Bridging the Way – Fellowship & Small Groups

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One of the things we can struggle with in ministry service is creating a ministry that is balanced between social activities and discipleship opportunities.  This struggle is not unique to women’s ministry, but it does seem to impact women’s ministry more.

In speaking with women’s ministry leaders across the country, I’ve seen the struggle played out in many different ways.   The women’s ministry team may be divided, some wanting social events, and others wanting more studies and workshops.   The church may want less fellowship, and more small groups.  Even the women in the congregation want more of one thing, and others would prefer something else.

We seemingly keep coming to the same place…. and all or nothing stance.  Either we have a women’s ministry that is all studies, workshops, mentoring and discipleship… or a calendar of events that is centered around relational fellowship events. 

Can’t we have both?

Can’t we have a fellowship event that turns the women’s gaze toward Christ?

Can’t we have a small groups that encourage building relationships?

Do we have to chose one or the other, or could we not have the best of both worlds?

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In church leadership, most of our Pastors and Elders have been raised in the church.  They understand how we do things as a church, and there is an expectation that others will fall right into that line.  However, when you haven’t been raised in a church… it’s not the same.  You won’t automatically thrust yourself into a small group setting.   You will need time to build confidence in yourself, get to know people in the church to build relationships, and to ultimately find the small group that you feel best suits you.

Social Fellowship Events are the bridge to making this happen.  It provides an environment for women to meet each other, and set the foundations for future relationships.  It also serves as a great avenue for sharing information about the women’s ministry and church with the larger body of women.

Historically, women had many opportunities to gather with each other as a community.   They would work along side each other in the fields and in the market place.  As times changed and people became more transient, they moved away from the from their close knit families and communities.  When the Industrial Revolution took men from the home, and brought in modern conveniences, women spent more time IN the home than gathering the public spaces.  They became more detached from community with every passing generation.  Even today, in 2015, despite the endless social media communities… women are complaining more about being alone than ever.

We miss community and fellowship.

While “women’s ministry” was present even in the Old Testament days, it looked very different than what we see today.  Because, in the OT and NT (and early church) women’s ministry was active in the daily lives, as we lived together and worshiped together daily.   In more modern times, we created women’s ministry programs that would fill the community void, but lost purpose.  We allowed women’s ministry to become more of a social club atmosphere.

The good news is that women’s ministries around the country are trying to take it back to it’s roots.  Doing life together, ministering to each other, building relationships and community are all in addition to deeper scriptural study and knowledge.

In order to do this, we need to find the balance between the activities that are warm and inviting, and the ones that are deeper and challenging.

A women’s ministry team should be looking at the vision of the church, and then asking how each and every activity they propose to do supports that mission.

It is being more intentional and purposeful over the planning choices that we make, clear communication with the Pastoral Team, and in submission to God’s will for the ministry over your own.

Women’s Ministry – Everyone Has an Opinion

As a member of the leadership team for our Women’s Ministry, I have spent a lot of time researching the subject.  We want to make sure that we offer activities that interest the women of our church.  We want to account for the various ages, stages of life, marital statuses, and availability of the women who make up our body.  At the same time, we must find balance with the church schedule and other ministries.  A ministry should not overwhelm the calendar, but meet the needs of those whom the ministry is intended to serve.

We can not please all the people… all of the time.    We can, however, please some of the people some of the time.

What is interesting to me, as I researched the subject of Women’s Ministry over the years, is that there are a LOT of opinions on what IS and ISN’T an effective Women’s Ministry.  There are open letters, on blogs, about what we don’t need.  Things like fancy brunches, with hired in speakers.  We don’t want fluff, we want substance.  Deeper studies, testimonies, formal education, accountability, prayer groups, etc.

On the other hand, you will find women who are happy with their Sunday services and small groups, who are looking for social connections.  They want to fellowship, build long lasting friendships and create community.  If you try and research Women’s Ministry on the internet, I promise you…

You will be more confused than you started.

So, what DOES an effective Women’s Ministry look like?  How do we really know what Women’s Ministry looks like, for our church?

1) Ask Your Church –  This may seem like a no-brainer, but really it is the easiest and most over looked starting place.  You don’t have to sit down with a team of women, and decide what you think the women want out of the women’s ministry.  A simple or complex survey is always a great starting place.  It also gives you are great way to find out what women from your church want to help.  Not everyone is called to a leadership position, but many are willing to be the hands and feet when needed.

Also, be sure to ask your Church Leadership.  It is important to know from the staff, what the vision the Church has for the ministry.  What is their “measure of success” and also what would their concerns & boundaries for the ministry look like.  Nothing can hamper a ministry like the lack of communication between the team and the church leaders

2) Reference, but Don’t Imitate Other Churches –  A great starting point for building a ministry is to look at what other churches in your area, denomination or similar size to your church are doing.  However, I would caution you to not make your Women’s Ministry identical to their ministry.  The women of your church, they may want something entirely different.  However, knowing what other churches are doing will give you a launching point. 

3)  Start with Variety – In the beginning have a calendar that offers some variety.  You may have events on weekdays, weeknights, weekends, one day retreats, or weekend long get away.  Your activities may include brunches, ladies night out, dinners, movies, bible studies, community service, church service, etc.  Have events where baby sitting is provided (for free or a small fee), and have events where there is no baby sitting provided.  Variety helps you reach the whole body of women, but over the course of time with different events.

4)  Review Every Event You Hold – Establish a guideline for your ministry, something that you measure every event against.  It might be guideline the church leadership suggested, a verse, a mission statement, or even establish a scoring system with the ministry team.  When each event is over, run it by this guideline & determine if it was a success.  If it was a success and meets the criteria your ministry established, repeat it again.  If there was low attendance or the outcome wasn’t what you expected, you know to let it go (at least for the immediate future). 

It’s easy to write an open letter about what YOU want in a Women’s Ministry.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion.  However, what YOU need, and what the woman sitting a few pews away from you needs… may be entirely different.

The best way to impact your Women’s Ministry doesn’t begin in open letters on the internet, but instead starts when you join the team.