Well, it seems that I hit a nerve with that post about womens’ ministry. I have read every comment and tweet as they came in and your kind (okay, a few not-so-kind) emails. Brian had a few laughs at my expense because I wrote it in about 20 minutes on a Saturday afternoon, off-the-cuff. Story of my blogging life – the ones I labour over are hardly noticed and the ones where I am emotional, soap-box-y and yell-y bring the masses!

So let’s talk a bit more about this? And I truly mean that – I look forward to your thoughts and comments and ideas. Apparently we are not alone in this and for that, I am thankful. Our collective voice of behalf of women is getting stronger.

First of all, for those that asked, the post was not directed at my current church (where, yes, I am beginning to be involved in womens’ ministry) nor at any other church of my past in particular – I’m not quite as passive-aggressive as that would suggest. As I noted in the post, it truly was an amalgamation of my experiences as well as the experiences of many of my friends and contemporaries within traditional church practices directed for the little ladies.

There is not a thing I wrote in that post that I would not feel comfortable owning up to in real life with real-life pastors or real-life friends. (That’s one of the first rules of blogging – don’t put it up there, if you don’t want your Dad or your pastor to know it. Because trust me, there is no such thing as anonymous and it will be out there.) I like to consider myself as true-faced.

I do speak from within the structures.  I’m not an expert, but I have been involved in many of them over the past 20 years, even doing my time as a heavily-made-up “model” for the fashion shows in the 90s (I hope to heaven my mother has lost those photographs…). I’ve spoken at womens’ events, organized a few socials in my time, participated in and then lead Bible studies and home groups for many years.

But I also speak from outside of the Church. Most of you that have been a part of my life the past 10 years know that I have struggled mightily with the nature of corporate church, even taking several years “off.” I left the program-driven church thing as much because of my own burn-out as because I don’t believe in their effectiveness any longer for developing disciples of Jesus.  I believe that we are at a crossroads as a global Church, shifting and changing, just as we have done for centuries – from a pragmatic side of “what” we do and also a theological side of “why” we do it. Like it or not, the church is emerging.

Also, just to be clear, I truly don’t delineate between the sacred and the secular in my life. I don’t relegate things into “this is a Christian thing” and “this is not” – no, I am a follower of Christ and therefore whatever I lend my hand or heart towards is a way to honour and know God.  So it’s not about whether or not you can consider making cupcakes or pink glitter a Christian thing to do – it certainly can be and I honour the women who have a gift in that area of life, truly. Rather, it seems that only one-type of womanhood is usually the focus on most womens’ ministries, just like a lot of men are rather tired of pancake breakfasts and retreats about shooting guns and refraining from masturbation. Surely there is a way that we can be an affirming and welcoming place for the diverse experiences, personalities, seasons, choices and giftings of women (and men, for that matter).

So let’s pretend you’re here in my home and we’re wrestling a bit with this together, figuring out a few things.

The defensive answer that I most often hear from those within the structure to our critiques is this; Well, if you don’t like it, you lead it.  I have to chuckle because, well, no. I am not a womens’ pastor nor do I wish to be one nor do my current life priorities lend themselves to a season of busy vocational ministry.

Besides that is not the point, is it? That’s not a true solution for me, for you or for the church, let alone for women as a whole. Let’s look at the bigger picture perhaps?

Is womens’ ministry necessary?  Is womens’ ministry failing women because we ask them to attend something that has really run its course in its current structures, something that isn’t speaking to their deepest needs? Is womens’ ministry truly bringing life to the women of the church in all of their seasons and differences, let alone speaking as a prophetic voice for the Kingdom of God about God’s view of womanhood?

I tend to think that organisation and structures kill off real relationships. It’s no secret that I’d like to see churches stop with all of the programs and be a bit more simple and small by intention. Let relationships develop organically. Be open to new people. And love well. I know it sounds simplistic and idealistic but I truly believe that if we are motivated by the love of Christ, paying attention to the leading of the Holy Spirit and our friends around us, we’ll look after one another well and disciple each other by pointing one another to Jesus as the true Shepherd.

I know one church in my personal sphere that does womens’ ministry incredibly well. (I wish I could get there for their weekly meeting but it’s too far away.) They inspire me with their passion. The women of the church are ferocious for love, beauty, justice, honesty, true relationship and sisterhood. Even though they do the girly-thing sometimes, its balanced out well. And they work tirelessly out in the community, empowering each woman to use her gifts to make space for God in her family, her friendships, her work and her sphere of influence. They truly are a prophetic voice for peace and wholeness and the kingdom of God as a sisterhood.

So it can be done.

Since there are so many of us, waving our hands and saying YES! to my letter, what do you think we can actually do to bring our perspective forward within the context of the Church – with humility, love and a heart to learn? 

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In which I write a letter to Womens' Ministry
In which some guys do not want to kill stuff at mens' ministry
thank you for sharing...
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  • Vicki

    To answer your question, not sure…  I am finding that I prefer to labor outside the church in this season of my life.  One of the significant issues I would like to bring to the forefront would not be welcome in my current church…call it egalitarianism, mutuality…equality…  Wishing it could be different.  Maybe you all can help me dream of a different kind of ministry to women within the four walls of a church.

    • That’s an issue that I am becoming very passionate about as the years pass as well. I wish that too.

  • Juanita Dueck

    ooo…..this is a topic I really want to get into. I don’t think I can adequately share all of my thoughts in this space but I will say this:  I have been a part of ladies’ ministries in a few churches. I think there still is a vital need in all of our churches but it has to change(that’s the organic part you were speaking of) based on church size. Currently, I have been attending a little country church where the average age is 60. The church is not growing and the women are tired. But they have failed to reflect on their own past~ when they were young marrieds, young moms, busy moms…knowing the connections that they craved, needed and loved. Every church has to decide what is important to them and their community and be willing to think OUTSIDE the box of traditional church ministry. I have always said(and I really do believe this) that if a church has happy, healthy women being nurtured, serving together, meeting needs and sharing then the church will thrive. Like it or not, we women are the driving force in our families. We get the jobs done. We promote. We love on each other. We share and we connect our families together with others. There are a lot of men and kids who would not be there if not for their women. (I realize that’s not always the case but it is a BIG factor in most churches).  In larger urban centers , big flashy programs work great but they can’t forget about the woman who just wants to sit and have coffee. I have loved the churches I have been to that have a multi-faceted women’s department that caters to almost every possible scenario: casual, deep studies, running groups, book clubs, mom and tot, prayer focused, needs/service oriented(this is my personal fav). There is so much that we could be doing but sometimes get too “program oriented”. I am rambling now…I will stop. Thanks for this outlet though!

