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Do we really need women’s ministry?

There’s been a bit of debate in recent years about whether or not churches should have separate  programs just for women. In fact, many churches have discontinued their women’s ministries. Some say it’s a financial decision. Others say that churches simply don’t need it.

I’ve been in women’s ministry leadership for many years. I’ve seen God do amazing things through women’s Bible studies, women’s outreach events, women’s mentoring programs, women’s retreats, and more. Through my experience I’ve learned several things about women and I could tell you story after story to illustrate them:

  • Women are usually more open to discussing spiritual things than men.
  • Women are more willing to be vulnerable and open to new relationships.
  • If we can reach the woman, we can very often reach her entire family.

 

I’d love to get a dialogue going about our need for women’s ministry and what we can do to best reach women in our community. Here are a few online articles I’ve come across recently that make great fuel for our discussion.

  • Women’s ministry has incredible potential to impact the women of your church and community. Great thoughts in this article: “What Women’s Ministry Can Be.”
  • We need women’s ministry now more than ever. According to a recent study, the percentage of women attending and leading in churches has declined. According to this article in Christianity Today we must be training Christian women to reach out to other women: “The Newest US Mission Field: Women”
  • This author emphasizes that women’s ministry should not be another social club. We need to help women find Jesus, deep community, and spiritual growth: “Why We Don’t Need Women’s Ministry”

So let’s talk! You may be a ministry leader, volunteer, or participant. I’d love to know what you think about this topic. I’d also like to hear about what your church is doing.

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28 Responses to Do we really need women’s ministry?

  1. Teri Lynne Underwood December 2, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

    I am looking forward to reading the discussion on this, Kathy! Great topic. I personally have such mixed emotions about “women’s ministry” because I’ve seen it done so badly … but I also know the potential of women who really “get it.”

    • Kathy December 2, 2011 at 7:42 pm #

      Thanks Teri Lynne! I hope we get some good discussion going. We could all learn from each others’ experiences.

  2. Tracy December 2, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

    I believe that women need other women. Women bond as they do things together. They talk, they share, they unload. I do believe that there should also be a spiritual aspect to women’s ministry. Women need to pray together, hug one another and know that they truly care for one another. I’m not sure why the trend has changed. Perhaps we are more able to see the seriousness of what lies before us, rather than just having fun and giggling. The world has become more hostile and the future somehow looks scarier. For those very reasons, however,women today need confirmation, support and love like never before. I don’t believe that it has to be a big deal, but women do need to know that they have a nitch of their own where they are loved, accepted and a part of the body of Christ.

    • Kathy December 2, 2011 at 7:44 pm #

      Tracy, I think you are so right. God made us in a way that we definitely need one another. Women’s ministry must be a place where we can be loved and accepted and grow in Christ in community.

  3. Iris December 2, 2011 at 8:25 pm #

    I think that women’s ministry is very valuable in our churches.

    I have led some Bible studies in the past. I enjoyed it, because when women get together (no matter for study or retreat), we tend to become closer and we share truly from the heart. I have found that we all struggle at some point, and it is good to get it out of the system and talk it through. I truly believe that we need women’s ministry in our churches, now more than ever.

    Thank you for blogging about it.

  4. Julie Sanders@Comehaveapeace December 2, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

    Relationships among women have been one of the casualties of the changing culture in our country. So much of what once happened naturally has been eliminated, creating a need for women who know God’s plan for women to influence women to be intentional about making it happen. At the same time, the voices of women in the world have grown louder, making it harder for voices of faith to be heard and respected. Without nurturing the hearts of women in uniquely feminine ways, we leave our churches and then our world without the nurturing intended to be met through God’s design of a biblical woman.

    Let women’s ministry fade? Not without great consequences.

    • Kathy December 2, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

      Julie, thank you for your wise comments. You are right that the busyness of our culture – and other aspects too – have changed the relationships of women. We must now be purposeful in creating the opportunity for these relationships to develop. And the charge must lead the way. How can we do that best?

  5. Kathy December 2, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

    Iris, in your experience, what are the best kind of activities to help women draw closer together?

  6. Kristi Stephens December 2, 2011 at 11:09 pm #

    I so agree with what Julie had to say. We live in a world where women are more disconnected from one another than ever before, and I believe many women don’t even know how to build the deep relationships they crave. I think the phenomenon of facebook and other social media among adult women of all ages is a symptom of this – even though we are so “plugged in” we are completely disconnected and yearning for others to really know us. In the vacuum of positive, challenging relationships with appropriate boundaries, women seem to withdraw from one another all together or drop all emotional boundaries whatsoever, seeking for someone to respond to them.

    Women’s ministry has a huge and vital role in not only creating opportunities for women to study God’s Word and serve together, but also to build natural mentoring relationships and strong nurturing peer relationships. We need formal Bible studies, yes, but we also need to have fun and connect women of all ages and stages together, modelling what it means to have safe and constructive relationships where we can be challenged with truth and loved unconditionally.

