Navigation

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,

post signature

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
  • http://lublink.org/alison Alison @ Hospitality Haven

    This is amazing.  It’s like you eaves-dropped on a conversation I was having just two days ago.  Amen to all of the above!!

  • http://www.lauraziesel.com Laura Ziesel

    Good grief. THANK YOU. Now, can we please read this to seminarians everywhere? Or maybe they should take a whole class on it, ’cause it doesn’t seem to sink in.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Well, I know one seminarian who read it… ;-) (Great post today about the women who are pregnant. You nailed it.)

  • http://sortacrunchy.net SortaCrunchy

    AMEN. Amen amen amen amen amen amen amen. All of it. Preach.

  • http://www.gatebeautiful.ca bekka

    Loving this.  Thank you for putting it out there.  I am so desperate for community and fellowship that when a friend from “back home” in Maple Ridge recently suggested that a few of us do a long-distance weekly bible study, I was overjoyed.  Now comes the difficult part of picking the topic/method of bible study.  But seriously, in our group so far, there’s a young single woman (desperate to find the husband God has for her), and two other married women, one with kids a little bit older than mine and one without kids at all.  Trying to find something that we can all use and benefit from as a bible study is a little difficult…  Open for suggestions!

    • http://www.livesimplylove.com Merritt

      Have you heard of “Stuck” by Jennie Allen? http://jennieallen.com/stuck.php It’s new, so I haven’t done it yet, but everything I read on her blog makes me want to find a group of women who can be real and jump right in!!

      • http://www.gatebeautiful.ca bekka

        Hey that looks like a fantastic recommendation.  I’m just a little sad that it’s DVD based – we are attempting to do something long-distance.  Only two out of the four of us live close enough that getting together once a week wouldn’t be a problem.  If there were a way to subscribe on-line to view the videos, it might make things a bit easier for us.  I don’t blame you for wanted to find a group of women to get real with, though!

        • Sheleen302

          Don’t let distance stop you-use skype-I’ve been doing long distance Bible study for  3 years.

      • http://twitter.com/gloriafurman Gloria Furman

        Merritt, I was just thinking about Stuck!! Funny how you mentioned it!

      • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

        Oh, that *does* look good.

    • Keri

      I am part of a study that started out just like that. We are all married now, some with kids and some without. We have done a few great studies that we all got a lot out of that were not DVD based…
      No Other Gods by Kelly Minter, Knowing God by Name by Mary Kassian, Feasts (from threadsmedia, guy author, can’t think of his name), Ruth by Kelly Minter.

      • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

        Those all sound fantastic.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      That sounds like a great idea! We can find community in the craziest places – even online or long distance, I know. Wise decision.

    • Heather W

      Hi Bekka – you may have found something by now, but if not, I highly recommend Alicia Britt Chole! She is an amazing mentor and writer. http://www.truthportraits.com. Her 7th year project may just be what you and your friends are looking for. 

  • http://www.idelette.com Idelette

    O, Sarah … I’m sorry you had to endure that. 

    I feel so so blessed by our gathering of women–it’s everything you suggested, actually–the real, raw stuff … I was weeping through most of last Wednesday morning, because it was so raw. One of our girls going through a real tough situation. Some of us shared from the run–just how hard it was, but how Sisterhood and prayer won. Worship. Prayer. A teaching on women who dared take risks, trusting Jesus when our babies are in the reeds. O, so much … But I realize not every gathering of women is like that. I pray we all get there, where our hearts break for the things that break God’s heart.And, thank you for the shout-out … I so treasure your voice.PS: Just about finished reading “Half the Church” based on your recommendation. Important stuff. 

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      I know – LifeWomen is one of the few that I know is different. It makes me sad that I’m too far away to be a part of it. I love each of you and your sisterhood, even the small part that I am of it through SheLoves and Mercy. Glad you’re enjoying Half the Church – it is so important. 

  • Krista

    amen and AMEN! i am proud that the ladies at my church have found a way to turn the decorating/cupcakes/whatever cute things into ways to reach the world for Jesus… but we have a long way to go, fo’ sure.

  • http://corvidarium.blogspot.com/ wendy

    Wow, YES!!!!!!!!!
    This is where I want to be.

  • Jonfroze

    AMEN, sister, amen!  Your words are voice of my heart. 

  • http://www.leighkramer.com/ Leigh Kramer

    Yes, yes. And amen.

  • http://www.thesuburbanmommy.blogspot.com Jennifer Guth

    This desperately needs to be read by my church’s women’s ministry.  Thank you for having the courage to write it.

  • Q.’

    Poet, I want what you want. 

    In almost every church I’ve tried to lead in that kind of ministry, it was rejected by the masses, embraced by the few.  But, we had a GLORIOUS time.

    I like my cupcakes without icing, please. I like women’s ministry the same way. Without the icing. Just give me the Word…..I, too, need Jesus.  Love, Q.’

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      I love you, Q. Thank you for trying.

    • Melissa

      Dear Q, I have tried as well.  And like you said, I was “rejected by the masses, embraced by the few”.  But so was Jesus!  I wipe icing off my cupcakes too…and I have been given a vision by the Lord to share His pure, icing-free TRUTH with the masses anyway! 

  • Tami Terry Martin

    Oh this spoke to me today! I have long since given up finding even one woman with whom to share this kind of community…let alone a whole group. I’d probably think I’d died and gone to heaven if I actually found one! But I will pray for it.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Me, too, Tami.

  • http://www.livesimplylove.com Merritt

    I love this post – I just randomly found your blog and relate to so much of what I’ve already read. Thank you for saying this about women’s ministry. We are capable of so much more!
    Grateful to have happened upon you and just added you to my blogroll!

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Thank you, Merritt – so nice to “meet” you!

  • http://marlataviano.com Marla Taviano

    Thank you, Sarah. I love this. I speak to a lot of women’s groups, and I do my best to bring much of what you’ve said to the table. I’ve found that many, many women are so hungry for something deeper, something beyond themselves, the true gospel–they just need someone to come along and help them realize it. Thanks for being that kind of person.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Thanks, Marla – so glad to see your name here. I’ve been a reader (okay, lurker!) for a while now. So admire you and your heart.

  • http://theoutdoorwife.com Nish Weiseth

    STANDING FREAKING OVATION. 

    Good gracious, I just love you. 

    xo

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Right backatcha.

  • http://learningfromsophie.com/ Laura Anne

    preach it sister!

  • http://thekatiejones.net Katie Jones

    I agree with most everything you write wholeheartedly. The thing I’ve noticed in spending time with college-aged Christian women (I’m 23) is that some of them truly don’t want what we want, the deep down spiritual, theological, prayerful power of true fellowship. There was a time when I lead a women’s group, wanting to take it to this level, but I lost a *lot* of women in the process who really weren’t there for the serious business. I went from about 15 ladies to 2. I wonder, then, is this really what is right? Is it really wrong to maintain a superficial (or what I perceive to be superficial) group dynamic while only occasionally hitting on the “real” stuff?

    I admit my 2-woman group was entirely more fulfilling for me (and the other two) than the 15-woman group, but I wonder if those 13 felt slighted or misunderstood themselves. Some souls just don’t hunger the way mine does, and I wonder if it makes them uncomfortable at the thought that I would expect them to.

    • http://mamacompton.blogspot.com/ Erin

      I agree completely, Katie. I had a similar experience when I took up the young women’s ministry at my church a few years ago. I attempted authenticity but it tended to be undermined by those few who truly did not want to be there or wanted to remain on the surface. It was frustrating and hurtful, both to me, and to those that were craving close fellowship. Since then I’ve only done a lesson here and there at ladies’ retreats and meetings but I’ve been met with mixed response. Some women really love how I present challenging and heartfelt group discussions, others just resist to stay in the shallows. It can be very discouraging.

      • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

        It is frustrating and hurtful, Erin, I agree. I sometimes wonder if we set up the leaders to fail because of that surface approach and expectation. I thank you though on behalf of all the women represented here for it.

      • Joyce

         One way to avoid this is to have a special women’s ministry (apart from the regular “all-church” women’s events) for those who want to go deeper.  My pastor’s wife had a heart for just what Sarah is talking about, and she started a once-a-week women’s small group meeting where women signed a covenant at the beginning of the year (to commit to coming every week, if at all possible, and to commit to NOT share publicly what was shared within the group).  There was in-depth Bible study, sharing and prayer, and it was a 1-year commitment.  She wrote the Bible studies herself, because at that time (15 years ago) there just wasn’t much out there for women that really dug deep (beyond “Sunday School answers”)– I think there’s a lot more now!  :)  In just a few years, it had gotten to the point that hundreds of women from the church were involved in these small groups (about 5-7 women per group), willing to make the commitment to “go deep.”  A women’s mentorship program was set up in the church.  Real discipleship was happening.  I liked that each year the commitment was for ONE year– not forever.  And each fall, you could choose as a group to continue with the same people, or to get to know another small group of women from the church (and the community!  women from other churches, or no church, began to join).  I have since gone into full-time missions, but I’m thrilled whenever I come back on furlough to see that the women’s ministry is continuing– and it’s about heart-level service, not home decorating.  :)  So women who want to go deep can do so, but there are still annual women’s retreats and monthly women’s events for those who aren’t ready for that level of commitment.