    • That’s a great point about looking after the women of the church for hte life of the church overall. Because that’s also true in the world – equip women and watch what happens in impoverished community world over. The program oriented thing just wears me out too, I like the organic, easy, “as we live life” stuff.

      • ChrisA

        My question (as a womends ministry leader) —- how do I get the rest of them to buy into this? Most of what is being said is exactly how I have felt (maybe thats why they gave me the job?). But, it appears to me that the women come for a dinner, coffee, a bible study, whatever, and then quickly forget about each other. 🙁  I want women to realize we should be doing life together.

  • Iryssa

    Hmmm…you know, I don’t actually think you need to be a woman’s pastor or have a busy vocational ministry to do create a group of women dedicated to a serious study of the scripture and to truly helping each other grow spiritually. You could create a once-or-twice-a-month kind of group, and as it grows, delegate. I don’t think structure HAS to kill real relationships, either. My youth group, believe it or not, had some very strong structure, and I have never seen a youth group so close or so serious about learning God’s Word (and not just the milk, but the MEAT).  A lot of that comes down to the leader being able to show strength AND vulnerability AT THE SAME TIME. 

    I do think ALL of this comes down to the people involved. What needs to happen is for groups to form of like-minded women, and if we’re serious about it, all that stuff will take care of itself.

    You’re right: it’s not the point for it to be done with a single group…I guess I think the thing we need is a guide for leaders of women’s ministries (and yeah, admittedly, anyone contributing to that would have to do some serious research in the field by actually leading women), and probably a community of support for them.

    Keep in mind that there ARE plenty of women out there who love to learn about “domestic arts” during these ministries…and I don’t really think that’s a problem so long as it doesn’t take over. So perhaps, if a new group forms that still wants these things, they need to set aside specific days for them (and have the women most interested in that aspect coordinate those days, so that it doesn’t become a job too big for anyone), or even have that time at the end of the minstry’s scheduled meeting that is optional and time-limited.

    • Good points, all of them, Jenna. Thank you for all of this. 

  • lindseyfoj

    Oh dear! Being real and honest now, right? Okay, so going for broke, I guess!  Full disclosure: I didn’t read your first post when I first saw it on my Twitter feed because I thought I might get mad. 🙁 {blush} I’m sorry.

    But today, I saw you had a follow up with feedback on others’ feedback so I thought I would dive in and check it all out.So I did. And I am SO NOT angry…not at all….I am maybe more confused, filled with more questions, and forced to be honest with my own irritations at women’s ministry, church structure, etc, and I have been trying to face those feelings in small doses over the past year, but today here they are right in my face clamoring for attention, answers, conversation, SOMETHING.
    Having grown up in ministry as a missionary kid, then off to ORU, then working in some capacity (children’s, youth, or associate pastor) for the past 10 years, I think I thought I “knew” and “understood” ministry pretty well or at least from the little corner of Christian-dom that I found myself in. However, after taking a year long sabbatical (that isn’t ending anytime soon), I have found myself with more questions than answers, more confusion than understanding.Thank you for broaching this HARD, HARD, HARD topic.I have so many words to put out there but I don’t want to clog up your feed nor do I want to be misunderstood, so maybe that is the focus for me.  How do we as women put ourselves out there with honesty about our real issues without worry that we will step on someone else’s toes? How can we as “the church” be the REAL hands, feet, and heart of Jesus? Can we as individuals take up the challenge to enter into places or conversations with those who are different from us in every sense of the word but value them and know that we will receive the same value in return?  To me those are the things that we all as women can do to change the face of women’s ministry across the world  Because I know for myself that the more I let my guard down and allow others in, no matter what we are doing or talking about, and they do the same, there is an environment for growth and “changing the world” like never before, but sadly, I have only experienced this in a few small group settings in my life.But I too believe IT IS SO POSSIBLE!

    • Those are fantastic question, Lindsey. Exactly where I am at in many ways. Hard topic, real questions. It is so possible. I loved this.

  • I think your comment about organization is so true…there is not a lot of room for “organicness” in churches everything is so structured. Even at church yesterday, I ventured forth and we broke into small groups to talk about how to be like Christ in our world, but resoundingly this seemed to involve volunteering for some organization. I left feeling a bit frustrated that I don’t have the time to volunteer much (or the money to pay a babysitter) and feeling like praying over babies in the middle of the night somehow didn’t count.

    It’s mostly my own insecurity coming out but I wish the focus in church was more on supporting individuals to live like Christ in whatever they do than trying so much to qualify how much “charity” work we are doing.

    It comes back to relationship, I guess the only way to have vulnerable relationships is to take the first step and be vulnerable. Sometimes it’ll work and other’s it might mean a hard realization that the group of women you are with are not interested in that kind of depth as a whole.

     I once hear a dad comment on how his daughter was worried about being popular in jr high and he said that’s not what you are called to do, you are called to find the other girls who aren’t popular and be friend with them. It’s easy to assume I”m the only one that feels this way but clearly your post striking a nerve shows there are a lot of women out there who feel the same…I guess the harder part is finding them and building that relationship.

    • That is something that my husband has become very passioante about sine we left vocational ministry, Jenn – empowering people to live like Christ, missionally, within their own callings and vocations with as much focus and value as everything else. That is so needed. Not insecurity at all. 

  • Jemelene

    I think those of us who are involved in ministry need to be open to hearing from those who NEED to be ministered to. We need to have perspective and clarity and truth. It is not about ME, it is about the women I want to be served. It IS about YOU and those women who need to walk away empowered to do the will of the Father.

    The woman with the alabaster vial, the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery are just a few examples of women who would have never been comfortable competing for the best recipe at the Saturday women’s brunch. However, a small intimate bible journaling group where the women are truly interested in every aspect of their lives is most likely where they would find a place to grow.
    Sarah, I didn’t hear you complaining. I heard your heart crying out and saying that women want to be loved, to be heard and to be seen in a deeper more intimate way. Keep preaching it sister! You are speaking for so many of us!

  • One thing that I wanted my old church’s women’s ministry to do was have a mentoring program.  I was deeply involved in the young adult ministry but felt we needed to pour into others and be poured into ourselves.  I thought it would be helpful for the men’s ministry to tap into the men in the young adult group as well.  Most of my friends were very interested and some of the higher ups thought this would be a good idea but nothing happened, in spite of my efforts.  It just wasn’t something the church prioritized and I still feel these ministries suffered for it. 

