Grace Community Church Women's Ministries
Feb
2

A couple of years ago, I read a letter written by Christian blogger Sarah Bessey titled In which I write a letter to Women’s Ministry . Demonstrating a fair amount of chutzpah and little restraint, Bessey delivers a scathing critique of the traditional women’s ministry model that so many of us have either created or consumed.

She takes aim at the Bible studies and special events (complete with craft projects and dried-flower centerpieces) that have been the hallmark of women’s ministries for generations. She paints an insipid picture of these cornerstones of women’s ministry and calls for fewer frills and more authentic personal interaction, inspiration, and meaningful dialog. She pleads for experiences that are profoundly impactful for the many educated, competent, and compassionate women who are starving for spirituality and real community –those who would rather talk about salient issues of justice than learn how to decoupage. She calls for change.

Let me be clear. I am not a proponent of any straight-talk that delivers mortal wounds to the dedicated directors and volunteers of the many traditional women’s ministry programs housed in the world’s churches. They work hard and do their best and deserve our gratitude for the many days and nights they plan and prepare, receiving little or no compensation and even less appreciation.

I do, however, recognize wisdom and truth in Bessey’s letter.

She dispenses a bitter pill, but it can be restorative if you can choke it down, let it settle, and digest it fully.

I’ve thought a lot about that letter since first reading it and have reviewed numerous research articles that validate Bessey’s analysis. Even as I continued to lead women’s ministries down a traditional path, I wasn’t convinced that it was having optimum impact on the women that I had been entrusted to serve.

It was time for change. Not just a little tweaking around the edges, but wholesale change that would result in a tectonic shift.

Last summer, armed with a handful of questions, I asked an impressive group of women to meet with me with the expressed purpose of reimagining women’s ministries. All group members are between the ages of 30 and 40 years, each possesses a solid faith foundation, and every one of them is a skillful navigator of the deep waters that 21st century women are thrown into daily. Our discussion would drive the design of a new ministry mix for the women of our church.

We began by simply identifying the characteristics of today’s women agreeing that they are by and large:

  • highly educated,
  • good communicators,
  • excellent critical thinkers who ask lots of questions and want to be asked for their opinions and their help in solving problems,
  • adept jugglers of home and work responsibilities, albeit stretched thin by the weight and effort of it all,
  • slow to commit to additions to their calendars but also slow to exit once they have signed on,
  • burdened by extremely high expectations set before them by the media (that includes you, Pinterest!)
  • savvy individuals who prefer straight-forward appeals for their time and attention,
  • proprietors of ambitious goals,
  • champions of justice, and
  • confident that when empowered they can make a significant difference in the world.

In terms of relationships, these women

  • seek intentional and purposeful relationships,
  • use Facebook, texting, and other social media to maintain already established relationships, and
  • prefer small group interactions to large group interaction for fostering deep and lasting relationships.

They pick their battles carefully and are not likely to lose sleep over worship style, argue over the décor for the mother’s room, or worry about whether there are flower arrangements in the Worship Center ladies’ room. They care deeply about:

  • their families
  • spiritual and personal growth,
  • issues relative to physical and mental health,
  • the suffering of marginalized or lost people (those close to home and those all over the world),
  • adequacy and management of personal finances,
  • living their faith as Christian women,
  • setting and achieving ambitious career goals, and
  • serving others.

When asked what they need from one another, this group pointed to authenticity, vulnerability, support, and accountability for spiritual growth. What they want from an organized women’s ministry is:

  • flexibility of scheduling,
  • variety of experiences,
  • a safe place to “plug in”,
  • simplicity (nothing fancy, please – no table clothes or flowers – just provide us with a comfortable place and meaningful purpose to meet),
  • assistance with the practicalities of childcare, and
  • periodic large group events that offer meaningful growth experiences 

So, here’s the thing. These very smart, very humble, and very gentle women were ever so graciously asking for consideration of a new paradigm for women’s ministries, one that is built around a handful of very important concepts.

  1. Simplicity is key. Don’t spend a great deal of time on aesthetics, taking care to match table cloths to fancy center pieces. Instead, focus on providing a meaningful purpose and a comfortable place for people to meet and let them take care of the details. Adopt a coffee house mindset which focuses on the quality of the coffee rather than the paper cup that it’s served in. If the coffee isn’t good, a fancy cup isn’t going to make it better.
  1. Flexibility and variety are critical. They are individuals with unique preferences and seek out those who are like-minded. No “one-size-fits-all” approach will work. They are stretched tight and their calendars are full. They will carefully consider invitations (thank you very much) but will only participate in events and efforts that align with their preferences and have reasonable potential to make a tangible positive impact on their lives and the lives of those they love.
  1. Substance is imperative. Women are impressive problem solvers who can make important contributions when the need arises to explore complex issues and solve difficult problems. They seek out opportunities to engage in meaningful dialog about salient issues, rather than social gatherings or Bible studies that limit authentic sharing and personal interaction. They want to learn from one another.

So, we’re changing it up at Grace and this Website is the first step.

This site has been designed to serve as a conduit of expression for Christian women who are hungry for meaningful interaction and want to join with others to experience real spiritual and personal growth.

This will be a safe place to chew on issues that matter to us and share truth. Here, we will seek and find answers together. We will make each other laugh and put away unrealistic expectations about our kids, our bodies, our husbands, our homes, and our jobs.

Here, we will encourage and gently remind one another to be thankful.

We will discover and read books in common and discuss how we can use what we’ve learned to make the world a better place.

We will share information about interesting conferences, and gather our friends together to buy tickets and share rides and hotel rooms, and then talk about how the conference has changed us forever.

Most of all, we will be a community of women who know one another, love one another, and keep watch over one another so we can become all that God intends us to be.