        • Melissa

          Oh Joyce–THANK YOU for this comment!  I was forced to stop a Bible study and it was the beginning of something like this mentioned in your comment!  You have given me GREAT ideas toward fulfilling what the Lord has told me to teach to women…and all to go deeper in fellowship and study of Him!  I’m curious…is there any way I might contact your pastor’s wife who did this???  I’d love to gain wisdom in getting started!  This is my passion–and women’s retreats just don’t do it for me or many other women I’ve spoken to!

    • http://somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

      @google-53043438de02d27887cd22a6953e7eea:disqus  i definitely agree.  i’ve been in a mother’s group at church and many bristle against going deeper.  they come to chat and have little interest in digging in.  after 3 years, i’m moving on, because even after serving on leadership for 2 years, i’ve made few friends and it’s not stretching my faith.  often the status quo exists because women don’t want anything different.

      maybe we just need to be clear about purpose and stop trying the one-size-fits-all approach.

      • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

        That’s a good point, Suzannah – being clear about our purpose.

        • http://somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

          my husband i were talking about this tonight.  so often we want things to be what they aren’t ever meant to be.  if we aren’t aware of–or communicating–our purpose well, we’re setting everyone up for dissatisfaction.  a ministry/event can rarely be about evangelism and discipleship at the same time.  if the point is evangelism, great! but where/how are we actively making disciples?

          when it comes to fellowship, we could all be stretched to dig deeper, because it is so. much. more. than coffee hour.  then where do worship and service fit? we should cover our bases but not in one fell swoop.

          thank you for igniting this fabulous discussion!

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      That’s a fair question, Katie. If someone does not hunger for Jesus, then what? I don’t know. And I’m glad you stuck with your 2-person group because, truthfully, it’s only when the crowd thins that real relationship happens. It just might not have been the season for it for the other 13, I guess.

      I will say that I don’t think that college-aged women aren’t as passionate about this. It was when I was in university that I first met women like this and formed these types of relationships (many of which are still in my life today). And then through our years of youth and college pastoring, I foudn the same thing – deeply wondering, passionate, committed, radical people that loved Jesus and wanted more of his life in them. They inspired me – still do, in fact. I suppose it just depends on the person and the place where we are at. 

      • http://www.redeemingthetable.com/ Kamille Scellick

        Sarah, I agree with you.  When I was apart of college ministry, and had college students over to my home, I see a hunger.  Some people we need to dig deeper.  Some people have never been given opportunity to be heard or encouraged or loved.  They don’t know how to share.  Maybe they feel the fight has fizzled.  They feel they don’t have much to offer.  

        That said, it is not our job to change lives or hearts.  Jesus had many followers & they would leave after the “ooo’s” & “aww’s” got old to them.  It was like a magic show that lost it’s appeal, but the people were missing the point.  I know that the only thing I can do is keep choosing to live present with the people I encounter & simply be myself.  All of me.  

    • Katie

      May I suggest–and I know I’m late to the party here–that it might not have been you. It might not even have been that those women didn’t want to “go deeper” or that they wanted to stay in the shallows. It might just be that it’s not their personalities.

      That is–I’m a severe introvert. And being expected to share something deep and meaningful with people who aren’t in my inner trust circle is, quite frankly, terrifying. I can barely manage to say hello to someone in person without stammering and blushing. And though I hate to sit in the shallows, though I want to grapple with deep theological issues (and I do, in my head, or online where it’s safe), I have no voice to join such a conversation.

      And though I would love nothing more than to sit and listen in on your conversation, to turn the thoughts over in the quiet of my mind until that point where maybe familiarity and trust can overcome that shyness–how weird is that? How would you react to someone sitting in on such conversations but never joining? How do the people who do share and discuss feel to have a lurker at the end of the table? And well-meaning, they try and draw me in and I’m paralyzed. I can’t do that. It is not how I’m made. And then everyone feels uncomfortable and it’s just better if I leave.

      I don’t know if that makes any sense at all, just–even people who crave the same end result may not be able to use the same process to get them.

      • thekatieajones

        Thanks, Katie. This is what I had suspected about some ladies in the study. People have entirely different ways of processing and interacting. I had one good friend who never spoke in Bible study, but I know she thoroughly enjoyed it and spent time meditating on the lesson even beyond that and brought up the topics covered in conversations with me on occasion. It’s true that I can’t fully understand that mindset, as I am an extroverted processor, but I’ve come to understand that it just comes down to people being different.

        I don’t like how the Bible study atmosphere can become so demanding on everyone to actively participate. My sister/best friend is the quite introverted observer type as well, and she’s told me how paralyzing that can be in a social setting. I get it. Please don’t let it be an uncomfortable thing for you. Hopefully others will develop a little understanding.

  • http://frugaltrophywife.com Brooke F

    i feel so out of place at my church.  in the young marrieds i’m the only non-mommy or mommy to be.  i get so frustrated thinking something much be wrong with me.  i can’t join a conversation because i can’t talk about feedings, diapers, or school.  i’m thankfully for Godly friends who’ll challenge me (who attend different churches, but happen to also be mommies).  i’m also thankful that i’m not a mom out of choice, not out of medical impossibility. i don’t know how those women who desperately want kids but can’t have them stand it.

    • pltk

      As a women with 3 young kids, I still get sick of all the conversations about kids, about school, about projects, about cooking, about fashion, etc etc etc. At our small community group I used to get so bored and then hung out with the men (what’s with all the gender segregation in church too!) but then figured out how much a freak that made me… 

      • http://frugaltrophywife.com Brooke F

        yeah  – i quickly learned that talking sports with the guys doesn’t go over well with their wives.

      • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

        Yep – it’s fun to talk kids sometimes, but other times, well, it’s not. I know.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VKKW4FMZTENT5IQE4CL2SJTYIA Kelly

      I feel exactly the same way. My church has a very active Mothers Of Preschoolers group, which is wonderful… if you’re the mother of a preschooler.  Our pastor has been preaching a sermon series to different “generations” for the past month, and every comment to or about “young women” (whom he defined as women under 40) assumes that ALL of us are in MOPs. My husband and I were considering joining this church but decided against it because we are starting to feel so excluded for not having children. I don’t know where we’ll end up. I wish we hadn’t moved so far away from our previous church. It integrated people from all ages and stages of life into rigorous Bible study and real fellowship.

      • http://frugaltrophywife.com Brooke F

        finding a church is so difficult, i don’t want to rule one out for this reason – but if the pastor spoke that way from the pulpit i can see why you would!  thankfully mine is limited to social functions.

      • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

        That would make me feel excluded as well. It’s hard when it’s the biggest representation of your age group and so the pastor is trying to speak to generalities. Your previous church sounds like a reason to keep hope alive though –  love to hear about churches doing it well.

    • lindseyfoj

      I am one of those women who is 33 with no children yet, although we have been trying for over 3 years, and I honestly have been hurt and slighted on more than one occasion by well-intentioned women whose world and dynamic is currently focused on their own 3 square feet.  How do I stand it? Well, honestly…some days I don’t…and I just avoid people.  But others, I just ask God to help me to give to them, to other women what I need, even when I don’t know where it will come from – mostly I ask Him for a heart of grace because I know I so desperately need it.  With those thoughts in mind, a woman of 3 has been putting together a women’s night out that I have been invited to this month – no men, no kids, just the ladies, and I am SO NERVOUS. I actually went on Facebook to see all of the women who were invited to see if I was the only one WITHOUT a baby because I didn’t want to get lost in that ocean and feel that I was drowning, so while I want to go SO MUCH because I LOVE BEING with girlfriends…I don’t know yet, if I can do it.  {sigh} Only grace….

      • http://frugaltrophywife.com Brooke F

        i’ll be praying for you.  i’m sorry you have to walk through this without the support of your church family.

      • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

        I love your heart, Lindsey. Thank you for sharing so openly here. The hurts are usually unintended but it doesn’t make them sting any less, does it? bless you, friend.

    • http://somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

      @BrookeF:disqus  i AM a mom and have very little interest in talking about those things, either (which perhaps is why MOPS has not been a fantastic fit.)  i was talking with two women in their 50s about this last night, and it seems that demographic is less unifying than we’re led to believe.  people who want to talk story and ideas and passion will always have a hard time connecting with those who are more interested in bags or vacations or diapers.

      so sorry you’ve felt excluded.  i think sometimes moms are so hungry for adult contact we’ve forgotten what it means to be a real friend.

      • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

        Your last line there, Suzannah, probably hits the nail on the head way more than you imagine. We are hungry for adult contact. We don’t have any one to even chit-chat with – like most people do at the office – so sometimes, you do just want to talk fashion or baking or kids stuff. And that feels like water to a thirsty soul! Lord knows I do that all the time with my friends. I don’t see anything wrong with that in the least and I think it’s a blessing that we can provide that for one another in church community. I suppose it’s more when it’s the pulpit topic or the only focus for the whole group that I lose my way. But good point, indeed.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      I am so sorry, Brooke. My heart is with you on this – even as I talk about diapers and feedings to much! 

