By Kristin Schultz
Women’s ministry is a powerful ministry—both to the women in your church and the women in your community. An effective women’s ministry seeks to encourage women, support women in a variety of life circumstances, and help them grow in their faith. Whether you are starting a new women’s ministry or looking to evaluate your church’s current version of women’s ministry, here are some insights and ideas for starting and growing a vibrant women’s ministry.
Women’s Ministry—Called to Follow
Women have always been an important part of God’s redemptive plan. In the garden, God promised Eve that her offspring would restore the relationship between the Lord and his creation. Deborah led the Israelite army. Rahab, Hannah, Elizabeth—the list of women in the Old Testament whom God used to accomplish his purpose goes on and on.
And then we come to the New Testament where we find Mary, the woman who gave birth to the Messiah and served in the early church after Christ’s ascension. Mary Magdalene traveled with Jesus, witnessed his death and burial, and was the first to see the resurrected Jesus. The apostle Paul recognizes and gives thanks for women like Lydia, Eunice, and Lois for their support of the Gospel.
God created us and calls us into Gospel ministry so that he may be glorified and our neighbor may be served. Women’s ministry is more than a social club; we are a powerful, active means through which God changes lives.
Women’s Ministry—A Powerful Purpose
While today’s women’s ministries probably look very different than they did 50, 60, or 70 years ago, their purpose remains largely the same: serve others and grow in faith. How we live out our purpose likely varies from church to church, but at the end of the day, Christ is the center of our ministry.
Women’s ministry is uniquely equipped to help women grow in faith. The Gospel of Jesus is for men and women alike (Gal 3:28), but men and women have different needs, experience joy and struggle differently from one another, and express themselves in unique ways. God has brought the women in your ministry together at this time and in this place so they can grow together and support one another.
A strong women’s ministry helps participants grow in their faith. God reveals himself to us through Jesus and through Scripture. When women study God’s Word together, they learn and understand more about their Creator and the ways that he loves and builds us into faithful followers. When women’s ministry members gather regularly to study and meditate on God’s Word, they strengthen their bonds with each other and are encouraged in their faith.
Beyond group Bible studies, effective women’s ministries help women grow in their devotional lives by providing resources for personal study and meditation. We need to be in contact with God every day because every day we are tempted to fall into the traps of this world that lead us away from the truth. The world tries to call us down paths of materialism, competition, self-righteousness, and other roads that lead us away from Jesus. Having a strong devotional life keeps us as individuals connected to the Lord so we can better connect with others.
A powerful women’s ministry also encourages participants to be in prayer for one another. Pray with the women in your ministry, and pray for them. God promises to hear and answer us when we come to him. But prayer also encourages us. When we pray for others, they feel supported by the women in the ministry in addition to being comforted by God’s promise to listen. We go to God with their cares, concerns, praise and thanks because we know that the Lord hears us and will answer. Praying for each other also builds up individuals and reassures ministry participants that they are loved and cared for. If the need arises and you have the resources, you might also add a care ministry within your group.
In addition to growing in faith, an effective women’s ministry should share the Gospel and serve people outside the church. Jesus fed thousands of hungry people and healed many others. In response to God’s great love for us in Jesus, we are called and moved as individuals and as a women’s ministry to get involved in outreach and in service to our neighbors. Whether as a group or as individuals, women should be encouraged to engage with people in the community and to meet their physical and spiritual needs.
God has made each of us and enabled us to use the gifts he gave us in ministry to each other and to the world.
Modern Women’s Ministry Considerations
While the mission of the Church and of women’s ministry has not changed, our culture certainly has. Many of the women in our churches today live very different lives than the women in the 1940s and 1950s. More and more American women work outside the home. More women today are marrying later in life, if getting married at all. Many women are caring for aging parents and raising children of their own. Our culture has become more mobile, meaning the women in your church may live much farther from their own mothers than in generations past.
We don’t need to see these culture shifts as threats or challenges. Rather, when we consider the different situations of the women we serve, we see there is tremendous opportunity to effectively minister to them and show them that no matter their circumstance, they are an important part of the body of Christ!
