Ideas for Women’s Ministry

Last week, I posted an article about Why I Don’t Do Women’s Ministry. This week, I wanted to write a follow-up post in the hope that it will generate some ideas for how we might make women’s ministries more effective.

Mostly, I’d like to hear your ideas. But in order to get this conversation started, let me share a few general ideas of my own:

1. Recognize that women are not all the same. Those who are called to women’s ministry have their work cut out for them. It’s not an easy job to minister to such a diverse group of people. But anyone who wants to appeal to women in general must recognize that women come in many different shapes and must create programs that appeal to more than one type. This is the same for any demographic group in the church, but perhaps most of all for women. Our lifestyles, circumstances, and preferences are so diverse. Not everything has to appeal to every woman–but if NOTHING about a church’s women’s ministry program appeals to a particular woman, she’ll quickly get the message that she’s not OK and not wanted.

2. Respect women’s intellectual abilities. Too often, we seem to buy into the world’s lie that we are purely emotional beings, at the whim of fantasy and hormones, and not smart enough to go deep. God created us to feel and to think. Our souls hunger not only for the presence of God, but also for knowledge of his truth. Ministries that focus only on women’s emotional needs or that stay on a shallow level are doing a disservice to their women and to the larger body of Christ. And they’re failing to reach many women who will never be engaged by a ministry that does not challenge their intellect.

3. Recognize that women are not just wives and mothers. Women aren’t required to fill these roles in order to see God’s purpose for their lives. I’m both a wife and a mother, but if I were neither, God’s calling on my life would not go away. It’s pointless to ignore the importance of these roles in the lives of many women, but we must acknowledge that women are unmarried, childless, divorced, single, struggling with infertility, focused on their careers, and everything in between. They’re all important to God, and none of them should have the impression that God’s plans don’t include them.

4. Make it safe to talk about real life. In my experience, most topics are off the “approved” list at women’s ministry gatherings. This is a systemic problem in many churches, so I don’t think it’s fair to blame it on women’s ministries. But if a women’s ministry program were able to make it safe to talk honestly and biblically about our experiences with spiritual doubt, depression, injustice, loneliness, temptation, abuse, regrets, sex, career success, insecurities, need to achieve, perfectionism, financial worries, sexual harassment, boredom, anxiety, exhaustion, great books, compulsive eating, addictions, and things that keep us awake at night, that ministry would produce some powerful life change.

5. Affirm real women. We should not walk out feeling worse about our potential in Christ than we did when we walked in. Many women feel torn down and devalued by the church–simply because they are women or they are the sort of women God has made them to be. And while some have commented that I seem to be whining about my own experiences, or feeling sorry for myself, I’m actually not too worried about myself. My commitment to Christ and to the church is intact and independent of what I experience in women’s ministry. I am truly concerned about those women who have written off the church, and by association Christ, because of what they have heard the church telling them about their own worth. Any women’s ministry program must help everyday women feel like they belong.

6. Challenge women. Besides the nursery, women’s ministry may be the only place where many of our ministries seem designed only to make us comfortable.

I realize these ideas aren’t very specific. So here are a few more specific thoughts:

  • I belonged to one church that had a sports ministry for women.
  • In a response to an earlier comment, someone mentioned a book club.
  • How about get-togethers that don’t require mothers to leave their children behind? Moms who work outside their homes aren’t looking for more time away from their kids, so they might be more likely to attend events that welcome their children.
  • How about helping women to form intentional mentoring relationships with each other? Many women are looking for mentors but don?t know how to ask for one, get started, or keep it going.
  • Hold a lunchtime Bible study for women who work outside their homes, in a location convenient to their workplaces.
  • Ask women to share their stories, or to teach each other about something they’re passionate about.
  • Get women together to do some powerful service in your community–and welcome families to participate as well.
  • What if interested women ran a business together and used the proceeds to help other women get on their feet?

So how about your ideas? How can we do women’s ministry differently to appeal to wider audience of women? What have you seen work well? What do you wish more churches would do in their ministries to women?

 

This blog post first appeared here on Christianity Today’s GiftedForLeadership.com.

