Women’s ministry: two little words that evoke such emotive responses. Over the last several weeks I have been discussing women’s ministry with several of the women in our local body. There are studies we’re hoping to form, groups we’re hoping to assemble, and events we’d like to plan. As long as I have been a part of this local church, there has not been a formal “women’s ministry.” So, naturally, as we’re planning these things for the coming months, the words naturally rolled off my tongue: women’s ministry.
I was not prepared for the response. Such sighing and eye rolling has rarely been seen. “Women’s ministry?” was the unexpected response, accompanied by a furrowed brow and questioning look. “That’s just not my thing,” or, “I can’t stand [air quotes] women’s ministry events.”
The funny reality is that these are the women starting studies, planning events, and taking initiative to see women gather and study the Word. They are expressly doing women’s ministry. So what is the disconnect? Why do we consistently find it so easy to hate “women’s ministry,” even while we crave discipleship at the same time?
It’s easier to dislike women’s ministry than to ask, “How could this be different?”
I wish there was an eye-roll emoji, I thought to myself. My black little heart had rounded the bend at a non-profit ministry and there on the bulletin board was yet another poster for yet another women’s conference on the Proverbs 31 Woman. And all I could think about was texting the picture to my friend, a women’s ministry director in another state, along with a much-longed-for eye-roll emoji.
My own attitude betrays me. As a woman who believes we can learn from every Text in Scripture, I find myself often frustrated when the same old tired studies are offered for women. So what do I do? I avoid them. I don’t go to those studies or those conferences because it is much easier to dislike them then to ask the hard questions of what changes could be made.
But the truth is this: if we dislike the rote routine of our women’s ministry studies, then we have to ask the hard questions about what could be different. If there is a regiment of women who want to study the Proverbs 31 woman every year, could we create a women’s leadership development course from that Text? Could we consider a study of the book of Proverbs as a whole? Could we formulate a Proverbs 31 study on Christian ethics in the workplace for working women?
If you’re tired of women’s teas because you don’t like the polite conversation around a grandmotherly antique tea pot, ask yourself what an alternate event might look like? If you’re exhausted by shallow conversation in your women’s Bible study, how could you study and attend next week prepared to ask hard questions of the Text so as to strike up meaningful conversation?
It takes some imagination and some hard work, but if there is something about the women’s ministry that causes our eyes to roll, perhaps we need to put in the effort to consider how things could be different – and the part God might have us play in making those changes.
It’s easier to dislike women’s ministry as an outsider than to reform from within.
Most of the women that heave a sigh when I mention women’s ministry are those on the outside of women’s ministry. Many women who keep their distance from women’s ministries in the local church are those who are simply burnt out by routine studies and shallow conversation.
And it should not surprise us in the least that this is the case. Because it is easier to keep your distance and complain than to seek reform from within the ministry. I talked to a woman this past Sunday morning at church who said, “Maybe we just need to start a new ministry altogether.” I understand the sentiment: it would be easier to scrap it all and start over than to wade through the difficulty of bringing change to the existing ministry.
But the hard work and most effective change will come from within. Women’s ministries need women who have a vision for rich, theological study with other sisters in the faith who are willing to work through the current state of shallowness and to provoke change. We might have to sit through a tea or two, but it is worth it if we can promote forward motion from within the ministry itself. We – each and every one of us – need to have the patience and commitment to engage the women’s ministry today, to be voices for the need for good theology, and to be those who encourage and invite women into a more meaningful way.
It’s an easier to dislike women’s ministry than to chose to serve.
It today’s culture of pick-and-chose, churches are not immune to our instinct to criticize or critique. All too often, we approach the local church as a venue to pacify our own spiritual and relational cravings, rather than as a place to serve and to grow. This lends to our tendencies to grow discontent if the pastor doesn’t use the illustrations we like, the hospitality team doesn’t serve the refreshments we would pick, or the music ministry doesn’t cater to our hymn or contemporary preferences.
But we know we can’t have our way in every area of the local church; I mean, it would be silly to think that our preferences would be met in all areas of church ministry. But when it comes to women’s ministry, we don’t apply the same assumption. Somehow, we think that a ministry that has a narrowed focus should meet all our needs and preferences.
But the hard call of the Word of God is this: the Church, both as a whole and in individual ministries, is a place we are first called to serve. Even as we sign up to work in the nursery, serve communion, or greet on a Sunday morning, we neglect to serve as women’s Bible study hosts, ministry coordinators, and discussion group leaders. We know that Sunday mornings will not happen without a herd of volunteers, but we often leave women’s ministry events to others.
Women’s ministry is an easy target for our complains, but what are you doing to serve the women in your church? How are you participating in having effective and meaningful women’s events? How are you supporting and encouraging your women’s ministry director in practical ways? As Christians, we are called to serve the whole Body of Christ, and that includes the women in our women’s ministries.
It’s easier to dislike women’s ministry than to pray regularly for revival.
I recognize that you might be reading this and thing, Yes! I’ve done all these things – I’ve envisioned how the women’s ministry might grow, I’ve stuck with it through the teas and Proverbs 31 studies, I’ve served in various ways for year – and nothing has changed! If this is you, first of all, thank you for the work you have done in and for the church! Women like you are so necessary and vital, and it does my heart good to know that there are women all over this country to want more for the women in their churches. So, thank you.
Secondly, if this is you, you’re probably asking, What now? What if I’ve done all this and still see no change? I want to invite you to join me in praying for women’s ministries around the country. I, probably more than most, am guilty of going on a rant without stopping to ask the Lord to do the very work I have set out to accomplish. And here is the brutal truth for you and me: our God wants women to grow in the Word more than we do. Our God has been passionately pursuing women for His name’s sake, to grow them into His image and likeness, far longer than you or I have had breath. He wanted it first and He wants it more! This desire to see women equipped and transformed by the Gospel in the local church is, ultimately, His desire. We are just following suit. So let’s ask Him to do it! Let’s commit to going before this God of good desires and asking Him to bring about a revival in the women in the local church.