Our women’s ministry draws only women in their 70s. How can we get more younger women involved?
We used to have 20-25 women show up regularly. Why is our attendance dwindling?
St. Startup down the block has a gazillion women in their women’s group. What are they doing that we can imitate?
We don’t have a women’s ministry. How can we start one?
Are you asking yourself one or more of these questions? If so, take comfort in the fact that church leaders have been asking these same questions for at least 40 years now. How do I know? I’ve been around long enough to hear them, first-hand. Even so, women’s ministry has not disappeared. Nor has it grown irrelevant.
As you might guess, though, women’s ministry has changed and adapted over those 40 years. You and I both know it will go on changing and adapting. If we could listen to the candid comments of the women in our churches, we could learn a lot about productive future directions. If we would listen—and if they would be honest with us, they might zero in on three keys to change and adaptation from their perspective. Do candid comments like these, written from the viewpoint of non-participants, apply in your own setting? How might you check?
Key 1: Successful women’s ministry is purposeful.
As Christian women, we know how busy life can get. We homeschool our kids or help with homework night after night. We often work outside the home, whether on a full- or part-time basis. We care for infants and toddlers, for growing teens and preteens, for an elderly parent, or for one or more family members with special needs. We serve in our communities. We volunteer at church. Most of us do many, most, or even all of these things!
So whether we are 23 or 83, don’t ask us to meet at church just because the calendar says it’s the second Tuesday of the month. Our lives are far too busy for the salad luncheons that churches planned for women in 1953.
Instead, create a meaningful, over-arching purpose:
- Answer the “whys” for women’s ministry. Involve us in wrestling through the process of creating a motivating mission statement. Invite us. Survey us. Talk to as many of us as you can, one-on-one. Then align your strategy and tactics with the mission that ignites our passion.
- Make every study, every session, every encounter, purposeful.
- Help us focus outward as well as inward. Help us serve our community and world, as well as our group and local church.
- Balance the needs of women from each generation, but don’t segregate us in ghettos defined by age. We all have much to learn from authentic, faithful women of every generation.
In short, when we invest time and energy, we want it to count. And we count on our women’s ministry leaders to help ensure it does.
Key 2: Successful women’s ministry is scriptural.
As Christian women, we recognize our need to be encouraged, energized, challenged, and supported by the words and promises of God. Lydia of Thyatira was among the first to hear the Gospel in Europe and enthusiastically support its proclamation. The apostle Paul writes “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16).
This “power” of which Paul writes comes from a word related to “dynamite” and “dynamo.” The Gospel of Jesus Christ revolutionizes lives. It transforms hearts. It carries us through life’s most difficult challenges and most wrenching changes.
As God’s daughters, as Christ’s sisters, we need this power! There’s nothing else like it! So . . .
- Don’t apologize for centering women’s ministry on Jesus Christ. Don’t shy away from anchoring women’s ministry in the Word of God. Don’t hesitate to declare, “Thus says the Lord!”
- But be real! Don’t pretend temptations and troubles bother only people outside the church. Don’t fake it when you should be saying, “I don’t know.” Don’t promise to pray for us unless you will.
In short, we want to grow stronger in our faith. We want to become more like Jesus. We want to be more able witnesses of the hope that our Savior gives. And we count on our women’s ministry leaders to help us encounter the Word of God in authentic ways, ways that make growth in grace possible.
Key 3: Successful women’s ministry is relational.
As Christian women, we know that relationships matter. We know that relationships grow when we deliberately cultivate them. And we know that no relationship runs smoothly 100% of the time. This means that . . .
- We will gladly invest time in getting to know one another. We understand that laughter can break the ice and that shared memories cement sisterhood. Small talk and snacks open doors to the vulnerability that authentic sharing requires. But don’t expect us to be happy talking for an hour about questions like, “If I were a tree, what kind of tree would I be?”
- You can ask us for things other than money, especially if there’s a relational purpose behind the request.
- Even when it makes us uncomfortable, we know it’s important to deal with conflicts and disagreements head on and face to face. We know, deep down, why Paul wrote, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). But sometimes we need help in cultivating the courage and skills needed for healthy conflict resolution. It’s one gift the church can give us.
- Communication is essential, but in today’s world we expect to receive information through new media as well as old. Use the church newsletter and service folder. But set up Facebook and Twitter accounts, in addition. Start a blog. Use Skype and text us all simultaneously. And don’t forget that some of us still use e-mail, too.
Purposeful. Scriptural. Relational. Would the women in your church point to these things? It’s very likely! These are the keys that unlock women’s ministry in today’s world. Actually, these are the keys that have always unlocked women’s ministry! Today, as in every age, you will need to jiggle them a bit in the lock. But as you do that prayerfully, you will fulfill the ministry the Holy Spirit is entrusting to you.
Editor’s note: Mother’s Day is over, but ministry with and for the women in your church can’t be! Check out the many resources for year-round women’s ministry CTA makes available—many downloadable and free!
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.