“When’s your next women’s event?”
It’s a question I’m asked to field often. And honestly, it’s one that makes me cringe a bit. I’m thrilled to see enthusiasm and anticipation build for our bi-annual women’s events (more on why in a moment), but I can’t help but notice that these are the questions I’m asked less often:
- How are your women’s Bible studies going?
- What studies are you prepping to lead in the future?
- How can I get involved in teaching women God’s Word?
I know deep down in my guts that I want the women’s ministry of my church to be Word focused, and yet there seems to be a gravitational pull toward prioritizing events. The reasons for this tendency may vary from group to group and church to church, but here are a few possibilities:
- Women love being together. There is something embedded in our female DNA that makes us crave interaction with other women. Because of that, events that provide opportunity for us to gather with other women are something we enjoy and look forward to.
- Events are an easy ask. It’s easy to ask a friend or coworker to join you for a women’s brunch or conference. There’s almost always great food, fun giveaways, and an engaging speaker that makes including the women in our world natural and fun. Inviting others, especially women who don’t yet know Christ (or we’re not sure if they do or not), to join us for Bible study can be a more intimidating ask. That’s why I remain a big fan of women’s ministry events. I like to think of them as the well we all gather around. We don’t have to grab our buckets and head to the literal well anymore. (Thank goodness!) But we still need spots for women from various backgrounds and depths of faith to gather and find common ground.
- Events are high profile. By their very nature, events are high profile. They require marketing both to the church and the community. Because of that, they can serve as great touchstones to alert those outside of the women’s ministry that something good is happening among the women of our churches. However, they ought not tell the whole story.
Because events require a large investment of time, energy, and funds, they can tend to eclipse the “smaller” ministry that is happening in living rooms and Sunday school classrooms as women gather together to study God’s Word. How can we fight that pull and ensure that our ministries remain Word focused, not events focused? Here are a few ideas.
4 Ideas for a Word-Focused Ministry
1. Define who you are.
Take the time to define the goals and parameters of your women’s ministry. Whether that’s through the branding of your women’s ministry, a mission statement, or a series of well-defined goals, don’t let the tail wag the dog. Find a way to declare “This is who we are.”
I created a detailed document outlining the biblical framework and philosophy of women’s ministry at my church. As someone who loves to be creative, setting aside time to define the ministry and set goals isn’t necessarily something that I get excited about, but it is something I’m glad I did. I’ve shared this document with both the church leadership (pastoral team and elders) and the leaders within the women’s ministry. We refer back to this doc often as the starting point for what we do and force ourselves to wrestle with the question: “Does the event or study we are planning fit within this framework?” This helps us avoid mission drift.
2. Say it, don’t imply it.
Don’t assume that just because you are a women’s ministry within a church that a focus on God’s Word is assumed. In fact, it’s been my experience that most women assume women’s ministry will be fluffy or event driven. The drum that women need God’s Word is yours to beat. Beat it loudly! Here are a few ways that I do that.
- At every women’s event we host at our church, I make it a point to say from stage, “We are a Bible based not events based ministry.” Then I take the opportunity to tell them how they can get involved in Bible study. We never, ever, ever host a women’s event where there is not an opportunity to sign up for Bible study.
- To my leaders I am fond of saying, “We will give women what they need, even when it’s not what they want.” This helps us remember that our job is to give women Living Water, not just coffee with friends.
- Consider walking your women and/or your ministry leadership though Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin. We visit this every other year at my church. It solidifies the goal to be women who seek God through His Word, not just through spending time with each other.
- Ask all women’s ministry leaders, specifically teachers to sign a covenant. Make sure that the covenant you create clearly defines the objective to elevate the Word of God. This helps nudge leaders to keep the main thing the main thing. Covenants can be renewed annually or with each new study or event.
3. Make it easy.
Many women want to study God’s Word more (or more deeply) but paralysis sets in because they’re not sure how to start. Make it easy! Designate an area in your church to making meaty Bible studies available to your ladies. This can be a single bookshelf or a whole room depending on what’s available. Your job is to vet the studies and invest church resources wisely. Then tell the ladies in your church that the resources are there for them to borrow or take. We can’t expect women to invest valuable financial resources on studies and study material if we are investing the bulk of our budget money in event planning. Spend it where it counts.
4. Live it.
As women’s ministry leaders we are the front runners. That means:
- We can’t expect the women we serve to cling to God’s Word more tightly than we do.
- We can’t expect leaders to prioritize Bible study if we are too busy to prioritize study ourselves.
- We can’t expect women to invest precious time studying God’s Word with others if we’re too busy planning the event to do the same.
Those truths may not be easy to swallow, but they are undeniably true. We are the gatekeepers of the mission. And the mission is this:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching (2 Tim. 4:1–2).