  • http://shelaughsatthedays.net carrien-she laughs at the days

    Oh good, you wrote it. :)

    It is my experience that true community is a rare thing in the church because few are willing to stick around long enough in relationships to be sharpened, pressed, molded, and made to look more like the true body. That’s uncomfortable. Some seem to prefer sitting around talking about cupcakes.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      That’s a good point. We need to stick around and do the hard work of relationship.

  • http://perichoreticlife.blogspot.com/ Michael Thompson

    While we’re at it, the men could do a little more than eat pancakes together once a month. Just sayin’…

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Seriously! Don’t even get me started about MMA and war metaphors. But stay tuned – I asked a guy friend to do a mens’ ministry guest post that will be up tomorrow.

  • Beccanmast

    So true! The desire of my heart is to be known and seen and loved. Why must it be so difficult to do that as a church family?

  • http://modernmrsdarcy.com Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    Yes.  Yes yes yes yes.  Thanks for this.  Subscribing now :)

  • http://bahava.wordpress.com Katy

    amen and amen!

  • http://dramaticelegance.blogspot.com Rachel

    this made me shout “YES” so loudly that my dear hubby jumped and asked me what i was so excited about. i then read it to him aloud. <3

    bless you for this truth. 

  • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

    I want real!  Yes!
    I feel like I made everyone uncomfortable at small group last night when I brought up our son who died.  the topic of discussion was hope found when dreams are broken.  It seemed the right time to talk about it.  But, people seemed confused what to do when I shared my own story & not some story of a friend of a friend.

    • http://twitter.com/paigeszajnuk Paige Szajnuk

      Wow, Erin. It seems like same story second verse right here on this blog. No offense meant to anyone who commented, but no one has replied to you. Hmmmm.
      I want to tell you that I’m so very sorry your son died. I’ve heard it is the hardest grief to bear in life. I’ve never had children myself, but I have four step-sons and know how precious they are to my husband.
      I also want to tell you that I’m glad you found hope when your dreams were broken. I am thankful to our Heavenly Father that you are active in a small group and willing to open up and honestly share what was on your heart. It takes strength and courage to become vulnerable in that way and I’m sure your strength and courage came from many tearful prayers and sleepless nights. Good for you for not giving up on life. Good for you for not giving up on God. Good for you for not giving up on sharing – both in your small group and on this blog.
      You are in my prayers.

      • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

        Thank you for your kind heart, Paige. For taking time to read and acknowledge Erin and bless her story. I appreciate it as well.

      • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

        Bless you, Paige, for your strong encouragement to me!  And, for praying for me!  
        After I wrote this comment, I kept thinking about it.  I regretted being so quick to not offer grace to my new church community.  I know that people who are at a loss for words, are not necessarily people who don’t care.  Would you pray for me to know how to have the grace & courage to share my story, as the opportunities arise?

    • http://modernmrsdarcy.com Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

      Erin, I’m so sorry about your son, and goodness, that has to hurt to receive a confused response. 

      Our child had cancer several years ago.  One day everything was fine, and with very little warning our family was plunged into another world of illness and doctors and travels to far-off hospitals and dire uncertainty about  how things would come out, and I was hugely pregnant at the time.  My women’s group at church was INCREDIBLE through all this.  My own immediate crisis forced me to be “real” and brought out the best (well, mostly) in those around me.

      It makes me so sad to reflect now on how that tight circle of ladies I had around me has dispersed across the country.  I’ve not found replacements for them yet in my life. 

      I wonder what your experience was like with the circumstances surrounding your own loss.  In my (definitely limited) experience, the status quo brings out the ho-hum in us, but emergencies can evoke love, trust and compassion.  They don’t always, but the potential is there and more eager to spring to life. 
       

      • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

        That is a beautiful story within a sad one, Anne (same name as my daughter! Love.). A gift to have friendship in that way. You are right on – when things are fine, we’re all fine and surfacey but when someone has a need, we’re usually good to step up and be present. “A more eager to spring to life” – love that phrase. Thanks for sharing this with us.

      • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

        Anne, thank you!  
        I am so sorry to hear of your family being touched with cancer.  Wow!  Life can be so hard.  
        But I too have had so much love & care poured out on my, when I was walking through the deepest valley of losing our son.  So many people were SO amazing.
        I find it is hard as the years go by, & we are in a new church community, to know how to be real about our story.  In truth, I myself am confused as to what to say to people sometimes.  So, I understand how people don’t know what to say to me.  I have been thinking long about my comment that I initially made the other night & regret being so short on grace to my small group.   I am praying that I will have the courage & the grace to keep moving forward in being real within this group.  And I pray others feel welcomed to share their own story, too.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      A bit too close for comfort always, isn’t it? People like a bit of separation with the too-raw experiences. You are always a blessing to me, friend and I am thankful for your voice in my life, to challenge and to encourage, to ask me hard questions and be loving as well. 

  • http://www.thealmons.com/ccblog C.C. @ I’m On My Way

    Sarah, you have reached into my heart, my mind, my soul and said the words that I am living. I want these things so much. But I have not found them. We recently relocated back to my “hometown” and are living with my parents. I’ll be 34 on Tuesday. I never thought I’d be living back at home. But we are here and in this little town, we feel so lost, so alone, we are searching for our place, our community, those who will journey with us, but thus far, our search has been for naught. You’re not alone and I know I’m not either. I just want some people, especially some women, to walk this journey with me and my family. I continue to pray that we’ll find that community to journey with us and that you will as well.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Praying for you as well, CC. Blessings.

  • http://sacredeveryday.ca/ Jenn

    Yes and amen! 

    I just wish I could find the women who want this, it seems so many people really are just happy with the other stuff. 

  • Lisa Pippus

    This is SO GOOD.  After being raised in the church, indoctrinated into women’s only events early in life, I’ve wondered at times if we were ever going to talk about real things there.  And so I love this, and I’m linking to it from my blog, and sharing it with everyone I know, in the hopes of challenging all of us (including myself) to be that community of women you closed this piece by describing – one that sharpens, challenges and loves deeply!

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Thanks, Lisa – I appreciate that! So glad to know that there are more of us, too!

  • Sarah C.

    Amen and Amen! I used to beg my dad to take me to men’s prayer breakfasts and retreats (which of course he wouldn’t). Even as a kid I could see it. 

    Thank you, Sarah!

  • the Sooz

    Aaahh.  I miss you.  The end.

  • Jenn

    Um… do you mind if I just copy & paste then put my signature at the end and send it to our ladies ministry leader? :) Well said.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Ha! That would take guts, indeed!

  • http://moonchild11.wordpress.com Sarah Moon

    Right on! 

  • Christy

    This I love!  I want this!  I want to implement this, but I haven’t the least idea of how to get something going.   

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      I think we are all wondering that now that we know we’re not alone. I’m still thinking that through as well.

  • Katie

    this post got me all excited and fired up!!!  but now what??!!!  If you’re starting a new women’s ministry group please sign me up!  For real!  I’ll be there!  

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Well, thanks for the vote of confidence! :-)

  • Deborah

    Brilliant. Just brilliant. I kind of refuse to go to these types of functions.

  • mundanemusings

    This has been my heart for years. And I tried. Oh, how I tried. As a young pastors’ wife (I can still say young, right?), I had hopes and dreams of a group that created community – that helped women find their tribe. Where relationships could be based on more than just surface level niceness and tea sandwiches. I’m hungry for it myself. 

    I’m over the “stuffiness” of women’s meetings that spend more time on trying to help people save money or parent their kids or be a better friend or be a better wife or be more disciplined with their time.

    Because the answer to ALL of those things is JESUS! We need more Jesus. If we have more Jesus, and strive for more on top of that and then keep pushing for even more, everything else works out.

    Unfortunately, my group I started was over-run with ladies who always attended everything. A lot of blue haired ladies – some of which have AMAZING STORIES that need to be heard. But couldnt’ be because they can’t get a word in edgewise. And the few younger ladies that did come out were so disillusioned by “women’s ministries” (just as I am – but I still hold out hope for something new, something different) that they came once or twice and were just done with Sister Bossy-pants and her complaints of “We’ve never done it this way before.”

    We have a new word in our house. Lots of changes going on and they can be unsettling. But all changes aren’t good or bad. They’re “DIFFERENT”. And soemtimes different is just what is needed.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      I just love you, Bek. You totally get what I meant. Thank you!

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.net Shannon McKee

    Sarah, I have never been to your blog before. Came because a friend shared this post on FB. I just love the things your share here. It’s so easy to get off track in terms of things we’re offering at church. Jesus gets lost in the mix somehow. Sadly, too, the more time we spend creating our “own” cooking classes and scrapbook clubs, the less time we spend at the ones offered in the community with people who might need to rub up against a grace-dweller and find water for their thirsty souls, as well.  

    • Jennifer

      Your last line is oh-so-true.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      I couldn’t agree more, Shannon. That is a whole other aspect of the ghetto, for sure. Very good point to make for us all.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7OORE7LYSCICBHUFC3PEX3OXYU Callie

    You just can’t stop can you?  You have to go and make me cry at least once a week it seems!  Amazing post, let’s pray for each other that we find more of that authenticity and depth we’re seeking.

  • KDS

     “But I’m here with you tonight because I want what the world cannot give me.” says it all that is why we should have church, go to church & serve in church, not all the other fluff!

