Fall is on its way, so that means we’re about to dive in again to the rhythms of going back to school, sports, and all the community gatherings that make up our days, weeks, seasons, and years. The regathering of saints will be especially poignant this fall after so many months of isolation and unpredictability.
Is your church ready to kick off a women’s ministry that will be both faithful and fruitful?
There is no one-size-fits-all for women’s ministries in the local church. Our churches are as diverse as we are, and we are as diverse as our God is creative. When I chat with pastors and leaders about women’s ministry I hear all kinds of stories—everything from great joys and successes to deep heartaches and frustration.
Some pastors say they’ve given it a go and participation was low—it became a heavy burden for the pastor, as there didn’t seem to be a willing or equipped group of women to help steer the ship. Other pastors experience the opposite frustration—the women leading are so magnetic and enthusiastic that the group takes on a life of its own and ends up disjointed from the larger body of believers.
And there’s no shortage of pastors in between those two extremes who want to offer a women’s ministry but feel like their plates are just too full to add one more thing. Many have tried, not getting great results, and are unconvinced they should try again.
Starting or re-starting a women’s ministry might not feel worth it. I get that. Tending to the Sunday worship gathering, small groups, and youth group is already a full-time job. Adding or amending one more thing is daunting.
But here’s why church planters and church-planting teams should seriously consider making a ministry specific to women a top priority.
1. About 55 percent of Christians in the United States are female, which means it’s likely that more than half of your local church body is made up of women. We’re not talking about serving a peripheral minority here. Offering a setting uniquely geared to serve the women in your church will lead to the strength and vitality of the whole body, as the women’s ministry bears fruit and discipleship multiplies.
2. While gathering corporately for Sunday worship is non-negotiable, taking time to meet in smaller, single-gender groups has tremendous benefits, too. Among only females, women tend to be more involved in discussion because they’re less likely to feel like they’re being overbearing, they’re less worried about being wrong or looking dumb, and they’re more willing to take a risk and try a new thing. This is no knock on mixed-gender gatherings, which also serve the church well. But there’s an unmistakable shift in the atmosphere in all-female settings. They create more chances for various women to opt into theological conversations.
3. Women married to nonbelievers, single women or single moms, and friends and neighbors who might not be ready to attend a Sunday gathering will often feel the warmth and welcome that women’s groups are known for. Women who fall into these populations have been a fixture in every women’s Bible study I’ve attended or led over the past twenty years.
I think of Ashley, whose husband is an atheist and has been unwilling to attend church. Her neighbor spent years sharing Christ’s love with her and inviting her to Bible study. She finally came and drank deeply of God’s Word and found sustenance among God’s people. After four years of attending Bible study, she believed and was baptized. Her husband now comes to church once in a while, but women’s Bible study was the on-ramp Ashley needed for community and discipleship as she waited patiently for him to be ready to come along. Each woman in your church likely has an Ashley in her life and a women’s ministry is an excellent way to take the gospel to your community.
4. Women’s ministry settings are a great place to provide mentoring and encouragement to women of all ages, naturally putting Titus 2:3–5 into practice. Most women, from the teen years through every decade, welcome mentorship. Every women’s gathering is a chance for relationships across generations and experiences to form so that women might share their wisdom—and even mistakes and warnings—with one another. The fellowship and prayer times are a safe and practical place for women to ask each other about things like how to balance work and life, how to handle a new marriage, how to navigate toddlerhood, how to share Christ with a coworker, how to deal with a sexist professor, how to recover from trauma, how to walk in newness of life, and more. Women’s-only settings are vital to discipleship.
The truth of these four points bears out in the many parachurch ministries that offer women’s ministry to women who either do not seek it or cannot find it in their local churches. Brothers and sisters, let’s not outsource this. It doesn’t have to be polished or perfect, but let’s not forsake this.
Women’s gatherings are a strategic and meaningful way that local churches can help women to know Jesus and to make him known. Is your church ready to make it a priority this fall? Come back tomorrow for part two: “5 Ways to Prepare Your Church for a Thriving Women’s Ministry.”
By Jen Oshman