    I enjoyed the annual Christmas tea at that church, in spite of its married and mothering focus.  It was wonderful to see so many ages gathered in one room.  It would have been nice to have more events like this, even on a smaller scale.   My current church has a variety of Bible studies offered at various times, which is great.  On the other hand, the events are very specific to life stage- or require a good deal of money to participate.  I try to be the change that I wish to see within the church but I’m currently at a loss of what that would look like.  I look forward to seeing what others have to say!

    • I agree with the mentoring…when I used to work in the ER there was a mentoring program for the older nurses to be buddied with the new ones and it was so good. I would love to have a more experienced person to be able to lean on and also to be able to mentor someone else who might be struggling.

    • Annette

      I, too, am a big fan of mentoring.  I began seeing a wonderful woman for spiritual direction a few years ago when my faith was on the rocks.  In her, I found a safe place to unveil all of my doubts and disappointments with God.  In her, I found no judgement, only tender nudges that have taught me to listen to the Spirit’s voice within and permission to continue wrestling with my faith.  My faith has evolved quite a bit over the last couple of years, but I feel so much freer.  I feel my life has so much more purpose.  And I feel finally content that God is good and loving afterall! 

      • What a blessing. I love this story, Annette – so much hope in that!

    • I love seeing all ages and generations gathered together as well. I love the mentoring idea. Sadly, we usually aren’t lacking girls wishing to be mentored but older women who are willing or able to do it!

      • That’s been my experience as well.  Good Women Project has started a mentoring program: http://goodwomenproject.com/mentoring  It doesn’t help with churches started their own but at least it’s an opportunity for those who want mentors to be mentored in the meantime.

      • Linda Crawford

        Catching up on what has been happening since your first post…

         I have a different perspective on mentoring that I’d like to share here. I think it too often becomes another program. The point we are missing is that we are family. Mentoring is not just older to younger–it is younger to older as well. What we don’t do well in the organized church structure is foster deep mutual respect and love between all generations. I have learned more from my daughter about walking out my faith than I have in church!

  • although i long for real heart connections and support (which i gather women are not largely getting from these groups anyway) a big part of me is wary of super-structured Women’s Ministry.

    we live in a rural area and our church is mostly empty-nesters.  we’ve been wondering if there is another place that might be a better fit for our family and checked out the website of a local church.  they had 5 or 6(!) pastors and a huge staff, but the only women employed were a secretary and a Director of Women’s Ministry.  that is the kind of Women’s Ministry that is the most off-putting to me, a ghetto-ized corner to keep “the girls” busy?

    i do think small groups are key for relationship building and intimacy.  a large group might have a great speaker, but honesty, openness, and prayer happen when the crowd thins.

    • Iryssa

      Well put.

      I really love the model of the church we found this year. My pastor put it like this, “We’re not a church that has a Small Group ministry but a church made up of Small Groups.” I like that because there *is* structure, yes, but it’s a structure with the right kind of orientation that allows for openness. Interestingly, while most churches see less than 20% of the congregation serving, this church has flipped that statistic on its head and has 86% (at last count) serving members of the congregation, most of them not on staff (I think there are all of three people actually on staff), a great many of them women (I *think* the majority, actually, but I haven’t counted). Women’s ministries certainly don’t get a quiet corner there 😉

    • I’m wary of the super=structured thing, too. I like people to be empowered to just make friends and get together outside of church sanctioned or endorsed stuff. Small groups are definitely the key but even those are so hyper structured and policed these days.

      • I agree, Sarah. Even thought I am a list-maker-organization-loving-female, I have a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-side, too. Odd, I know. I cringe when I hear folks suggest “Dinners for 6” or “Your small group must meet weekly”. Why can’t folks just invite someone over spur-of-the-moment (or planned). Why does it have to be a church sanctioned opportunity. What happened to impromptu fellowship and hospitality (and we all can be hospitable, even if we don’t have the “spiritual gift” or a large house, cooking gene, etc.). 

        And why, please, do small groups HAVE to meet weekly? Ours doesn’t….can’t. Dh and I both work and honestly, I want to ENJOY my small group. Not come to resent it. We meet once a month as a large group; then, throughout the month, we meet ‘organically’ (buzz word) one-on-one, or invite families over for a simple meal or have the kids of group members over to play with my kids. You know, “doing life” not just working through a study or a book, etc. Anyways, I’m not saying anything you and others haven’t shared. Just using my words to agree with y’all. Thanks for these posts….being in ministry for 17 years, having planted a church and now back (sort of) back on staff at an established church, I am really questioning how ministry is done, the role I should/could have, or if my gifts and talents would be better served outside of the church, while impacting a larger people group, than the ‘faithful few’. My “calling” is intact. Yet, like you I just don’t segregate my life into ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’….Questions. Questions. Decisions. Decisions. 

  • Ellen Mitchell

    Womens’ ministry is such a tricky balancing act. We women are such a
    diverse group. Some of us are builders, supporters, mothers, leaders,
    visionaries, single women, and so much more. It becomes hard to make a
    place for the interests and life challenges of every woman so instead
    the modern church seems to focus on only those who fit the typical
    “biblical mold.” Meaning wife and mother. Because for large sections of
    the evangelical church that is the only real place they feel women
    “fit.”

    That problem being stated I believe the place for the church to look to
    solve this problem is the place they always urge us to look: the bible!
    Jesus had a message for us and it was bold, and strong, and pure: Mark
    12:30-31 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your
    soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is
    this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater
    than these.”

    Why don’t we start here? Why not sit with these words for a while and
    let them take up residence in our hearts? Why not challenge women NO
    MATTER WHAT STAGE THEIR LIFE IS IN to boldly radiate these two virtues?
    Jesus himself told us they were most important. Perhaps they deserve
    some true thought and time and from there I think the Lord will lead us
    deeper.

  • Oh this is the hard part. Getting beyond complaining to actually making changes.

    As one who often has ideas – so often in fact that it’s pretty much a joke around here (and that’s fine with me!) I’m often told well, why don’t you just do that – and it truly isn’t that simple. First my idea might be great, but more likely it’s a great stepping off point to build and enlarge upon, to pare down to something reasonable, to work into what we’re already doing.

    I love arts and crafts and baking and chit chatting, and I need some of that in an extra-curricular, just-for-fun sort of sense, I also want to have prayer with my sisters when I don’t have little hands pulling on me, to accomplish something every bit as worthwhile as the awesome dinner I put on the table before I came to ladies meeting – but with far more reach for someone outside of my box of life, to hear a spiritual challenge I don’t have time to really hear during “regular church” because of those little people I’m keeping out of trouble, and I need a space to laugh and relax without hubby needing me or the little ones needing me.