  • KatR

    Yes. And you can’t be damaged. Every story has to be a victory. God has to be making your life pink and pretty and Hello Kitty.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Yes, that, too. 

  • http://www.stephaniessmith.com Stephanie S. Smith

    I laughed out loud when I read this, and then it made me want to dance :) I was a Women’s Ministry major in college. I was expected in my coursework to learn how to do women’s ministry in a church context, almost exclusively, which is not what I wanted to do. I was afraid of the tea party/Bible Study/Girl’s Night Outs and know that if it’s not my thing, it probably isn’t for other women, either. Most women’s Sunday school classes and events I’d ever been to were nightmares. 

    I was required to do an internship for my major, and somehow worked it out to manipulate internship curriculum that was designed for women in American church ministry into an internship spent in Amsterdam near the red light district working in a hostel ministry. You can imagine the learning gap. But I experienced there a ‘women’s ministry’ that was unscripted…that was cultivated out of friendships with travelers in the hostel cafe, hugging a Somali refugee woman on finding her son still alive because we don’t have another way to communicate, and cooking dinners together with lost girls and learning their stories.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      That is absolutely brilliant. Thank you so much for this comment. Great insight – and I love your heart!

  • http://www.socialmedium.com/ Jason

    A-Freaking-Men! Will you please move to Austin and be friends with my wife?

    • jamie k

      jason- if you are talking about austin tx- i live in austin :) we just moved here and i love this post sarah just talked about….

      • http://www.socialmedium.com/ Jason

        Indeed I’m referring to Austin, TX. Where’d you move from? My wife is actually newly involved in a women’s ministry at our new church and she enjoys parts of it. Our last church was a small church plant that didn’t have such a ministry so it’s taken her a lot of willpower to go to this new one.

        If you’re new enough to this area and want to get to know some other peeps, head over to my wife’s blog and leave a comment somewhere – http://www.thinkliz.com. We’re always open to meeting new people!

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Ha! (I love Austin. One of my favourite American cities by far. We lived for a time in New Braunfels just down the road and I always yearned for Austin. Best city in Texas.)

  • http://ontoberlin.blogspot.com Hannah Mudge

    *cheering and clapping; standing ovation*

    This post sums up what I have discussed with a few women online in the past and what I have also discussed with women from church I am friends with. Particularly THIS:

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

    I do not want to go to a women’s conference where everything is pink and decorated with flowers and butterflies because I am 27 years old, not five. I do not care about eating chocolate and getting a manicure and being ‘pampered’. I don’t want to hear platitudes and saccharine ‘wisdom’ about doing the housework and making my husband’s dinner dressed up as ‘teaching’. I want to learn, to not be patronized, to be treated like an intelligent adult and to use my skills.

    This is why I tend not to go to these sort of events. It’s a good job there is stuff out there which is NOT like this, but sadly I think it’s what churches default to when putting on events for women.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Your comment here made me laugh and cheer, too! Right on, sister!

  • Sarah Schmunk

    I just want to hug you…then take you to church with me. Our women’s ministry is exactly what you described you’re looking for. I am so thankful for that and love it! I hope that you can find what you need. Or make it happen yourself. Obviously, you can see it’s needed with so many women agreeing with you. 

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Praise God for that! It gives us all hope to know that it’s out there!

  • http://twitter.com/Beccabumps Becca Byass

    Bloody brilliant!!!  

    I am a cupcake decorating, full-time mum/housekeeper and I want into -that- community.   I want to be able to trust other women not to hate me for my successes and condemn me for my weakness.  I want it to be OK that I am intelligent, deep-thinking and opinionated alongside my willingness to fill a gap and bounce and enthuse in Sunday School.  I want to talk politics (so much so I’ve just started an MA in Theology and Politics) and I would love to be able to do that with other women and not to have it gasped or giggled off as though I was a bra-burning oddball for doing so.   (If anything, I need the support too much to do any bra burning – they’re expensive!)   I want my ministry to be important, even if I haven’t pursued ordination yet and I’m not a man and my husband is (oddly!?!) and I want that ministry to be recognised to be as much about change, challenge and leadership as his is  

    Thank you!! 

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      That is such a great comment, Becca. I would *love* to have you over for supper one night to hear more about your experiences and education.  And yes, me, too. I”m actually in that stage of life as well – young mum, wife, homemaker – hell, I even knit! But yes, me too!

  • http://www.nicoleunice.com/blog Nicole

    do you know how many times I have said “I don’t want a bible study that’s pink or has flowers on the cover!?!” Thanks, sister, you are not alone. And as a women’s director (yes, I decided to TAKE the role), I’ve found that I need more authenticity AND more grace, room for all kinds of women. I just prayed for you as you continue to seek a place within the church to be fully, gloriously you.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Good for you, Nicole! so thankful for women like oyu in the church, particularly in a leadership role.

  • http://soulformation.wordpress.com/ Matthew Green

    Bravo!

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/X2MF7YIYWACZGIJWJVRIZG2F4I Patricia

    Can we also stop playing middle school social politics? With popular/wealthy/elitists in the top tier, the wannabe suck-ups just below them, the guilted-into-working-programs slaves, and the outcasts with the obvious-but-unsaid “You just don’t fit in, dear.” Can we acknowledge the casualties for who -and why – they are, and why some of us are really leaving churchianity?

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Seriously. (I love that term churchianity – I’ve used it for years. So descriptive! I think I picked it up from the Internet Monk years ago. I still miss him.)

  • http://greenchestnuts.blogspot.com Aydan Selby

    I really enjoyed this. I’m always wary of gender-segregated ministries in the first place, but this is the first description I’ve ever read of a women’s ministry that actually sounded appealing.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Yes, gender segregation is a worthwhile question. I know several couples who refuse to participate in them because they like to do Bible studies *together* with others so that they can walk through those questions and ideas together. 

  • http://wilsonwanderings.wordpress.com/ Anne Wilson

    PREACH IT!

  • Amanda Henson

    One word, and appropriately, AMEN.

  • Jo Malone

    Looks like there’s enough women here to start a good group of like-minded searching souls. If we all lived in the same town, can you imagine? So, who’s willing to start up a facebook group :o)

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Ha! No kidding!

  • http://theartofsimple.net/ Tsh Oxenreider

    You took the words out of my mouth. Thank you for this. Now I can send people to your post instead of writing my own.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Glad to be of service (P.S. I adore you.).

  • Barbara Sidwell

    Wow. My tears surprised me as I read this. I often feel displaced in the world of women’s ministry and helpless in changing it; I’ve been shot down every time I’ve tried to start a real theological discussion. And for some of us in our mid-late 20s, unmarried with no children, we feel a bit lost as to where we belong in church ministry. Thank you for sharing!

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Blessings, Barbara – thank you. 

  • sewildman

    Amen. We are dying around each other and we need to be vulnerable and be okay with it so that we can live.

  • Joyful

    Seriously.  If I hear any more talk about women being “flowers that God wants to open” (puke) I will, well…puke.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Ha! Well, then I’ll avoid the analogy about womens’ ministry being a flower God wants to open… ;-)

  • http://profiles.google.com/leahcadieux Leah Cadieux

    Sounds terrible.  I am lucky enough to have a community that is so real, I can’t really relate to this but in my experience - to all the women out there suffering though this – start your own group – cupcakes optional – Jesus will show up along with real life, and a real mission to spread some love to the hurting :)

  • Jessea Knight

    OH YEAH! GO GIRL! Bring on the real thing!

  • Bshaw49

    Well i wish i had said that..got my heart thumping. a whole generations seperates us and this was the way for us as well.you keep that up Sarah and we may see change!! you go girl !!

  • michelle

    Amen. You have just articulated why I HATE going on any women’s retreats or women’s church get togethers. I pray that more churches start to understand that women are not just interested in glitter and glue.

  • http://ramonawritesagain.com/ Ramona

    A-MEN! (And A-Women, if that could be a word!)

  • http://journeysofachurchplanterswife.wordpress.com camryn

    I absolutely LOVE this and couldn’t agree more!  This is a very well-articulated commentary on what I believe many women feel in the Church today.  Well said and thanks for saying it!

  • Sarah in GA

    i love what you wrote here.  but – must add – that i have learned if you want this kind of community you need to be part of creating it. a few years ago i was fed up with the lack of depth in my friendships with other women. i complained about it alot and god said to me, “well, what are you doing about it?” so i started a bible study, and the women who came had the same desires for deep, authentic community as me. i am so thankful that i took that step.
    so now, when a woman comes to me and complains about something that is or isn’t happening in the women’s ministry i listen, and then i ask “what have you done (in love and good faith)  to try and change it?”

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      That’s a very fair question, Sarah. I know you know me and my heart so that’s very fair. I suppose I was looking at the bigger picture. I do feel I experience and work for deep, authentic community both in church and outside of it. But even this – my writing, this rant of a post – is part of what I’m trying to do to change it.

  • Val

    As a pw who has tried multiple times to start a women’s bible study, I feel your pain.  I have tried multiple times, in multiple churches to start a women’s bible study where we could come together and be real.  But there is where the problems lies – most women that came didn’t want to be real, they didn’t want to study the bible.  They wanted the cupcakes, the decorating tips, a place to discuss work, husbands & kids – not  Jesus.  I have been invited to other bible studies in ladies home from other churches only to find the same.  I feel as if I am starving.    If you truly desire this – I encourage you to start a group and do it.   I would love to be there.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      I know you have, Val. I love you and your tirelessness.

