By Janet Thompson
Former Saddleback women’s director says a woman on staff can reach other women inside and outside the church.
It’s an undisputed fact that the role of women in the church, the home and the culture is in perpetual flux. Pastors wrestle with how to meet the ever-changing needs of the generations of women in their congregations and debate whether an organized women’s ministry is the answer. Some pastors expect the women to “figure it out” on their own.
I have good news! It’s not as complicated as you might think and a well-managed women’s ministry can help the pastor as he leads his flock. As a women’s ministry recipient and vocational equipper of women in the church, I have consulted with women from many churches.
I can assure you that every church needs a woman on staff who is equipped to scripturally develop teams to “come along side,” strengthen women in the congregation and to reach women outside the church.
No longer grandma’s church
It was common for women in my grandmother’s generation to connect with each other at church by cooking in the church kitchen, cleaning the buildings, teaching Sunday school, doing office work, or quilting and sewing.
They often chatted and prayed together over a cup of tea at the kitchen table. Spiritual maturity and biblical knowledge came from the pastor’s sermons and reading the Bible, which was often lying open in my grandmother’s lap as she read Bible stories to my cousins and me.
Unlike my grandmother’s generation, today’s “church woman” is looking for meaningful opportunities to use her giftedness to serve, to learn, and to connect. She doesn’t want to be treated like a “coffee and cookie maker” or “bulletin folder.” Today’s women want to be taken seriously in ministry, both spiritually and personally. This has been a frustrating and difficult transition for both the church and women, who often feel minimized.
The church adapting
When I started the Woman to Woman Mentoring Ministry at Saddleback Church, I was a leader in the business world and had a vision of how a ministry for women could be developed using basic business principles such as:
- Job descriptions, renamed Opportunity to Serve Descriptions.
- Organization charts, which became ministry team charts.
- Interviewing to discover the right role for each woman that matches her gifts and talents.
I appreciated the male pastors who took me seriously when I presented my ministry plan and handed me the “12 Steps to Starting a Ministry at Saddleback.” This was an organizational tool I understood and it allowed me to develop the ministry under the parameters of the church guidelines.
When I completed the steps and reported back to the pastors, I listened to their input and they listened to mine. A ministry was launched that has been duplicated in churches around the world for more than 16 years.
Three “adapting” points to consider are:
- Include the women’s ministry director in staff meetings and leadership training so she can learn how to develop, equip, lead and commission teams that encourage women to use their gifts.
- Support the women’s ministry in learning the dynamics and needs of the women in your church by utilizing technology and networking tools, to reduce program-oriented structure and implement fluid and flexible ministry opportunities. For example: online Bible studies; communicating via websites, blogs, email, Twitter and social networks; one-day conferences replacing go-away retreats.
- Encourage women’s ministry to participate in a church-wide effort to identify the next generation of leaders and mentor them in two-way relationships where each generation learns from the previous. Chris Adams, LifeWay women’s ministry senior specialist, agrees: “If we are going to pass down the legacy to the younger generation, we must mentor.”
A church that invests in and supports the development of women’s ministry will experience significant growth and spiritual maturity in the congregation. “Do we really need a women’s ministry? Is it worth the effort?” I believe the answer is an irrefutable, “Yes!”
Janet Thompson lives in Idaho and is the founder of Woman to Woman Mentoring and About His Work Ministries. She recently released a book, The Team That Jesus Built: How to Develop, Equip, and Commission a Women’s Ministry Team. (New Hope Publishers) www.womantowomanmentoring.com
No woman left behind
Carolyn Custis James lives in Boxford, MA, and has authored Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women (Zondervan, 2011). She says the church attempts to speak with relevance to women, but the message often fails to address the opportunities, changes and contingencies of life
in a fallen world.