I remember the first few times I participated in women’s ministry as a new Christian. Since I was not raised in the church, I had no preconceived notions of what these events were like, nor had anyone really explained to me the purpose of gender-specific ministries in the church. All I heard was “Bible study” and I signed up as quickly as I could.
I went into that women’s Bible study with a lot of excitement and expectation, only to leave the study full of frustration and annoyance. Later, I tried another. Then another. Eventually, I stopped going altogether. My husband questioned my lack of participation, and I still remember my response; “I feel like I know more about Queen Esther than I do King Jesus, because they talk about the same texts over and over! And everything is PINK!” My husband urged me to keep trying, but I stubbornly refused. I didn’t attend women’s events for several years, and made sure to mock them whenever I could.
Something changed in me about two years ago, and now I cringe to think of my snotty response to the studies I first attended. The longer I’ve been a Christian, the more stereotypes I’ve heard regarding women’s ministry. Every Christian woman knows what I’m talking about; Women’s events are frequently considered shallow and prissy. Or they are boring, and unhelpful to women who don’t fit a certain mold.
The criticisms are countless, and sometimes they are accurate. But I support women’s ministries anyway.
Why am I such a cheerleader of women’s ministry after years of trash-talking? Because I started viewing these ministries through the lens of the gospel, rather than through my own preferences. When you look at all ministries as either a chance to evangelize unbelievers, or as a chance to encourage God’s people, then it’s much easier to see their value. I fight for women’s ministry now. I fight to get women to show up and plug in. I fight to bring the good news of Christ’s life, death and resurrection to women who desperately need to hear it. No matter if they are hearing it for the first time, or the millionth time.
That being said, there are real problems that exist within many Women’s ministries. It would be foolish to ignore them, but instead of dropping out of women’s ministry, why not address them together while we participate in these events?
Here are three reasons to fight for women’s ministry, even when you don’t feel like it
1.Fight for Unity
Maybe you are the only single woman at women’s events. Maybe you are the oldest or youngest there. Maybe you were the first to have kids, or haven’t had any at all. It’s easy to be turned off when you’re the odd woman out. It’s okay to notice and be frustrated by a lack of diversity in your women’s ministry, but the problem isn’t going to get better by you staying home. Woman up, and be brave. Embrace your role as “the first______woman” among the ladies in your church, and encourage others like you to join in. Share your experiences with the women you meet, let them learn from you and grow with you. Whatever differences you have from other women can be used to make better disciples to God’s glory. Your God-given distinctives are wasted if you just sit at home alone.
2.Fight to Equip the Saints
Unlike your pastors, women’s ministry leaders don’t usually have seminary degrees or countless hours of public speaking practice. Women’s events are not usually put together by professionals, and that gets forgotten a lot. If you wish that the teaching in your women’s ministry was more challenging, more thoughtful, more whatever; then show up and support these women so that they can grow as leaders. Share books with them, go to conferences with them, have a cup of coffee and talk theology with them. Offer constructive criticism (when appropriate, don’t be a jerk.) and encourage them in their strengths as teachers or organizers.
If you feel gifted in the areas that your women’s ministry is struggling, pray about asking to serve with them.
3.Fight Against the Idol of Comfort
No matter what choices a ministry team makes, someone is going to be unhappy. You could go rock climbing for a women’s retreat, but then the crafty girls are going to be bored. You could cover the devotional journals with lace and flowers, but someone will roll their eyes at the fussiness of it. No one wants to admit it, but we all want to be served and we all want things our own way. We hate doing things that are uncomfortable to us, even though discomfort usually helps us look more like Christ.
What would I have lost by sitting through another Bible study on Esther or Proverbs 31? Nothing but my pride. Would it have honestly hurt me to sit through another pink-themed party? Not in the least. In fact, my participation in those events might have been a helpful challenge to the women who are only comfortable with “pink texts” as Jen Wilkin has described them. Together, women can fight against our idolatry of comfort just by showing up to uncomfortable places.
And the biggest reason to fight for women’s ministry; to lead one another deeper into relationship with the Lord. It’s absolutely a fight sometimes, but also absolutely worth it.