3 Reasons Women’s Ministries Might Want to Focus Less on Marriage and Motherhood
- Rachel Baker Crosswalk Contributing Writer
- 2022 25 Mar
Women’s ministries are often the home to every category of woman: Single, married, mother, widow, and so forth. As a Women’s Ministry Director, I both attend a women’s small group and organize the women’s ministry meetings at my local church. In my small group alone there is a vast array of women, each in different categories, some are empty nesters, some are starting families, some are intentionally single, while others are single with the hope of being in a relationship in the future.
We cover the gamut, so why is it that women’s ministries’ regularly cast their focus on the married mother? Don’t get me wrong, as a married mother I have absolutely benefited from Bible study curriculum and content focused on marriage and motherhood, however it should go without saying that these types of studies do not represent all women.
If you are in a position at your local church in women’s ministry or as a small group leader here are a few reasons why you might want to steer your Bible study content away from marriage and motherhood:
Studies Solely Based on Marriage and Motherhood Can Feel Exclusive
As a young married woman and then young mother I desperately needed support and connection and resources to help me feel a little less alone in that particular season of my life. Marriage ministries and parenting ministries absolutely have a place within the church; they are absolutely needed. However, when our larger-scale ministries such as women’s ministry or small group ministry only focus on young-married or motherhood we can miss out on the richness that comes from a group of women of all life-stages and relationship status.
To solely focus on marriage and motherhood means an inadvertent (or possibly intentional) exclusion of women who do not fit into those categories. Single women need community just like married women. Women without children need community just like mothers. We all need community, additionally, we can all benefit from each other’s wisdom and perspectives.
Exclusion of the unwed or childless woman can leave a void in those various ministries. Without these women or their voices in our small groups and women’s ministries, our ministries are at risk of becoming echo chambers of sorts. When a group is exclusively comprised of young and potentially struggling mothers, who in that group will help them see themselves as individuals outside of their role of mother? When a group is specifically comprised of single women or widows, or any other one life-stage, we miss the opportunity to grow as diverse and unique individuals. Furthermore, we miss out on the richness that a diverse group creates.
Christian Culture May Elevate Marriage and Motherhood over Singleness but the Bible Does Not
The Apostle Paul writes this of singleness:
“I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” —1 Corinthians 7:32-35
While it might be easy to glorify marriage and motherhood within Christian culture the fact is that the single and childless play an equally important role in ministry and kingdom work. It is true a single woman isn’t concerned about juggling family schedules and her husband’s needs. If they are called into ministry or missions or a specific area of service they can respond in ways that a married mother cannot.
Just this week, I learned of an acquaintance who is traveling to the war-torn border of Ukraine to offer medical services. Their singleness allows them to serve in this way, whereas as a married mother my first responsibility is to my husband and children. The likelihood of me (or any young mother) flying halfway across the world to offer medical services to a war-torn country is probably pretty low.
According to Paul, singleness can be a gift, just like marriage can be a gift, likewise, singleness can present challenges, just like marriage can present challenges. We can use our singleness to glorify God, to attract others to Christ, and to serve God’s kingdom well. We can do the same as a married individual, we each have our role to play. So, rather than making a woman feel “less than” or like she doesn’t have anything to offer due to her singleness, we might instead consider celebrating her and encouraging her to serve the Lord in bold and beautiful ways.
Each Woman Has Value, No Matter Her Relationship Status
As the body of Christ, we each have a function, our relationship status is not our full identity nor is it the whole of who we were made to be in Christ. Before I was ever married or a mother my life and my heart mattered to God. Likewise, a single woman has immense value in the Kingdom.
She is a gift to the church in which she serves, she is a gift to the friends that she loves, she is a gift to her workplace and to the people who know her. The single woman is valued and loved by God, just like a married woman. Our Bibles are filled with stories of women, some married and some single, who are used by God to fulfill his mission on earth.
If Christian history holds space for both single and married women, then certainly we should do the same within the context of our Christian small groups and Bible studies. As a prompting for those of us in Christian leadership it may be helpful to consider the women who help serve in our ministries: Are our leaders exclusively married with children or is there a good mix of all different women on our teams?
As we move forward in ministry, being mindful of the value of all women no matter their relationship status, we may want to adjust the curriculum we use and the topics that we focus on in our studies and small group time. Sure, we still want to carve out space for new moms, young-marrieds, the widow, the empty-nester, and the single woman, however, we may want to consider these elements as secondary to our overall spiritual formation.
If we keep our eyes focused on understanding Biblical truths, studying the gospel accounts, and taking Jesus’ words to heart then we can apply what we’ve learned to every area of our lives. Certainly, God’s word for humanity can be applied to every stage of life that we are in, whether that is happily single without any intent of moving into a relationship, or single with the hopes of being in a relationship, or in marriage, or motherhood, or widowhood or any other season and stage of life that we may experience.
If we let God into every nook and cranny of our lives and keep our focus on the eternal then all of those life stages do become secondary to our primary purpose: Love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls, and love our neighbors as ourselves.
In our singleness, we are compelled by the gospel, in our marriages we are compelled by the gospel, in our parenting we are compelled by the gospel. Let’s keep our eyes and hopes higher and practice loving each other no matter what our relationship status is.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/PKpix
Rachel Baker is the author of Deconstructed, a Bible study guide for anyone who feels overwhelmed or ill-equipped to study the word of God. She is a pastor’s wife and director of women’s ministries, who believes in leading through vulnerability and authenticity. She is a cheerleader, encourager, and sometimes drill-sergeant. She serves the local church alongside her husband, Kile, in Northern Nevada. They have two amazing kiddos and three dogs. Rachel is fueled by coffee, tacos, and copious amounts of cheese. For more on her and her resources to build your marriage, see her website: www.rachelcheriebaker.com or connect with her on Instagram at @hellorachelbaker.
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You can read Rhonda's full article here.
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