    I think the key is balance – let’s have the serious stuff, the nitty-gritty God is real and so is life and let’s have some fun too. I don’t want to come to ladies meeting every week or two and always hear about how I need to be submissive to my husband and a keeper at home, I also don’t want to come do cheesy crafts every week, I want balance – I want spiritual food that’s good for anyone – not just me in my role of wife and mom and I want to be able to relax and have fun. Not everything I do in life is fun and not everything I do is serious – life is about balance, women’s ministry should be about balance too. And the spiritual instruction should extend beyond Proverbs 31 and beyond Paul’s teaching to wives in the Epistles. Those are needed, but I also need to hear about the message in Phillipians 2 – about letting this mind be in me which was also in Christ Jesus… as a momma I don’t get half of what is taught in church, because I’m watching those little ones – so give me a little of that good old Christian living teaching at ladies ministry too.

    Draw me to prayer, let me laugh and give me space to build relationships.

    • Yes, I need the balance, too. I suppose my beef with WM is that sometimes it’s all fluff or one segment of womanhood. I love your last line there – so, so good.

  • Jamie

    Hmmm…good question.  I guess I’d lean towards the idea that if we don’t like the women’s ministries at our churches, we should become involved in them.  If we are truly wanting to build a place where womens’ diverse giftedness and various places in life are affirmed and we are all challenged to Christ-likeness, then we should all go.  If we who agree that Christian Women’s Ministries should be more than cupcakes and scrapbooking all go start our own things, how is that diverse?  How is that accepting of each woman in the sisterhood? 

    Rather than “if you don’t like it, lead it and make it what you want” or “if you don’t like it, don’t go and leave it alone for those who do like it”, how about “if you don’t like it, go anyway.  Get to know people.  Make the first move in being vulnerable, open, and real.  Challenge your fellow sisters to learn how to respond and do likewise.  Let your depth (of love, of service, of heart, of strength, of intellect, of devotedness, whatever it is we mean by ‘depth’) come out in your conversations and relationships, rather than making depth an external goal to be achieved.  Invite people to your house and into your life, and challenge each other to leave your houses and serve in others’ lives.”   

  • Oh, I have so much to say, but I’m not really sure how to say any of it. Sometimes I wish blogs lent themselves more to coffee-on-the-couch discussions, but I suppose distance does make that rather difficult. 🙂 Instead, I’ll do my best to post a comment here.

    I feel so burnt-out from trying to make church ministries “better” that I think I’ve reached a point where I’ve quit trying. I’ve begun, instead, to turn my attentions outside the church (and I sometimes wonder if that’s where my attention should have been all along). I was happy and relieved to see all of the positive and thoughtful comments on your original post; so many women feel about women’s (and, for that matter, teen girls’) ministry as I do. And yet…

    If so many women feel the same way, why do we all feel so very much alone?

    Like other commenters, I have tried to start ministries and Bible studies and the like, many to no avail. And I wonder: What do women really want? Am I really as alone as I feel?

    Practically, I’m not sure what to do differently, except to make sure that as my attentions are turned to activities outside of the “church umbrella,” I don’t give up completely on the women and the activities that do fall under that umbrella. To make sure that I don’t isolate myself completely, even though I am not as at home with pink, flowery Bible study books and decorative centerpieces as perhaps other women might be.

    I should say, too, that it feels as if my church has largely given up on women’s ministry. Last spring, we had a women’s retreat — which, admittedly, I typically loathe — that felt so real and authentic. The women shared and laughed and cried together, and the speaker was so challenging, so convicting. And then a handful of women complained. And that’s honestly the last women’s ministry function our church has hosted. It breaks my heart.

    Yet even with a broken heart and powerful convictions for something different, I almost feel paralyzed in doing anything.

    I am grateful, at least, for these types of posts that remind me: I am not alone.

    • Great, great comment, Annie. I feel you in all of it. 

  • Leah Cadieux

     Although I do think this is important stuff for church ‘staff’ to read, I will stick by what I said yesterday about women (or men) dissatisfied with ministry at their church to start their own groups.  After all *we* are the church and I feel it is unfair to ask just the people who work there to do all the changing.  It doesn’t have to be a big job, or writing your own bible study (there are lots of good, real ones already) and I do not think it means becoming a professional pastor.  Mostly it will probably look like having some friends over for tea, who invite other friends, who maybe do some study or maybe just listen to each other.  Hopefully we always talk about Jesus and how to better know and let others know about that glorious love and grace.  After that some may join together and take their kiddos once a week to the shut-in at Extendicare, others may get up early one day a week to cook breakfast for the hungry, others may fundraise to support abused women when leaving relationships or for children in slavery in the sex trade, others may start a prayer group or…

    • Great point, Leah. I don’t disagree with you. I think there is some more nuance there though. It might be a case of both-and for us.

      • Linda Crawford

        Lots of posts here that suggest starting your own women’s groups at church…I just want to ask, have you tried???

        I have and there are two different things that happened–the first try became hugely successful because it met the need for relationship building across generations as well as bible study–the problem was it eventually far surpassed the “traditional” women’s ministry at the church in numbers and popularity. So what did the church do? They killed it. Took it over and kicked us out of ministry. True story. Years later I still have women who get tears in their eyes when they talk about the loss.Other times I have tried to gently offer ideas they have been met with many “thanks, but no thanks.” Why? Because women are insecure and new ideas can threaten their positions and control.

        The good news is, God uses all of it to teach and train us and since I have been involved in creating women’s ministry resources for a Christian publisher for years, and have been trying to break the mold for years, I am grateful that God has given you, Sarah, the voice for those of us in the wilderness who are trying to pioneer a better way.

        And pioneering spirits always persevere until they forge a path for others to follow! 

        • Missy

           Linda, are we at the same church???

  • Well, what do all of us that have hated aspects of women’s min get out of the blogging world? Why do we do this? We do it to connect, to chat, to talk about things that matter. Why not pursue the things that we pursue in the blog world – but in person with the women at church? Why not together read a book, maybe a Mark Noll history book or the latest Donald Miller or some other such thing. Perhaps gather and study the church calendar through the church year, so that together we learn the ancient rhythms and practice prayer, fasting, etc. As we do those things we will meet each others’ kiddos, know when someone is birthing a baby or going through a divorce and be able to step in with food and prayer.

    The challenge is finding other women that want to do these things instead of what we currently do, but clearly WE ARE OUT THERE. So – even if we can’t lead it, why not suggest it?

    • Yes, indeed. One commenter on the other post said “Create what you crave” and that language made a lot more sense to me than “you go lead it then!”. More constructive, I guess.

