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In which I write a letter to Womens’ Ministry

Dear Womens’ Ministry:

The world can give me cute cupcake designs and decorating tips, scrapbooking parties, casserole recipes and other ways to pass the time in the first-world – Jesus is coming so let’s all look busy. But truly, with my respect and love, may I be honest? If I wanted to learn how to decorate cupcakes, I would take a class in it. If I wanted to be educated on strategies for decorating my home inexpensively from Winners, I would just, you know, go to Winners. Or Pinterest. (I love Pinterest, you know.)

But I’m here with you tonight because I want what the world cannot give me. We’re choking on cutesy things and crafty bits, safe lady topics and if one more person says that modest is hottest with a straight face, I may throw up. We are hungry for authenticity and vulnerability, not churchified life hacks from lady magazines. Some of us are drowning, suffocating, dying of thirst for want of the cold water of real community. We’re trying really hard – after all, we keep showing up to your lady events and we leave feeling just a bit empty. It’s just more of the same every time.

The women of our world aren’t looking for a safe place to bitch about housework and ooh-and-ahhh over centrepieces. We’re not all mothers, some of us work outside the home, some of us have kids and others don’t or won’t or can’t. Is womanhood only about wifehood and motherhood? What about those among us that are not wives and mothers? We’re not all in the same season of life. We are – or should be – diverse image bearers of a Divine God.

We need Jesus.  We are seeking deep spirituality. We are seeking fellow travellers. We are hungry for true community, a place to tell our stories and listen to another, to love well. But above all, point me to Jesus – not to the sale at the mall.

You know what I would have liked tonight instead of decorating tips or a new recipe? I would have liked to pray together. I would have liked for the women of the church to share their stories or wisdom with one another, no more celebrity speakers, please just hand the microphone to that lady over there that brought the apples. I would love to wrestle with some questions that don’t have a one-paragraph answer in your study guide. I would like to do a Bible study that does not have pink or flowers on the cover. I would have liked to sign up to bring a meal for our elderly or drop off some clothes for a new baby or be informed about issues in our city where we can make space for God. I would like to organize and prioritize, to rabble-rouse and disturb the peace of the rest of the world on behalf of justice, truth, beauty and love. I’d love to hear the prophetic voice of women in our church.


Please may we be the place to detox from the world – its values, its entertainment, its priorities, its focus on appearances and materialism and consumerism?

So here is my suggestion: Please stop treating womens’ ministry like a Safe Club for the Little Ladies to Play Church.

We are smart. We are brave. We want to change the world. We run marathons for our sisters, not so that we can lose weight. We have more to offer to the church than our mad decorating skills. I look around and I can see that these women can offer strategic leadership, wisdom, counsel and even, yes, teaching.  We want to give and serve and make a difference. We want to be challenged. We want to read books and talk politics, theology and current events. We want to wrestle through our theology. We want to listen to each other. We want to worship, we want to intercede for our sisters and weep with those who weep, rejoice with those that rejoice, to create life and art and justice with intention.

Let’s be a community of women, gathered together to live more whole-hearted, to sharpen, challenge, love and inspire one another to then scatter back out to our worlds bearing the mandate that my friend Idelette wrote, we are women who love. (<—You’ll want to read that, I imagine.)

Let us RISE to the questions of our time.Let us SPEAK to the injustices in our world.Let us MOVE the mountains of fear and intimidation.Let us SHOUT down the walls that separate and divide.Let us FILL the earth with the fragrance of Love.Let us be women who Love.

I’ll bring the cupcakes next time (although they likely won’t look as cute).

Yours sincerely,

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Image source via Pinterest

EDITED TO ADD: This is not directed at any one church or experience. It is an amalgamation of my many years – more than 20 – of being a part of womens’ ministries in various churches of various denominations in many different contexts.

I’ve been quite overwhelmed by the response. I clarified my thoughts a bit here but the true gem is in the comments. If you want some ideas of what to do or what people are thinking, that’s a good place to start. And then my friend, Ed, did a companion guest post about guys who don’t want to kill stuff at mens’ ministry. Thank you, friends.

church, faith, women, work

15 Responses to In which I write a letter to Womens’ Ministry

  1. Cyndy Hodges May 8, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    I enjoyed your article, we alone can empower ourselves with the help of our Savior..

  2. Denise Panter June 18, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    I found this late (but thanks to pinterest, I found it!).  It’s very thought-provoking.  But I wonder … isn’t there room for some of the more frivolous aspects of being a woman in women’s ministry?  Most particularly because I strongly believe that an important aspect of WM is outreach/evangelism.  And sometimes it’s those very ‘safe’ events — like tea parties and game nights — that attract women who are lost and have no desire to wrestle through theology.  But they will come with a friend to a tea party or to an innocuous movie or game night.  And it’s those very women who need to see the love and fun and fellowship that sisters in Christ can share … they need the connection to be made … so that a believing woman can then followup and share her faith.

