What first steps would you suggest for a church just starting a women's ministry?
Author's Note: This past weekend I attended a Word-Filled Women Workshop hosted by The Gospel Coalition at another Acts29 church in Denver. The workshop concluded with a panel discussion, to which attendees could present questions that come from their local context. I was glad to be on the panel and provide my two cents on a few different topics. I was given three specific questions to answer and I thought I would share them here, with you (This is how I often blog—if I had to think about it in real life, then why not write it down and share it here? Hopefully it will be helpful to someone and God can use it twice!). I shared Q&A #1 two days ago, #2 yesterday, and #3 is below.
Question #3: What first steps would you suggest for a church just starting a women's ministry?
Answer: This question is timely for us, as our church plant has been meeting publicly now for just over a year. We're living this! Here are the steps I would suggest and some things to consider (not necessarily in this order, but roughly).
1. Make sure your pastor is on board. I would not advise starting any ministry without the strong support of your pastor. Hopefully he and other elders are enthusiastically in favor of you ministering to women. Ideally, the elders would be involved to a certain degree in the women's ministry (providing encouragement, oversight, funding, awareness of materials, endorsing of teachers, etc). Make sure those who are heading up the women's ministry have the full support of your elders.
2. Don't attempt to compete with other churches in your community. Be confident in the calling that God has placed on your church to reach the specific women in your sphere of influence. Don't try to provide the buffet of programs and activities that are often available at established churches.
3. I'm not sure who said it first, but what you win them with, you win them to. In other words, the ways that you hope the women will grow, must be present from the beginning. If you want them to grow in the Word, make sure you lead with the Word. Attractional methods such as well-known and gifted public speakers (amazing coffee bar, pinterest crafts), while possibly a boost at first, cannot be maintained and ladies who are won with that are not likely to return if it doesn't remain.
4. Don't over program. Ladies are already so very busy. Plan one (Weekly? Monthly?) quality Word-saturated event that will feed them and bless them and don't ask them to come to more. By providing something based on the Bible that is truly nourishing, and by not asking them to give more time away from their already over-taxed calendars, they'll be eager to return next time. Also, try not to compete with Gospel Communities (or small groups, life groups, etc) that are already in place, as it's better for a gal to attend a group with her husband, than leave him behind (Or she can do both! Just be mindful of not taxing family units too much by planning competing events.).
5. In the very beginning--before you have a Bible study planned or ministry plan laid out--endeavor to get to know the ladies that God has brought to your church. Spend time with them. Have them all over for brunch or a park play date. What are their burdens and needs and fears and joys? Study them like you would if you were a foreign missionary. Get to know what they need and seek to serve them and bless them.
6. Women are almost always highly relational. Make sure your women's ministry allows for time for ladies to get to know one another. As they build relationships they will be eager to come back because their new friends will have been used of God to meet some very deep needs. These relationships will often do the work of professional counseling as ladies share and meet deep needs and rehearse the gospel to one another.
7. Bathe it all in prayer. As you seek to create this ministry, I hope you don't have to do it alone! Find a couple friends to partner with you and pray, pray, pray together. Beg the Lord to lead you and ask for sensitivity to his leading. Pray that he alone moves in the hearts of the women at your church. You want his will to be done above all!
8. Women need childcare. They just do and there's really no way around it. Look within your community and see if there might be some childcare workers available: teens, grandmas. homeschool high school students. Or perhaps hire it out. Or have the ladies take turns (not my favorite solution). Ask your friends at other churches what they do. Without childcare, women's ministry is really hard.
9. If at all possible, provide at least two Bible studies from the beginning: one during the daytime for stay at home moms and one in the evening for those who work. It's a blessing to ladies to be seen and provided for in this way.
10. Hospitality is key. Consider hosting the study in someone's home.
11. Put your hope in the Word of God. Don't be shy or afraid that the Bible is going to be too much, too embarrassing, too abrasive, too whatever. It's God's Word! He knows what he's doing and he is sovereign. His Word will do the ministry. Don't fret.
12. Use quality videos or workbooks if you don't have the time to prepare the study yourself. Or consider simply opening the Bible and reading it together. You don't need to be trained or fancy. You have the Spirit of God in you. If you have a Bible (maybe one with some study tools if you're leading), the Spirit of God, a couch, and some coffee then you are ready to get the party started.
13. In my experience, the best women's gatherings include three things: fellowship, time in the Word, and a time of sharing prayer needs and praying in small groups. A good leader will make everyone feel welcome and strictly adhere to the time allotted (going over the allotted time will make it hard for ladies to come back).
14. Pray. Delegate. Ask for help. Ask a mentor for input. Read Word-Filled Women's Ministry. Don't sweat the small stuff. Be confident that Jesus is on the throne and will do as he wills. Be ready for women to get saved--it'll happen! It's a joy. Know that God will grow you and shape you. Again, it's a joy!
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