      • Vicki

        I resonate with what you said.  I personally did that with a group of women and although it wasn’t our original intent, we developed a ministry of spiritual formation for women focusing on identity, intimacy (with God and each other) community and our unique, individual callings (rather than our “call” to participate in church programs).  We have experienced a depth of growth and new life together.  It seems that by creating what we craved, we have hit a nerve…

      • Missy

         Some churches have no desire to have anyone create anything new. Change is scawy. Herein lies the problem.

    • sas

      I really resonate with what you are saying.  I’ve always felt uncomfortable in women’s meetings that were heavily focused on specific gender roles.  I used to think there wasn’t really a place for me in an all women’s ministry.  I didn’t belong because it was almost physically painful to me to go to a meeting, sit through superficial chitchat while we munched on grapes and pastries, then make a craft, and listen to something “inspirational” while we tried to make sure ours wasn’t the ugliest one there.  Then it happened kind of accidentally  that I was meeting regularly with a group of women that had similar interests in the community, we studied scripture, we reached out, we prayed together, we talked about our hearts and things that really mattered to us. I realized there was something really special about meeting with other women.  

      As far as mentoring goes, I think it goes back to what discipleship is really about.  I like to think of discipleship in terms of something that happens outside a church classroom, that it is more about living life alongside someone who has something to teach us.  As a young wife and mother its true I needed help in those roles.  But for me personally it didn’t happen in a church meeting with a special speaker.  It happened when I went to my sister-in-law’s house and next door neighbor’s home and watched how they cooked a meal, disciplined their kids, and reflected Jesus all the while.Not to get completely off-topic, but I think the church can do men the same disservice too.  In an effort to attract men, they make their activities heavily testosterone focused. This can leave some men also wondering where their place in the church is.Sometimes I wonder if we’ve forgotten how beautiful Jesus is. How attractive and refreshing he is to those who are thirsty. Its easy to lose that sense in an effort to get people involved in church programs and increase the numbers.  

      Let’s open our lives and live alongside one another.  Let’s not be afraid to let someone see our mess, our failures, our successes. Let’s not be afraid to ask another sister if she’d join us in reading a book and discussing it over coffee, or accompany us to visit someone sick in the hospital, or to pray with us when we are having a difficult time.  This doesn’t have to be complicated, just real.

      • Missy

          “listen to something “inspirational” while we tried to make sure ours wasn’t the ugliest one there.”

        that made me giggle 🙂

  • Matt

    As someone who went to a Church that got tired of structure and organization and decided to ditch it all and be more organic, I can tell you that doesn’t really work, either. Real relationships just die off, because without a direction people flounder. We have to learn to renew structure and organization and look at it the way God did. Why did He give us nature anyways? Think about flowers. They are thought of as beautiful, organic, life-giving, etc. Yet, without the very organized cell structure inside, they would die off. Cell structure is designed to release life throughout the plant, not contain it. It is also designed to be flexible. When the wind blows, it flexes with the wind and keeps the life flowing. Most modern structure is designed to contain and control, and therefore it snaps and breaks when the pressure comes. Organic structure holds the entire plant together effortlessly. Controlling structure crushes and brings down the whole organization. But without the cell structure of a plant, it won’t grow past a seed, no matter how much light, food, and water you give it.

    • I know you’re right, Matt, but maybe there is a balance there, too. Sometimes we can be so structured and policed and policied that we limit growth, too. 

  • Shannon

    After a few long years of trying to change the focus/priorities of our previous churches women’s ministry I gave up and left church for a year.  I found a new church a while later and have successfully avoided women’s ministry up to this point.  I have recently tried again and just found it to be exhausting and seriously not worth it!   I need REAL WOMEN.   Who lead real lives and struggle with real things.  I DO NOT need chit – chat or decorating tips.  Any recommendations on how to find this are welcome.  – Shannon

    • I suppose that’s what we are all looking for, Shannon. Praying for us all, indeed.

  • Allie Frazier

    Well, I haven’t been involved in women’s ministry much, but I do have some experience from  youth or college groups that have occasional women’s break out times or groups specifically for women. In high school I always used to get frustrated because the “girl’s nights” were all fun and games, but there was no depth. You never really got to know anyone well, and once the retreat was over, that was that; Back to reality and your “group of friends”. I think the biggest help for me during college has been having a small Bible study of 4 to 5 girls, with 2 leaders. We are all in our 20’s, while our leaders are late 20’s to early 30’s. It is a comfortable context in which we have been able to dig deep – I mean REALLY deep. We have confessed sins to each other that no one else in the world knows.  Basically, we live life together. The gospel is the strong force that bonds us together, so we never feel judged or out of place. We can just be ourselves and share the highs and lows of life. We also study scripture together on a weekly basis, so I enjoy hearing thoughts from my peers and obtaining new ideas from them. 
    So, in the end — a small group that knows you inside and out is incredible. Also, having mentors that are older than you, but that can still relate to you now has been very helpful. It’s also given me an honest view of what marriage and parenting look like. 

  • I’m back to comment again today on this follow-up. Sarah, I wish you lived in the same town as me because I sense that we, my husband, daughter, and I, are on much the same journey. I think I said some of this yesterday but in case I didn’t, we have been living with my parents for a month now. Moved back here to a town of about 28,000 from a HUGE city where I spent 2 years in full-time ministry as a chaplain (60-80 hours a week every week if not more). I burned out, my stress level was through the roof of a 30 story building, and my health was so bad that I was in a wheelchair. Here, I’m not working, but I’m also lacking relationship outside of my family. I have made a connection with one woman but that’s about it. We can’t find a church where we fit. We don’t know how long we will be here so don’t know if we should pursue trying to start something. But as I reflect back even, it wasn’t until our last 2 churches (1 we were in 2 years and 1 we were in almost 3 years) that we finally made these deep connections as a family. I’m not talking women’s ministry, but rather the small groups we were a part of. I love the pink and sparkly and girly frufru stuff but I also want something deeper while at the same time am struggling with so much of who I am, who our family is, what we are called to, where we are called to be, etc. It would be great to have other women to talk about this with and study and learn with. I continue to pray that might happen. Thanks for your openness in being willing to say these hard things Sarah. It seems that the words you so eloquently wrote are on the hearts and minds of many of us.

