THREE ON THURSDAY
Today’s topic is the current status of Women’s Ministry in the local church. Here are links to three articles on this topic:
The Time I Said I Don’t Always Like Women’s Ministry Events by Christine Hoover
“At the retreat, I stand before our women and, even as the words tumble out, I want to take them back. I don’t always like women’s events. I actually say it. The pastor’s wife at a women’s event says she doesn’t always like women’s events.”
Why I Don’t Do Women’s Ministry by Amy Simpson
“Why do so many of our women’s ministry efforts treat women as if they all have the same lifestyle, schedule, goals, affinity for June Cleaver, and penchant for pink roses? And why are we expected to call ourselves ‘girlfriends’?”
Why Women Don’t Like Women’s Ministry by Bianca Olthoff
“I’ve read the blogs and heard the gripes from both men and women, but I can’t help but see the future. A future filled with passionate, smart, educated women helping advance the Gospel through more than just Bunko nights, tea parties and Creative Memories scrapping gatherings.”
THE PROBLEM WITH WOMEN’S MINISTRY TODAY (AND HOW TO FIX IT)
The first time a lovely “older” woman at church asked me to speak at an upcoming event for Women’s Ministry, I was 21 years old.
As soon as I heard her invitation, the words of Jesus immediately came to mind when he said to his mother, “Woman, what does this have to do with me?”
I kid you not. Those were the exact words that popped into my young brain.
As a twenty-something, I had zero desire to participate in a Women’s Ministry event, much less be the speaker at one. Of course, I didn’t know what women did at their events, but I was certain Women’s Ministry wasn’t for me. So, I responded to the kind woman by saying, “I’ll pray about it.”
And I did. I asked God if he wanted me to speak to the women at our church. Then I opened my Bible and looked up the passage that had come to mind so quickly when she asked me. It’s in John 2, when Jesus was at a wedding and his mother came to him with a concern. She told him the wine had run out, and he said:
“Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4, ESV)
The latter part of that verse clung to me. My hour has not yet come. Was God calling me to minister to women? Not right away, but eventually? Is that where God was leading me?
(Nowadays, I understand the hermeneutical necessity of historical context and authorial intent, but when I was 21, these were the questions I was asking.)
Ultimately, I declined to speak at that year’s event, but I tucked away this moment in time — her invitation and the passage in John 2:4 — deep inside my heart, wondering if someday I might change my mind about Women’s Ministry.
Then it happened.
About ten years later, I was no longer serving in youth ministry or music ministry as I was now a young mom with a toddler and a preschooler. To my surprise, I found myself looking forward to the weekly Bible study for women. I loved gathering with the women, listening to their stories and hearing their testimonies.
One morning, a woman in her 70s shared how hard it was to change her mom’s diaper. Her mom was in her 90s and had Alzheimer’s. At the time, I had been feeling pretty overwhelmed by all the diapers and dishes I was drowning in, and this dear woman’s story helped me see past my current stage of motherhood. She helped me understand that the season of babies and toddlers isn’t actually the hardest season ever. There is hard to be had in every season. And when we’re connected to the whole Body of Christ, we learn to see beyond ourselves and our own circumstances as we walk through each day together.
With each passing week of Bible study, my love for the women in our church grew deeply. Not only for the young moms in my own season of life, but for all the women in every season. And this time, when my pastor’s wife asked me to speak at an upcoming event for Women’s Ministry, I wholeheartedly and excitedly said, “Yes! I would love to!”
And so began a new journey, of listening to and loving the women in my church.
In the years since, a deep passion to see women grow in their walk with God and their ability to study Scripture has filled me. A deep fervor to see women’s lives changed by God’s grace and truth now compels me.
Today, I’m all in. I love ministry to women. But I also understand that not everyone shares my enthusiasm. In some places, Women’s Ministry has been characterized as frivolous and silly. And I admit, the starched doilies for centerpieces might not help.
But there are real concerns, too — concerns beyond the trite decorations. For instance, one of the criticisms that has been leveled at Women’s Ministry in general is the traditional programming, where Bible studies are available only in the mornings for retirees and stay-at-home moms. Many women today are working, so a midweek morning Bible study won’t work for them.
Another concern is the fact that some churches are discontinuing their formal Women’s Ministry because of the apparent belief that millennials are not interested.
This saddens me, because I remember being a young adult who didn’t have the least bit of desire to attend a Women’s Ministry event. And yet, when I finally went, I changed. Over time my mind and heart completely changed about gathering with women in the context of the local church.
Let the pink flowery motifs go. But let the women who want more of God stay.
Let the “girlfriend” talk go. But let the deeper conversations stay.
Women are serious about learning the Bible. Just talk to some of the women who hold full-time jobs and still show up on a weeknight to study Genesis or Acts or Hebrews. Women are serious about deepening their understanding of theology. They want more than a round-table discussion on “What does this Bible verse mean to you?” They want solid teaching.
At least, the women I meet do. And some of them are young, too. They’re millennials entering the workforce. They’re young moms with tired eyes but yearning hearts. And they’re swimming against the current of this cultural age. They’re readying themselves for a life of following hard after Christ. And every week they’re also seeing what it looks like to be a woman in her fifties, sixties, seventies, and beyond, who have walked with God for decades. Still faithful. Still going strong.
Every woman at every age and stage of life has something special to offer. And I want to keep showing up — with them and for them.
The problem with Women’s Ministry today is that it has been labeled (by some) as a program from a bygone era. And in some cases, this may be true. But let’s not throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.
I believe with everything in me that as long as women are on this planet, they will find a way to keep showing up so they can be there for one another. Women are strong like that. And churches are better for it.
So, how do we change the stigma that has attached itself to Women’s Ministry? And how do we continue ministering to women in a context that doesn’t really support or recognize a formal Women’s Ministry?
We begin by praying for the women in our lives by name.
We begin by digging deep into God’s Word within a community of women.
We begin by intentionally loving the women already in our sphere.
We begin by reaching out and inviting women of all ages to join us.
There is so much still to say and learn and do. And I’d love to hear your experiences, too.
What have your experiences of Women’s Ministry been like? Have you loved it? Loathed it? Wanted more from it? Vowed never to return to it? Been rekindled to it?
How would you propose changing the stigma attached to traditional Women’s Ministry?
Click HERE to share your thoughts about Women’s Ministry in the local church today.
And as always, you can connect with me HERE.