12 Comments
  1. Sue Chadderton says:

    I love this blog and the one about why you don’t do Women’s Ministries.
    I have just been elected to the vice-presidents position of our church’s Women’s Ministry but alas no one wanted to take on the actual presidents role so until someone comes along that would like to take it on I am the leader. So now I have two months to plan and prepare for 10 months of meetings and gatherings and encouraging the women of my church. The first thing I started doing was scouring the internet for ideas when I came across your blog. I can relate to your frustration of the WM groups in churches I too feel discouraged and board with most of the programs for the women of the church.
    I have had the traditional role of being a stay at home mom who, yes, enjoyed the company of other ladies during the day but then after a divorce I became a working mom with two young kids to get from activity to activity and to add a church WM meeting that was like Cotton Candy to my schedule was not what I was looking for. Even now with my children grown I have been quite reluctant to attend the meetings. I guess I won’t have an excuse for not attending now and if I’m not enjoying or getting something out of the execise there is no one to blame but myself. Sigh..
    I liked your list of things that you want in a misistry focused on ladies and will try and incorperate what I can into what is expected. I was hoping that some of your followers would have more ideas that I could debate with my team over and possibly use to encourage and challange our lades. I would love to be able to offer a little something for each of my women so that they feel that they can participate in what is happening.
    Anyway thanks for letting us know how you feel about this issue so that those of us that agree can feel encouraged that it isn’t just “me” that feels like there is something lacking in the traditional ladies church meeting.

    • Laurel says:

      Wow! What a great article and response as well. Sue, I can understand your frustration. I have been involved in some women’s ministry events at different churches over the years and left feeling less than enthused about my relationship with the Lord. I am now starting up a women’s ministry at my church and am searching also. The church has had a wm before now, which failed and broke up because of gossip. I intend to be “real” with the women and ask them what they want the ministry to be for them first. We have a diverse group of nationalities in our midst (small church of 50 or so members) so this may end up being more of a small group than anything else. However, I AM excited because they have potential. One of my desires is that we spend some time ministering in the community – as women only. And it will be up them to vote on what they want to be involved with – evangelism, charity fundraisers or the like. I would love to correspond with you re: your journey on it and maybe we could share ideas. I so don’t want this church’s situation to fail as it did before. If you are interested, just reply here and I’ll give you my email. Blessings to you!

  2. Larissa says:

    I would love to attend an intimate gathering in a safe place led by a wise and compassionate leader. Here, instead of “sharing” or “talking”, we just sit, or lie down and worship Him. I think it’s called “soaking” worship in some places although I think the intent of such meetings is not a transcendental-encounter but to set aside time to enjoy Jesus deeply, with other like-minded believers. The wise and compassionate leadership is important where discernment needed to be exercised on behalf of the group to help protect the intimacy of such worship sessions, and not allow disruptive behavior to endanger the members’ sense of individual belonging to Him.

  3. Debi says:

    Hi Amy. First time at your sight, and before I move on to explore more of it, I wanted to respond. I’ve been a minister’s wife for over 30 years, so have had the burden/privilege of overseeing/being part of many different women’s groups in different parts of the country. I’d like to offer some hopefully helpful thoughts regarding restructuring…. not throwing everything out and risking dishonoring those who have carried the torch for so long (then it becomes a battle of ‘Us against Them’ instead of ‘considering others better than ourselves’).

    1) Say goodbye to the old monthly “meetings” that were just that….. business meetings that we tried to dress up to include a devotion and refreshments so all the women of the church would want to come to. They don’t. I don’t, and never have. I can’t stand business meetings, especially when people are discussing things I know nothing about and don’t want to know about. Meetings should be held only by committee members of specific committees, to discuss plans regarding their committee’s specific function; to decide who’s doing what, when, how, and if they need help, etc. The rest of the people not on that committee don’t want to hear about it, and certainly won’t come to a meeting where ALL the business of ALL the committees is being discussed. So that means, that if you still want to try and get all the women of your church together once a month, then it simply CANNOT involve a business meeting of any kind.
    (In that same light, many of the things the women’s “auxillary” have done for all these years, can now funnel under one of the main ministry departments of the church, such as, communion preparation, all-church fellowship events, hosting the Easter breakfast, staffing the nursery, supporting a separate mission, etc, because they are all-church functions, and can be done by men, too…. thus eliminating the need for getting all the women of the church together every month to discuss these things)

    2) You probably need to rethink trying to get all the women together once a month for something that doesn’t meet a real felt need of theirs, because they won’t come. They’re too busy. The better idea would be to see how many different types of groups you can form to meet different types of needs, that meet at different times of day, and different age groups.

    3) If you still want to try to get all the women together for something special like a special event or retreat, then find ways for women from different age groups to participate in the program: Sr High girls, college-age, young moms, career women, and older women. Ask them to form a singing group of their peers; put together a group to do a skit; give a testimony; etc. Then more women from that age-group will be more inclined to attend. BUT….. and this is a BIG BUT….. the program better include adequate time for some real one-on-one sharing of something they’re struggling with and praying for one another, so they go home feeling as though they were heard, cared-for, and they connected with someone else. We all want to feel like we’re not alone in our struggles; we want to pray for others, and be prayed for.

