Have you ever stood knee-deep in a bad situation, yet believed good could prevail?
Have you ever seen a company losing customers, yet saw the intrinsic value that the company possessed in the community? Have you ever seen an ugly duckling that you believed would morph into a swan?
Maybe it’s my optimistic nature or my naivety or my unwavering hope in humanity, but I could look at a situation and see the value, potential, and redeeming qualities when people are proverbially adding fuel to the burning building.
Lately I’ve been involved with several conversations regarding the future of the Church and the future of women’s ministry. I’ve read the blogs and heard the gripes from both men and women, but I can’t help but see the future. A future filled with passionate, smart, educated women helping advance the gospel through more than just Bunko nights, tea parties, and Creative Memories scrapping gatherings.
This comes on the heels of a conversation I had with my dear friend, Lindsey, after she attended a women’s ministry event with me. We’ve had numerous conversations about this topic, so her view isn’t new. She posted a comment on Twitter and garnished a number of legitimate responses.
Though pink table cloths and flower centerpieces still exists in older paradigm models of women’s ministry, does that take away from the power of this demographic within the church? If statistics are correct, the American Evangelical church is comprised of 61% female who are more likely to serve in ministry and more likely to tithe when compared to their male counterparts. So why all the hate?
Because something is missing.
The model for women’s ministry is very much based off the social circle founded in the conservative south. The growth of traditional women’s ministry advanced circa 1950 when young women were getting married and starting families before the age of 23. The ladies luncheons and bridge circles found in sororities and women’s clubs matriculated into the church as an alternative for those seeking community within the church.
The advance of women’s rights, liberation, and burning bras created a new woman with the choice to pursue education and a degree or pursue the option of homemaking [or both]. The social climate was changing, but the church remained stagnant, doing what they have always done to reach the same people in their homogenous culture.
Fast forward to today. Thankfully, most women aren’t burning their bras and most women shave their underarms. But the evolved woman within the city-center based church, no longer feels connected or in need of social circles or bridge games. The desire to partake in evangelism, leadership, and mobilization has grown to include seasoned women in their 60s, business professionals in their 50s, engaged mobilizers with resources in their 40s, passionate women in their 30s, relentless youth in their 20s, and even younger.
I’ve seen the power of women coming together for the common good and it’s beautiful. To love the broken. To feed the hungry. To believe in faith. To heal the hurting. To encourage the saints. Though the model may be slightly inept in the American church, do we throw the baby out with the bathwater? Do we continue to separate ourselves from the place where we can find healing and wholeness and community?
I believe women’s ministry is an invaluable contribution to the American church if we move in the direction of:
- Recognizing different life stages. Not all women are married with preschoolers. Not all women are going through menopause. Not all women are in college. If we fail to adapt in meeting general rather than specific needs, we will continue to ostracize those outside of the 35-50, married with kids demographic.
- Recognizing different availabilities and needs. Not all women can make a Tuesday morning bible study. Not all women like to pray. Not all women like to sew. Not every calendar and need can be met, but if you are leading a women’s group in a metropolis area with a vibrant night-life, don’t be surprised if women don’t come out to the Pink Hearts and Flowers Tea Party. What are some specific needs within the women in your community? Find what the need is and pursue it with a wide-end funnel to bring in those on the outside who don’t know how to engage on the inside.
- Recognizing the church’s values and vision. Women’s ministry is sometimes like the rogue renegade who does what it wants in the guise of mobilization. Many pastor’s I’ve spoken to complain that “meeting the need of women” is more important that the meeting the vision of the church. That’s not building the church, that’s bifurcating the church. Get in line with the mission, vision, and values of where you are serving.
Lastly, if you are at a church where you are throwing stones at whoever is leading, I would chide you to put down the stones and get your hands dirty. Mahatma Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see.” If ministry doesn’t look like you want or isn’t targeting a large need you see in the church, do something about it.
*I haven’t been to a knitting circle, Bunko group, or Creative Memories women’s event, but if the urban legend really exists, I’m sorry if you’ve ever had to attend something like that.
Written by: Biana Juarez Olthoff
Bianca Juarez Olthoff is a lover of words and stories. Passionate about creating beautiful things, she spends her week working as Chief Storyteller for The A21 Campaign and Creative Director for Propel Women.
Whether discussing topics about justice or pop culture, Bianca has spent over 15 years dedicated to mobilizing God’s people to action inside and outside of the Church. Dedicated to expounding on God’s word, she also peaches around the globe and blogs about life, love, and the pursuit of Jesus.
Bianca lives in Southern California and loves spending time with her husband Matt, cooking for friends, and hanging out with her two stepchildren.