When you plan your ministry year and set your calendar, you have the opportunity to be sensitive to the lives and schedules of women’s ministry participants. For example, if most of the women in your congregation are employed outside the home, you encourage them to be connected to the ministry by scheduling monthly meetings outside of working hours. If most of the women in your ministry have young children at home, you could offer childcare. If most of the women in your ministry are older, avoid having meetings after dark as many people don’t like to drive at night.
Being sensitive to the members of your women’s ministry is especially important on and around Mother’s Day. In the past, women were often hesitant to talk about pain and hurt in their lives for fear of being judged. Today, however, women often feel bonded to other women who have experienced similar pain. For example, women who struggle with infertility find comfort in talking with other women who struggle to conceive. Women who are estranged from their children find strength by speaking about their pain. Mother’s Day can be painful for some women. Taking into account Mother’s Day considerations can enable healing and hope.
Getting Started (or Restarted) in Women’s Ministry
Starting or revamping a ministry can feel really daunting! What does this ministry look like? Who will be involved? How often will we meet? What will we do at our monthly meetings?
If you’re at square one, don’t worry! There are plenty of resources to help. But even before seeking advice and materials, we encourage you to go forward as Jesus’ disciples did—with a partner. When Jesus sent the disciples in Luke 10, he sent them with a buddy! Women’s ministry should be no different. Pray that God would show you the right person or people to work alongside you in this ministry. A partner or a team can encourage you and others along the journey and keep you strong for the work ahead!
Your team can divide responsibilities so that everyone’s loads are lighter and everyone is working according to her gifts! For example, someone can lead communications. Someone else can plan or lead Bible studies. Still someone else can take on planning retreat or off-site events. Maybe someone on your team is gifted for thinking through social activities or coming up with brilliant icebreaker activities. Every women’s ministry looks different because every woman in ministry is different! As long as God’s Word is central, let the leaders work with you to design a ministry that works best in your context.
In addition to finding a partner or team, don’t underestimate the importance of training the leaders. Make sure your leadership team is trained in both spiritual matters and also in practical matters like when and how to refer people to community resources, how to schedule meeting space, what to consider when planning events and more. There are many free and low-cost resources available through national Church bodies as well as organizations and companies. When your leaders are confident in what to do and how to do it, they will be more effective in ministry.
If you are restarting a women’s ministry that has fizzled a bit, don’t be shy! Identify why the ministry isn’t as strong as it could be and address the issues as best as you and your team can. Be sure to extend personal invitations to women who have stopped coming to events or Bible studies. Generate excitement within your team and within your church for the new, reinvigorated ministry.
If you are making changes to an existing women’s ministry, we encourage you to include existing leadership as much as practically possible and to approach any significant changes or additions with humility. Many women’s ministry leaders develop feelings of pride and ownership in the ministry. We are called to treat each other with grace—even when it is difficult or awkward. We also encourage you to show gratitude for the blessing that current and past leaders are and have been—even as you implement changes. Inform your pastor of changes and of conflict if it arises so that your pastor is not blindsided and can act wisely to resolve any issues.
There is nothing like the power of women’s ministry. God’s Word records stories of women throughout the centuries who heeded the call to serve their Lord and spread his Gospel. It is an honor to join the thousands (or millions!) of women who have come before us. While the times have changed, the message and purpose of women’s ministry has not: we are to love God and serve our neighbor, and when we are in ministry, God enables us to fulfill that purpose to his glory.
Women’s ministry can be complicated, but you’re not alone. We at CTA are praying for you, your team, your ministry, and those you serve. We pray that you will be strengthened in your personal walk with Jesus and in your ministry to your sisters in Christ. To help enable that ministry, CTA has free and low-cost ministry supports, leadership material and resources—printed and digital—designed to help your ministry thrive so that God is glorified. Get started by visiting our Women’s Ministry page. Be sure to download this helpful retreat guide.
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