Empowering women in new ways to serve, give, and receive – or even start a new tradition
Where were they?
Girls Night Out at church and the influx felt more like a trickle. I wasn’t surprised. It had been a good run but last year’s dwindling attendance should have been a clue. This year’s theme offered an evening of games, pizza, and assorted retro candy. Based on Hebrews 13:8, we dressed in our favorite decades because styles change, but Jesus doesn’t.
The women who showed had a blast. We made memories in a make-shift photo booth and scavenger hunted through purses in search of strange yet amusing contents. Still, we couldn’t deny the awkwardness of the half-empty room. Granted, the room was huge, but still.
So if low attendance wasn’t a surprise you might ask why the event even made it onto the calendar. Good question. The answer?
Because we always have Girls Night Out upstairs in the main church building on the 2nd Friday in June. Duh.
Here’s the hard truth. Tradition is nice but tradition gets dry. We say it’s not about the numbers, but when God sends a message loud and clear, it’s time to listen. He’s all about doing a new thing.
Here’s another hard truth: Not all women buy into the traditional women’s ministry events. Not all women like flowery decor and sipping from dainty cups with pinkies held high. We can’t take it personally because it’s not about us, it’s about this: Embracing change and reaching women in whatever ways women want to be reached.
So we broke up with our traditional Girls Night Out and courted a new one. A movie night. This was not just any movie night, it was a reaching-out outreach movie night. Women from all around the neighboring homes, apartments, and town-houses were invited. They may not do church, but who doesn’t love a good movie?
We were thinking out of the box, but more like out of the church. Literally.
We moved the movie outside. A new girls night out. We rented a blow-up outdoor movie screen and set up in the open field next to the church. Assorted candy and one popcorn machine later, and bam, we’re sharing the love of Christ in community. The weather was perfect and the movie was Mom’s Night Out with Patricia Heaton. It was a hit. A funny, fun movie with a Christian theme but no Christianese, so no subtitles necessary.
God wanted to do a new thing, and it wasn’t about the movie, it’s was about reaching out of building walls and comfort zones. When we place human limitations on God, we miss the exceedingly, abundantly more. Instead of wondering what it could look like, we envisioned what it would look like. We made new friends, too.
When we are willing, God will use us as catalysts in the business of fruit harvesting.
Opening Our Eyes to a New Thing
Going along with the new thing theme, our women’s life group took an eye-opening field trip. About forty-five minutes from where we do life, there’s a life we knew nothing of — a children’s home nestled on a lake, standing tall and fighting against the ills of child abuse, abandonment, and family breakdown. It’s a harsh reality but here is an amazing reality, people care and people are making a difference in the lives of these kids. This is an open door, an opportunity for women to serve. Serving is how a growing number of women want to do women’s ministry these days.
Reaching Out from Within
A group of us traveled to Detroit a few years ago. Our mission was to minister to women and their children in a transitional shelter. These women had stories to tell and while their physical needs were being met, what they really needed was someone to listen. It was heartbreaking to leave them. I cried. I did. I hope we left a Jesus footprint in the sand there, but we need to also remember women in our own backyard have stories to tell, too.
Locking Arms to Reach Beyond
In June of 2015, two of our women’s life groups intersected with a ministry to strippers called Power of Love. We purchased small toiletries, sorted handmade earrings, and chose bookmarks with scriptures to fill blessing bags to place in the hands of girls formed by God in the wombs of their mothers’. In Acts 26:18, Paul recounts how Jesus sent him out to “open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God…”
This ministry walks the light of Jesus right into the darkness of local strip clubs. These girls may not view their current employment situation as sexual bondage, but just as Jesus sent Paul, Jesus sends us so that the Holy Spirit can open their eyes. The captives need freedom and Jesus was the first to show us how it’s done.
Are we going to just stand there with stones in our hands, or are we going to reach for their hands and pull them up?
Let’s be honest, we’ve all been that woman at the well. We’re all sinners saved by grace. I have served on this outreach team and it is phenomenal. The team is welcomed in, and not only because we come bearing gifts, but because we share gifts you can’t stuff in a bag. They encounter Jesus. They are not judged but instead are given gifts without the expectation of anything in return. I’m sure to them, that is refreshing.
Then there’s this…
Breaking through barriers and crossing lines that keep women separated by church buildings and denominations. Unity in the body is key and we need to unlock some doors with it.
The Balancing Act
We know women’s ministry can’t please everyone and that’s okay. Ultimately it is God we want to please. As long as we maintain a balance between refreshment and involvement, we’ll stay the course. That still includes sprinkling in luncheons and teas. I have to admit, I’m a tea-drinking kind of girl and history has proven we should never underestimate the power of a good tea party.
Taking Steps in a New Direction
This whole change thing is not an overnight happening, but neither was the ministry of Jesus and His disciple-making plan. It takes praying without ceasing, continually walking in the Spirit, and discipleship. What exactly is discipleship? Read about it here.
So what do women have to say? According to several surveys we’ve taken, women rated outreach far above crafts and retreats.
Outreach takes planning so here are a few prep steps:
1. Encourage women to complete a spiritual gifts assessment
We may take for granted women know their spiritual gifts, but many do not. Assessment tools are available online through various ministries and church websites. This is an excellent first step. Temperament Profiles can also be great tools in discovering how each of us are uniquely created by God.
2. Provide opportunities for women to use their gifts
Women want to do, but may need direction in what to do. In-house events make great training ground for leaders, speakers, singers, prayer warriors… God equips the called and He uses the church as a spiritual boot-camp. When we disciple well, God will enlarge our borders.
3. Prayer walking in surrounding neighborhoods
As we walk together in groups, we can pray for God to prepare the hearts of women He is asking us to reach.
4. Provide opportunities for women to disciple other women.
Multi-generational ministry is more precious than gold. We want to engage the younger women and live out the Titus 2 model. I have a feeling Gen X and Y’ers correlate the term women with a department in a clothing store, not a good fit and not their style. We’ve got some work to do.
Ministry is not a mold, it’s a model.
In women’s ministry, there is no one-size-fits-all mold. It won’t look the same for everyone. The key is to model ministry after Jesus. When we do that, we can’t go wrong.
What Others Don’t Always See
Ministering to women isn’t just about events anyway. The true heart takes place behind the veil of the teas and luncheons. It’s reaching out to women sinking into depression, overcome with grief, hungry for hope, and fighting addiction. It’s about comforting hurting women with God’s truth. We’re all broken and only God can piece us back together. Sometimes it seems like one piece at a time. His time.
Ministering to women when life is hard is hard. Encouraging women to grab hold of faith, grab hold of hope, and grab hold of Jesus is better than any self-help book on the market. The true heart happens when women meet Jesus at the well — when they reach wide and grab the hem of His garment.
There are women out there afraid to step foot in a church and women out there who have vowed never to step foot in a church again. Let’s be the ones to bring in the new friends and help the prodigals find their way back home.
Women’s ministry is about glorifying God and reaching the hearts of women through love, compassion, grace, and mercy. If that’s what we’re doing, we’re getting it right.
Be blessed and be light,
Have you ever wondered Why have the men disappeared from church?
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