Today is International Women's Day, a day to celebrate and honor the vital role women play in the world--and in the Kingdom of God. Traditionally, women's voices have flown under the radar in Christian music. Although that trend has been challenged in new and important ways with each passing year, it still exists (and a quick look at current Christian radio charts across all genres proves the point).
Today at NRT we wanted to take a moment to recognize and honor some of the incredible women who have led and inspired in the field of Christian music and ministry, paving the way for (we hope) many more to come.
Natalie Grant Natalie Grant set an example of courage and fierce commitment to soul-healing early on when she candidly addressed her personal struggles with bulimia. She's never once shied away from the real and the redemptive ever since, leading the way in conversations on sex trafficking, racism, and disaster relief. Natalie Grant has consistently put hands and feet to the words of worship she sings (recently leading to her being awarded the We Love Award for Mainstream Impact).
Korey Cooper (Skillet)
Korey Cooper has been a crucial part of the music and ministry direction for massively successful rock band Skillet ever since their second album in 1998. In addition to her musical role, which includes rhythm guitar, backing vocals, keys, and the majority of the programming you hear in Skillet's countless hits, Korey has championed multiple causes over the past 20 years and ministered directly through leading fans in online Bible and book studies. She has become living proof that women can rock just as hard (or harder).
Rebecca St. James Rebecca St. James made a massive and lasting impact on a generation of young women. Although she was most memorably associated with the "Wait For Me" movement, encouraging young girls to respect themselves in relationships and wait for someone who would truly honor them, she also left an impact through sheer vocal artistry, work ethic and integrity. Those are all elements she's been bringing back to the fore in recent work with her little brothers Joel and Luke (who you might know as for KING & COUNTRY).
Jamie Grace Jamie Grace is self-described as a fighter, and it's a summary that could not be more accurate. In addition to writing pop anthems that empower and encourage girls, Jamie has founded her own organization (imafighter.org) where she creates space for those struggling with chronic illnesses to own their stories and find community and hope. She and her sister Morgan have become role models and mentors, most recently through their company Harper Sisters Entertainment, which provides training and inspiration for aspiring creatives.
Lacey Sturm Lacey Sturm led Flyleaf into the middle of a rock scene dominated by conversations about depression, addiction and suicide, and she brought a message of life with her. Fueled by her own encounter with God which rescued her from suicide, Lacey has spent well over a decade now offering hope to the hopeless through Flyleaf, her solo music, two books and ministry in close partnership with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Nichole Nordeman Nichole Nordeman became one of the best-known songwriters of the early 2000s with hits like "Legacy" and "Brave." After a hiatus (during which she still managed to impact Christian music through work as one of the primary writers on The Story project), Nichole Nordeman has recently returned with new dedication to seeking out some of the less comfortable questions of faith, sharing about her own divorce and encouraging the Church towards acceptance and understanding in issues like the global refugee crisis.
Although Blanca's work in hip-hop/pop outfit Group 1 Crew is noteworthy in its own right, even more noteworthy is the way she moved on to own a solo career with confidence and refreshing heart-on-her-sleeve realness. Blanca has consistently spoken into issues like self-confidence and self-image, encouraging women to own who they are in recognition of the way God values them beyond measure.
With "Shout to the Lord," Darlene Zschech gave voice to an era of worship music in the 90s. Through years ministering at Hillsong Church and partnerships with countless ministries since, Darlene has mentored, led and ministered to an entire generation of worship leaders and songwriters. Her example continued through a bout with cancer in 2013, an ordeal through which she continued in steadfast hope in God (and was ultimately healed in 2014).
Singer/songwriter Audrey Assad creates some of the most artistically exceptional music of our time, taking it to the next level by producing her own projects since 2013's Fortunate Fall. Beyond the music, Audrey has navigated advocacy and activism in difficult conversations with both passion and grace. She's been a voice for the rarely discussed reality of women's struggles with pornography, brought attention to the Syrian refugee crisis, and encouraged the Church to action in the areas of racism and sexism.
Tiffany Lee, known to Christian music as Plumb, has been a mainstay since 1997. Through the course of her long and awarded career, Tiffany has shed light on issues like sexual abuse, alcoholism, self-injury, anxiety and marital difficulties. Her ministry in each of these areas can be summed up in lyrics from her latest song: "You're beautifully broken / and you can be whole again / even a million scars doesn't change whose you are."
Lauren Daigle Lauren Daigle has become known as one of the fastest rising stars in the past decade of Christian music. But she has not risen to the top by pointing to herself; Lauren has simply lifted heartfelt offerings of praise that have been at the forefront of the powerful wave of worship music currently sweeping over the global Church. Despite her breakout success, Lauren continues to lead the way with a refreshing free-spirited humility.
Dawn Michele (Fireflight)
Dawn Michele created the signature Fireflight stamp with her soaring vocals. Through crafting Fireflight songs, Dawn has consistently offered the hope of redemption to seemingly desperate places--hope she then extends as well through fan interactions on social media. Most recently, Dawn has been steadily adding to her Finding Your Light series on YouTube, speaking into issues like mental illness and eating disorders. She will also be releasing a solo worship project by the end of this year.
The youngest lady on this list, Hollyn has made a massive impact in a short amount of time. With just one EP and one full length album under her belt, Hollyn has quickly become a torchbearer for a new age of Christian pop--a role she lives in with poise, grace, raw relatability and a heart for encouraging others. Hollyn embodies the bright future for women in Christian music.
Associate Editor Mary Nikkel’s love for writing, photography, videography and rock and roll have all been bound together by her love for Jesus, leading to her role with NRT. Her favorite things include theology and Greek language studies, obscure Nashville coffee shops, all things related to the work of J.R.R. Tolkien and pushing the boundaries enacted by societal norms. She blogs at Threads of Stars.
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