  • melissa beaver

    i have been involved in numerous bible studies in my adult life. those i have experienced have mostly made me walking away feeling bad about myself. made my think i’m not meeting my husbands needs, not being a good friend, not being a good enough christian because i wasn’t praying 15 times a day and reading my bible every day. i have stepped away from corporate church just as you mentioned. it has been a season of discovery for me. i have grown deeper in my love for jesus and learned that living it out by loving others draws me closer than the “requirement” to pray and read my bible. although i do both of those things regularly- i now do it out of desire rather that requirement. as for the womens ministry i think it would be more productive if we could come togehter and be real. be right where we are as a deep lover of jesus or a newbie. that we could set aside doctrine and just love and encourage one another. that we could ask the tough questions without others thinking we are backslidden. can we just grow together and love each other right where we are?

    thanks sarah!

  • melissa beaver

    i have been involved in numerous bible studies in my adult life. those i have experienced have mostly made me walking away feeling bad about myself. made my think i’m not meeting my husbands needs, not being a good friend, not being a good enough christian because i wasn’t praying 15 times a day and reading my bible every day. i have stepped away from corporate church just as you mentioned. it has been a season of discovery for me. i have grown deeper in my love for jesus and learned that living it out by loving others draws me closer than the “requirement” to pray and read my bible. although i do both of those things regularly- i now do it out of desire rather that requirement. as for the womens ministry i think it would be more productive if we could come togehter and be real. be right where we are as a deep lover of jesus or a newbie. that we could set aside doctrine and just love and encourage one another. that we could ask the tough questions without others thinking we are backslidden. can we just grow together and love each other right where we are?
     
    thanks sarah!

  • Juanita Dueck

    We have a couple of different issues being brought up over and over again: 1. Churches with too much structure and 2. Churches who leave it up to anyone to do something and so whatever gets done usually doesn’t last long because there is no structure! What is the solution? I don’t know. But I do think that both have their place. What churches need to realize is that not everyone needs a “Become a Leader 101” course(I’ve been in TOO MANY of those and it seems like every new church I attend REQUIRES that you do it in order to lead a group of any kind).  There are women who LOVE the organized weekly Wednesday morning Bible study with muffins, coffee a video, maybe some worship, prayer time, coffee time and babysitting. It works…for A LOT of women. BUT , at the same time, there is nothing stopping any of us from inviting 2 , 4 or 10 women over to our house for coffee and community.  We need it, we crave it so we do it. My husband and I , when we lived in the city, had a group of friends. Some were neighbours, some church, some parents of our kids’ friends…..it was our community. Many knew each other. Some did not. We regularly(and by that I mean once every 2-3months) invited EVERYONE over for potluck.  It was usually planned a week or so ahead of time(sometimes longer)…..and you know what? It grew. People loved it. They would rearrange schedules to be there. Some of the guys might find a football game to watch, the kids played outside…there was activity in every room. But every time we did it, the 20-30 adults always ended up in the kitchen/family room area…crammed in…visiting and sharing. Invariably we all listened as one talked. We laughed, cried, shared and prayed. It was not planned. WE never had a schedule or a “plan” of what we would be doing…it just happened. And no one wanted to leave and everyone came back the next time….why?  Because there were no preconceptions about expectations. Our goal was never more than just BEING with our friends.  BEING. Do you know, that most of our friends who came there eventually got saved? They did.  I MISS those days so much. Community. Loving. Living. Being.
    If any pastor is reading this…please stop forcing people to go through your courses and checklists for meeting together. Please just let people develop their groups based on mutual connections.  And food….there must be food.  Food is the great unifier! :)(I know that’s not a word but I had to use it).

  • Sarah Simpson

    I have a difficult time reading this and agreeing with you. On the one hand, I do understand that for each woman it is different in how you connect with other women in your chosen faith. I do understand that the crafts and baking and “typical womanly things” is like a jab at some women, and they feel almost offended at the insinuation that you would enjoy that type of thing. But for some women, myself included, I really just love being with other women and doing…”women’s stuff”. Maybe I am taking a giant step back in the women’s liberation front, but I really love spending girl time in the kitchen with other women. And doing crafts. I read this, and your comments, and feel like I’m being judged on the fact that I enjoy this type of ministry.

    Please, don’t think that I am slamming you for not enjoying that part of it.

    I belong to a church where we do have a women’s bible study on Thursday mornings, and we are walking through Revelation right now. It’s been pretty heavy, and we’ve really gotten right into the word.  I have thoroughly enjoyed this study, but I also have enjoyed going to women retreats and doing scrapbooking, and learning new hospitality tips.

    I am saddened that you are not getting what you need from your women’s group. I love my church, and I love the women I worship with.

    I do hope you find what you are looking for. 

    🙂

    • sas

      I don’t see post or reaction to the post as being a feminist type reaction to church.  I think for me personally, how I read it, is that in some settings those crafty type activities can happen to the exclusion of deeper heart  growth.  You have a good point, we need to be careful to communicate to women that liking those “feminine” thing is fine, while at the same time not communicating that it is the sum whole of who we are, we are spiritual beings first and women next.  

      I’ve also frequently noticed at some churches (and it sounds like this is not yours), that women’s ministry can become a bit of a hiding place from the world.  That has its advantages and disadvantages. I’ve often urged godly women I know to pursue some of their other interests outside the church.  If you love exercise why not join a gym in your neighborhood instead of the “sweating in the Spirit” class at church. Go out and be salt and light in your community.  Join a book club at your public library and bring a different perspective to the discussion.  Take a cooking class or scrapbooking class outside and meet others where they are at.   Having said that, I do know some women who have started their journey to Jesus by attending a flower arranging class at church, or went to hear a special speaker on parenting. So it has its place for sure.

    • Juanita Dueck

      I totally agree with you Sarah. And don’t ever feel bad for voicing your opinion or thoughts especially on this. I too, am one who loves the womanly side of things. I love sharing the domestic crafts and gifts that God has given to me. I think this is something to be celebrated!! But as someone else has said, it shouldn’t be to the exclusion of those who just are not gifted in this area.  And we need to be careful that all things “domestic diva-ish” do not make other women feel like they can’t relate, can’t spill their guts , can’t be themselves…
      That’s why women’s ministries that are thriving are reaching out to ALL types of women..not just the cookie-cutter Suzie Homemaker type.   I totally “high five” your comment , though. I just wanted you to know that.

  • Janaeinbend

    To bring our perspective to the table I think we first and foremost need to feel safe to speak.  
    As obvious as this is I’ve found that at church events I don’t feel safe to say what I think or feel unless I can back it up with scripture. Outside of church I can use whatever words best express my self.  I can be and live and engage without worry that someone will demand ‘proof’ of my feelings, or worse yet, tell me I’m wrong by throwing scripture at me. Real conversation, support, laughter, and love is much easier to have when we don’t have to protect ourselves.  

