Sometimes our church culture changes and as women’s ministry leaders we struggle to figure out how to minister to women in a new paradigm. Such was the case for a leader who sought out the wisdom of women’s ministry leader Sheila West, founder of Real Living Ministries. She shares great points to consider regarding how to minister to women in a church that filters its ministry through small groups.
Recently I had a panicky ministry leader call me. Linda was being confronted with the ever-changing dynamics of women’s ministry. She had heard other leaders talk about the challenges of “How do you do women’s ministry in a church that is moving its ministry strategy toward a dominant small group culture?” But she had not once considered that she would be faced with this issue.
Linda had been in a culture where women’s ministry was part of the organizational structure. Her responsibility was to organize things for the women to do. And, the women in her church had come to think of themselves as being a part of women’s ministry the same way they would being a choir member.
The new pastor’s vision was that everything would flow through community groups. They would be the main source for growing spiritually, sharing life together and serving others. Now that the mandate was to integrate ministry through small groups, Linda was at a loss.
After a series of conversations, here are three areas we discussed that Linda ultimately felt were a turning point for mobilizing ministry to women rather directing a separate organization. I hope that they will help you:
Point 1: Functioning out of the mindset that women’s ministry isn’t an organization, but an organism. A system of interdependent parts that precipitates growth, change, and multiplication, where all women are not only recipients but participants. We discussed the exciting opportunity she now has to intentionally build a team of women, one out of each long-term community group, that she can be equipping and resourcing to become a catalyst for ministering to women in their respective group. She began to see how these women could begin a process of developing a lifestyle of reaching out and touching others within the group, their community, and their marketplace that would eventually become reproducible vs. stagnant.
Point 2: Become the catalyst for fueling and feeding long-term small group communities through short-term support Bible studies. In the past, Bible studies had been a continuous progression of one study ending and a new studying beginning without a focus on building relationships. But as we talked she decided that she would seek the approval of leadership to use short-term Bible studies targeted towards women not in a community. These short-term groups would provide a first step opportunity for new women to build relationships that would lead into the beginning of new long-term communities. Linda’s vision took on new life as she began to think less of things to do and more about building relationships that lead to real life in Jesus Christ.
Point 3: Purposeful events that would become a rendezvous of all women from all the community groups for the purpose of igniting new spiritual growth, sharing God stories, and having a time of refreshing for the soul – woman to woman. She could help the women intentionally use these events to include those who are not in a group so they would be able to connect with other women. She also began to look at other support type groups that would complement the community environments such as Mom’s groups, support issues, and training.
Linda began to think about how stressful ministry had become for her when she and her team had to come up with their own plans to keep momentum going rather than being very sensitive to what God was doing in the church and joining Him.
God has chosen to give us some of his richest blessings through ministering to others, and being part of something bigger. It isn’t controlling the way that things are done but joining Him in what He is doing. A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9 (HCSB)
Sheila has been involved in women’s ministry for over 25 years, serving as Director of Women’s Ministry for over 20 years in the local church. She is presently on staff at Heritage Community Church, Fruitland Park, Florida as Director of Spiritual Growth and Ministry Mobilization and Women’s Ministry Coordinator. She is the founder of Real Living Ministries, a speaking, teaching, and leadership development ministry to women. Sheila is also a contributing author to Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level, Revised and Expanded edition. Sheila has appeared on numerous Christian radio and television broadcasts, including The 700 Club, and 100 Huntley Street. She is the author of Beyond Chaos, published by NavPress and is a LifeWay Ministry Multiplier. She and her husband, John, are the parents of two and proud grandparents of seven. Follow her on Twitter @SheilaWestSez