  • norma j hill

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!  Does this mean I’m not the only one?  Thank you!  It almost makes me want to take a chance on WM again … Can’t you just see me rushing in, waving an armful of copies of this and shoving one into the hands of every lady there, smushing her delightful cupcake in my enthusiasm!  Oh dear…  LOL

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      That picture just made me chuckle, all right! Ha, ha!

  • http://bickleyhouse.wordpress.com/ Jeff Bickley

    That was truly marvelous.  I bet you don’t get invited to the next salad supper.  LOL…  Seriously, though, even though I’m not a woman, I agree with you 100%.  It’s one reason my wife doesn’t get involved in many womens’ ministries.  She has more important things to do than make cupcakes.

  • http://2sweetthings.blogspot.com Mandy

    Love this. As someone who feels truly called to reach women as ministry, I whole heartedly agree. Thanks for writing this!

  • http://commonhousehold.blogspot.com/ Common Household Mom

    Yes! I agree!   But in my experience, the ‘lady over there who brought the apples’ does not want to speak into the microphone and tell about her experiences.

  • http://www.terilynneunderwood.com/ TeriLynneU

    I want so badly to leave a profound comment but the only word in my mind is YES!

  • Gretchen from Lifenut

    This was fantastically written and I applaud you. I’ve been involved in the type of ministry you described, but I sort of expected them to bring in a lady to teach us how to knit and a lady to talk about potty training. They were never advertised as anything more. 

    The key is to find kindred spirits as you fumble around with yarn. You can tell while you talk and listen. You can watch for the raised eyebrows or the books she brings to the swap. I have a Bible study with 3 friends I met at MOPS. We go deep and meet on our own every other Tuesday night. We even booked an alternative retreat. The same weekend the other ladies from our church are going on their big retreat, we are having our own. Just the 4 of us. 

    You have to create what you crave. Traditional retreats drove each of us crazy, so we made our own. 

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Yes – loved this comment! You can find kindred spirits in all places. Create what you crave. Good word.

  • http://howtotalkevangelical.addiezierman.com/ Addie Zierman

    Love. It always seems so odd to me how women, who in any other arena of life are great at building and sustaining authentic relationships, seem to only graze the surface at church. What is it about church itself and women’s ministries specifically that makes us so afraid?

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      I don’t know – that’s a great question, Addie. I’ll be wondering about that. Is it because in church we feel like we need to act like we ahve it all together? Perpetuate the machine?

      • Rebecca

        I definitely think that is part of it.  So many feel that pressure to look the way a ‘christian’ should look and appear ‘godly’.  Especially if you grow up in church you often learn very well that there is a way you should act in order to play your role in your nice christian family and not embarrass your parents who are putting on their nice church act.  The shame associated with not meeting the standard can be extreme.  Unfortunately those patterns do pass down and I know I learned them well.  So well that for a long time I really thought I was just always fine…I got lots of praise for being so joyful and content.  I couldn’t have been real if I wanted to.  Well, lucky for me Christ eventually cracked through all that and I got to see the reality.  Definitely painful at the time but totally worth it.  Now I want nothing more than to enjoy, know and grow in Jesus.  However, would you believe that I am still less comfortable being real at church than anywhere else other than my parents’ home?  Those old associations can take a very long time to heal.  I have a friend with similar background and she wants to have a relationship with Jesus, but can’t even go into a church building because she has panic attacks. 
        Ladies, keep praying that God will allow you to see even the shallowest women at your church through His grace.  Sometimes those who look the most perfect have the greatest scars and need for healing.  But still don’t be afraid to go after the deep community you need.

  • Jamie

    I generally agree, and am pained to hear how many other women feel unfulfilled by the women’s ministries they have experienced.  However, I want to challenge the strict dichotomy between the ‘worldy’ focus on aesthetics, food, and all things material and the ‘deeply spiritual’ focus on Jesus and theology.  Dare I suggest that making beautiful cupcakes for the women at church can be a spiritual act?  That young mothers discussing diapers and children and how to capture their lives in a scrapbook can be a celebration of life and honoring to Jesus?  Yes, there is a place for intense Bible study, but there is a place for other kinds of relating in community, too.  And I think the strongest community has both.  A sacramental view of the world brings Jesus to bear on all aspects of our life, not just those considered deep or painful or spiritual or smart.  In my current place in life as a mother of young children, I identify most with Jesus when I’m waking up for the fifth time at night to nurse my son, or celebrating with my daughter as she learns to use the toilet independently, or trying to answer the 18th ‘why’ question in a row.  These might not seem like spiritual acts at first glance, but being genuinely loving, joyful, patient, and serving in the mundane moments is the most challenging and consuming thing I’ve ever done, and is making me more like Jesus than anything else in my life right now. 

    • Heidi

      I came here to say something similar.  What I have a problem with
      when it comes to people who complain about the church is that 99% of the
      time they are not the ones willing to change it. Typically, leadership
      is doing the best they can, with what they’ve got. Don’t want
      potlucks, women’s retreats, and craft fairs…then don’t go. And then,
      instead of writing a blog about your complaints, organize and lead a
      Bible study or prayer group the way you want it. Because the truth of
      the matter is…everyone if filled in different ways and maybe those
      crafty women are able to “connect” around scrapbooks and scones. Maybe
      those “famous” speakers have something worth hearing to those whose
      hearts are not jaded. Maybe that big church you’re in wouldn’t feel so
      big…IF you did your part connect with others on a deeper level. It’s
      ok…I was guilty of this too, until I realized it was ME…not THEM
      that was the problem. *Off my soapbox*

      • Jemelene

        I am not hearing Sarah say to banish these things altogether. I am hearing her say that many of us are crying out to focus on something deeper. To take our women’s ministries to a deeper level. I hear her saying that we have so much to offer from within that by constantly looking outside we are missing what we have in front of us. What I don’t hear is her “complaining” and I certainly have known her long enough to know that she DOES want a change.

        As the mother of a young bride and the wife of a pastor, I see the need for our younger women to find a place that they can seek the Lord on a deep level. True, you can get to know those things through all of the above mentioned activities but I hear Sarah and other young mothers saying that they want and need more. They don’t NEED the externals to bring them in, they just need something substantial when they get there. If those needs were being met through those activities, there wouldn’t be an issue. There wouldn’t be an argument.
        I attended a “Keepers of the Home” event several years ago where they were discussing organization. I so desperately wanted to bless my husband by learning how to organize my home. Instead, I was the only one who was disorganized, the rest were there to complain about their families and ask advice on how to “make them” keep things the way she wanted it. I walked away feeling discouraged and defeated. I don’t want that for other women. I want a place where everyone (especially the Lord) is welcome to come, simply to draw closer to our Saviour and eachother.

        • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

          Thank you, Mama Jem. Love you and your understanding of my heart.

      • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

        Thanks, Heidi – I did address this just above to another commenter but in case you don’t come back, I’ll just repeat myself so that you can see it. “Great point, Jamie and I am in complete agreement with you. My heart was not to challenge the work itself. After all, I love many of those practices myself. And I find God in all of them. There isn’t a line between sacred and secular in Christ. I probably should have made that more clear. Thanks for pointing that out. I do try to communicate that truth in all of my other writing and so assumed it was  a “given” to my readers but obviously wasn’t expecting quite so many new faces. Thank you!”

    • http://simply-rea.blogspot.com Rea

      I agree…I think that the truth it is doesn’t need to be ‘either/or’, it can be ‘both/and’. Yes, if all you are doing is scrapbook parties and cupcake decorating and never going anywhere with it you probably aren’t meeting the needs of every woman. But there are also some of us who need to dip our toes into the water with a non-threatening activity before we are comfortable with something deeper.

      But then, our church only does about one women’s activity a year. And right now our women’s Bible study is going over Greg Boyd’s ‘Is God to Blame?’ book. No flowers, no fluff, and VERY real. I like a balance of substance with a little fluff thrown in every now and then.

      • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

        That’s a great book to tackle! Love it.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Great point, Jamie and I am in complete agreement with you. My heart was not to challenge the work itself. After all, I love many of those practices myself. And I find God in all of them. There isn’t a line between sacred and secular in Christ. I probably should have made that more clear. Thanks for pointing that out. I do try to communicate that truth in all of my other writing and so assumed it was  a “given” to my readers but obviously wasn’t expecting quite so many new faces. Thank you!

  • http://www.girlwithblog.com/ Anna R.

    A-freaking-MEN. Thank you for putting into words what I’ve felt, but couldn’t articulate. You do that for me often.

  • Kendall

    This is amazing. I haven’t been able to articulate my frustration with women’s ministries in the church. Yes, I am married, but I have no intention of being a mother. I get so tired of hearing, “Oh, don’t say you’ll NEVER be a mother. You never know what God has for you.” Really? What about my longing to do something huge and powerful for His kingdom? What about my urge to shake this earth at its very core for Christ; something I feel I cannot do while being a proper mother at the same time. 
    Bah, I’ll get off my soapbox. Just, thank you. Brilliant blog! 

