Thoughts about women’s ministries

img_0065Every now and then I come across a blog post or article saying something like, “I’m tired of fluffy pink crafty ladies’ meetings. I want to be authentic and go deep.”

I often think, “OK…what exactly does that look like in a ladies’ meeting setting?” Many times the writers say that want Bible studies or opportunities to share that really speak to the core of their Christian walk, where they can share what they’re really struggling with and receive advice and help without being judged. They say they can get craft instruction anywhere; they don’t need it at church. They don’t need scrapbooking or cupcake-making get-togethers. They remind us that every woman is not married or a mother, not every woman is called to be a wife and mother, and we need to minister to the whole spectrum of women represented in our churches, not just wives and mother. They want to discuss and participate in activities to change the world.

And those are all good points.

I’d like to make a few observations.

1. Most women ministry leaders would love to hear suggestions about what ladies would like to do (or they should be. We need to be open to new ideas and not just do the same things we always have). I was a ladies’ ministry coordinator for 9 or so years, and sometimes we’d send out questionnaires to the ladies of the church (to be answered anonymously) asking what they liked, didn’t like, would like us to do. We got very little response from those. A handful of ladies came faithfully; a great many didn’t, and I didn’t know if it was because they didn’t have time, didn’t like what we did, didn’t like us, or what. Plus, sometimes I scrambled for ideas that were new and fresh and that might appeal to a number of ladies. So that kind of feedback would be highly valuable.

2. Make suggestions graciously. Some of these posts have been quite harsh, feeling like a slap across the face or as if the writer is saying, “You’re shallow and I hate everything you do.”

3. Remember different people like different things. If you have two or more people at a church or a meeting, you’re going to have differences of opinion on what and how things should be done. Some women like the fellowship and the crafty things. That doesn’t mean they don’t like Bible study or are shallow. Sure, you can take classes at Michael’s or watch a YouTube video or peruse Pinterest. But often we don’t get to see our friends at church except at church or at these other functions, and it’s fun to get together in that way.

4. Sometimes the crafty things can be a ministry. At one church, we had different ladies share things within their expertise, so it was a way for them to minister when they might not be comfortable leading a Bible study or teaching a lesson. Plus the gathering was not only a basis for forming or growing friendships, it was also a non-threatening venue to invite lost or unchurched friends to. And often at meetings like that, or inbetween meetings like that, we had a woman in the church share her testimony. I remember one in particular in which a woman shared much about her early walk with God and navigating through her young adult years, dating relationships, etc., and was so sad that more of our single young women weren’t there to hear that.

5. It doesn’t have to be either/or. A church or ladies’ group can have informal, fun meetings as well as more serious Bible studies and service projects.

6. Proverbs 31 and Titus 2 do cover more areas than Bible study, though that’s the most important activity. In an era when women might not receive instruction and examples in homemaking as they did years ago, a ladies’ group can help support and instruct along these lines. Most women have a home, whether they have husbands or children, so some of these skills and principles can be helpful to all and can be used to minister to others and glorify God (see Edith Schaeffer’s The Hidden Art of Homemaking.)

7. On the other hand, there is much in those passages applicable to women in any setting regarding character and reaching out to the poor, and much in Proverbs 31 that could be brought out regarding single and working women (business savvy, interacting with merchants, making good quality products, industriousness, dealing with employees, etc.). We do need to make sure every meeting isn’t centered on marriage and motherhood, and, Moms, don’t just call ladies without children only when you need a babysitter.

8. At a time when marriage and motherhood are devalued and under attack, wives and moms need the support, affirmation, and encouragement of the church, and especially other ladies. But we need to remember that single and childless women are under attack in different ways and support, affirm,and encourage them, too. We tend to gravitate towards those in like circumstances and seasons of life, but we can learn from and support each other even when our lives are vastly different. (see When the Message Isn’t For Me.)

9. Deepness can’t be manufactured. Some people, introverts in particular, do like to “go deep,” but would be uncomfortable with a “turn to your neighbor and bare your heart on command” approach. You can have a good Bible study and make every effort for people to feel free to share, but you can’t force it. For some, that inclination will take time to grow; for others, that will only happen with maybe one or two close friends, not in a group setting.

10. Maybe you should go to your church’s ladies’ meetings anyway, even if they’re not exactly what you’d prefer. One of the purposes for almost any ladies’ function is fellowship among the attendees. Maybe a conversation started there will blossom into a warm friendship or an informal mentoring relationship. There’s nothing wrong with formal mentoring, but in my own life, it’s happened informally alongside hospitality and ministry situations. One conversation with an older lady that shaped my thinking about my kids’ teen years took place while we put up a bulletin board in a church hallway. Just being with older women gives you an opportunity to observe, soak up some of their wisdom, and sometimes ask questions.

Something that should have been said first is to pray about it. God knows what kinds of ministries are needed in a given place and the best way to go about them. And consider that if something is on your heat, maybe He is directing you to minister in that way. If you see a need reaching out to the poor, the elderly, single women, etc., perhaps God has brought that to your attention for a reason, either as a function of the ladies’ group or a separate ministry. Though I prefer ladies’ functions when the ladies of the church are all together, there are occasions for a smaller group with a specific focus.

I am at a stage in life when I can’t attend as many of the ladies’ functions as I’d like. With my husband’s mother in our home, I already leave him to take care of her alone most Sunday nights, and I just don’t feel right doing that much more than I already do, plus his work often keeps him from coming home in time for me to go anywhere. I do interact with her caregiver, the hospice nurse, etc., and try to remember to be an encouragement even there. And I admit, it’s cozy staying home on a cold dark night rather than driving a ways and spending an evening elsewhere. But I do strongly believe in women’s ministries and hope to participate in them more in the future. I encourage women to look past their differences and find ways to learn from each other and love each other and encourage each other in the Lord.

