Women’s Ministry Dropout (And a Question for the Ladies)

ashandi

Meet Ashley, my best friend since 8th grade. She and I were both cheerleaders most of our childhood and we assumed we would carry on our sport into high school. We both made the junior varsity team freshman year and were there to have fun.

It did not take long before Ash and I stopped having fun. Things became cattySince we did not make the varsity team right away, some of the girls looked down on us and treated us like second-class citizens.

We were not there to play silly games. We were there because this was our sport, what we enjoyed – and to get the attention of boys, of course. Dah.

When cheerleading practice became more about gossip and hierarchies of “coolness” than about cheerleading, Ashley and I decided to drop out. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

We decided we would rather hang out with girls who respected and loved us, rather than a bunch of girls who thought they were too good for us.

We started our own club, called “the fat club.” We were not fat; not a bit, but we loved to eat and we thought this was a hilarious way to rebel against what we were supposed to be – skinny, popular, and cool cheerleaders.  We actually made “the fat club” really cool and soon lots of girls wanted to join our “cause.”

Our clear mission statement was that you did not actually have to be fat to be in our club, but you did have to love food more than life itself. It did not matter what you looked like or how popular you were. Anyone could be part, but you did have to endure a hazing process. We called this “eating competitions.”

As president and vice president of “the fat club,” Ashley and I would oversee these competitions. We would go to a buffet, hibachi grill, or even stay home and see which girl “trying out” for our group could eat the most. Listen, friends, do not underestimate the skinny ones; they can put some food away. At the end of the competitions, anyone who was still alive was in our group.

Ashley and I carried on the tradition of the “the fat club” all through high school and even in our senior yearbook, we wrote “president and vice president of the fat club.” No, I am not joking. I know that none of this is politically correct and I hope that you keep in mind that WE WERE KIDS, but thinking back I can’t help but think of “women’s ministry” when I think of this story.

I have never been actively involved with a women’s ministry for more than a few months in the past ten years.

In my experience, women’s ministry is a lot like my 9th grade year of cheerleading. I normally walk in wide-eyed and ready to get involved, only to walk out feeling demoted to the junior varsity squad. It doesn’t seem to matter if I can do the best flips or jumps; my gifts often go unnoticed or unwanted.

I talk to so many women on a daily basis who feel the same way as I do. Some of these women would even say, “Wow, you made the JV Squad; I didn’t make the team at all.” I feel ya sisters. I am one who is not afraid to put myself out there, often straight-up asking, “How can I get involved?” Yet, I am often ignored or met with rejection. I am not sure if it is intentional, but there seems to be a “we got this and we don’t need you” sort of attitude.

At that point, I lose interest.

***

Why? Because I want to be part of the ministry. I want to use my gifts. I want to share my story. I want to hear your story. I want us to pray together. I want us to feed each other spiritually. I want to build relationships that are authentic. I want to serve and lead together.

***

If I wanted to hear another sermon, I would stay home in my pj’s, with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, and watch my favorite preachers on Youtube. Now, don’t get me wrong, if a woman is going to get up there and tell me something real going on in her life and how God is meeting her in the chaos, I am all about that. But I don’t need another teaching on the Proverbs 31 Woman or the faithfulness of one of the 18,000 Mary’s in the Bible.

I want to worship with my girlfriends, but I want to see all the musicians and vocalists in the group have a chance to lead and develop their talents. I want the ladies to preach it, but I want to see all the ladies who are called to preach, up there, sharing their raw stories and developing their communication skills.

I don’t want to talk about recipes or hiking or vaccinations or homeschool vs public school or home birth vs hospital birth or organic vs non-organic or even marriage, because these topics do not apply to every woman in the room.

As women connect, these conversations will naturally happen and we will be drawn to befriend those with similar interests, but I want the “service” or “big get together” to focus on women who love Jesus, empowering and encouraging each other to do what God has called them to do.