  7. Renee Peerman December 2, 2011 at 11:34 pm #

    In a world where morality and values are suffering, it is important that women’s ministry not just exist to serve our own needs. There are a lot of hurting women in our communities (single moms, abuse victims, young girls who have been promiscuous, had abortions, have been in and out of several relationships, etc.) and as those reflecting the light of Christ, we need to offer opportunities for our women to reach out to them. While fellowship and spiritual growth are crucial elements of ministry to and for women, the ministry must be balanced by outreach. Often in leadership, we tend to overlook this and focus only on what we can do for ourselves.

    • Kathy December 3, 2011 at 12:04 am #

      Renee, thanks for reminding us of the need to reach out to those who are hurting without Christ. I think we do sometimes forget about them and end up focusing on ourselves.

  8. Kathy December 3, 2011 at 12:09 am #

    Kristi, you are right. Facebook and other social media do reveal our great need for relationships. It’s such a shame that in some ways we have substituted real relationships for the appearance of relationship.

  9. Iris December 3, 2011 at 12:22 am #

    Kathy, what I found was that it was much easier to have a Bible study at a home. Yes, it is nice to have a study on church properties, but women tend to be more relaxed in a home environment. And it is easier to reach out (invite) women who do not attend church.

  10. Lucille Zimmerman December 3, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    I feel Sarah Besseys article was spot on – but misleading. I don’t think she was saying we should eliminate womens ministries…but provide places for women to real rather than have recipe exchanges, fashion shows etc.

    For those of you who have a safe place to be real, you don’t know how rare and blessed you have it.

    Yes, definitely we should have fun…and joy! But unfortunately I’ve been a part of national women’s groups where I was interviewing to be a speaker and I was told, “Don’t say your mom died! Say she passed.” Everything is alway light and fluffy, never real.

    In the past parts of the women’s ministry at our church has been very light (although some now tell me it’s changed). No substance and that is why I don’t attend although I love everything else about my church. Since I’m a counselor I’d rather people felt comfortable saying what’s on their hearts instead of talking about cupcakes.

  11. Stephanie Shott December 3, 2011 at 9:22 am #

    Kathy ~ Women’s ministries have been an important part of my life since I became a newborn Christian. As the years have gone by I’ve noticed that in many churches (not all) the women’s ministry has morphed into something very different than what I cut my women’s ministry teeth on. It truly has become about fluffy, funny, silly entertainment and gatherings. I feel like in many cases, it’s lost its purpose filter.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with fluffy, funny, silly entertainment and gatherings, but if they haven’t first been filtered through the purpose of evangelizing the lost or edifying the saints, then they become nothing but a social club.

    I think many have become so busy filling time with events that they forgot the purpose is to fill hearts with faith and lives with love.

    As Julie so beautifully said, women need each other. It’s part of our DNA. But because of the dynamics of our very individual society, we must be more intentional about. That’s why I think women’s ministry is very important. But a women’s ministry without the primary purpose of evangelizing and edifying becomes empty and frivolous.

    As daughters of the King, we are called to much more! We are called to purpose individually. We are called to purpose corporately. Without it, we’re not functioning as the church. We’re just functioning.

  12. Kathy December 3, 2011 at 9:46 am #

    Lucille, I believe you are right about her intent for the article. We must work to foster spiritual depth in our women. However, I do believe fun is also important for building relationships. If we can mix fun with purposeful, spiritual content that would be great.

  13. Kathy December 3, 2011 at 9:48 am #

    Stephanie, I love your “purpose filter!” Good word, thanks! That goes back to what Lucille said about the need for “substance.” We can have fun as long as it includes some spiritual substance.

  14. Mindy Ferguson December 3, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    Thanks for posting this, Kathy.

    My experiences in Women’s Ministry have been rich, filled with Christ-centered relationships, time digging in God’s Word, and sweet times of growing together as a community of women committed to loving God more deeply and sharing that love with those around us.
    Sarah’s description of “women’s ministry” made me shudder. I wouldn’t participate in that environment either. We need real,safe, Christ-focused ministries for women where everyone is encouraged to grow in their knowledge of God’s Word, apply it to their lives.

  15. Kathy December 3, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    Mindy, sounds like you’ve been blessed with wonderful experiences of sharing life with other women. That’s what we really need. Not the surface stuff that we can get out in the world, but real Christ-centered, faith-building ministry.

  16. Carla McDougal December 3, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    Kathy, this is such a thought provoking conversation. Thank you for opening the door for this discussion. This allows us the opportunity to examine our hearts, seek the Lord and get real with one another.

    As a former Women’s Ministry Director, I truly see the need for women to have a place to connect. We need a “safe-house” for sharing, praying and growing deeper in our walk with Jesus. Women’s Ministry has the potential to fulfill everyone of these needs.

    Of course, there is an enemy working 24/7 to halt God’s plan. He will go to all levels to accomplish his scheme. We must be, as Eph. 6:18 says it so beautifully after putting on the Armor of God, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”

    Hum… Prayer is the Key that unlocks the door for everything, including Women’s Ministry!

