I’ve served in the area of women’s ministry enough years to understand what our guest blogger is talking about. In fact I’ve been a catalyst for making ministry messy at times, even if I had good intentions. Read this post authored by Stephanie Edge, director of Women’s Ministry, Poplar Heights Baptist Church, Jackson, Tenn., and see if you can relate.
Poplar Heights Baptist Church recently, celebrated its 90th anniversary. (You can read a previous post about that here.) As a part of the celebration, two former pastors were asked to speak during the morning worship service. Both men pastored the church more than 20 years ago. Prior to concluding his part of the service, Dr. Rogers (1984-1987) referred to the second pastor who was to speak, Dr. Dale Ellenburg (1988-1993). With humor, Rogers said Ellenburg had come to the church to clean up the mess that he (Rogers) had created during his tenure and that he (Ellenburg) would be doing the same thing by speaking after him that morning. The phrase Rogers used resonated with me, and although spoken lightheartedly, it is often more true that we would like to admit.
Women’s ministry can be messy. Here’s how it can happen:
- Women’s ministry leaders sometimes create messes. Women’s ministry leaders, like all leaders, are not perfect. Consider Moses, a great leader in the Old Testament, who God used to lead the Israelites out of Egypt (Ex. 3:10). In Exodus 2:11, Moses saw the forced labor the Israelites experienced, took matters into his own hands, and killed an Egyptian. As a result, he experienced great fear and fled. Moses acted out of God’s timing and apart from God’s leadership. He created a real mess for himself.
- Women’s ministry leaders are sometimes called to clean up the messes of others. In Exodus 32, Moses was delayed from coming down from the mountain where he received the Ten Commandments. As a result, the people cried out to Aaron. To appease the people, Aaron fashioned a golden calf which was to serve as Israel’s god. When Moses descended from the mountain he had to address the mess created by the impatience of the people and Aaron.
Messes can be created as a result of acting out of inexperience, wrong motives, wrong attitudes, and lack of prayer. Just as women’s ministry leaders have the opportunity to influence the lives of other women, these same leaders can create messes of their own that only affect the leader or may affect the women’s ministry leadership team. In some cases, these actions have ripple effects that reach the entire church. In addition, women’s ministry leaders may find themselves dealing with or cleaning up the messes created by the actions or attitudes of other team members or members in their churches. These scenarios are both realities of ministry. How can we “clean up” or manage the messes that result?
Managing the Messes.
- The messy nature of women’s ministry calls leaders to a continued humility. “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” (Num. 12:3)
- Women’s ministry leaders must continually seek God’s face for wisdom and guidance through a lifestyle of prayer. Moses cried out to the LORD as he led the people out of Egypt (Ex. 15:24, 17:4; Num. 11:2-19, 21:7-9).
- Listening to the advice of others can sometimes help women’s ministry leaders avoid messes. In Exodus 18, the scene was set for another potential mess as Moses sat judging the people from morning until evening. Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, warned Moses that he would wear himself out as well as wear the people out if he continued and further instructed him on dividing the load. Moses listened to the advice and a potential mess was avoided.
I am humbled that God can use and chooses to use messy people as women’s ministry leaders. And, I am so grateful that God redeems our messes and the messes of others as He uses them for His kingdom purposes!
Stephanie Edge is the director of Women’s Ministry, Poplar Heights Baptist Church, Jackson, Tenn., and a LifeWay Ministry Multiplier. She graduated from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity. Stephanie also completed a Masters of Theology and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Christian Education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Stephanie is an associate professor at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and an adjunct instructor of Women’s Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. She has a passion for God’s Word and ministering to women.