  • Janae Maslowski

    yo

  • I loved your women’s ministry post. Loved. Don’t have the time to go into the full conversation of all that here. Except that I have walked a long and sometimes lonely journey through church, unchurch and everything in between and I tell you sister what I want is Church, in my life everyday. The cupcakes, the prayer, the decorating tips, the laughter, the bible study with challenging questions that have no answer. All of it. My desire has been great for many years and honestly it is getting to the hope deferred stage. So I turn it all off to not make my heart sick with the longing for it.  Wow, that was more than I intended to share. Sorry I don’t have time to discuss further… children to educate, meals to cook. you know.

  • I happened to click on this post through another friend’s blog. So, this is my first encouter with your blog, and I usually don’t comment, but I felt like I needed to (simply because you are speaking my language).
    My hudband and I left “organized” church just over 3 years ago (after being in ministry, leading women’s Bible Studies, working with youth, and so much more). We left because we saw the business of church getting in the way of of REAL christianity (and many other reasons). This is our experience and not my thoughts about all churches but many of the in the United States. Since that time, we have started meeting with other believers in our same situation. We worship together when we can, and when we are not together, we pray for one another, and seek to encourage one another through email and phone calls(we live nearly 2 hours from one another). There are three women in this group (it is very small), and I love being able to work through the WORD with them. Women who are willing to look at scripture that might be uncomfortable and hash through it. Women who are willing to say, “I don’t know” ratehr than giving some sort of  “christianeze…..emotional answer.” That might be being too honest, but I have seen it.
     The womens’ Bible study that I led (when we were in church) was small at first because there were women who openly said, “I don’t want to do that kind of study….it is too intimidating. ” But, it grew as other women saw the authenticity of it all! But the WORD was literally being snuffed out where we were so we chose to leave. Since then it has been a larger challene finding real community with like minded believers who want the reality of Jesus Christ everyday! Andwomen who want to live authentically and who are willing to walk this out with honesty. I am thankful for the three, and I am thankful for the online communitythat I have through blogging. We have brothers and sisters all around the world who are seeking to know Christ more. Thank you for being transparent!

  • Hello! I’m new here, as a reader and a commenter, but I love this discussion. I had a thought I wanted to share.

    I think the club-forming, exclusive nature of women both feeds and could fix this enormous challenge of more authentic ministry designed for women. I am a Minister, and I am a Creative. I will swap recipes and craft ideas all day long and chat with ladies in any casual environment. I am hesitant to open my heart and be vulnerable without an immense amount of trust being built first, though. I think I am not alone in that. I think leaders who try to create events and environments for women to get deeper with one another give up the challenge after several attempts have left us all still chatting and getting to know one another. Women are cautious to pour out our hearts to each other because we know the dangers of “mean girls, church ladies, hypocrites, socialites” and how sharp their well-intentioned words can really be.

    What if our events and environments created stepping stones to intimacy with growing levels of sharing instead of an all-or-nothing leap? I would hate for my choices as a woman in a church community to be “will I go to the shallow craft night or will I go to the overly-emotional Bible study group?” when I am looking for community. I think we can find balance if we are a little bit more vulnerable and a little bit gentler with each other. We often find that women outside churches are terrified to come into the group because of how they will be thought of or spoken about. . .my fear is that women inside the church feel the same way and we’re masking it with really great parties and ladies’ day events so we look friendly.

    One of the strengths that runs commonly through circles of women is our ability to embrace, even when someone is prickly or messy or coming apart at the seams (or even hiding all those things). I’d like to be part of ministry that embraces each other with careful steps and slow-growing expectations. That’s going to take more time and more commitment from the leaders creating the opportunities, but I believe it will be worth the work in the long run.

  • Kim

    I just can’t stand not finding a solution to a problem so I’d like to hear honestly if you think any of these suggestions could help a church more effectively minister to women.

    1.  Change the name/focus from Women’s Ministry (meeting needs of women who fit the program mold) to Ministry to Women (discovering and meeting needs of ALL women).

    2.  Being a prayer focused ministry.  Praying for ALL women in the church.  Print lists of 10-20 women and have a group of women committed to praying for the women on their list by name.  We NEED to pray for each other intentionally.

    3.  Small groups that commit to meet for a year that includes elements of Bible Study, Prayer, Serving the Community, Challenging and Caring for one another.  (the deeper authentic relationships that we all seem to crave)

    4.  One on One mentorship relationships that meet for a time with the hope that the mentoree will go on to mentor someone else.  (there are great training material out there to get these started in your church)

    5.  1-2 bigger events a year like a retreat or conference that serves as a way for all the women to come together to be challenged, to worship, and to grow together.

    6.  What does everyone think of baby & wedding showers at the church and providing meals for those who just had a baby?  Aren’t these good events to bring women of all ages together to bless one another?

    With this structured framework in place for a church Ministry to Women then I think all other activities that occur for women to connect together should be organic and spontaneous and non-church sponsored.   I think it would be good to specifically challenge women to be engaging in these type of relationships outside the church:  coffeedates, bookclubs, knitting groups, sports, running, gym membership, art classes, cooking classes, game nights, movie night, meals together, etc…with the purpose of just sharing lives with people inside and outside of the church. 

    What would you think of a ministry to women like this?  Is it missing something?  Currently we don’t have any ministry to women right now and I want to be sure and do this right and for the right reasons.  Would LOVE feedback.  After lots of prayers this is the direction we are thinking that we need to head…..

    • Vicki

      I appreciate your thoughts and vision but don’t think there is one right way to do things.  My sense is that God works uniquely in each of our circumstances.  Rather than try to control and program things too much, I am learning to trust that God is the one that leads each step of the way.  Where is he at work?  How can you join Him in what he is already doing?  When I following His lead/discern his leading and move toward what He is calling me to do, I worry less and trust more.  The peace of Christ then guides me.

  • Jim

    As a man who has interviewed many women about their experience in and out of church I find this conversation fascinating. I appreciate your courage Sarah. Nice leadership. What I explore in my upcoming book The Resignation of Eve is What if Adams Rib is No Longer Willing to Be The Church’s Backbone. I suggest that the church provide women the same kind of influence, honor and opportunity the founder of our movement (Jesus) gave them. Nothing more , nothing less. I hope to hear from many women about their experiences and connect them with other women who are wondering if “they’re the only one” thinking these thoughts. 

    http://www.amazon.com/Resignation-Eve-Willing-Churchs-Backbone/dp/1414337302/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1319219949&sr=8-1

  • Doreen A Mannion

    One approach I’ve seen work is to have the gathering split into 2 parts. The larger group meets first for Bible study, book discussion, a social justice project, or [fill in the blank]. Then those who are not inclined to do crafts, cook, or what have you are free to leave and the remaining women stay and participate in those activities. One advantage is, you’d be surprised how many women who come thinking they’ll leave end up staying. I started quilting (albeit poorly) this way, LOL.

