining forces with her friend Stephanie Giddens, Armstrong did some research. She discovered that professional women between the ages of 20 and 40 are unlikely to hear the gospel or visit church uninvited.
For months Armstrong and Giddens met weekly, asking God how to address the problem they saw. Seeking existing ministries for young professional women, they came up empty. That’s how Polished began.
To Share the Gospel
The now thriving ministry began in 2009 with a Facebook page, a venue and a luncheon attended by 19 women.
The 60-minute luncheon format was the same as it is today. The event includes a panel of professional women, a Christian speaker who has succeeded in her field, and the presentation of the gospel. Table leaders follow up with attendees who accept Jesus. The ministry relies on over 100 volunteers who invite women to events and disciple new believers.
“We’ve shared the gospel with 10,000 women over the last eight years.”
Armstrong never thought the ministry would expand beyond one chapter. Now there are five: Dallas, North Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and Austin. Each chapter holds a monthly event, usually attended by 50 to 100 women. Sixteen other U.S. cities are on a waiting list, Armstrong said. But the nonprofit isn’t quite ready to expand beyond Texas.
Armstrong doesn’t measure success by how many women accept Christ immediately. Instead, she measures success by how many have heard the gospel.
“We’ve shared the gospel with 10,000 women over the last eight years,” Armstrong said. Some women will approach Polished leadership with the story of their conversion. For others, accepting Christ takes much longer, and the ministry may never hear about it. But Armstrong isn’t worried about that. She knows that God will open their hearts in his time.
The ministry’s secondary goal is getting women to visit local churches with volunteers. But many “don’t really trust the church anymore.”
Women and the Church: Changing Dynamics
Women and church is something Christianity Today explored in 2011. The report cited the kind of research that fueled Armstrong to found Polished.
For Armstrong, getting women reconnected with the church is vital.
According to CT’s report, research reveals that between 1991 and 2011, the number of women attending church dropped by 11 percent. Other religious activity historically popular with women such as Bible reading, Sunday school and church volunteerism also dropped. At the same time, the number of women earning advanced degrees and entering the workforce is steadily increasing, CT reported.
Why are churches are losing women? One reason could be that as women’s participation in society has changed, churches’ strategies for ministering to them haven’t. CT reporter Sharon Hodde Miller asks questions like:
Are Christian women able to answer the basic theological questions of their neighbors, coworkers, and friends? And as more American women populate the workplace, how is the church supporting the Christian women in their midst? Are churches training women as effective missionaries in their fields of expertise?
Finally, is the church a welcome place to this new generation of educated, professional women? How might a newly converted, female CEO find her gifts expressed in an evangelical church? How might a woman with financial savvy or her own law practice be able to serve her local congregation? Will these women be welcomed as resources, or ignored and untapped? Churches have the choice between investing or burying the talents of these capable sisters; women are less likely to attend a church in which the latter is the norm.
For Armstrong, getting women reconnected with the church is vital. While church bodies are imperfect, “The church is going to last forever.” The church is the body of Christ, and it’s where God is at work, she said.
Passion for Ministry
Armstrong knew she wanted to do ministry after becoming a sorority chaplain at Texas A&M, where she led weekly Bible study for 400 women. Now, in addition to leading Polished, she runs a children’s fashion business, speaks at churches, supports her husband’s ministry at Dallas Bible Church, and raises their son.
Her main advice for young women called to ministry? Find mentors who will “encourage you and be in your corner when you feel lonely.” For Armstrong, her “number one cheerleader and supporter” is her husband. He’s the one that’s been there as she’s built Polished, even though she considered quitting “every step of the way.”
“Starting a nonprofit requires that you are a jack of all trades,” Armstrong said, “constantly learning about things you are not … specialized in.”
But it’s worth it to watch women reconnect with God. Knowing that 10,000 women have heard the gospel in just eight years motivates Armstrong. “I don’t know where they are spiritually, but they got to hear the gospel because of Polished.”