“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
Women’s ministry is such a beautiful gift. It’s a place where women of all different backgrounds can come together for friendship and fellowship, and can be encouraged in their walk with the Lord.
Or, at least, that’s the goal.
A lot of women I know, however, have been hurt by or disappointed in their WM experience. They’ve been judged, excluded, or left spiritually empty. In some cases, women’s ministry has left these women with a wrong impression of the Lord. Through the actions of women’s groups, these ladies felt like the Lord was out-of-date, overly-harsh, and uncaring.
To keep women coming to church, we need to revamp our ministries and give them the friendship (with other women and with God) they crave. To help get our WM back on track, here are 10 things women’s ministry should stop doing right now.
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/vadimguzhva
1. Being Judgmental
One of the worst reputations we’ve received as Christians is being judgemental, and women’s ministry is not exempt from this impression. While I do believe this judgment is usually a misunderstanding, I’ve heard story after story from my friends who’ve felt judged in women’s ministries.
This judgment can show itself in many ways: ideas always being shot down, being discredited because of age (on either end of the spectrum), not feeling welcome because of a divorce, or even not being allowed to decorate a table for Christmas tea because their plates weren’t "classy enough."
The goal of our ministry should be to become a safe place for women to grow in their relationship with Jesus and with each other. But if we’re not creating a welcoming environment for women, no matter their age, marital status, or income, we’re going to leave a sour taste in women’s mouths.
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/Merlas
2. Living on Tradition
One thing I love about WM is how there always seems to be that one event that the women look forward to. It garners so much excitement that it seems like the entire church is buzzing for months before. Maybe it’s a Christmas dinner, an annual outing, or the springtime retreat. Whatever it is, it’s well respected and has been going on for years.
Where things go south, however, is when every single event turns into an annual tradition that carries more dread than anticipation.
As a creature of habit, I get it. It’s nice to know your yearly schedule, to have a game plan, and to know your next event months ahead of time. But repeating all the same events is not only dull, but harmful to your ministry.
First, you’re not positioning your ministry in a way that’s welcoming to new guests. Events should tailor-fit to your women, not the other way around. Plus, being overly scheduled can prevent you from leaving room for God to work. You always want to be seeking the Lord when planning your events, not just following last year's calendar.
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/Jupiterimages
3. Watering Down Bible Studies
Have you ever compared men’s and women’s Bible studies side by side? It’s ridiculous! Men have these incredibly powerful exegeses on God’s Word and women are left with Bible studies centered around the theme of chocolate.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I am a chocolate fiend. But I’m so tired of these cliche ways to draw women into Bible study. “This fall, we’re reading ‘Does God Love Coffee?’ We’re so cute and silly.”
It’s time kick this to the curb. Give me a robust year-long study on Romans. Teach me how to study the Scriptures efficiently. Let’s look up the meanings of the original Greek words. Let’s vigorously pray for one another. Let’s become Christ-following, warrior-princesses who put on the armor of God every single day. And then, maybe give me some chocolate.
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock
Women get a bad rap for being gossipers. And while most women would deny being a gossip, I’ve seen it first-hand many times. And if I'm honest, I’ve gossiped myself!
But the reason I think most women don’t know they're gossiping is that they don’t understand what gossip is. So let’s define it. Gossiping is talking about someone or something, involving personal details, that you weren't given explicit permission to share. It includes when you are trying to disguise your gossip as a prayer request, too.
Now, if a new woman greeted to your ministry by gossip, do you think she’s going to stay? No! She’s going to book it out of there ASAP before her personal life becomes the target.
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/Ingram Publishing
5. Assuming No One Works
How many times have you wanted to go to a WM event, only to find out it’s Tuesday morning at 10:00? Or maybe there’s a new Bible study this spring, but it's on Fridays at 2:00 pm.
Maybe this timetable worked back in 1943, but many (if not most) of today’s women have full-time or part-time jobs. By scheduling activities exclusively during the standard working day, your ministry is dismissing a considerable chunk of women who’d love to participate!
