5 Essential Ingredients for Women's Ministry

5 Essential Ingredients for Women's Ministry

Today’s women are in desperate need of community. They’re stressed, exhausted, overwhelmed, and lonely. They feel swallowed in a blur of busyness. Many end their weeks depleted and defeated, reluctant to add one more activity to their already overloaded schedules, regardless of how valuable it might be.

Meanwhile, ministry leaders are watching women struggle beneath a burden God never intended for them to carry alone. They long to guide them toward authentic community but keep hitting the same obstacles: Many women are short on time. Others bring years of past hurts with them, which often leads to self-protection and surface-level relationships. Still others come faithfully to events but never move past shallow conversations and introductory-level faith.

To overcome these barriers, women’s ministry leaders need to be intentional, and foster a safe environment of grace and transparency.

Here are 5 ways leaders can develop and maintain a strong, clear, and focused ministry that draws women in and encourages authentic and Christ-centered interactions, leading to true life change.

1. Leaders need to clarify the win.

How do you measure success and have you communicated this with your team? If not, they won’t know what to shoot for or when they’ve achieved it.

When evaluating ineffective or short-lived ministries, I often see one of two scenarios—those launched with excitement that soon fizzled out, and those who have existed for generations but have lost their vitality. Often, both results can be traced to lack of vision, or one that hasn’t been clearly communicated.

For example, a group of friends brainstorm over coffee and come up with numerous ideas they think other women might enjoy. Within months, they have five activities planned—everything from a Christmas coffee to girls’ nights out. Initially, others in the church respond with enthusiasm. But then passion dwindles, other demands fight for their time, and attendance steadily decreases.

In response, some team members view this as a personal failure and quit. Others blame the church culture, determining that the women they serve simply weren’t interested or are too busy. Church staff might form the same conclusions and withdraw support. As a result, everyone feels deflated and less likely to embrace new endeavors in the future.

Therefore, when launching ministries and programs, it’s imperative we define, then clearly communicate our vision. What’s our primary goal as a ministry? How will we measure progress? And, when planning our schedule, how does each event further that mission? These questions can help increase and sustain enthusiasm while alleviating burnout, tension and factions.

Here's how defining vision helps to sustain your ministry: 

  1. Celebration: Everyone loves to be part of a winning team. When we know the wins (presuming they’re attainable), we’re able to celebrate them when reached.
  2. Focus: When competing desires arise, previous conversations allow the leader to respond with grace saying, “That’s a great idea. Unfortunately, it’s outside the scope of this ministry, but if that’s something you would like to pursue personally, by all means do so.”
  3. Clarity: A clearly stated vision helps ensure maximum impact and decreased busyness that can come with trying to randomly fill a calendar or hit a bunch of diverse targets. In having a goal-oriented road map, team members will have more clarity regarding what events to maintain and build in to and what to cut. Plus, they will have the confidence to do so.

2. Leaders need to prioritize intentionality.

Once a women’s ministry leader has clarified her win, she can begin planning steps toward achieving it. This involves everything from how she structures her programs to how she selects and trains her team.

For example, Wholly Loved Ministries helps women find increased emotional and spiritual freedom in Christ. This involves healing from past hurts, overcoming fear and insecurities, and aligning our thoughts and lives with truth. In short, we want to bring wholeness to the whole woman, which we believe is a byproduct of learning to live wholly loved by God and others.

Our desire to see women experience wholeness influences how team members write and speak, how our editors review their material, and how we conduct our conversations with ministry leaders. When engaging in event-related discussions, we express our priorities, how we pursue them, and how hosting churches can partner with us for maximum impact.

In every conversation, event, and project we undertake, we make sure to point to the freedom that comes through God’s perfect blend of truth and grace. Though we speak and write truth, we always do so with an eye on transformation. Our Bible studies aren’t designed to simply fill the head. We want them to fill and heal the heart. Similarly, we don’t facilitate events to entertain or provide a “spiritual high,” but rather to initiate first or next steps toward healing. In everything we say and do, we focus on bringing light and life to those places within a woman they once deemed dark and dead.

We can’t experience this kind of relational intimacy when we’re living in hiding or self-condemnation.

3. Leaders need to practice grace.

Most ministry leaders understand the importance of showing grace for others. But do we show ourselves that same grace? Do we model gospel-centered living?

We can’t expect those we lead and serve to live in grace if we aren’t, and grace necessarily expels shame. When we make mistakes, we don’t own them as failures. Instead, we yield to Christ as He grows us through it.

We have no reason to feel defensive, ashamed, or defeated, because we know, regardless of results or other people’s opinions, in Christ we are enough. When we behave, speak, and think as if we believe this to be true, we help others do the same.

4. Leaders need to foster transparency.

As I mentioned previously, hiding and self-imposed isolation prohibits relational intimacy, which in turn hinders healing and growth. Studies show most of the women entering our churches and attending our events are lonely. They’re usually quite busy and maintain a relatively large, yet shallow social circle. Social media, with our filtered selfies and readily proclaimed highlights, is only making this worse.

Women don’t need yet another event to attend or group to join. They need a place to belong. We all long to be deeply known and fully loved. But that type of relational intimacy demands transparency. Therefore, as leaders, it’s imperative we actively find ways to foster transparency within our team, at our events, and among the women we serve.

5. Leaders need to create safe environments.

Not only must we ensure our leadership team sets the example, but we also need to establish “safe environments” for sharing. This usually involves setting and reiterating ground rules.

For example, this spring, when Wholly Loved Ministries established our community group, we made sure everyone knew that anything shared within the group remained confidential. Periodically, we encourage members to express their questions, doubts, and struggles. By stating these expectations and invitations and then openly living them out, we intentionally build a culture of transparency.

No one wants their ministry events to occupy yet one more space on a woman’s calendar. We want to initiate life change and build community. There are countless ways in which we can do this.

Yet, regardless of what direction we take, or activities we plan, our efforts will be much more successful if we’ve established and clearly stated our vision, pursue that vision with focused intentionality, and foster an environment of transparency and grace. Women are increasingly disconnected, lonely, and hurting, but with God’s help, we can reverse that trend. 

Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who’saddressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Restoring Her Faithand numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team love to help women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. Visit her online to find out more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event, and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HEREto learn of her future appearances, projects, and releases.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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