See also:

Mentoring Women
Church Ladies’ Groups
Why Older Women Don’t Serve
How Older Women Can Serve
I’m An Older Woman…So Now What?
How Not to Become an Old Biddy
The Quiet Person in the Small Group

(Sharing with Inspire Me Mondays, Testimony Tuesday, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Wise Woman, Thought-provoking Thursday)

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12 thoughts on “Thoughts about women’s ministries

  1. Oh my! You have given everyone in ministry lots to think about! I am probably one of those fluffy ladies’ meeting non-likers, but there is nothing like getting together with other women–and we so need it! I am with you that you have to plan meetings to meet so many different kinds of needs. The important thing is to be together as ladies who love God. Such an excellent, well thought-out post, again!

  2. I saw the need for doing something just for the singles women at chuch. My husband graciously agreed. Once a month after church on Sunday I host about 8-12 women at our house for lunch. I do not do elaborate cooking. But i do take care to use my good china, real silverplate, nice waterglassses and a chocolate at every place. I think it is important to make widows, divored gals and those who have never married feel special. We sometimes have a devotional, we always have a time of sharing and praying for each other. This is not an official event at church. It is merely an outreach to single women. I do include another married gal or two to help with cooking. Each gal can bring an item or not for the lunch. Tha emphasis is not on great food ,but sweet fellowship. We also have a few women who gather to sew for two consecutive days. These events do not replace Bible Studies for women, they deepen relationships. It is work to prepare, but I love home based times of fellowship, as well as organized church Bible study.

    • This is the kind of thing I love to see and hear about – when people don’t just say, “Somebody should…” and wait for a ministry to open up, but just minister in the ways the Lord lays on their hearts. Thanks so much for sharing!

      On Mon, Feb 6, 2017 at 12:02 PM, Stray Thoughts wrote:

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  3. For awhile, our church’s women’s ministry was another praise and worship service and sermon. Our new leader has brought in a lot of good ideas that should appeal to a variety of women. I like to see crafts or projects included in the mix – as a ministry and outreach to others. Good thoughts about women’s ministry. You just aren’t going to come up with a plan that will make everyone happy so you do whatever the Lord leads.

  4. An excellent post, Barbara. I was also a leader of a women’s ministry for several years. The area where we lived at the time had a wonderful mix of young married mothers, the middle aged ladies and a few older ladies. The women weren’t really interested in doing crafts, etc. but they were definitely interested in helping others when there was a need. Preparing meals for the sick or maybe a new mommy just home from the hospital with a new baby, etc. was one of the outreaches we had. They thought nothing of pulling out their best dishes to hold the good food that they prepared. Our meetings normally consisted of prayer requests (which I was able to monitor so it didn’t become “concerned sharing”), prayer, old and new business, singing some hymns, and a devotion. Different ladies were responsible for the devotion. It was such a great group of women and I learned so much from the older ladies by listening intently to the ways they shared their hearts at these meetings. Thank you for stirring up those memories.

    I especially enjoyed reading what you had to say in numbers eight and nine. We all have needs regardless of our status in life…married, non married, mothers, women without children. And you are so right…deepness cannot be manufactured!

    Oh and by the way, I just ordered Edith Schaeffer’s book! 😉

    Thank you, Barbara for posting this!

  5. You make some good points here, Barbara. I’m in a church right now that doesn’t really offer anything to women, but a church I used to attend had women’s studies during the week. I remember reading The Bait of Satan and Lies Women Believe in those groups, and I got to know some of the women at a meaningful level as we came week by week. My kids were little and they provided nursery care, so it worked well for me. Also, it was not food-centric — as many women’s gatherings seem to be. It’s a women’s ministry experience that I look back on as a kind of ideal.

  6. As already stated, very good article….but what warmed my heart especially was your sensitivity to keeping the home fires burning when your husband can be home & not dashing off to fellowship with the ladies. :0) There are seasons of life and we each make adjustments according to how God’s Spirit leads us along the Father’s appointed path for us. Good job Barbara, thank you.

  7. Thanks for sharing your well-thought out observations here! I especially appreciate your main suggestion to pray, and ask God what is the best way for your group of women to interact. And #5 is so good: “It doesn’t have to be either/or. A church or ladies’ group can have informal, fun meetings as well as more serious Bible studies and service projects.” And you are so right that the greatest joy can come from being open to the connections that God would help women to make, and to love and encourage each other. –Blessings!

  8. Great insights, Barbara! It’s so easy to snipe and complain and not attend, rather than be supportive. I’m reading Jennifer Dukes Lee’s Happiness Dare, and it’s really helping me understand that we don’t all ‘get happy’ doing the same things (which explains why some activities only seem to appeal to the organizers 😉 ). Just as in education, ministry needs to think about people’s learning styles and happiness styles, too :).

  9. Very good post, Barbara. It’s so hard to please everyone. My thoughts are that we as Christians should change our mindset from being a consumer to being a contributor. A ladies event theme might not be “our thing” but if our hearts are open and we go with the attitude of giving rather than what’s in it for me, God can use us to minister to another person who just might need our love or a word spoken in time. I think sometimes we have it all backwards. Being in ladies ministry myself we also find that we get a whole lot of suggestions and critiques but not a whole lot of offers for help to pull the events off. Again I think we need to change the mindset from consumer to contributor.

  10. Excellent post Barbara. May we glorify God in whatever ministry He has called us as we seek to live for Him. I agree that prayer is critical as we desire to serve Him. May we show the fruit of the Holy Spirit in everything we do. Thank you for sharing Have a wonderful weekend and God bless.

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