    • Jamie

      Aw, come on now, let’s not say what mothers are doing isn’t huge and powerful!  You know, giving a cup of water to the least of these?  :)  I get what you’re saying, but I also get what the wise women in your life are saying to you. 

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VKKW4FMZTENT5IQE4CL2SJTYIA Kelly

        Motherhood is certainly as worthy of a calling as any other, but I think the point Kendall is trying to make is that it is not the ONLY calling for women. I am open to the possibility of children in the future, but God has made it clear to my husband and me that they are not His plan for us right now. And if He never intends for me to be a mom, I hope the church can accept that. From where I sit right now, I’m pretty sure that the church has a plan for me and refuses to acknowledge that its plan might not be God’s plan.

        • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

          That’s a good point, Kelly – the church often ahs a plan for us but it might not be God’s plan.

    • Keri

      I used to think I had to wait until my kids were older or even grown and out of the house before I could impact the world for Christ. Then God reminded me of a woman named Mary. Her willingness to give birth changed the world forever in the most profound way. God has plans for us and I don’t pretend to know what all those plans are. We just need to daily strive to be obedient to God and ready for whatever He calls us to do. I am only in my 30s but God has taught me that I don’t have His mind. It is not about being a mother or not being a mother… it is about obedience and willingness to do whatever God calls us to do. It’s a great adventure and although I am often surprised, I am never bored! 

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      You’re welcome, Kendall. And blessings as you pursue your calling.

  • http://www.welcometomarriedlife.com/ Krista

    I am so blessed to be a part of a church that really gets this.  Last month I went to a women’s night where three women from our church, regular women, shared their testimonies.  I just saw in the bulletin there’s another one this month and I aim to be there no matter what!

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      That sounds brilliant! 

  • http://bethaniqua.blogspot.com/ bethanykj

    Sarah, this is a good post.
    I’ve avoided women’s ministries generally, because none of the things I want from church are gender-specific.

  • Rachel

    Yes!! Thank you! 

  • Sillydoodah

    Woohoo!

  • Stacy From Louisville

    This is why I don’t do women’s ministry. Instead I work on building Christ into youth ministry.

  • http://www.texasredtents.com Texas Red Tents

    Perhaps you should start a Red Tent within your church, very empowering experiences for women to connect spiritually.

  • http://kateawakened.blogspot.com Kate

    Amen and amen. I work outside the home, do not have children, and do not have a crafty bone in my body. I need something else. I don’t want to be forced into yet another feminine identity that isn’t actually who I am. 

  • Jemelene

    It is about discipleship. It is about drawing from the resources that we already have among us and allowing each other to simply be who we are. I want to be better at loving than at decorating or cleaning or playing bunco.
    The last ladies event that I attended at our former church was the last one for a reason. I was asked to host a table for the annual Christmas tea. I opted for a very simple, clean white and red scheme. I thought it was beautiful and welcoming. The lady at the table next to me mentioned that I didn’t have a true centerpiece. My red tray with streamlined teapots and silver jingle bells were all I had wanted. She told me that I needed to go out and make something bigger and better because that is what all the other ladies would be doing on their tables. After second guessing myself and mentioning it to my husband, I stood firm. I just wanted to be me. I just wanted to be OK being me.
    The other thing that happened that night that sealed it for me was watching the teenage girls get pushed aside to undecorated tables instead of drawn in with the older women. I still cringe thinking of how those young women are now married, some are mothers but none feel drawn in and valued as an important part of the ministry. My heart is to change that and Sarah, I believe that your words will help spread that vision. Thank you.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      A million stories like that, Jem. Big sigh. Love you.

  • http://aseedinspired.com/ T

    here here this is why I always hated going to church..or mommy groups or lady’s church events… the whole lot of it makes me want to spit….it always seemed like they were just rounding the women up to tame them and release them back into the church as if their had been shared community.
    bah.

    This …this right here is why I started expanding my Sunday Dinner….I want a community of people who have some spine….
    if only you lived closer I would tell you to settle in by the campfire this weekend and we will hash this whole thing out!…The women you would meet would inspire you and give you hope.
    T

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      I love that – Sunday dinner. Great idea.

  • jamie k

    i’m abbie’s sister in law jamie- she had a link to your blog today. and i have to say my blood is flowing. THANK YOU for writing that! I wish we were in the same town. i told abbie the other day i’m praying for just ONE, ONE LORD, tattoo or nose ring in our homeschooling group… :) 
    I have to say before i was a believer these reasons why you listed is exactly why i didn’t want to be there at things or even invited honestly! 
    We always say the churched people usually speak 2 languages or more- Christianese and English. We don’t even know we speak it. “oh I walk with the Lord..” what the heck is that? 

    thanks again
    jamie k

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Great to meet you, Jamie! (I love Abbie so much.) Too bd we’re not closer – I can offer you one of each,  nose ring and a tattoo. ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/marybethpick Mary Beth

    Amazing post.  I’ve experienced the kind of community you’re talking about at Community Bible Study.  (Look it up:  http://www.communitybiblestudy.org/).  I’ve been in it for about 10 years.  We study SCRIPTURE.  And the sharing is real, honest, raw.  I love being in an inter-generational group of women who are serious about loving the Lord and living for Him.  Sure, there are always some that are resistant to diving deeper, but overall I’ve found it to be an incredible time. No baking or decorating tips, just digging into God’s word.  It’s one of the few places that I’ve found older women that I want to emulate.  I usually skip the women’s ministry stuff at church.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      That sounds awesome. So cool.

  • http://www.edcyzewski.com/ Ed_Cyzewski

    I would think that addressing the injustice in our world begins by addressing the injustice in our communities. Powerful stuff. You hit the spot–just like a warm, gooey, chocolate cupcake. 

  • Wendy McCaig

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! 

    I will never forget going to a missions team meeting and a guy giving this powerful talk on how we need to reach out to our neighbors.  At the end of the conversation, he dolled out responsibilities to the group.  All the women were asked to bake brownies!  I thought, is that the radical way of Jesus, I don’t recall Jesus baking brownies?  I wanted to blurt out, I don’t cook, that is my husband’s gift! 

    I always thought I was the only woman who felt this way.  From the comments on this post we have all just been way to kind to say what we are really thinking.  Thank you for giving us permission to actually say what is on our mind.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Yes, I think I feel rather relieved. Who knew that there were so many of us?!

  • http://twitter.com/paigeszajnuk Paige Szajnuk

    Thank you for this post. My prayer is that many, many pastors and women’s ministry leaders will read it and the comments.

  • Annette

    I loved reading your heart’s desire through this post!  Very moving!  I’m sitting here wondering how much of this needs to come from a women’s ministry at church?  Certainly, it is quite convenient when there is a venue or structure which helps women find real and raw community.  Those are needed and important.  And yet, somehow I have found community like this without an organized women’s ministry at our church.  Indeed my closest women friends currently are ones I got to know through a small group (co-ed)  in our home.  Before I knew it, we were inviting one another to our homes, babysitting one another’s children, meeting at the park (while extending the invitation to other neighbors and friends), and sharing our burdens together.  I honestly don’t know how I could live the life I live without certain women who I can be honest with, who listen, who encourage me, who pray me.  Just this week, my son’s classmate’s mother texted me.  Her husband recently left the family for another woman, and she felt as if she was losing her mind.  I asked if I could come over, “now.”  I was so sad to hear that she has NO good girl friends in her life… the kind whom she can cry on their shoulders, who bring her meals, her watch her daughter so she can gather some of her sanity back.  I plan on introducing her to the community of women I know so well. 

    Perhaps there is community waiting for us just around the corner, if we can learn to be vulnerable and in turn invite other women to be vulnerable, too.  This surely is not easy, and certain personalities are more open to it than others.  I only pray that all women everywhere will find that companionship so desperately needed for the journey of life.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      That is a great point and one that I am considering too. Well, I’ve ben there about churc in general let alone womens’ ministry specifically. So yes. community is everywhere.

  • Debbie Schwab

    So glad to know I’m not the only one who has this opinion.  I guess we just all need to speak up since there’s probably more of us out there:)  Thank you.

  • hyacynth

    Sarah, this has been one of my heart cries for the past year; authentic community is not simply just a want; rather authentic community is a need, one that Jesus himself modeled to us time after time in his ministry and in the way he did life. It’s hard if not impossible to foster real relationships among women at group meetings like MOPs or the like simply because the discussion matter at hand does not lead us into deeper conversation. And also? Nor does the model. I really feel like authentic community has to be built on more than just time spent together, though that is a component. I wonder if you’ve ever heard of Vantage Point 3? http://www.vantagepoint3.org/ We walked the emerging journey as participants last year, and it radically changed my view of community and how community is fostered. We’re facilitatating a group this year, and it does not cease to amaze me how God weaves together our lives and our stories in ways we could never have dreamed or imagined.  I think your post struck a chord, dear one. I know that this song has been resonating in my mind for quite some time now. 

  • http://www.redeemingthetable.com/ Kamille Scellick

    after reading almost all of the comments, reading your words & knowing the genuine heart it’s coming from…my heart is sad, a little frustrated, & yet hopeful.  Maybe in part it’s working through the current grief of our miscarriage while five of my friends are due the same time I was.  

