I opened my church bulletin to find an announcement for the yearly Holiday Shopping Extravaganza hosted by one of our women’s ministry groups and noticed the lady next to me groaning as she read the flyer. Was it because Thanksgiving hadn’t even arrived and we were starting to talk about Christmas shopping? Perhaps she knew she’d be guilted into buying items and accessories she really didn’t need. Or was it because she, like so many women in the blogosphere, was frustrated with what it seems women’s ministry only focuses on: shopping, baking, crafting, socializing, and self-help retreats.
These perceptions are often “deal breakers” for women who feel their desire to live out the gospel does not include frosting cupcakes. Resentful, these Spirit-filled women go it alone or even hide their gifts, leaving a gap only they can fill. If you know a dynamic woman who has resisted women’s ministry, or if you yourself have felt frustrated, there are several reasons to reconsider why women’s ministry needs you.
I Don’t Really Like Women (and They Don’t Like Me)
Same here. I always found most women difficult to know, trust, and enjoy. While it’s gotten easier as an adult, it’s still not easy to be the new girl and try to make friends. But women’s ministry is more than girlfriends getting together. It’s even more than friendship—it’s camaraderie.
Although reluctant at first, I now treasure the time I have in fellowship with other women. Through Bible studies, Sunday school preparations, small group discussions, and volunteer projects, women have helped me learn my value in Christ. For instance, this year in our small group, I revealed how I am finally ready—although incredibly terrified—to see what is behind my disorderly eating. I am not pursuing a diet or boot camp, but taking a long walk in the deep woods with just my fears, feelings, and fat. I hated admitting that to a room of super-cute, CrossFit-ing women, but what choice did I have? I can either nod politely and talk about God’s love for me, or I can sniffle and choke back tears and intimately seek God’s love for me.
Afterwards, one of the women invited me to coffee so she and I could visit more, as she admitted this topic struck a personal chord with her. But you’re so thin and rich, I thought, how do you know what suffering is? You can add that hideous thought to the long list of misjudgments I’ve made about women because of my own insecurities.
Over coffee later that week, we talked about our feelings on food. While our stories were different, there were common themes connecting our experiences: wanting to be perceived a certain way, seeking approval from others, wanting recognition for making good decisions. I left feeling embraced, encouraged, and energized. When God knit me in my mother’s womb, he purposed a woman. As a woman I have certain inalienable responsibilities to God, just as men have theirs. To become a “sister in Christ” (a phrase that used to send me screaming from the room), I’ve had to spend time in the company of women. By doing so, I have learned to better love the loveliness in being a woman, both independently and shoulder to shoulder.
I Don’t Do the Girly Thing (and I Don’t Want To)
The “girly thing” includes everything from baking to sewing to crafting to hosting to helping in the nursery. No matter the particulars, it usually appears like the things we dislike doing are the most popular activities for women’s ministry. It can also seem like this lighter fare glosses over the deeper, more complicated needs of the church community and world at large. It can be frustrating for women who long to tackle inspired action plans to feel fed. But there is room at the table for everyone.
If you have a burning desire to tackle human trafficking, addiction, broken marriages, adoption, emergency relief efforts, or another weighty issue, pursue it. Just because your church does not have a group, task force, or missions team for what is heavy on your heart doesn’t mean someone else isn’t longing to team up and tackle the same heady issues. Women’s ministry can be a deep well of knowledgeable women eager to join forces with someone, but hesitant to go it alone. Instead of blowing off activities and events already on the calendar, sign up in hopes of meeting like-minded peeps. In fact, several of the women’s ministries in our area work hand in hand with national and international organizations to meet lofty goals. Your church may not know about a need, and you could bridge that cause’s problem with your church’s solution. Our women’s ministry did.
The Shopping Extravaganza I mentioned earlier is donating a portion of the monies raised for an area family’s medical expenses as their child has a rare neuro-muscular disease. At first glance it may have looked like the evening of shopping was self-focused and consumer-driven, but there is a deeper need being met because several women communicated what was happening to this family. Not only is this particular family being served, but the women’s ministry is taking another step deeper into the work of the gospel. We need more women to help lead those important steps. You can find your tribe in among the “girly” things.
I Don’t Have the Time (or the Fortitude)
Who does? There will never be a perfect time to sign up for ministry work, walk into a room filled with women and announce, “Hi, I’m Helen, and I am ready to grow closer to the Lord with you strangers.” It isn’t going to happen. You have to make the time. And there’s no time like the present.
It’s not easy to be a newcomer, make mistakes, and have growing pains in front of other people. I, for one, am much more comfortable figuring it all out on my own and then showing up “in charge.” It’s often unnerving to be at the beginning of any journey. Especially when you have a teeny tiny habit of blurting out exactly what you’re thinking, sans filter. But just because you feel unsettled doesn’t mean you’ve made a mistake.
At my first women’s Bible study everyone was going around the room talking about their love for the Lord and their blessings as a Christian. When it was my turn I promptly turned red and squeaked out, “I’m not even sure I believe any of this. Part of me thinks you’re all nuts. I have a lot of questions. Can I ask them?” The leader invited me to stay, the group embraced me as a woman, not a project, and my life—and salvation—changed. Think it’s just a bunch of self-indulged women trading recipes? It’s not. Get in there and see for yourself. I’m so glad I did.
Today, I better appreciate myself, value my relationships more, and can welcome someone new to the crowd with open arms. Guess where I learned to do those things? Women’s ministry.