7 Steps for a Successful Women's Ministry
By Amy Nappa
You’ve announced it in the bulletin. You’ve had a clever media slide that flashes before church services. You’ve even put up signs in the women’s restrooms. “Join our team!” your notices beg. But month after month it’s the same three women who gather to plan the same activities and the same studies and the same old everything.
Are you longing for new leaders to join your team? Longing for them to bring fresh ideas and fresh enthusiasm? Well this is the information you need! Try these steps to gather new women to your team…and keep them!
Step 1: Identify potential leaders.
It may sound simplistic, but first pray that God opens your eyes to the women He might have in mind to serve. Then think about the women you connect with at church. Who has a great smile? Who offers to help with small tasks? Who do you see welcoming new people at church? Who’s always praying for others? You might even want to go through your church directory one name at a time and consider what each woman could bring to your team.
Invite other women already on your team to do this same thing. Even if one other person is committed to identifying potential leaders with you it’s better than going it alone! The others on your team know women you don’t know, and have seen them in action in ways you may never have.
This list may take shape over an afternoon, over a week, or it might be something ongoing that you always keep working on. As you meet people and hear about their passions and interests they can be considered as potential leaders.
Step 2: Invite women personally.
Stop making pleas through the church bulletin. This gives the impression that anyone can fill a slot on your team. It also puts the burden on others to reach out to you. Instead, make the first step and ask in person. Affirm why you think this woman would make a great addition to your team, what the position is, and why it’s important. For example, “Kim, I’ve seen you welcoming new families to church and taking the time to make sure they feel comfortable here. We have a need for someone like you on our women’s ministry team, to welcome women to Bible study each Wednesday morning. Many women simply don’t connect and don’t come back without a warm greeting. Does this sound like something you’d be interested in?”
If, at that point, the woman is receptive, you can move into more details such as the responsibilities, the length of the commitment, and so on. This approach let’s a woman know you had her in mind, and that you see her as a leader—not just a warm body to fill a slot.
Practice this step with the women already on your team. Encourage them to be involved in inviting others as well. This lightens your load, teaches them new skills, and turns this into a team effort, not one you’re tackling alone.
Step 3: Train your leaders—even the ones you’ve already got!
Have you ever started a job and simply been required to show up? No! You always have an orientation to learn what’s expected, as well as ongoing training to be challenged in ways to grow and improve. It’s the same in ministry. Develop a training plan for your team that encourages women in spiritual growth and helps them see how their role fits with your church’s mission and vision. Offer ongoing training opportunities so women can develop new skills and become the women God intended them to be!
And since you’re immediate goal is to grow your team, go back to that last step you just read about, and train your team on how to invite others to join your ministry—in a positive and uplifting way!
Step 4: Empower your team.
Part of leading a team includes handing over the reins and trusting others to make decisions. We need to give our team members the authority to make decisions, let them know the budget they have to work with, and so on. Yes, this opens the door to potential mistakes—but we all learn through experience. You’ll learn a bit of grace, and others will learn how to improve for the next time. Plus you’ll be freed from some of your responsibilities and will avoid burnout. Give permission. Give control. Give grace.
Step 5: Provide opportunities for significant ministry.
It’s easy to let someone set up chairs or pick up the bagels before a meeting. But what about letting someone else lead the Bible study? Make the arrangements for your retreat? Provide counseling? Yes, we do need people to take care of the smaller roles, but your team members need to know they are making a significant difference in the lives of others. No one wants to do busywork. We’re all too busy for that!
Again, this involves you letting go of the reins. If you don’t, you’ll see fewer women volunteer to serve with you because they want to make a difference and see how serving God impacts the lives of others. Evaluate the opportunities you make available to your team and see if you can find a new challenge for each person!
Step 6: Encourage, encourage, encourage.
No one wants to be on a team that’s a downer. No one wants to be on a team that’s always losing, always negative, always pouring guilt on others. It’s exactly the same in ministry. People will want to be on your team if you’re the best team in the church! And one of the key ways to do this is to be encouraging.
You have the joy of seeing each success. Don’t just file those moments away in your brain. Celebrate them! Every woman on your team needs to be encouraged. Send notes, post on Facebook, tuck a chocolate bar in her purse, whatever you can think of to make sure your volunteers know how valuable they are to you, to the team, and to the women of your church!
Step 7: Stop for evaluation.
Take time each year to meet personally with each person on your team. Let her know the wonderful ways you’ve seen God work through her. Suggest new challenges or goals she could approach in the coming year, and work together to consider training, books to read, or other opportunities for her to grow. This is also a good time to allow women to leave your team. It’s hard to let go, but if you have an annual check-point it allows for a natural opportunity to either “re-up” for another year or to gracefully move into a new area of ministry.
During the evaluation be open to being evaluated yourself. This may be hard—you may be uncomfortable hearing about ways you can improve and the woman who has been under your leadership may feel awkward being honest. But if you can encourage your team members to share openly about what it’s like to be on your team you’ll learn and grow yourself. Many volunteers wish they could openly share with you their true thoughts about serving, but they also don’t want to appear judgmental. Welcome their comments in a constructive forum where you have invited them to share with you personally. This encourages healthy team dynamics and avoids gossip.
Try these steps and your team will be more effective and successful for this new ministry year. You may even be overwhelmed by the people eager to serve as leaders in your women’s ministry!