  • Sarah, first of all, I loved your piece on women’s ministry.  I resonated with it completely.  I was so glad to read someone’s version that sounded like my own thoughts, only much more articulate.   I just started an official “women’s ministry” at our church a couple weeks ago, and I was trying to sift through my thoughts and strip out the typicalness of this type of outreach, which I fall prey to as well.  I feel so lost in how to reach women because we are so diverse and a retreat of pedicures and shopping just isn’t going to reach all of us.  One of the things I promised to the women committing to small groups this fall is that they will fight.  There will be conflict and it will be good and the Holy Spirit will be in it.  I didn’t promise much else, but I don’t know if I can.  But about 25 women signed up and for a church of only 70, I think that’s a good start.  We do want honesty and this turnout proves it – even if it involves conflict, we want to be known for who we are, whoever we are.  So thank you again for saying this and I wish that I lived near you so we could be friends.  I’m sure everyone says that, but I’m saying it too.  Really resonate with you, girl.  Thank you for your bravery – inspiring to me.

  • Laurel

    Hi Sarah – I’d like to comment on two of your statements the first being… “Let relationships develop organically. …. pointing one another to
    Jesus as the true Shepherd.”  Having been in the church ‘always’ and in women’s ministry I have wrestled with what is effective or not. What is our “spiritual or shepherding” mandate?  Our women’s ministry has been ‘less structured – less programmed’ and women have been encouraged to reach out to others – and I’d say we have had minimal success.  Ladies may say they like relationships to develop naturally but most often it appears to me that few put the effort into intentionally reaching out either within or beyond their close friends in such a way as to comfortably speak of spiritual things.  Unless the meeting together fits in with our busy lives it is most likely we will not make the effort to go further than commiserate with a few kindred spirits… more than meeting together to chat, have fun, and maybe ‘disciple’ one another, I look forward to the time when we can meet together to simply read Scripture, meditate, share our insights on the Word, share our life concerns, pray for one another, and go forth encouraged to live life intentionally and with integrity…. I have found that unless there is ‘someone’ who can and will direct the conversation towards spiritual things that challenge us and speak to us personally than it is just a fun time – yes we need the fun times, but the issue is, I think, the intentionality of moving the conversation from community to spiritual community.  I love what Nora Gallagher writes in ‘Things Seen and Unseen’ – “The road to the sacred is paved with the ordinary.”  Somehow we need to more completely integrate our lives so that we can see God in the everyday and look for God in the everyday…

    The other statement – ” I left the program-driven church thing as much because of my own burn-out as because I don’t believe in their effectiveness any longer for developing disciples of Jesus.
     I believe that we are at a crossroads as a global Church, shifting and
    changing, just as we have done for centuries – from a pragmatic side of
    “what” we do and also a theological side of “why” we do it. Like it or
    not, the church is emerging.”  Two things here –  I agree that the church is changing – emerging if you like and certainly a great read on that is Tickles, The Great Emergence … just to say that this has been happening for some time.  I am that many generations ahead of you to be able to affirm this.  I am also intrigued and delighted by your generation’s questions and searching.  What I am seeing is that you are asking similar questions as those we asked in the 70’s and which I am finding my generation is once again asking and writing about – what is interesting is that your generation [20’s early 30’s – of which we have 4 sons, and I did home school them for 5 years] are adding their voice. My view = I’m okay with and comfortable with the uncertainty about how we do church. There will always be change and variation.

    Well I don’t have answers or suggestions for you but re your above statement about church burnout etc. you might like to read, if you haven’t,  Barbara Brown Taylor’s ‘Leaving Church’, and ‘An Altar in the World’ – all the best in your continuing quest.

  • I dislike stereotypical women’s ministries, but I don’t want to get rid of structure and organization. Trying to find a church home right now, all I want is a good small group where I can meet people and make friends. It won’t happen “naturally and organically” – either someone is going to make a special effort to befriend me, or I will vanish after services. Signing up on an email list to visit a small group is a way for me to force myself to meet people.

  • Robin

    I was sitting with the Women’s Ministry Director from my church having coffee, (the same one who removed me from leadership months earlier) listening to her tell me–again–that her approach to ministry was more “holistic” than mine because she understood that everyone “has to” attend Bible Study. By the third time she said “holistic” my face contorted and I could hear Indigo Montoya’s voice (from the Princess Bride) say, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.” I love Brene Brown’s writing because she defines words rather than assuming every one is using the same definition. I used to do that when I taught…”Bible Study Vocabulary” I called it. Tuesday Nights were the No Condemnation Zone because, more than anyone else, I needed it. But ultimately the culture of women in my church’s leadership was not designed for forthright conversations or divergent opinions. I am theologically narrow. I am forthright and direct. But I love deeply, embrace imperfection and am dedicated to growing in Christ…The ministry I started years ago has planted vegetable gardens for the homeless, thrown birthday parties for kids whose mom was dying of cancer, and remodeled homes for widows, the terminally ill, and the handicapped. Many people from many churches and many from no church gather to serve others…In that arena I thrive. With church leadership I struggle. I need a faith that is real. I want to learn to disagree with grace. Not with silence, but with honesty and passion and laughter. Loved this post, and the one before it. I believe you , which is much of the battle for me. And…in all honesty…I do love a good centerpiece.

  • Faye Spieker

    Please don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. I know that is such an old expression you may not have even heard of it. But let me share what our women’s group does. Yes, we have a Christmas Tea, a craft event now and then, and even what we call Chicks and dips. That last is a gathering where we just hang out, play games and eat chips and dip. But we use these as a way to bring in those who are our friends that are not apart of a church or have never been. This is an entry way for our ladies to make friends with and encourage people outside our church. But that is not all we do. We have two Bible studies each week. Not light ones, or fluff verses. I think almost every 6 week session at some point there has been tears to be shared. Prayers for unsaved husbands, children with cancer, jobs needed, and those plagued by deep depressions are sent. There have been multitudes of times where we have stopped everything and gather around that woman in need, to pray. Many of our women are involved with helping others get out of human trafficking, or promoting fair trade options, .I, myself, have started a team, mostly the children of our church, called Mission Do, We collect food for the hungry, raise money for wells in Africa, clean the church, help the homeless, and the disabled. Well, you get the idea. Each one is tied to Bible stories and verses. We are a small, but effective, group of women that are my sisters, children, and mothers in Christ.

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