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November 7, 2011

What Women’s Ministry Can Be

I finally learned about identity, mission, and worth

Recently I joined an intergenerational women’s group. Five of us are in four different generations. We have different backgrounds, hometowns, and church experiences. Some have children; others don’t. One woman has grandchildren. Despite our differences, we gather every Thursday night to grow together.

A few years ago this group would have been a nightmare for me. Not because this particular group is strange or the women are scary, but because I hated women’s ministry. Or at least I thought I did. I’d been part of women’s groups before that reeked of shallowness and gossip and high-pitched voices offering Sunday school answers for real life issues. These groups were cliques and used cattiness with pride. I continually felt as though I was in a competition for best outfit with everyone else in the room.

And then there were the stereotypes of women that they lumped everyone in. They assumed I love girly-girl things just because I’m a woman. (I actually went to a retreat once where the speaker wore a bright pink feather boa and had her hair in a ponytail that stuck straight up out of the crown of her head. She demanded we do the same—to tap into our feminine side—if we wanted to get anything out of her message.)

But most of all, I hated when the leaders and members of the group would tell young women that the highest calling in life is to be married, that their mission was simply to wait for Mr. Right to come along and sweep them off their feet.

I hated women’s ministry because I’d had poor women’s ministry experiences—sorry excuses for the deep, relational, and supportive thing women’s ministry can—and should—be.

So I quit women’s ministry.

But when I got married more than four years ago, I began to cherish my female friendships more. While my husband is an amazing listener and cares about what I’m going through, he’ll never understand some things in the way another woman can. As I grabbed lunch or coffee with my girlfriends, I started to catch a vision for what true relationships with Christian women look like: loving, supportive, challenging, and encouraging.

Then I started to catch a vision for all that women’s ministry can be: an intentional gathering of women who love the Lord, who want to celebrate life together, hold one another accountable, and pray for one another. (Oh yeah, and pink feather boas are never mandatory.)

So I decided to give women’s ministry another try.

As I’ve sat at my women’s small group the last several weeks, we’ve talked and encouraged one another and had more than a few good laughs. We’re still developing trust and relationships, so I’m hopeful we’ll go even deeper in the future. But one conversation has encouraged me the most. At our meeting last week, the leader asked: “What would you want to tell young women if you had them together for a day?”

One woman promptly responded, “Know who you are and whose you are.” Another chimed in, “You can do great things for God. Find your dream and do it, and don’t let anyone stop you.” A third woman pointed to the importance of instilling worth in girls from an early age so they don’t doubt it when they’re older.

I sat, sinking into the overly loved sectional couch, silently beaming, tears creeping into the corners of my eyes. What these women said was not so profound as it was simply perfect. No one mentioned telling young women that they’re goal in life was to wait for Mr. Right. No one said anything that assumed women can only fulfill certain roles. No one used verses that have almost become cliché like Philippians 4:13: “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” They talked about identity, mission, and worth. It was beautiful. It was hopeful. And it was wisdom that came from women who have been following hard after Jesus for many years. I was experiencing a holy moment, a small piece of God-honoring women’s ministry.

When you experience true, God-honoring women’s ministry, you want more of it. And while I might still have some negative experiences with women or women’s ministry, I can choose to embody God-honoring women’s ministry each day with whomever I’m with—celebrating life and love, encouraging and inspiring others, and lifting up my sisters in Christ in prayer.

God has definitely been working on my heart. I’m so thankful for the women in my life who love the Lord and want more from their relationships with him than clichés and Sunday school answers. My prayer is that together we can raise a new generation of young women who also hunger and thirst for more.

Related Tags: identity, spiritual development, wisdom, women's ministry


i couln't agree more !! I have done women's ministry for many years and what I have seen develop among women, young and older, is that they want small groups in homes to meet and study the Bible and pray as well as hold each others accountable. They want reciprocal, authentic, relationships, learning from each other. It's a GOOD change in women's ministry!!!

