It has become quite popular to hate on women’s ministry.
I get it. You’re tired of the pastels and the floral decor and the chin-up-buttercup pep talks. So am I. I’m tired of doily-scattered tea parties where we sit around and talk about our feelings. I don’t like being treated with kid gloves when it comes to my faith, and unfortunately, this is often what I have experienced in women’s ministry settings.
But I have a confession: I still think we need it.
Rock and a Hard Place
I find myself in a unique position during this cultural shift. My status as a Millennial makes me one of those starry-eyed youngsters who continually expects more from the church. But I’ve also been in a women’s ministry leadership position for the past five years, which has given me the opportunity to see why this ministry is important and necessary.
I still see gaps that need filling, lies that need uncovering, relationships that need restoring, and scars that need healing. I hear the desperate questioning of those who still ask, “Is there a place for me?” I watch the tired eyes of a stay-at-home mama as she wrangles her little ones during worship, and I look across the room to the single 30something who consistently shows up and serves. I notice the woman wrestling with emotional pain sitting next to the one with physical pain, both unaware of each other’s struggle. I see connections yet to be made and hearts that still long to be mended.
So, even though I’m tired of the aesthetics, I’ve never been more convinced that the church needs space for ministry to women.
Decor versus Depth
When I ask other women in my generation why they have a problem with women’s ministry, one common response is a critique about aesthetics. They complain about events like tea parties and knitting circles. They don’t like the types of “feminine” events that are planned or stereotypical topics that are addressed. They feel out of place in settings where girly decor is present because experience has taught them that physical fluff is an indicator of spiritual fluff.
I can’t blame them; my experience is similar. It feels like a waste of time to sit around sipping tea while talking about how to exude a gentle and quiet spirit. It’s not that gentleness isn’t important, but we also need to know how to be bold and fearless in a society that’s constantly silencing us.
But here’s the kicker: Physical fluff is not always indicative of spiritual fluff. This has been a hard lesson for me to learn. Just because you’re going to a tea party with the ladies doesn’t mean the conversation will necessarily be void of rich, theological rhetoric.
This used to be my prejudice. I assumed that women had to look rough, talk tough, and go against the feminine grain in order to retain spiritual depth. How shallow of me! It is just as prejudiced for us to assign spiritual depth to a ministry because of the aesthetics or tone of the events.
At the end of the day, ministry is about redemptive community. And community is about commitment. It’s about not throwing in the towel when the aesthetics, tone, or events don’t match your preference. It’s about keeping your rear in the proverbial chair even when you think the topic is boring because someone else might be having a freedom moment. It’s about loving people right where you are with what you have—even if they like flowers and doilies—because the flower-and-doily women need to experience the fullness of Jesus too.
I’m not saying our preferences don’t matter. They absolutely do! We should speak up and make our requests known. Last year, a woman from our church asked me if we could have a pizza night instead of our usual brunch social. So, that’s what we did! We ordered deep-dish pizza and ate like champs. Speak up about the things you like, but also have grace for your leaders and realize that they’re trying to minister to the needs of women with different backgrounds, preferences, and struggles.
Why Do We Need It?
When I think about women’s ministry, I don’t think about it as a “ladies’ club.” I don’t think about women getting together to complain about their husbands. I don’t think about cutting coupons or having spa nights.
I don’t think about any of these things because that’s not what women’s ministry is supposed to be. It’s supposed to be a place where women can come to safely talk about Jesus, his life-wrecking love, and how he changes everything. It’s supposed to be a safe place where we can talk about the grace of God and how it impacts things like infertility, divorce, singleness, poverty, cultural expectations, sexuality, and sometimes even menstruation or menopause (because seriously, we need to talk about these sometimes). It’s supposed to be about community that’s made possible by the ties of redemptive love.
Women will always need relationships with other women. I need godly role models who can speak into my life, who have walked the hard road and can guide me through things I’ve never experienced. I will never stop needing these women.
In her newsletter, Just Between Us, Jill Briscoe once said,
After all, who but a mother can fully empathize with a young woman who has suffered a miscarriage or struggled with being shut up with small children all day long? Who but a woman can sympathize with mercurial monthly emotions or PMS or the changes that come unbidden when we hit 50?! What a wide open door our very sex affords us. We can walk right into the hearts and lives of half the human race and present Christ, all because we are female.
We need other women to show us how the gospel informs our womanhood, not the other way around. We need women who can show us how to be children of God, and what that means in a world where our personhood is under attack.
Women’s ministry should never be a stand-alone program; instead, it acts as a part of the whole. It supports the entire mission of the church: making disciples. That kind of discipleship happens when we remove the façade and get real about our ordinary, everyday lives.
The honest truth is that we were made for relationships. Fashioned after the triune God, we bear the weight of community in our very DNA. It’s true that I’ve had my frustrations with women’s ministry, but it has also been a place for spiritual growth. I’ve learned my fair share from men in the church, but it’s because of other women that I understand things like sacrifice, spiritual gifts, and servant leadership.
I still have some growing up to do, and I’m confident I can’t do that without the help other women. You can’t either. And you know what? There are women who need you too.
Commit to community, where you are, with what you have. It won’t be easy, but there’s a doily-loving girly-girl standing right beside a bonfire-enthusiast tomboy, and they both need us to speak the gospel in their language. Women in the church need each other. And that’s what women’s ministry is all about.