As I listen to women, I’m always on the hunt for themes. I ask myself: What issues are multiple women facing? What hurts or reservations am I hearing on repeat? Several months ago, I noticed one such pattern. I heard it spoken this way:
I just can’t join a women’s Bible study. I am terrified I will say the wrong thing.
When I walked into the event and saw so many women, I wanted to turn and run back to my car.
Large groups of women scare me.
In quiet, one-on-one conversations in coffee shops and my office, these women confessed that connecting with other women, specifically connecting with lots of other women at once, is hard for them. Because most women’s ministry efforts are built on the foundation of women connecting with other women, this quiet contingent of introverts was having trouble finding their place.
Do you mind if I interrupt this regularly scheduled programming with a confession? I’m an introvert, too. You’d never know it if you know the version of Erin who speaks at women’s events or leads the women’s ministry at my own church, but all of that is waaay outside my comfort zone. (Psst . . . large groups of women terrify me, too.)
I’m much more suited for quiet groups and intimate settings. I feel most comfortable when my connections with other women are one-on-one. I don’t see any of this as a character flaw. It’s part of the fabric that God weaved as He stitched me together in my mother’s womb. The introverts in my church and community aren’t defective either; they’re just different and sometimes the ministry methods that reach them need to be different, too.
3 Strategies to Use
Here are three strategies I’m using to disciple my fellow introverts.
1. Diversify your teachers.
Despite my closet-introverted temperament, I’m a very extroverted teacher. I ask the group a lot of questions. I come on strong. I am loud and high energy. I’m also not everyone’s cup of tea. That’s okay! I don’t take it personally (truly). Instead, I actively search for additional teachers who use a different style.
Teachers like Sharon, who is so soft-spoken that you have to listen intently to every word. She is freaked out by teaching large groups but blossoms when teaching a small group of women. Introverts adore her! I love to send them her way.
It’s great to have Erins on your teaching roster who can lead a group of any size, but you also need Sharons who teach quietly to smaller groups so you can point your ladies toward a teacher who matches how they prefer to learn.
2. Diversify your format.
The bread and butter of our women’s ministry is women’s Bible studies, most of which meet in homes. This works beautifully for most women, as it provides a sense of connectedness that we were all made to crave. But for the truly introverted or those who have been deeply wounded by other women, meeting in the home of someone they don’t know, with women they’ve not yet learned to trust, is terrifying.
Rather than fighting that tide, I decided to surf it. In addition to our home groups, this next semester we will roll out a different Bible study format, more suited to the introverts among us. The content is the same as our other groups, but the format is modified.
We will meet at the church in a classroom for study with an academic vibe. (Think back to any intro level class you took as a college freshman.) Seats will be in rows, and woman to woman engagement will be minimized. We will also broadcast this study via Facebook LIVE every week. That idea came from a young momma of three children under age three who told me she simply cannot attend a Bible study without her children in this season. I don’t want her to be sidelined, so I started looking for a way to teach her right where she is.
Do I believe these women need connections with other women? You betcha!
Do I think studying the Bible physically together is better than studying it via the web? Absolutely!
But it’s our job to get women in the door and their Bibles opened. It’s God’s job to transform their hearts. If meeting in a home is a hurdle for them or the possibility they might have to talk in a group or the reality that they always have a nursing baby and a screaming toddler nearby . . . it’s our job to remove the hurdles and encourage them to sprint toward God’s Word.
Think about the structure and formatting of your women’s ministry. Does it primarily cater to those who are comfortable around other people? If so, what adjustments can you make to fold in the uncomfortable?
3. Build up your invisible teams.
Recruiting volunteers is par for the women’s ministry course, and we tend to concentrate our efforts toward the high profile needs. Yes, I need women who can teach and hostess and do stage decorations, but I also have a zillion behind-the-scenes needs that I need to pay more attention to.
I have many women in my church (I am sure you have them in yours, too) who are happy to help as long as no one knows they’re doing it. These volunteers prefer to be invisible, and I want to better champion their humility and servant-heartedness. Here are some questions to help you do the same.
- Do you actively seek out quiet women to volunteer or only the ones who are more noticeable and verbal?
- Do you create volunteer opportunities for those women who want to remain behind the scenes? What are they?
- Do you resist the temptation to recognize these volunteers publicly and instead find ways to cheer them on quietly?
Moving Past the Buzzwords
“Community” and “connection” are the ultimate buzzwords in women’s ministry, but they are not the banner God’s Word calls us to hold highest. We are to elevate the gospel and God’s Word higher than any other message. If fear of community and connection is keeping women from running toward God’s Word and living out the gospel, we’ve missed our mark as women’s ministry leaders.
I want to build a women’s ministry that draws in every temperament and personality type. Don’t you?
Let’s ask the Lord to help us bear His image by drawing all women toward Himself.
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price (Rev. 22:17).
To the introvert and extrovert, we say “Come.”
To the social butterfly and the social outcast, we say “Come.”
To the loud and the quiet, we say “Come.”
To the leaders and the followers, we say “Come.”
To the comfortable and the uncomfortable, we say “Come.”
To every woman, whoever she is and however she’s wired, we say “Come.” There’s a place for all at our table as we feast on the Word of God.