    It seems like it’s not about the cupcakes.  It’s not about the tea parties or all things feminine.  It’s about being heard & listened to.  I read women saying how sick they are of programs, while other women see value in it, because they enjoy it & are cooped up being a SAHM.  I hear the women who are lovers of Jesus with empty wombs &/or single.  I hear the women who are lovers of Jesus with stretched out wombs & breasts.  

    What it’s about is the woman at the well.  A lady who felt worthless & an outcast.  She wasn’t listened to or heard.  It was Jesus.  It was Jesus who listened, who heard, & who saw into her.  Some of us have that ability to see deeper in than others (it’s just true).  But, what we need as women is to personally seek that living water of Jesus & to ask him for his tears, his laughter & his heart, in order to see the broken, see the hurting & know how to respond.  We need to tear down the false confidence & truly walk in the confidence of Christ who left that tomb empty.  I want to invite everyone into my home with a pot of Autumn stew, hot tea/coffee & validate them.  thank you ladies for sharing.

    • Becca

      Thank you for your words, Kamille. They are a breath of fresh air. 

      And you are right. It’s about being heard and listened to. This is what Jesus did. His presence brought understanding. He sat with people, saw them, and invited them into something deeper–the abundant life. A life that is available because He lives. It doesn’t matter the method. The question is: Are we doing this? Are we listening? Are we opening our eyes to see the hurting and broken hearts around us? Are we pointing people to Him rather than ourselves? Your message was a reminder to me to do this. 

      I’m also sorry to hear about your miscarriage. I lost two babies last year. The pain is great, and the grieving is not a linear journey. I will pray for you today. May you know His comfort in a greater way each day. May His peace rest upon you when the reminders of the loss come your way.

  • http://karenhammons.org/ Karen Hammons

    AMEN!!!!! THANK YOU for saying what I have been trying to process into words the last few weeks!!!

  • Louise Dunlap

    AMEN! What a challenge. Keep up the battle cry. I am an 80 year old lady, mother of Jodi Ddetrick. I ministered along side my husband for over 50 years and nothing thrills me more than knowing that there are other Godly women carrying on today where I can no longer be.
    Praying for all you courageous ladies following GOD”S DIRECTION.

  • http://saltandgrace.wordpress.com Caragab

    love, love, love this. 

  • aprilann

    Well said, Sarah!

  • harrietglynn

    Love this: 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? That would bring me into the fold!

  • Emilie C

    As a pastor’s wife, this post and the comments are very insightful. We’ll be planting a new church in two or three years. I love cooking and baking and new recipes. I knit, crochet and sew. I have a baby. I stay at home. But, Bible Studies should be BIBLE studies. All the talk of everyday things is fine, but there should be ample opportunity for women to share their stories and hear the stories of others. It should be a supportive group for those in it but it should provide opportunities for women to minister to their church and community as well. Excellent post! It’s given me so much to think about!

  • Tjvk

    Point well taken.  And as christian women, I don’t think we need to use curse words to express our opionions.

  • Emily Wierenga

    wow. i love you. this is EXACTLY how i feel, and why i find it hard to attend coffee break or any such mindless meeting which makes me feel about as smart as a woman barefoot in the kitchen. but i’ll only tell you that, because i know you understand. and i can’t wait to meet you one day in person.

    • http://deezahoney.wordpress.com/ deezahoney

      “smart as a woman barefoot in the kitchen,” huh?  Barefoot is better!  Why track in mud, just to have to mop it up later?  :-)

  • http://museandthequeenhoneybee.blogspot.com DHannah

    Have you been living my life? Are you able to spy into my innermost thoughts, feelings, angst, anxieties, frustrations, angers, AGH! moments? Uncanny! It is like reading myself, reading what, if I had ever gotten around to it instead of just bitchin’ about it to my husband, I would have said…YES!!! AMEN!!! Preach it! Thank you!!

  • http://twitter.com/howbeautiful Charlotte

    I landed here via Rachel Evan’s blog, and I just want to give a resounding “Amen, sister!” I’m 26, and I’ve never really gotten involved with any type of women’s ministry just because they all seem to involve things like the color pink and cookies. I’ve never been really drawn to a lot of those surface-based, “traditional” aspect of femininity. Most of the time I feel like I’m on a totally different wavelength that the women around me.  I crave strong relationships with other women, especially with women who have been on a similar path as me (going to seminary, preparing for pastoral ministry). I would love to dig through all that fluff and find some genuine connection with the women in my life.

  • Guest

    Check out Lisa Bevere.  You would LOVE her.  She speaks to women – and she is passionate and fired up about women being strong for Jesus and for His work – not fluffy!

  • Queenie99224

    Great thought provoking commentary, Sarah!  If perhaps the cup cake making is for the homeless or baking with foster kids while giving their foster parents a night out and it gives the “ladies” a way of showing Christ’s love and in that way we also have a chance to relate to each other is that not a way of establishing community?  Perhaps we are so used to all our electronic communication we are losing the ability to relate on a deeper one to one level of actually listening with all of our senses to what we are communicating.  Sure you don’t want to come to Salem??

  • http://twitter.com/Whimbly Allison Graber

    Love.

  • http://www.theblahblahblahger.com the Blah Blah Blahger

    LOVE this! I’m 35 and single and I have an intense career. I want to be surrounded with love, and not looked at with confusion because my life is foreign!

    Also, I’d like women’s programming not to be at 9:15am. Mkay?!

  • Diana trautwein

    Holy cow, Sarah. I go on vacation for a few days – and you write THIS??? THANK YOU. Oh my, YES, yes, yes. Hip, hip hooray and hallelujah! Glory be, sing it again, and add harmony. Gracious sakes alive, girl – this is powerful truth and a word that needs speaking and hearing. 

    Can I just tell you that after many, many years (more than 20, that’s for sure!) of working in women’s ministries (and many of those, learning a whole lot, loving a lot of wonderful women, offering in depth Bible studies as well as get-aways for moms of young kids twice a month in which, yes indeed, we did do crafts – but hey, it was the 70′s, things were definitely different!)  - after 4 years of seminary in my 40′s, I ran like a madwoman AWAY from the traditional formatting I had been leading for many years. I still loved those ladies – a lot – but I could no longer fit inside the form-fitting strictures of what was ‘traditional’ at that time. 

    Since that time, our denominational ministry to women has made huge strides, under inspired leadership for about 15 years (she just moved onto something new) and out of that office has come powerful work – work with victims of abuse, actively engaging local governments (and beyond) to commit to ending human trafficking, funding a huge initiative to “Teach the Girls” in our large Congo church. It’s been wondrous to behold.

    But let me tell you, trying to change the old style in older (and even some newer) churches is like pulling teeth. For so many years, it was the only outlet for strong, gifted women to use their gifts. And so budgets were completely separate from the rest of the church. And great pride was taken in raising funds for special projects that could never have been funded in any other way. Since 1974, when we began ordaining women, that emphasis has been shifting, gradually, gradually. And what you have written speaks so powerfully into the middle of all that! These ideas have been high on my prayer list for a long time and sometimes, with willing and capable lay leaders as the Lord raised them up, we’ve been able to implement some of it in my home church. May your tribe increase, Sarah – it’s the hope of the church to have both men and women fully engaged in the whole gospel of Christ, all of its glorious power and love. Yes!

  • Cat

    I appreciate your perspective.  You’ll probably appreciate United Methodist Women.   Take a look at “Shaping the Next Ten Years; The Heart of the Women’s Division Strategic Plan:” http://umwonline.net/usercontent/site_2/s4/1000040981/277/shapingfuture.pdf

    And maybe a peek at the facebook page would also inspire you… http://www.facebook.com/UMWomen

  • sara

    I completely agree HOWEVER how does this really look in the true-to-life scenario of too many women, too little time? The current women’s ministry model is “appealing” primarily because its easy to pop in and out and uses a draw (how to craft, etc) as a way to get women to take a chance and step in to try something out. You can’t have instant community to one another and you can’t build community if everyone is busy and no one is able to commit. I read one commenter suggesting that they committed to one year with their pastor’s wife. But what if you can’t make that commitment? What if you’re not quite a believer and you don’t *want* to make that commitment? Where is women’s ministry for the women who really just aren’t quite ready to be “ministered to”? I see that a lot of us agree with your post but I’m going to assume (since we’re reading the blog) that we’re fairly mature in our faith and hungering for something deeper but I don’t think that’s truly the case for many women. I think many want a break, want to meet some new friends…or just see their regular crowd…and maybe, maybe feel vulnerable enough in a moment to share a need. So how do you do deep, meaningful women’s ministry for the masses?

  • Amy Gilbaugh

    Finally. Finally. Thank you. 

  • Candice

    I’ve been in the church since I was 20 and raising two children (my nieces) alone.  It was easy then to fit in and talk and live life with all those other moms and I thought it was great!  When their mother got her life in order and took them home, I was suddenly no longer a “mommy.”  And, I realized just how hard it was to fit in with a church full of mommies when I wasn’t one, but I found a great singles group and we had amazing fellowship.

    A couple years later I moved out of state for work and lost that church.  I have never found the fellowship I had there since.  There’s a great kid’s program at my current church (which I love – don’t get me wrong).  They have all sorts of family days/camps and college student outreaches and man-camps and wonderful mommy-ministry days.  But, for a career woman nearing 30 having no children, I am out of place at most events.  Unless, that is, I want to work in the nursery or teach Sunday School- which I love but has become harder since my last miscarriage.