Exactly! This is why is took 6 years of my cousin inviting me before I would go on a weekend women's retreat. It's been a mixed bag, depending on who the main speaker is -- only one year of the times I've gone has been outright bad. But the other years have been great. I hope more women will stand up and require more from women's ministry! We are worth solid teaching, and the great adventures and tasks God created us to accomplish.

My wife has had similar experiences. She doesn't mind some of the "girly" stuff, but has always disliked that that seemed to be all that was available. So, she has basically created her own womens ministry opportunities wherever we go. She has always wanted a place to go deeper both in the Word and relationally. Recently she has taken an idea a friend gave her to do Word Feasts. A group of women get together and eat some food and then spend all evening (the last one went from 7:00 PM to midnight) and dug into Colossians. They only got through one chapter and loved it! As a man, I am thoroughly disappointed with what most churches offer men, but we give even less (and of lower quality) to women. If your church doesn't have what you want, don't be afraid to create your own!

I love women's groups. Women are very nurturing and supportive. I agree with Nancy. If your church doesn't offer a women's group, start your own.

Somebody tell me plz.....about Womens Ministry.

powerful article. I also am a women's ministry drop out. This article makes me think that maybe I will try again.

This is a great article. Our womens Bible Study fizzled out and I think it was because all the women felt "intimidated" by the material, thinking they were supposed to have some kind of great experience. That isn't what our sanctification process is all about. Its just getting up every day, caring about one another and praying for each other..and how can we do this if we never share??? I'm ready to start again too!

Wow...this was me for a long time...I was in a ministry for 7 years, and after years of feeling rejected and belittled, I resigned from the women's auxiliary (that's what they called it) and vowed only to attend church because I couldn't take it anymore. My husband and I were active in that ministry...he was the minister of music, and I would play the drums, speak, and carry a tune whenever I was asked, but that women's ministry bothered me.

Finally, God moved us out of that church and planted us at another church...and the funny thing about this church is that the bible study was split into two groups the men and the women. LOL!

When I walked through the doors...I felt the love of God...I was greeted, and was invited to sit with a group of women. This was a much larger ministry...so you can easily get lost in the crowd, but they brought me right to the front...and sat me done...I wanted to run because I didn't sign up for this...I had been hurt before. I had been talked about to my face in a group of women, so my guard was up.

Instead of running, I finally embraced the invitation...and continued to go back every week. I always knew God had called me to minister to women because I had needed someone to minister to me, and I thought there will never be about me out there as long as I live, but how could I be an example when I never knew what a good example was like. God brought that passion back with excitement! Whenever they asked me to share I would, but I just loved sitting there being apart of something great.

This year I got a call asking if I would be the leader for that group of women because their leader moved to Tennessee. I cried because it was an honor! God told me like he told Elijah when he was having a pity party, there are still good people out there serving me...you're not the only one. What I've learned from this experience is that I have the power to choose who I will become...I could have said, no thank you I'll sit in the back by myself, but I would of let the bad examples cause me to miss out on the good examples that would change my life forever.

Ashley, you said...we should pray because "together we can raise a new generation of young women" hungry and thirsty for more. This is what I'm doing. You can learn more about it by visiting victoriaruthtaylor.webs.com

While I appreciate the point of your article, I don't like the idea of blaming previous ministry leadership, no matter how crappy your experience was.

(It feels the same to me as when women say, "I don't get along with other women.")

I recognize the reality of preconceptions that we carry about women's ministry because we've missed the mark in many ways, but can we not build from that without bashing what came before?

You know, I agree with the last posting about not needing to bash previous experiences. In the article she stated that she didn't like women talking about finding Mr. Right but her opinion changed AFTER she got married and she said her relationships with women got better. Well, maybe she was just a little defensive or bitter about not being married. You can't blame other people for your baggage AND just because it's not necessarily what you'd like doesn't mean it isn't working for them. Believe it or not, sometimes our perceptions are incorrect.

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