Kristen Tinch of Bowling Green was wary when she first heard about a discussion group for Christian women called the IF: Table.
"At first, I thought it was going to be a group of women who got together and complained, and I didn't want to do that," she said.
However, she soon discovered it was a meaningful and uplifting gathering where women share their struggles and successes from a Christian perspective.
"I was new to Bowling Green," Tinch said. "I was really in need of friends my age. It was good to meet these ladies and feel comfortable and feel really real."
Leona Morelock of Bowling Green started the first IF: Table group in town last March, after finding the blog of the program's founder, Jennie Allen of Austin, Texas. The IF: Table is one aspect of a larger ministry Allen created to gather, equip and unleash the next generation of women to live out God's calling on their lives.
After attending the annual IF: Gathering in Austin that brings together women from all over the world for two days of programs, Morelock loved what she saw and was impressed by the sincerity of Allen and other leaders of the ministry.
"It shows you that these women really want you to know Jesus," she said.
Morelock has helped start three IF: Table gatherings in Bowling Green, and a fourth is being formed now. The program is set up for six women to gather once a month to discuss four questions for two hours, a reference to the Bible verse Acts 2:46 – "Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts."
"I think as women in general, we don't value ourselves enough, and we don't value our relationships with each other," Morelock said.
The questions ask women to open up about their life and faith by sharing their struggles and passions.
"I want to create a safe place ... for people to feel that they can be open and vulnerable," Morelock said. "We see the perfectness on Facebook and Instagram, but we don't get to see people's real lives."
The questions "do make you feel vulnerable and sometimes you share things from your past," she said. "It's just really comforting to have those friendships. It's good to know you can be a mess and everyone will still love you."
Sally Funkhouser, who is part of an IF: Table in Bowling Green, is glad to have a group of women with whom she can share what she's going through.
"It's coming together, getting your crap out and doing something about it," she said. "Some of the questions do get deep, but you just answer them faithfully and it's the safe zone, so you're good to go."
Morelock is hoping to start as many local IF: Table groups as she can, and is also hosting an event next week where women can watch a Livestream of the annual IF: Gathering in Austin. The event will be from 5 to 10 p.m. Feb. 6 and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 7 at Hillvue Heights Church. People can register online at www.ifbowlinggreen.com. A donation of $15 is suggested to cover the cost of meals, but "I don't want money to be a reason for anybody not coming," Morelock said.
"I really think coming to the IF: Gathering is the only way to find out what IF is all about," she said.