The atmosphere should be one of inclusiveness; not one of exclusiveness. I think there should be young women and old women. We need mothers and daughters in the faith. Leaders should be more like facilitators and less like dictators or “purpose-hoggers.”

True and great leaders empower all the women involved to discover and use their gifts to encourage the Body of Christ and further the Kingdom of God.

They are not threatened by those who may lead, preach, sing, host or serve better than they do. We must let go of competition, micro-management, and the desire for self-glory (aka: always having the mic) if we want to see a thriving women’s ministry.

The greatest leaders are those who let others shine.

I will never understand women who do not want great women around them, doing their thing, and operating in their gifts. On my blog, I want the best of the best writers and if they outshine me, it will only help my blog succeed. I also want the raw writers who are “learning their trade” and are not so good yet but will be someday be great because someone gave them a chance to practice their gift.

I dream of a women’s ministry in which we cheer each other on and take the time to notice what women are good at or what they could be good at. When one woman succeeds, we all succeed! To me, this is what it means to be sisters in Christ.

So tell me ladies, what are your frustrations with the way things are and what would your ideal ‘women’s ministry’ look like? I am all ears! 

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30 Comments

  • Best friends, ya gotta love ’em!

    I know the church I go to now is complementarian non-denominational but I don’t go to the women’s stuff (not on purpose) but because I’m busy. Plus, I remember when I first got there, I was told I would have to work with the women’s ministry or something like that if I wanted to teach. Which was strange to me now that I think about it. At my old church, I was the teacher for all the grade levels, boys and girls, and I had started to incorporate apologetics in my teaching as well. My pastor was fine with it but to be honest, I don’t recall asking. Maybe that’s the difference it was a small church.

    Where I go now, the church is so huge that the effects of it aren’t felt (as far as I know) and though they may have an overall complementarian structure, men in leadership, most of them tend to have no problem with women in leadership. But again, I’m not sure because the church is so big and I’m involved with only one aspect (Choir worship) of it so I don’t know.

    I’d be interested to see what others say. The more I read your blog I’m just shocked at some of the stuff I read. I’ve never had the experiences others under complementarism which makes me feel even more blessed I was never stunted in my education of the Bible, biblical studies, and my place in Christ was just as important. Thank the Lord! 🙂 Keep it up! People need to see both sides of the issue for sure.

  • I get frustrated that it seems like most women’s ministry leaders (at least in my church) are older than me. Of course I want to hear their wisdom, but I also want to see women my age in ministry. I want to see ministry that revolves around issues all women face. Not, like you said, just marriage (or motherhood). I think it’s fine to have events / classes / ministries just focused on those issues, but in general, make the women’s ministry apply to everyone- whether single, married, widowed, mother, infertile, 18 or 98.

    • And I don’t think that’s too broad. God’s Word applies to everyone- and so can our ministries (if we keep their focus on God’s Word).

    • I totally agree Lisa…It can be done if we truly want it to happen. We need to hear all voices – young and old, single and married, etc..

  • Great topic Jory! I have noticed that many “women’s ministries” are run by the wives of the prominent male leaders within the church. Oftentimes I feel that the goal of these ministries is to endorse and reinforce gender hierarchy. I usually walk away from them realizing the even the topics are designed to keep women in place. Please no more wife, mother, older women mentor younger women agendas only! Let’s study end time prophecy, evidence of creation, gifts of the Spirit, the lives and times of the so called minor prophets, ext. Don’t limit women to a few Bible verses and characters. By the way, “women’s ministry” often has a tone of marginalization within its name.

