Does Your Ministry Need a Makeover?

The beginning of a new year of ministry is a blank page, clean and clear and ready to be filled with endless possibilities. As you’ve taken time to reflect on the past year—on the Bible studies you’ve led, the events you’ve hosted, or the small groups you’ve organized and facilitated, you may be able to immediately list initiatives where you saw God produce fruit in the lives of the women you lead. Those are the activities you may be quick to copy and paste and recreate in the year ahead.

But what do you do with those activities that didn’t quite work the way you hoped? How do you handle the events where attendance diminished in ways you can no longer ignore? How do you approach the classic studies that have helped a handful of women but failed to engage the rest? How do you know when it’s time to make minor changes to part of your ministry or when it’s time to overhaul an entire program? 

Meet Tasha Calvert 

As a leader in women’s ministry, Tasha Calvert has had to answer each of those questions. Tasha currently serves the women of Prestonwood Baptist Church in the Dallas, Texas, area. She is a wife and mother to four daughters, which means she also runs a mini women’s ministry within her own family. Two of her daughters are married and live in Texas, and two are still at home. Tasha and her husband have been married for twenty-seven years and serve together in the marriage mentor ministry of their church. 

Tasha never planned to serve in full-time ministry. She grew up in a pastor’s home, and purposefully avoided dating men who even appeared to be on a ministry track. God led her to marry an engineer, all the while knowing that He was going to send her into ministry.

Tasha began volunteering to help fill an opening in her church’s worship ministry, and one day the pastor walked down to her office and asked her to come work for him. To this day, she says, “I don’t remember officially accepting his offer. But God . . .” 

As a church “insider,” she had witnessed dysfunction within the church. But through the years she spent working for the lead pastor, the Lord began a healing process in her life. She realized this pastor was the same person in the office as he was in the pulpit. He began inadvertently (but providentially) teaching her how to lead women as he modeled how to faithfully shepherd the people under his care. When Tasha eventually quit this administrative position, the pastor called her a month later to offer her a job. By that point, God had equipped her and prepared her heart to consider coming on staff to serve in women’s ministry full-time. 

Today, Tasha looks back on years of God’s faithfulness and fine-tuning in her ministry. In this interview, she not only shares some of the perspective shifts that have helped her approach her women’s ministry more effectively, she also offers wisdom for any leader wondering if she should make a change within her own ministry context this year. 

K: If you were to compare your women’s ministry today to the one you inherited when you first began, what comes to mind when you think about some of the ways it has changed? 

T: This question put a smile on my face. Although the models and methods have changed greatly, the women have for the most part remained. Ministry is about serving people. (Well, it’s ultimately about serving God—but you know what I mean.) I often say, “Hold the calling tight, and the context loose.” I’m called to serve women, and that hasn’t changed from day one. But the context is vastly different. 

Almost immediately, God made it clear to me that I was not in charge. As I began to get my feet wet in ministry and make connections with other leaders, it became apparent God was whispering a similar message into all of our ears: Women need to know their Bibles. My friend Dr. Katie McCoy says it this way: “Less programming and more spiritual formation.” 

The pandemic accelerated this shift greatly. In the absence of being able to gather, it became necessary to put tools into the hands of our women. After much prayer, our team came up with a motto to guide our ministry: “Bible study is not a class you take; it’s a rhythm you keep.” 

Today, we encourage women to study all year long and make it a part of their life’s rhythm. We encourage them to read the Bible, not just books and studies written about the Bible. We produce teaching videos, broken down by chapter, and are steadily walking our women through the entirety of Scripture, knowing that the more confident they are in Scripture, the more confident they’ll be in their faith.

K: Can you think of an example of something that you did for a long time (whether it was an event, Bible study, etc.) that needed to be reset?

T: Our Bible study classes were not working for all our women. For three decades, we led video-driven Bible studies. These had been wildly successful in my generation. When I was in my twenties, the majority of my peers were stay-at-home wives who looked forward to carting table decorations to the church, enjoying home-cooked food, and then sitting quietly to watch a DVD while our kids were cared for in the nursery.

For the last decade, however, our numbers have consistently atrophied, and homework has gone steadily ignored—so much so, we’ve been coached to encourage the ladies to come even if they don’t do their homework. We’ve found this model has been broken for a while:

  • It largely ignores working and single women.
  • It is dependent on outdated technology (DVDs).
  • It does not allow women who miss to easily access the teaching. 
  • It does not draw women to want to make an effort to come to the church in order to watch a video.

In some ways, COVID was a catalyst for needed change. During the pandemic, there were at least two semesters where we were not offering classes, so we had to find another way to teach and enable our women to keep a rhythm in Scripture. We began walking through books of the Bible. 

