FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson referred to the home as God’s “first and most important institution” during the opening session of a women’s conference on campus Oct. 25–26.
“If the home fails, not far behind it will come the whole social order. Destroy the home and you will destroy the social backbone of any republic wherever it may be.”
More than 1,000 women attended the Art of Homemaking Conference, which drew not only seminary students but also women from across Texas and even out of state. The conference, sponsored by Crossway Books, featured main sessions speakers Michelle Duggar, Elizabeth George and Dorothy Patterson.
Michelle Duggar, the loving mother from TLC’s hit cable reality show “19 Kids & Counting,” spoke during the Friday evening and Saturday afternoon plenary sessions, offering advice as well as encouragement to mothers.
“I will be the first to admit we do not have a perfect family,” Duggar said. “We have challenges every day. Just multiply that 19 times over … and you can just imagine we face challenges. But by God’s grace and by His principles and His ways, we have learned and our family has experienced joy unspeakable, and we have experienced unity all because of Jesus.”
Duggar said her goal during her time at the conference was to pass on wisdom she had received from godly mentors and to give practical advice on how to bring unity and peace to the home. She shared how women could make their homes godly teaching, hospitality, craft, nurturing and ministry centers for their families.
To achieve this, Duggar said, mothers first need to teach their children to love God and to love others by training them to exhibit biblical character qualities while the mothers also live them out as an example.
“The Lord Jesus Christ personifies all godly character, and we desire to grow to be more like Him every day,” Duggar said.
Duggar especially encouraged mothers to practice love, meekness and joy in their lives while instilling qualities such as attentiveness, obedience and self-control in their children through faithful training.
“True character is not dictated by our circumstances; it just reveals it. What’s deep in our heart comes out when we’re squeezed,” Duggar said.
Dorothy Patterson, wife of Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson, taught a session Saturday afternoon from Proverbs 31 concerning a noble, or virtuous, woman.
“I am, without apology, family obsessed. … This is a passage about a woman who is family-centered without apology,” Patterson said.
Marriage is a lifetime commitment, Patterson said, noting that this is a concept largely abandoned in current society.
“Are you just following the women in front of you, are you just following the culture … or are you looking at the light that can be found in Scripture and from God Himself?” Patterson challenged the women at the conference.
The Proverbs 31 woman provides for her family diligently, but Patterson also believes it refers to her tending to her family’s spiritual condition.
“That’s our responsibility to be able to teach them about the Lord and to be sure that, more than anything else, we have explained to them how to be saved and we have helped bring them to the blessed Jesus even as children,” Patterson said.
This woman of virtue would then receive praise from her children and husband but not because of her outer appearance, Patterson said.
“Charm and beauty are things that change,” Patterson said. “And if we’re going to put our biblical womanhood, if we’re going to put our commitment to God, hinging on these two outer things, then we’re in trouble.”
Instead, the Proverbs 31 woman is praised for her fear of the Lord and her desire to please Him.
Author and national speaker Elizabeth George spoke Saturday morning on how to be a woman after God’s own heart. George’s book, A Woman After God’s Own Heart, has sold more than 1 million copies.
George, who did not surrender her life to Christ until she was 28 years old, shared that when she first read Acts 13:22, which describes King David as a “man after God’s own heart,” it challenged her.
“I said, ‘Well, I want to be a woman after God’s own heart because I want to be a woman that would fulfill all God’s will [and] His purpose for me in my life,’” George recalled.
Women must make a daily decision to seek after God, George said. And that daily commitment should start with time in God’s Word.
“A woman after God’s own heart is a woman of the Word,” George said.
She advised women to give God the first part of their day as if it were a tithe so that nothing else will rob that time from them later on. That time with Christ will give strength.
“We need to be women who wait on the Lord; there is no other place for us to get what we need to get through one day,” George said.
George also emphasized that along with reading the Bible, spending time in prayer is crucial for managing the home.
Along with the plenary sessions, the conference gave women opportunities to choose from 17 breakout sessions throughout the weekend, with topics including the ministry of prayer, raising teens, raising preschoolers, planning holidays, working from the home, the effects of feminism, and how to bring joy to one’s husband without losing her own.
Breakout sessions were led by Southwestern Seminary women’s programs faculty, wives of faculty and pastors, and others. In addition to Dorothy Patterson, wives of three other Southern Baptist seminary presidents presented at breakout sessions—Mary Mohler from Southern Seminary, Rhonda Kelley from New Orleans Seminary, and Ann Iorg from Golden Gate Seminary.
Additionally, more than 40 authors were on hand signing books, including the Duggar family and contributors to the Crossway publication The Christian Homemaker’s Handbook, which was edited by Dorothy Patterson and homemaking professor Pat Ennis.
The conference, in large part, sprang from Dorothy Patterson’s passion for the family and for training women how to build healthy, Christ-honoring homes. Appropriately, the first day of the conference happened to also be her birthday, so Southwestern Dean of Women’s Programs Terri Stovall took the opportunity to recognize Patterson’s special day as well as her rich contribution to women’s ministry.