Faith Relationships

Why I don’t attend women’s ministry events

Why I don't attend women's ministry events www.herviewfromhome.com
Written by Danielle Helzer

Women’s ministry…if you’re a church-going woman, you’ve likely heard this phrase before. Maybe you’re even knee-deep in your church’s women’s ministry. I’ve never been the women’s ministry type. I’ve tried a few times, but each time I’ve found them to be uncomfortable–like wearing a scratchy wool sweater in the middle of a sticky Nebraska summer. It’s been my experience that women’s ministries tend to be geared towards one type of woman and I am not this woman.

Why I don't attend women's ministry events www.herviewfromhome.com

7 years old and mortified by makeup #90shair

When I was young, I could be found playing football and riding my bike in gym shorts, over sized t-shirts, and high-top Reeboks with badass white crew socks. My mother never had to worry about me sneaking her makeup because I thought the stuff was evil.  Even now, as an almost 30 year-old, I don’t own heels, and my makeup routine takes me close to 64 seconds when I really take my time. I prefer spending time outside running or hiking or playing catch rather than shopping. I like listening to NPR and The Avett Brothers. My perfect day includes a nonfiction book, a cup of coffee, and an intimate conversation with a good friend. My hobbies and values are simply not overly ladylike at least, my interests don’t line up with the concept of femininity that the evangelical church seems to value in their women’s ministry design.

Throughout my ten year experience in a handful of evangelical churches, I’ve noticed that women’s ministry events tend to be either saturated in femininity or are geared towards traditional mothers.

The “girly” women’s ministry: These women’s ministry events tend to involve stereotypical “women’s” activities like crafting and sewing. I once saw a women’s ministry event in a weekly bulletin called Stitch and Snack. Right next to this ministry description was a promotional blip for the men’s ministry event: a summer softball league. Next to it, I scribbled: WHERE IS THE SOFTBALL TEAM FOR WOMEN?!? and slid the bulletin to my husband. He just circled the stitch and snack event and smiled because he was picturing me attending the event. Some women’s ministry events are not as overtly female; instead, they turn out to be misleading. They seem like they’ll be a somewhat low key evening, advertising appetizers (which I always assume will be Doritos) and conversations. But then when you get there, you’re bushwhacked by Sandy Patty worship songs, notebooks in the shape of high heels, women crying, and absolutely NO Doritos.

The women’s ministry for mothers, MOPS: I’ve attended a lot of churches in my adult life, and most of them have some sort of MOPS group. I have friends that attend MOPS and enjoy it; so after three years of infertility struggles when I finally became a mother to a five year-old boy whom I adopted from foster care, I looked into a MOPS group to commiserate connect with other moms. I soon learned that MOPS stands for Mothers of Pre-Schoolers – my kid was in Kindergarten (I foolishly thought that MOPS stood for Mothers of PeopleS….I’m mostly kidding). The MOPS website explains that the group is for women who are parenting kids from birth-Kindergarten, but my entry to mothering is so unique that I worried I wouldn’t fit in with these moms who would probably talk about breastfeeding and strollers. There was also the issue that the groups I found met on a Tuesday at 9 AM–precisely the time I was teaching English to sophomores.

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I realize that it may seem like I’m making a mountain out of a molehill here. But maybe I’m not.  I mean, what are our churches telling women who may not fit the traditional female mold when we invite them to attend something that is catered to one type of woman? I don’t think the overly feminine nature of women’s ministry events is intentional at all, but I fear that we are alienating some women from our churches. For many years I felt like I was maybe less of a woman and definitely less of a godly woman because I didn’t fit the evangelical church’s portrayal of a woman, which isn’t even perfectly aligned with the Biblical portrayal of women. And so, I attended church on Sundays, but that’s where my involvement stopped. How many women are we keeping at an arm’s length from the church because of the design of our women’s ministry events? How could our churches be strengthened by diversity in its women’s ministry?