    • Leah you are so right. Smh Yes on being led by wives of prominent leaders. I am not married so I’ve looked at this and said- well I’ll never be who I truly am, a woman called to lead because I have no husband to “place” me there. haha This is sad because that means it’s systemic. So where do we go? If we attempt to strike out on our own then the term “lone wolf” and “rebellious” gets thrown around. I’m fortunate in one way because the thing that I’m called and anointed and trained to do (I went to school of ministry for 3 years in another state) is something “acceptable” for women to do. (IE be in a prayer/innerhealing/deliverance ministry.) The need was great in the church I settled in when I returned home, so I and a friend just started doing it. Thankfully the leadership recognized that we could fill the need, and they trusted us enough to allow it to happen under their auspices. 🙂 But get this, the ministry was initially listed as lead by my married friend and her husband and no mention of me- even though it was I who was trained and had the most experience when starting out. We built it. We did the majority of the ministry. Yes, her husband helped and is a great guy and certainly part of our leadership team, but it wasn’t just he and my friend leading it! It was she and I. Tell me that doesn’t make one feel as though they are a foul temptress out to seduce, or untouchable in some way! Haha. (The pastor even alluded to the fact that people would accept it more if his name was attached to it. >_< ) Now some of that has eased because, well, I’m anointed to do what I do and my gift makes a way. I have another story about having to actually call the pastor and make him change the business card they had made up for me, but this is too long already. Suffice to say. I get it. And reformation HAS to happen or the church is in trouble of losing the next generation.

      • Hi AnonymousGal! It is so refreshing to have forums such as this because things are being called out. Women are realizing that we are not alone in our experiences and frustrations within the Church. We realize that we can love God and have a heart for service and at the same time stand against man made traditions. I’m sure we all have stories such as yours to share. Isn’t great to be a part of what God is doing in the body. Keep serving God and following His voice until we see Him face to face. Blessings to you

  • i have griped to one or two of my friends that women’s ministry seems to cater to intuition, because women have good ones, while men’s ministry seems to cater more toward the intellect. one reason i went to seminary: i wasn’t getting intellectual stimulation at church. i’m more of a thinker than a feeler, to use simplistic terms. i’m not crafty, i don’t have kids, and i’m somewhat of a feminist. for those reasons i gave up on women’s ministry quite a while ago.

    i would love to see what you have described, jory, as well as a place to think about and discuss issues in the bible and the church. not just a a place to talk about homelife, and the latest “bible study” questions.

    • I am with you, so much of the time I have been bored because I am not into a lot of things women are into (I guess). I am even a pretty serious gal. I like to talk about serious things most of time. Small talk is not really my thing. I like to get deep. If deep ain’t there, I am outtie. 😉

  • I usually feel that “women’s ministry” is all about 1 or 2 women preaching to other women. And not in-depth exposition, but stereotypes and fluff.
    I once went to, for example, an Esther conference that told us that just like Esther was prepared for her king, we should prepare to meet our King, God.
    1) Esther was kidnapped and had no choice – I choose God because of what He worked in my heart, what He shows me of Him. Christians are not kidnapping victims.
    2) Esther was prepared by the King’s employees, whether she wanted to or not. Christians have to work along with God.
    3) You compare God to a kidnapping, bumbling king. The Jews tell the story and laugh and jeer at the king in this story.
    4) Unlike Esther, I am not prepared before being presented to God, I am already in His presence – any cleaning up and beautifying is done with Him, not in order to be okay to meet him.

    • Retha, I too have been frustrated with the same women preaching over and over again. I really crave to hear more raw stories and less Bible stories. Honestly, most of us who grew up in church know the Bible stories pretty well. I mean, how did Jesus teach people? He told stories. Women are so relational and we want to hear what is happening in each other’s lives. Sure, add some “Bible” to the story to encourage us. But tell us a story ABOUT YOU that we have never heard before and how you maybe relate to a woman (or a man) in the Bible. This is a new way to preach. I think it is what is needed for revival of all preaching/teaching ministries really.

  • Thanks for this post Jory! I’ve started attending a women’s ministry group so many times, I probably can’t even count. Although I am discouraged with the inability of these groups to be real, I keep trying another group because I have hope there will be one where women get real & talk truth. I had an interesting experience as I was contemplating a job as a photographer for a Christian publishing company. As part of one of my interviews, I was given a tour of the book store. My tour guide took me right to the women’s ministry books, and as I gazed the titles, I thought, “There’s no way I can photograph covers for titles that push patriarchy and complementarian viewpoints.” Then I asked to see the men’s section, and they didn’t have one. I asked why there weren’t any study books for men’s ministry, and this guy told me it’s not a high selling product like women’s ministry books. Still contemplating that one, but was no longer interested in the position.