    There’s definitely a time and place for serious, nitty-gritty study of God’s word and growth and discussion … but there’s just as importantly a time for relaxing, letting your hair down, and kicking back for some fun and fellowship with like-minded women.  Preferably where daycare’s provided, you don’t have to cook a meal and you can just relax.  Who knows what a worn-out mom of three preschoolers will feel comfortable sharing or asking or confiding over the innocent decorating of a cupcake.I wholeheartedly agree that not EVERY event (not even most events) of WM should include the fluff and froo-froo; we definitely want to stretch and grow as believers and disciples and DOERS of God’s Word … I’m only suggesting that perhaps it does have it’s time and place and shouldn’t be discounted altogether.  :)

  3. Sarah September 6, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    Oh hey, there’s my journal page, all over the Internet. ;)

  4. Live It Today June 12, 2013 at 5:00 am #

    Here is what it comes down to for me.
    I don’t want to live a superficial life. I don’t want to take what I have been given for granted. I don’t want to arrive at the end of my life only to realize I never truly invested in living. I believe everyone has a ‘thing’. That little devil that sits on their shoulder whispering lies that cut them off at the knees before they can take a step. Those lies that bury us in a quagmire of sludge, slowly sucking us down. The voice that tells me I will never be good enough and whatever I do have or achieve, I don’t deserve.

    To be quite honest, it pisses me off! And the more I think about it, maybe I should be pissed off. Maybe I need to be pissed off. How DARE I allow lies to separate me from the path that God has set? How DARE I settle for melancholy and fear? And how DARE I allow this to happen to my children’s mother and my husband’s wife, to MYSELF?

    1 Corinthians 3:16-17-Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

    Satan, I am a child of the LIVING GOD! Who are you compared to that? I have listened to you for long enough. I have awoken from my foggy sleep and I claim my rightful place as a child of God. I am no longer allowing you any foothold and the more you try the more I rely on My Father for guidance and protection. I will no longer succumb to fear, anxiety and self loathing. My past will stay in the past and I walk with my Father into the future. Today I take a stand and I will encourage others to stand with me against your evil words. Your lies retreat into the shadows when the command of my lips begins with, “In the name of Jesus…”. My future belongs to Him and the path I set my feet to, will be with His guidance. The songs of my heart, the words from my lips, the action’s I take, the very air I breath into my lungs will be for Him, because of Him and in honour of Him. Not only for today and tomorrow, but will continue long after the air has left my body and I have passed to dust. And Satan, this is a promise God the Father has made to me, his child, and I DARE you, to try to stand in His way.

    2 Timothy 1:7-For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

    Today I step out of the invisible chains that visibly hold me back. What are the chains that hold you firmly in one place? What lies are whispered in your mind that stop you in your tracks?

  5. Julie R. Neidlinger June 20, 2013 at 10:21 am #

    Found this post from your email that went out today. While it might be old and, as you mentioned, you’ve changed how you think about things, I can still say “yes” to this.

    I was sitting at church, looking at the bulletin, and noticed they had a Manly Man’s meat feed, and a Ladies Luncheon featuring salad.

    I could’ve wept. For non-Manly Men and for women like me who don’t even like salad. Or have kids. Or ever will. Or aren’t married. Or ever will be.

    Just once I’d like to go to a “ladies luncheon” where they gave you a heaping plate of mac and cheese and a twinkie and we didn’t say a thing about kids or being a mom or wife and talked about how to change the oil in my car and how to take an attacker down with a few basic karate moves because that would actually be helpful.

  6. Bombi Ballesteros June 20, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

    Selah

  7. Ben July 23, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

    the “safe place to bitch” comment kinda threw me off, but no worries! I’m not gonna be one of those oversaved people who disregard a powerful message because of something trivial. Good word. I’m off to check out the article about the Overly Manly Men’s ministry.

  8. Shannon July 23, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

    Preach it, sister!! (from a seminarian ;P) I’m on a women’s ministry team and one of my fellow members sent this over. You’ve said exactly what we’ve been thinking and talking about as we revamp our women’s ministry! Thank you for the inspiration.

  9. Ann Messier July 29, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    Sarah if you truly want to get away from the glitz and glamour of American Women’s Ministry, join me in Nicaragua and we can do Women’s Ministry. we don’t have fancy tables, chairs, expensive food and drink but they have real open and receptive hearts to the Gospel of Jesus Christ!! when I come home, it is so hard to compare my church in the states with the ones in Nicaragua. They are plain but yet elegant, the people are poor but rich because they are real and find their treasure in Christ Alone for salvation!! I’ll take Nicaragua any day over the pre-tense of our modern churches! :) If you are interested, http://www.gocrossway.org. My husband and I are missionaries for Nicaragua. :) You can contact me through our website. :) LOok forward to hearing from you. :)

  10. Sarah Grochowski January 25, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

    I am in tears. Thank you.

  11. Sonia March 7, 2014 at 1:04 am #

    Amen sister! The Gospel is not cute, it is serious – it is life and death, we have all been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18) – reconciliation between God and people. We don’t need more recipe books – we need the Word of God! We don’t need knitting needles – we need the Spirit of God! There are people around us broken and hurting – let’s go sisters, reach out and reconcile! Be encouraged – http://www.soniastock.org

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