Some women meet Jesus and bond while listening to Sandy Patty and sewing; other women experience a state of worship while in nature; and there are some women who find Jesus in conversations had over a beer or a cup of coffee. Women can grow closer to Jesus and bond with one another in many ways, and I think churches can and should honor this. There is an opportunity for spiritual and personal growth when we are around people who think differently, so I’m not advocating for a complete separation of the women in your church into interest-based groups. What I’m urging churches to do, however, is to diversify their women’s ministry to be more inclusive to all women. Perhaps this may mean stepping up to help diversify the women’s events in your church (maybe offer a running group or hiking excursion). Maybe it means simply taming the feminine tone of women’s ministry events. Or, it could mean straying from the MOPS model and having a small group simply for all mothers–single, foster, adoptive, traditional, empty-nesters, etc. that meets during a more accessible time for the majority. Nevertheless, when we embrace diversity in our women’s ministries to be inclusive of all women, I think we’ll begin to see greater unity among the church. In this divided culture we live in right now, unity seems pretty appealing, doesn’t it?

About the author

Danielle Helzer

A former high school English teacher, Danielle now splits her time as a stay at home mom and a Writing Coach at a local community college. She is a wife and a new mother of two hilarious and resilient first-graders who she and her husband adopted from foster care. Danielle has a passion for writing and living purposefully. She enjoys listening to NPR, running, reading, music, sipping on coffee, making lists, and diversifying her collection of cat tchotchkes. You can find more of her writing about parenting, faith, teaching, and living at http://daniellehelzer.blogspot.com/. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter (@DMHelzer).

  • Brittany Dyer

    It seems like God may be working on you here. Maybe He is pointing at you and asking you to step up and develop something like this in your church. It doesn’t always have to be church staff who develops new ministries. Maybe you could step up and create a new group that is more geared to the type of woman you are talking about!

    • Jenn Kropf

      I was thinking this too!! God uses these nudges to get fresh new ideas into the church all the time 🙂

  • sosomom

    I have a few friends at MOPS to laugh hysterically with as we create heinous looking crafts. As for the time thing, stay at home moms often don’t do evenings, particularly in rural areas. Hubby is still on the tractor and I don’t want to mess up dinner baths and bedtime.

  • sherry

    The harvest is plenty and the workers are few as the Bible states and I think that’s very true in ministry work. Starting a a women’s softball team or planning a hiking day or even joining the events planning team in your churches women’s ministry so you can bring that perspective would be a great way to start. I lead a mom’s group that’s a ministry for moms of all ages and stages in life because i too believe moms need encouragement at every stage. It’s a diverse group so there are women who hate any physical activity and others that love it. It’s hard to please everyone, something you find when leading a group. That’s why i think joining in on planning the events would be a big help:) I love hiking and I’m not skilled at sewing or crocheting but i think it’s fun to get out of my comfort zone and try new things.

  • Emily Easley-Sinkclear

    Great article! If we lived closer I’d say “let’s take a hike!” ?

  • Shawna Mattes

    I really loved this. A lot.
    I have a heart for women in the church. ALL of them, and, at this weird season in my life where I don’t fit anywhere anymore, I don’t want THAT kind of women’s ministry. I have children in their 20’s, one married, and we just adopted a 1 1/2 year old… from the foster system, and have a 10 month old too.
    I have been asked to put together a women’s weekend getaway and I just can’t get it together in my head because of all the reasons you pointed out.
    Praying through it, and now, for you as well, that the Lord will lead you to what He would have us do about this need!

  • Michele Cook

    I identify with this post so so much, but recently, I found hope and a wonderful group of Christian women.
    I work on a signal construction gang for a large railroad. To say I don’t fit the Christian women’s mold would be a drastic understatement. Next week I plan on going camping and fishing. By myself. In a tent. In an area with no cell service.
    Despite all of that, I do have a girly side. I enjoy cooking, I love pink and I can even crochet, but generally speaking I feel pretty uncomfortable around most women.
    2 years ago (at age 39) I decided I needed to get over it, and see if I couldn’t figure out what all this sisterhood thing was about.
    So I searched for Christian women’s retreat. I found a few but most seemed as you described. One wouldn’t even allow me to wear pants! (Dresses or skirts only!) I slunk back to my (big diesel)truck to rethink this whole thing.
    Then through sheer luck, or more likely God’s guidance I found a fabulous group of women on Facebook of all places.
    This year I attended my first Christian women’s retreat and I totally loved it. The women were welcoming and kind and there was not a catty word said.
    My point to this very long winded comment is, there are great Christian women out there, you just might have to look a little harder to find them.