    I want to serve and I want to grow and I want to go deep and hear from other women.  I want to wrestle through the deep scriptures and express my heart and ask why when life hurts.  I really don’t want to change someone your baby’s diaper or discuss how much sleep you’ve lost but how worth it this precious one is.  I already know that.  And I would gladly give up my 9 hours of sleep for my own precious gift to cherish.

    In the mean time, though, I want to go deeper.  I want to have real fellowship.  I want to serve my community and my church.  I want to know God’s heart and to align mine to His.  I want to treasure this time as a gift, because it is in a way.  It is a gift of sleep and a gift of time and a gift of an ability to serve and love others without being tied down to a small, dependent, precious life.

    It just doesn’t seem like a wonderful gift when I look around and there’s no place for me and no one really wants to know how I am doing or where my heart is.

    Again, I LOVE my church, and I serve my church however possible, and I am passionate for Christ and for His bride.  I just wish I felt more a part of His bride when I am with her.

  • Affyleen

    Oh Sarah…thank you for speaking my heart. For the record I am one of those pastors leading women’s ministries and would love (as one person commented below) to receive this letter from one of “my” women – though I must say our group is pretty good for having a deeper relationship and focusing on Jesus and living out Jesus in our community – I have felt this frustration in women’s ministries in general over the years (in many locations).  In fact I have felt it enough to say that I really never wanted to go (and I was supposed to lead it!) until a few years back when I found a wonderful group of ladies who really cared about each other and their struggles and were willing to come alongside each other (and also for the record try MANY new and crazy ideas!).  So I find myself able to have “Chocolate Night” on Social Justice and Fair Trade – a wonderful combination I think of real and tasty!  I pray that you find that group you are looking for – or even better – start one yourself! :)

  • Dayna DeHaven

    I scanned through the 200+ comments (didn’t read all of them in detail so I apologize if this was already mentioned), but I think your plea for a more “real” women’s ministry is VERY biblical. God instructs the older women to be mentors to the younger. This has been my main personal challenges at almost every church I’ve attended. I want to get plugged in and meet other women and have friends in my church home, but the women’s events were so silly (couponing, etc.) or outdated or only for those who are older or don’t have kids (ex., a conference at the church without child care offered) … I struggled. And I think if pastors would really take a good, hard look at their women’s ministry instead of (as my most recent pastor said) “just letting the ladies do their “thing,” they would see that the ministries are lacking and need guidance.

  • Tamra Farah

    I have refused this year to any longer call us ‘women’s ministry’.  We are rather SC Women’s and our work-a-day name is SC Sisterhood.  Devoted I am to be real and relevant.  We are community.  It’s how we seek to move from ‘junior high’ moments to mature sisterhood.  We take meals to new mommy’s, watch kids, clean each other’s houses and simply encourage older and younger women to spend time and do life together. We seek out opps to do justice, walking to raise dollars and gifting care-bags to support girls trafficked.   We study God’s Word and only cry when genuinely wrestling through life together. Thank you for speaking up: I am listening!  
    http://www.facebook.com/tamra.farah and http://www.springscalvary.com/ministries/womens.php

  • Tamra Farah

    Sarah – p.s. If you haven’t already, you will enjoy checking out Colour Sisterhood and Colour Conference hosted by Bobbie Houston and Hillsong Church — it’s all you seem to be longing for!  All the best,
    Tamra

  • Cyra Bray

    I loved this. My Women’s Bible study that I attend right now is good and meaty. We don’t change the world, and the homework is optional, but we talk about suffering and cleansing with the best of them.

  • Chantelle Henderson

    Preach!  Preach!  And preach some more.  Amen!  Amen!  And Amen!  Thank you for being daring enough to put out there what most women think but are afraid to say and most of all, thank you for speaking the truth in love!  

  • http://www.marilavell.com Mari Lavell

    As a pastor’s wife, whenever we went for church interviews/try outs I often want to say before I even sit down as I shake the hands of the pulpit committee members: “Hi, I’m Marita. I don’t play piano and I don’t do crafts &/or Women’s Ministry…point me to your teen girls, young women, and coffee shop.” 

  • http://thesimplecountrylife.com Country Wife

    Were you in my house last Monday? I went with hope in hand to our women’s Christmas party, and came home later that evening, sat in our chair, and cried. My husband didn’t know what was wrong, and honestly, I didn’t either. These are all wonderful, wonderful women, yet I felt so out of place, so “not with it”. I don’t tear up after every testimony; in fact, I am often a bit hesitant. I just take a lot longer to process what people say, so I can rarely get into a conversation right afterward. I am not a mom, so that leaves me out of a huge club membership right there. I long to be real, and thank God, He has brought people in my life I can be real with, in life and online. Great post, thank you for writing it!

  • Kaz Gratton

    It feels like you write my thoughts

  • Amy Kaeding

    Amen.

  • http://amykaeding.blogspot.com/ Amy Kaeding

    Amen sister friend.

  • Lewprivette

    Sarah, I just discovered your blog today. It’s remarkable. God sent it to me, I tell you!  Like so many other of your commenters, I always feel like I’m the only one who thinks like this. I was hooked with your blog about no longer wanting a seat at the table, but when I found this post…well, my husband may have to pry the computer out of my hands tonight to get me to stop reading all of your posts. 

  • http://www.cara-deo.com Caradeo

    So true…the fakery needs to stop. Pink, flowers, niceties and fluff because at the end of the day it doesn’t connect us and we leave as empty as a night of browsing on the web.

  • http://iseeyoulookingatme.wordpress.com/ Caroline

    I am so glad I stood the course, and read through this whole blog. My attention span might be short, but my soul was PERMANENTLY touched. Thanks!

  • http://kimberlys-cup.blogspot.com/ Kimberlyscup

    Late to this party, but YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!! Thank you. 
    I finally just gave up on it all.  This just might make me take a second look.

  • Bev Baron

    You go, sister.  It’s way past time for change.  

  • Missy

    Oh sweet new friend.

    So this week we meet with the pastor of our church, who is asking why we’re leaving. Can I just show him this letter please? The details differ – but the outcome is the same.

  • http://Ashpittman.blogspot.com/ Ashley

    I just followed someone else here…a bit late to the party. Everything you said – YES! There must be a very shallow view of us. By us. Who plans these things?? I like organization (and need it desperately), crafts, do-it-yourself, etc, but not at a women’s conference. Please. I’m with you. Let’s hear real stories, ugly ones. And beautiful ones. Let’s set other women free to put down their guard and be known.

  • http://profiles.google.com/kissingthejoy Kira McKee

    I love this post so much I have no words. I wish that I had read this a few years ago when I felt like I was drowning silently while surrounded by a bunch of church people who all knew how to swim but couldn’t throw me a life preserver. You put my own longings into words far better than I ever could. Authenticity. Amen. 

  • Binny

    hear hear!!! Growing a pastors daughter and then serving on staff (naturally what else was I to do?) I am SO SO tired of feeling like a prop or a decoration or someone to be asked to watch the kids. Lets get deeper in God and get our hands dirty in the church!

  • Abundtlife89

    Oh my gosh! Amen! That needed sayin’ 

  • Angie

    Let me add my thanks to the many before. I resonated so thoroughly with your letter, it brought tears to my eyes.  Seventeen years of shallow fellowship and bible studies, makes walking this walk a lonely and difficult trudge. And trying to approach this subject at church does not make one very popular! Bless you for speaking out!

  • Julia Watts

    I love this!  Thank you for being so bold.  I am a minister’s wife/teacher/storyteller and am constantly looking for refreshing ways to speak the truth about the grace we so desparately need.  I would love to quote you briefly at my next speaking engagement. Permission?

  • melakamin

    So glad I came over … this is exactly what I’ve been feeling and couldn’t articulate & it’s refreshing to hear. Thank you.

  • Cyndy Hodges

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

  • Denise Panter

    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.  :)

  • Sarah

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

  • Pingback: Give Them Jesus | Common Graces

  • Pingback: “Women Are Fine China” and Other Misconceptions of “Christian Gender Roles” | Like Birds on Trees

  • Pingback: In which I write a letter to Womens’ Ministry « rockvillecogop.com

  • http://www.live-it-today.com/ Live It Today

    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?

  • http://loneprairie.net/ Julie R. Neidlinger

    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.

  • Bombi Ballesteros

    Selah

  • Ben

    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.

  • Shannon

    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.

  • Ann Messier

    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. :)

  • Sarah Grochowski

    I am in tears. Thank you.

  • Pingback: What Sarah Bessey Can Teach Us About Community | Surviving the Real World

  • Sonia

    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

  • shweta

    HI EVERY ONE. I am shweta from india (mumbai) ,m married but my parents are in muscat they are workng their. n now after 1yr i want to come muscat to meet with them all n spend some time with them in muscat . but having viza problem . please any one can help me out . its gona b 1yr and m eagrrly waitng to meet my parents n to spend my time in my muscat m missng my mom dad n muscat tooo . i just want visit viza for 1 month . but havng problem . in my father company the admin department told that the ministry has stoped the visiting viza for every one..
    now plz help me what should i do .