    • I am like you Juli – discouraged a bit, but unwilling to give up on women’s ministry. I think it is so needed and I think women love it when it is done right, but yes, we have to let go of the “Biblical Womanhood” pressure that is not even biblical.

      I think women’s studies sell well, because women like to study! HAHA. go figure, we have brains and really want to learn about Jesus and the Bible. But, we also thrive on each other’s raw stories. We need more stories to compliment our studies.

  • I realized it was virtually impossible to be part of a women’s ministry without gender roles or submission eventually becoming part of the teachings.

    Also, I’ve noticed that tea and quilts end up being major motifs for women’s ministries. I never related to that.

    • Yes, I am not your typical woman either. I guess that is part of why I have struggled to fit in. I love tea, but I don’t want to do crafts. I want to drink tea and talk theology. HEHE. The issue is that we are ALL SO UNIQUE! That is why I think it is better to let the “interest things” happen in smaller groups of friends…not the big get togethers.

  • I attended the Wednesday night women’s bible study at my previous church, and was the youngest woman there. (I was pushing 40 at the time.) Eventually, I got so frustrated with the superficiality and stopped. In the meantime, I fell into a “bad” crowd of early/mid 30s women. I say “bad” because they got me running and doing crossfit and eating healthy. haha! Anyway, we all got together and started a young women’s group because none of us felt comfortable with the “older” ladies. I was now the oldest having cleared the 40 hurdle. Our bible study fell apart because one by one we all left the church, but we still stayed a close-knit group outside of church. I think this is because we get pretty stinking vulnerable with each other about the crap we struggle with.

    That said…

    I want a women’s ministry group. I want one to minister to the broken “good Christian girls” can find Jesus again and know they are wildly and ferociously loved by God the Father not because they can present an “acceptable” facade of morality to a facade wearing church, but because they are valuable for who they really are.

    • This is such a valuable comment. It is true that we need “small group” settings with women are own age sometimes. Yet, when you find a true “mama” in the faith who is NOT JUDGEMENTAL and is in her 50s/60s it can be pretty amazing! They are out there, but they too need to shift and accept younger women as they are with our “liberal” thinking (hehe), as we need to shift and accept them as they are with their “conservative” thinking. I would love to see MORE of this!

      I love your this statement, “I want one to minister to the broken “good Christian girls” can find Jesus again..” because I think it is so true for us millennial church-girls. A lot of us got a bit lost in our 20s, didn’t we? Now we need a bit of help finding our way back.

      Thanks for sharing your heart. 🙂

  • Wow, I just stumbled across this and agree 100%. My heart is to get deep into what God wants for each and every one of us as women, regardless of what our current roles/ages are. My home church is beyond amazing… but it seems the women like the socializing more than the in-depth studying (unless it’s a DVD or workbook). I think if women were to learn the inner workings of God’s Word and Character for themselves- their homes, jobs, families, ministries, etc. would all be rocked out and able to become what God intended! I tried initiating a deeper, more inclusive women’s ministry years ago, and the church backed me up, but the women were a different story. How can I be called to lead in women’s ministry (which I know I am) when it seems most of the women only want a feel-good Bible study and occasional buffet line? Sigh- frustrated here.

  • I’m only part way through this blog post, but I’m already laughing!!

    “Listen, friends, do not underestimate the skinny ones; they can put some food away. At the end of the competitions, anyone who was still alive was in our group.”

    P.S. I was one of those skinny ones who could put some food away. At times. Other times I just couldn’t stomach abnormal amounts. (See what I literally did there? “couldn’t stomach …” )

    O.K. Back to the article.

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