Recently I read an article here on Her View from Home written by a woman dissatisfied with the women’s ministry events and activities she had tried at various churches. Her article challenges churches to diversify women’s ministry programs and events to appeal to a broader swath of women. The well-spoken author desired to see more “non-traditional” offerings, such as running clubs and softball teams, instead of the “traditional” ones such as sewing, crafts, mothering, etc.
I have been on both ends of women’s ministry, as a consumer and as a leader. I have been on the leadership team for our church’s Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group, and currently serve on staff as ministry coordinator.
I agree strongly that women’s ministry needs to welcome new ideas on how to reach its increasingly diverse audience. I also strongly believe that any conversation about women’s ministry strategy needs to include several key points from the leaders’ side of the story.
The primary role of women’s ministry is to minister.
We may be tempted to believe that women’s ministry is basically a collection of events and activities meant to entertain, so therefore the women’s minister has the primary function of planning and leading activities that appeal to broad segments of women. Nothing could be further from the truth. Women’s ministers are carefully selected for their roles, commonly through a committee process, because they are uber good at ministering to the hearts of broken, seeking women. They are exceptionally gifted at educating and counseling women to live in the freedom of Christ, and often draw from a deep well of life experience.
The majority of their time is spent ministering to women on a small scale, or preparing to do so. A distant second to this role is (or should be) administrator over events and volunteers. The offerings they oversee are an outgrowth of a desire to see women grow in their faith.
The what takes a back seat to the why.
The biggest priority of women’s ministry events and programs is to foster a growing relationship with God. With this as the motivational why, leaders take stock of who they are trying to reach, where those women may be in their faith walk, and then determine in what to invest limited church budget dollars. Sometimes that means they try something outside-the-box, and other times that means they stick with traditional.
The women’s minister may not be crazy about crafts either.
*Raises hand.* But, as evidenced by Pinterest and the proliferation of mommy blogs, “traditional” women’s interests are a bigger draw than other options. Quite frankly, many church staffers are short on capacity and funds, so this factor makes a difference in determining the what.
The thinking isn’t as narrow as it appears to be.
Chances are, church staffers have brought several ideas for new offerings to the table and carefully considered them. In the end, however, those ideas are left on the table because of lack of funds or, more often than not, lack of volunteers to lead. Expecting a women’s minister to handle the whole of event and program leadership is short-sighted and can severely handicap her spiritual care role.
A proactive approach gets results.
Women’s ministers spend a great deal of time on spiritual care and discipleship because they long to see the women in their congregation embrace the gifts God has given them. Every women’s minister I have worked with has been receptive to women coming to them with a passion for a particular activity and desire to help lead a new offering centered on that passion. They are more than willing to discuss a potential partnership to launch a pilot program or event.
This doesn’t mean every idea is right for every church’s women’s ministry, but it is incredibly beneficial to all when women in the congregation step up with their ideas and offer to lead. Not only does this diversify the women’s ministry without unduly burdening the minister herself, it also provides the volunteer leader with skills and experience that can easily transfer to other areas of life, such a professional development.
Lord knows how many lives a single woman can impact, if first she understands the needs of women’s ministry and how she can effect real change.