My recommendation is to keep those Tuesday mornings or Friday afternoons, but also add some evening times. Working women still want community, friendship, and to be filled with God’s Word. The goal of your ministry should be to include all women, not just stay-at-home wives or mothers.
Photo courtesy: Pexels.com
6. Having Poor Communication
After starting at a new church, I was eagerly looking for new ways to get connected. Women’s ministry was the obvious choice, so I asked the volunteer at the welcome desk about it. She informed me that the WM ladies met at someone’s house each week, and she kindly took my email so I could get the details before next week. Ten days later, and no email in sight, I called the church to try to get connected. I was told to fill out the info page online to get on the WM emailing list. I obliged, and still never heard back.
If you want women to be a part of your ministry, you need to make sure they actually can be a part of your ministry. Communicate quickly and efficiently with women on the details of your events, and make sure it’s accessible for all.
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock
7. Using Insider Lingo
As a ministry, you want to make every woman feel included in your group. But nothing isolates newcomers faster than using insider language, with no explanation. Insider lingo can range from ministry specific jargon (such as using names like “The Well,” “Devoted,” or “Koinonia” to describe rooms and programs) or just general Christian lingo that new Christians might not understand (like anointment, spiritual gifts, or love offering.)
I’m not asking you to abandon all these words and phrases, mainly because some, like spiritual gifts, play a significant role in being a Christian. All that I’m asking is that your ministry intentionally explains what something means.
So instead of saying, “Be Still is meeting on Tuesday in the Loft,” try saying, “Be Still, our weekly women’s ministry Bible study, is meeting on Tuesday in the Loft, which is located to the right of the sanctuary stage.” Over-explaining lets new women feel confident in coming.
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/SIphotography-2
8. Having Cliques
Think in your head about your women’s ministry. Are there any cliques that come to mind? How about people on staff, or wives of people on staff. Maybe stay-at-home moms or moms who work? How about retired women who’ve attended this church since they were born? Single millennials? Young marrieds?
None of these groups are wrong. It's just what happens when are most comfortable around other people who are similar to themselves. But as a ministry, we want our women to feel comfortable interacting with everyone. God created the entire body of the church so we could learn from one another!
To encourage intermixing of the groups, shake things up a bit. Make sure your events are at a time that most people can attend and prompt women to sit at tables of people they don’t know as well. Help develop a mentoring program for women to get encouragement from others a few steps ahead of them. There are so many ways to foster inter-clique friendships! Get creative!
Photo courtesy: @Thinkstock/digitalskillet
9. Being Superficial
Before anyone gets too defensive, I’m not accusing women’s ministry of being selective of people based on their looks. I’d imagine most groups aren’t screening women to join for their beauty.
What I’m talking about here is not going far below the surface in our ministries. We all come together, talk about surface level problems and give shallow answers in reply. This fear of going deep isolates everyone because now women feel they're alone in their problems. No one wants to be the first person to open up because they don’t want to complain.
But here's the truth: there’s so much power in honesty, and there’s so much freedom in having a place to openly share. It might take a while to develop and will take a few bold women to take the first step in truthful sharing, but I can guarantee it will be worth it.
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/vadimguzhva
10. Being Stale
Living life in relationship with God is one of the most thrilling, action-packed, heart-racing experiences we could ever have. It makes life a whirlwind adventure, one that’s exciting and comforting at the same time.
So why are so many women’s ministries stale? Not only is this a quick way to turn women away, but it’s also a way we unintentionally communicate that God is dull and out-of-date. Which isn’t true!
We need to work on mirroring God’s crazy deep love for us in our ministries. Let’s encourage a life that’s entirely dependent on Jesus. Let’s step out of our comfort zones and see how God shows up. When we become wholly reliant on God in our ministry, our WM groups will become anything but stale.
Lindsey Brady is a new wife and stepmother who loves to spend time in nature or going for long runs. When she's feeling a bit more sedentary, she'll watch an entire season of any Food Network show in a single sitting. You can follow her on Instagram at real.slim.brady.
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/tapgoodimages