What if some of the hardest challenges of our lifestyle, as active duty families, could be easily overcome?
Finding (and maintaining) community can prove to be impossible. Moving every few years and watching friends come and go can be so discouraging. Jumping from church family to church family -or being unable to find one at all- is taxing. Could you imagine a faith community that would be ready and willing to receive you after a move, during a deployment, or through a season of hardship?
IF: Gathering has long hoped to solve these problems through connection, community, and compassion. IF: is the vision of Jennie Allen, the author of “Proven” and a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. IF: Gathering exists to equip women with gospel-centered resources, events, and community so they may learn more about who God is and disciple other women right where they are.
The IF: Gathering’s inaugural event in 2014 had women from all 50 states, over 40,000 downloads from over 150,000 viewers, and impacted people in over 22 countries. Since its 2014 inception, IF: is the only Christian event in North America to trend on Facebook under the hashtag #IFGathering2016. In five years, IF: has reached over 1.2 million women in over 122 countries.
IF: reaches women in three ways
First, annual events, both IF: Gathering and IF: Lead, are hosted in Dallas, TX in the spring and fall of each year. Groups, called IF: Locals, stream the event in their community. The 2019 IF: Gathering will be held in Dallas, TX on the weekend of February 8th and 9th..
Second, IF: Equip Bible studies are created by the IF: team, published, and available for free download in your e-mail inbox (or purchase of a hard copy). These Bible studies are held locally and allow women to come together regularly over God’s Word.
Third, IF: Tables serve as a means to encourage women to connect over a simple meal and create community that endures. An IF: Table is a dinner facilitated by a local host at their home. It consists of six women, four biblical conversation cards, and lasts for two hours.
As an organization, IF: has had wildly successful results in ministering to women all over the country and abroad. However, IF: also recognizes that military families have a unique set of challenges and obstacles. In response to these specific needs, IF: has launched a new branch of ministry from the IF: Gathering organization.
IF: Military was announced at the September 2018 IF: Lead Conference in Dallas. IF: Military is an initiative that is kicking off at 63 Army and Air Force installations this year.
IF: Military has a story.
Three years ago, Colleen Matthews, a military spouse of an active duty soldier attended an IF: Gathering event. She had just completed a PCS and was longing to feel settled. Upon arrival at the event, she was given a name tag and instructed to write her name, along with her local area. She hadn’t been at her new station long enough to want to write her new duty station, but also didn’t feel like her old address would fit.
Frustrated, in feeling like she was caught between two places, she simply put “Colleen Matthews, IF: ARMY.” This vision was born in the halls of her heart that day and has now come to fruition. In asking Colleen what she hopes IF: Military will help accomplish, she replied, “My deepest prayer is that military spouses everywhere will feel seen, wanted, and loved.”
Why I’m excited about IF: Military:
Upon attending this year’s IF: Lead 2018, I found myself completely enamored with the mission of IF:. Over 1,200 women from all over the world gathered together to worship, rally around God’s Word, and to be encouraged to carry the gospel back to their local places. The air was thick with anticipation and hearts were open to receive each person in attendance. Love was everywhere that one could look.
The joy was contagious.
I couldn’t help but think about all of the military spouses that were lonely, in despair, or in need of refreshment. The thought of, “This is so needed!” continued to run through my mind as I felt the percussion from the worship band pound in my chest. I could feel my face getting hot and the tears streaming down my cheeks as I thought about all of the women that I wished were standing beside me.
I thought about my friend whose husband was away on an unaccompanied tour. She wouldn’t see him again for an entire year. I thought about my neighbor who had just lost a child. She knows grief all too well right now and has no relief from it. I imagined the gold star wives that I had known that needed to know, more than anything, that they are loved by The King of Heaven.
I have served in military ministry for almost a decade. The need is great and the workers are few. Military spouses are worn down from constant change, deployments, and trials. The waves and winds of trauma, loss, and grief are overwhelming. Many spouses feel like they are drowning. IF: is a place of reprieve. The community that could be built is a promise of hope. The work done here is transformative. Military spouses can be invited into a community of believing women and be guided towards life in Christ.
How to get involved
IF: Gathering 2019 in Dallas, TX is sold out but you can stream the event locally. Host packages are available now!
Host an IF: Equip study in your local area. Your coffee table can be a place of connection. Open your home or local church to invite women into The Word of God.
Host or start an IF: Table and create a place to welcome women in. Share a simple meal and savor the gospel together.
Join the IF: Military Facebook page.
The IF: Military team is also currently recruiting Point of Contacts to facilitate IF: programs nationwide for all military branches. If you are interested in joining the team, contact Colleen Matthews at Colleen.R.Matthews@gmail.com. For more information on IF: Gathering, visit www.ifgathering.com.