When my husband and I first arrived at our church in 2017 and he began to serve as lead pastor, I was approached by a number of women who wanted to talk about “women’s ministry.” I quickly learned that the definition of this term varied widely. It was obvious that our church was full of women who were great students of the Bible who, over the course of many years, had participated in wonderful offerings of women’s studies, mom’s groups, retreats, and more. However, in the months leading up to our arrival, some things had faded away and many women were eager to see this ministry grow under their new pastor.
Our church doesn’t have a staff member focused on women’s ministry like most churches across the country. Through these conversations, as well as time in the Scriptures and prayer, it became clear that the Lord was leading me and a few other women of the church to begin a new plan for discipling the women of our church. The following outlines the steps we took to reignite our women’s ministry and it is my prayer that our story is a helpful guide for those in a similar position.
Pray for the harvest and the harvesters.
One of the most rewarding parts of my church’s story is watching how God answered prayers at every step of the way. Don’t miss this blessing. The Scriptures are instructive for how women should form relationships, serve their families, and honor the Lord. Scriptures like Titus 2:3, 1 Peter 3:5, and 1 Timothy 2:9-15 became our prayers and the foundation of anything we dreamed to build. In addition, we prayed for the Lord to establish our ministry as a fulfillment of His call to discipleship. This was not a new call, but a tool for fulfilling “the call” found in Matthew 28:18. Matthew 9:38 became our refrain, asking the Lord for both the harvest and the harvesters.
Talk with your pastoral staff.
No matter the conviction you feel or the passion you have, the ministries of a church are clearly under the authority of the pastors. If you are a lay person like I am, the first thing you should do after prayer is have a conversation with your pastor and other relevant staff about the burden you are sensing and the conversations you are having. Lay out a plan for what you are going to do next. For us, that was to organize a group of about six women who were similarly motivated to read two books together about women’s ministry and discuss the potential applications to our church over a summer break in church programming. We would, at the close of that process, create a proposal to bring back to the church staff for their consideration.
Talk to the women.
Take time to talk with a variety of women in the church before beginning a women’s ministry. Approach your sisters with humility to hear about their histories, needs, and concerns. Seek out both students of the Bible and those with a history in the congregation to understand the foundations on which you will be building. In addition, consider the women of your church. What are their schedules, life stages? Do they work? Commute? What is your community’s school calendar? How would a new class or church offering fit amongst the other commitments they’ve made to your church?
Men, let me give you special encouragement toward conversations like these as an opportunity to foster brother-and-sister relationships within your church body. I’ve witnessed pastoral staff determining the needs of the women of the church without ever having a conversation with a female about it.
For all of us, this is a prayerful process. Sometimes the most vocal or approachable individuals do not represent all of the women in the group. You will need the Lord to guide you.
After we talked with our church staff, we started two groups that we called “test labs” to walk through a Bible study we had chosen. At the end of the study, we asked for honest feedback from the women who participated and I was floored by some of the things I learned. Women have different learning styles and experiences, and I would have never heard about them if I hadn’t asked in a semi-private setting. These were critical conversations for shaping the future discipleship in our church.
Create a multigenerational Women’s Ministry Board.
One of the most wonderful characteristics of our church is that it is multigenerational. We wanted the leadership of our women’s ministry to reflect that. We knew that it would be essential in order to create a ministry that serves multiple generations as well. The Proverbs and other places in Scripture are full of admonitions to consult the wise, the older, and the group. In addition, Titus 2 instructs relationships between older and younger women. For me, being a part of this board helped me to establish these mentor-type relationships, as well as pulling back some of our more zealous or myopic ideas when needed.
Lean into your women’s giftings.
The conversations required to lay the groundwork for your church’s women’s ministry, as outlined above, also allow you to discern the giftings of the women of your church. We sought to create space for our women to exercise their gifts in all that we did, and our vision for the ministry was shaped by the women God had given us in our church. We want to see women flourish as servants, leaders, and teachers, and as they do so, encourage others who may not have yet discerned their giftings.
Stay humble and play the long game.
We began our journey of establishing a women’s ministry in 2019 and have walked the difficult and winding road of the last few years. We’ve had to pivot. We’ve experienced a lack of volunteers. We had to create online groups and watch groups fold mid-semester. In other words, things didn’t go exactly as planned. But God has been faithful and we’ve learned much along the way.
The more our ministry grows, the more we are able to refine our offerings, as well as consider new ways to serve the women of our church. When new ideas arise, it can feel like a condemnation of the past. Do your best to remain “unoffendable” and flexible as you consider how the Lord will take you and your women into new chapters of ministry. Prayerfully ask Him to show you the new leaders who you will need for the future and constantly ask if your pride and preferences are getting in the way of what He wants to do. This is another time when a leadership board can provide invaluable perspective.
The Lord is eager to see his children grow in relationship with Him and He will provide all your needs. Seek the Lord of the harvest and get ready to work and you will watch your women flourish, like we have.
Posted on July 1, 2022
Jill Waggoner serves as content editor and deputy press secretary at
the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist
Convention. She has served the ERLC since 2005, as well as assisting
various ministries and publishers through her editorial and publicity
services. A graduate of Union University, she and her family reside in
Lebanon, Tennessee, where her husband Brandt serves as lead pastor of
Fairview Church. She and Brandt have three sons.
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