    I hope this is helpful.

  4. Daphne says:

    I have been part of WM group for years but it has not been attended this past year. The reason being, like you’ve all mentioned, no one wants to give up their time to just come read out of a book, pray for missionaries, eat pie, and go home. Such a waste of time (except the praying) but I want our ladies to “do” something, be a part of ministry to help others in our community. So I’m searching for ideas as we get ready for a new year. We are a small church so we can’t do large events but we can help encourage widows, pray for missionaries, give hygiene kits to the jail, or make lap robes for the nursing homes. But whatever we do we want to just love others in Jesus name with the help of our church to back us up. If you have ideas, books or articles on women’s ministry ideas, I would appreciate any help.
    Thanks! Its been good just to read your posts.

  5. janie1624 says:

    I have recently gone through a spiritual inventory and found that I have become very “confortable”. In sharing with another lady of our church, she has gone through the same thing…..our church, 37 years old and I have attended for 35 years, has recently had quite a shake up. Our senior pastor resigned amidst some legal charges involving a young lady in town. That has made us all take inventory and we have decided that through this trial, God is showing Rachel and myself that a Womens ministry would help the other ministries of the church and by reaching into the community, we will begin to heal by serving others. Problem is, we have no idea where to begin, this church has never had a womens ministry before and we truly want it to be a blessing…..all the ideas here are very helpful and will definately take the advice given……thank you all for sharing and please be praying for us.

  6. Maree says:

    Women’s ministry should reflect what each individual women wants to explore.
    Maybe first get together should be about having each person to write down what actives, themes, projects that they would like to explore over the year. Each person is responsible for running the session they are interested in with assistance of the group leader.

    For example: If some one is interested in a meal ministry project than that person organises each person a specific role that they will carry out. Maybe the person running the event will say…”find some one who you would like to give a meal to this week.” (The meal, doesn’t have to be amazing) T he group connects to the wider community in delivering meals and after the event meet back and discuss and reflect on their contribution..hearing personal stories ..(relate it back to the bible and pray)

    The key note is that ALL women have a project to bring fourth to the group. The person running the session explains to the group why this is important to her. It’s about sharing what is important to you and connecting it to the group and wider community.

  7. Dorcas Owusu says:

    Thanks for this blog, I have been trying to get some ideas for the women ministry of which I am a member.

  8. Belinda says:

    Hi Ladies..
    Just wanted to share my idea that I am still in process of leading..:) I am new to leading a small group; just now my second year; but my concern was never finding one with ladies where a topic fit just right. I’m not a huge fan of watching video’s of others speaking for a small group environment, so I wanted to do something different. When it came time our pastor asked for leaders; I reluctantly decided to try it considering I was terrified of public speaking to any size group. (I guess God decided to take me out of my comfort zone!) Our small group sessions are around 10-12 weeks in length, meeting once a week. We do this 2-3 times a year. I asked myself what I would like to attend. Well; I wanted to meet once a week with all different types of ladies and discuss different topics that we would ALL deal with on a daily basis. Our church is close to about 150 any given Sunday. I knew we usually had a group on occasion of about 7 or 8 at a time. On sign up I made a poster; with flashing lights that read “I am an Overcomer”. All around that statement I put words like: Anger, Fear, Unforgiveness, Stress, Guilt, Addiction, Jealousy, Insecurity, Temptation etc.. I had 20 women sign up and each week at least 15 are there. I lead how God leads me and allow the women to discuss the topic and share what they want. We have drinks and small snacks; because ultimately we are there to share and help one another first. :) Each topic I type out a handout with definition and different questions or comments I find on christian-based sites. We are now on week 6 and I have been overwhelmed and blessed at the response on how such a simple idea has made such a huge impact. Our God is awesome and when you allow Him to just lead you simply; He will do all the work. I have been so humbled and the lasting, Godly friendships are priceless. We all have the memories of a particular meet in mind when we daily face one of these worldly challenges. Hope this simple idea helps others as it did for me! God Bless..

  9. maryehalsey says:

    I’m a pastor’s wife and would like some real ideas for starting a godly outreach to others in each of our specific areas we encounter each day. I want more than a n eat/yak time. I like the one where she had a poster sign-up w/ flashing lights reading: Fear – Anger – Insecurity – etc. I’d like to see it help w/ reality and help and hope was we as a group would grow closed to the Lord and to each other. I wonder if such things a honestly possible. . .

© 2012 Amy Simpson.