First, I got on Facebook each Wednesday. I started in the book of James and read one chapter each week and then unpacked it live—often taking questions in real time. Then we decided to be a little more formal, so I booked time in our church studio and recorded the book of Galatians. The homework was to read that week’s chapter every day for a week in at least three different translations and answer the same questions for each chapter. 

When things began opening back up, we invited everyone to come back together. We put a kitchen table on the stage with four women, choosing different women each week. We went through the book of Hosea and encouraged the ladies to reproduce the same in their own kitchens. 

Women already have more content than they could ever consume at their fingertips these days through phones and personal devices. Younger generations live in an age of information. They need to be equipped to seek answers, not spoon-fed them. They want to know everything that’s in the Bible and test it for themselves. Praise God for women who are willing to seek God! 

K: How do you know when something needs more than small changes? What are some of the questions you ask yourself when considering whether to make minor adjustments rather than completely end something and start over?

T: You start with prayer. 

I’m not sure this is a one-size-fits-all answer—each church context is so different, but here are some things to consider:

  1. Am I changing or not-changing a ministry program because of loud voices within the ministry? It’s my experience that women let you know when they like or dislike something. Without godly conviction and direction, it would be easy to just follow a path of least-resistance and listen to the loud voices. Ask God to give you boldness and graciousness to lead even amidst opposition. 

    The same can be employed when it comes to praise. Sometimes we keep doing something that isn’t working because we are praised for it. Check yourself. 
  2. Does the program or model in question move the needle in our overarching ministry goals? Let me give you the clearest example: conferences. In the past we’ve brought in big names once each year for a women’s conference. We spend a lot of money, go to a lot of trouble, and expend a lot of energy to put on the event. These have typically been very successful from an attendance perspective. 

    However, filling the conference room has not always translated to more participation in Bible study or connection to our year-round ministry opportunities. Events are fun and energizing, but they often don’t move the needle for our primary ministry, which is serving women, connecting with women, and spiritual formation. So while we haven’t done away with them, we no longer offer them yearly. 
  3. If I could wave a “magic wand” what would I want this ministry or program to look like? Sometimes we settle for small tweaks and second-best because we are too focused on the known obstacles. Of course, we want to be realistic, but we are in ministry—God’s ministry. 

    If you are settling for small tweaks when a God-sized overhaul is needed, I would encourage you to gather a team of trusted leaders, cast the vision God has given you, and pray like crazy. God can do immeasurably more than we can ask, dream, or imagine. Your name may hang on the door to the office, but make no mistake—God is in charge. Ask Him to do big things!

K: A leader may fall into one of two categories: 1) She may want to immediately scrap a program that is not working. Or, 2) She may be hesitant to ever make any changes. How can a leader avoid these extremes and step forward with wisdom?

T: I have a rule I’ve tried to employ in each new role that’s been entrusted to me. I spend a season merely observing before I ever set out to make a change. Here’s why: you don’t know what you don’t know. 

I think change is always easier to make when the people affected by that change feel understood and valued. So, to Leader #1 who is ready to get her ministry in tip-top shape: I’d encourage you to cool your heels and build some relational collateral first.

To Leader #2 who is hesitant to make changes: I’d encourage you to assemble a trusted team of leaders to help you navigate needed change. Ask them questions like: Is this working? Does this accomplish its goal? Is this our best-foot forward? Are other ministries doing this better? As more people are brought into the trust tree, you will feel more confident to make needed changes because you will have the encouragement and affirmation of others to shoulder the weight of change.

K: If you were sitting across from a women’s ministry leader who knows it’s time to make a hard change, what would you say to her?

T: Is not making the change less hard? Probably not. Consider this: it’s hard to overhaul Bible study when you know some women are going to be mad at you and think you’re doing the wrong thing. But it’s also hard to watch your Bible study not reach or teach women effectively. It’s hard to watch your numbers decline semester after semester. 

In my experience, change is hard to make, and it’s hard not to make. So I would tell you to pray for the courage of Esther, who also had two hard roads to consider. She could change things up and approach the king unsolicited or she could sit back and watch her people perish. Both situations are hard. But if God has put you in this seat, then He will walk with you through the hard things entrusted to your care.

Are you facing a hard change in your ministry? Could you use the wisdom of a leader like Tasha who understands the position you’re in and is willing to pray with you in the midst of your challenging decision? Reach out to a Revive Our Hearts Ambassador today.

About the Author

Katie Laitkep

Katie Laitkep was working as a hospital teacher when God called her to join Revive Our Hearts as a staff writer. She serves remotely from Houston, Texas, where God sustains her through saltwater beaches, Scripture, and her local church. Katie's blog A Patient Process is a record of the Lord's faithfulness in chronic illness, for even in suffering, He is good.