Friday, November 15, 2013

Breaking The Women's Ministry Stereotype

Leading our ministry to women has sent me off in a thousand directions. I'm researching other ministries, talking to women and leaders, reading articles, blog posts, and sourcing books on the subject. I'm searching for the "right" way to do this thing called Women's Ministry (read my honest thoughts about Women's Ministry here) Quite frankly, I'm not even sure what it means other than what the bible talks about. We are all called to be ministers, one to another. We are also called to teach others (read Older Women Teach the Younger - A Gospel Approach).

One thing I am convinced of, women have a unique need to be with other women. To live life together. 

think of Mary, mother of Jesus. She couldn't wait to visit Elizabeth upon hearing of her pregnancy. She was excited to share her own news as well, that she was pregnant and that God had performed this miracle in her life. They lived life together for three months and for each woman it must have been a wonderful and safe relationship. They shared intimate parts of their lives and I can only imagine how difficult it was for them to say goodbye. When I think about a ministry for women that is what I think of. Women relating to each other as only women can do. 

However, what I just described is not what most people think about when they hear Women's Ministry. That phrase usually conjures up an outdated stereotypical image of tea parties, circles, and baking for church events. As antiquated as that sounds, it is still the expectation in many churches.

Additionally, ministry to women sounds like events, planning bible studies, retreats, and mom's groups. Typically this is what Women's Ministry gets reduced to. Events on the calendar that need to be coordinated. Is that it though? Is that really what it is? 

Is that all we want it to be?

I'm thinking about all of this out loud as we seek to affect culture in our church. How do we reverse the stereotype and invite all women to the table, cultivate an appetite for transparency and encourage a thirst for gospel freedom?

How do we communicate to women that they are more than baking? How and where do we find places for our women to serve in ways that utilize the wide variety of skills and gifts God has given them? How can we tap into their intellect, discernment and wisdom? This is a huge challenge and one that I want to take seriously. Many women I speak with are left with the impression that their usefulness to their church boils down to serving in the nursery and children's ministry, or helping with hospitality and women's events. Sadly, if women are not serving in these few areas, they are somehow viewed as "not involved". 

In many churches, the majority of women don't serve in the nursery, nor do they help with women's events. Why? Probably because they are busy raising families or working outside the home. They are helping their ninth grader with algebra or training systems analysts in their workplace. They are coaching their daughter's volleyball team or flying out of town on business. They are principals at our children's schools or doctors in our hospitals. Just like those who serve in the nursery or in children's ministry, they are intelligent, gifted and compassionate women. 

I believe that what women need first and foremost is the Gospel. That comes by way of preaching as we gather corporately each week. However, I also believe women need a place of safety and freedom to connect the dots; to unpack what gospel freedom looks like in their workplaces, their families, their relationships, their struggles, and in their own personal relationship with Jesus. In addition, women need places to serve where their unique gifts can be used. Creating spaces and places that are safe, affirming and loving is one way to help them as they live out of the love they've been shown, in Christ.

I would love to hear from you! How are you working to break down Women's Ministry stereotypes in your church community?

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