  17. Lisa Bodeman December 3, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    While I see the author’s direction here, I find her critique a bit harsh. First let me say Thank you to all who serve in Women’s Ministry, who give their time, talent and finances in such an important ministry. Such influence women have in their homes and lives! I came to my own leadership position 5 years ago out of my discontent with the Women’s program at my church, and see this as an invitation to the author to be an agent of change. I am often encouraged by a good word or offer of help, and insight rather than a laundry list of failures and shortcomings. I agree with the respondent who said that she liked cute cupcakes and found that they did not hinder her ability to study deeply or think intently. I love cute and fun, and find them an open door to new women and their neighbors, and the regulars as well, that we could get to know them and build relationships that are transparent, thus earning the right to share the gospel with them. “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” 1 Thess 2:8

    I think relationship is fundamental to Women’s Ministry, it points to the ultimate relationship with our relational God who came to dwell in us that we might dwell with Him forever!

  18. Kathy December 3, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    Carla, you are so right that women’s ministry has so much potential. It is a God-ordained ministry (Titus 2). However, you are also right that the enemy is working constantly to derail God’s best. The easiest way for him to trip us up is to simply distract us with the way the world does things. Unfortunately we sometimes fall for that. We end up doing things the way the world does it to draw women but then we fail them by not giving them what they need spiritually.

  19. Kathy December 3, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

    Lisa, what I hear you saying is that if we can combine “cute and fun” with deep relationships and solid encouragement for spiritual growth we will have a God-honoring ministry to women. That’s what I want to see!

  20. Caran Smith December 3, 2011 at 10:26 pm #

    I believe that a women’s minisrty is a very important part of a healthy church. I loved Carla’s statement about have a way to connect and a “safe-house” for sharing.

  21. Rebecca Fussell December 5, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

    Hi Kathy ~
    Thank you for this discussion. It’s forced me to evaluate not only what I believe but maybe more importantly how to flesh out that philosophy into reality. In reading the comments, I think we all agree women’s ministry is vital, but what does that look like? I too read the article you cited. I think the author and I may have been at the same event!
    It’s such a challenge to minister to the whole woman at every stage of adulthood, and yet I strongly believe women’s ministry needs to be generational. It is both an overwhelming and exciting task! But He promised, “Faithful is He who calls us who also will do it”. I appreciated Carla’s reminder about remembering we have an Enemy constantly fighting against us. I wouldn’t want to touch the ministry with a ten-foot pole without knowing, “Greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world”
    Maybe one of the problems with ladies ministry is we’re answering questions no one is asking… I believe one of the greatest assets a leader can have is the willingness to listen to the women and their true needs. What worked a few years ago may not work anymore or at least not for certain age groups or certain stations in life. As a result we’re going to have to be willing to dip our toes in uncharted waters trusting that God will make a way as He did for the priest’s who were the first to enter the Red Sea ☺
    May God grant us all courage and clear vision as we work together… ToGetHer…

  22. Kathy December 5, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

    Rebecca, thank you so much for your insight. I love what you said about the need to listen to the women to hear their needs. We are definitely wasting our time and theirs if we are working hard to meet needs they don’t have. Of course, I also strongly believe there are spiritual needs that women don’t necessarily even realize they have. Sometimes they are too overwhelmed with temporal needs. So, we have to work to meet their greatest “felt” needs while also working to meet their more important spiritual needs. That’s a tall order!

  23. Chris Adams December 6, 2011 at 10:22 pm #

    You know, a couple years ago I was asked to address the topic What is the Future of Women’s Ministry. I did a little research and the conclusion was, as long as Titus 2 is in the Bible there will be WM in one form or fashion! But with each generation we absolutely must evaluate and see if what we are doing is effecting in reaching and discipling women for Christ. If not, we have to find out why. Problems occur when we refuse to listen to each other in different generations and life experiences. Communication is going to be key in seeking to find out who SHE is today and what will reach her. It doesn’t always mean we stop other things we are doing that are effective for some groups of women, but that we are willing to say, who is not here yet and what will if take to reach them. I posted a blog entry recently sharing about some questions one church is asking who SHE is. http://bit.ly/vwPUg9

    I do believe we will continue to grapple with this as we move ministry into the future. It feels a bit like it did about 20 or 25 years ago when my generation asked what it would take to reach the next generation! Time to listen, help those who don’t understand WM what it is all about and focus on what God is doing through women coming together to study, grow and serve in the Kingdom.

    Thanks for bringing up the different aspects and even asking the questions! We must keep doing that.

    • Kathy December 6, 2011 at 11:01 pm #

      Chris, thanks so much for joining the conversation. I love what you said about Titus 2. Yes, to be fully obedient to God we must have women’s ministry in some form or fashion. You are so right about the need to constantly reevaluate what we are doing. That doesn’t mean we change our purpose or our focus on Christ. It simply means our strategies must be relevant to women today.

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