Merry go Round
By Susan Lawrence
Whether you have an established women’s ministry or you’re ministering to women in everyday ways without the umbrella of “women’s ministry,” you’re on the lookout for fresh ideas that will help you reach new women and challenge the women who are regularly involved. With fall comes a new season of women’s ministry—a time of promise and opportunity. It’s time to kick off your women’s ministry, yet it’s easy to slip into the comfort of the established, tried-and-true events, studies, and programs.
It’s a women’s ministry merry-go-round.
- Some women sit near the merry-go-round and watch. The colors and movement rush by. It’s beautiful, even mesmerizing, but a bit dizzying. Women consider jumping on, but they’re not sure how or when is best, so they sit to the side and watch or eventually walk away.
- Some jump on and off as they please. They’re happy to climb aboard when they want a thrill or see a particularly appealing seat to ride for a while, but they jump off when they’re tired, bored, or distracted.
- Some stay aboard no matter what. They become familiar with the rhythm of the ride, often to a fault. They can neglect to notice what’s happening around the merry-go-round. They wonder why people don’t jump on. They don’t see the peeling paint, run-down horses, or frightened and tentative faces, because they can only see what’s right around them.
We don’t have to get stuck on the merry-go-round. We want to reach out to women who are on the fringe. We want to engage those who are inconsistent. We need to consider how we can meet women in places other than the merry-go-round.
We need to focus on people over programs. Sure, programs are necessary because they lend structure to ministry, but they’re not the purpose of ministry. Women are. Women need connections. Women are hurting. Women have spaces in their lives that need to be filled with and by God. We get frustrated with programs when we run out of ideas, our ideas don’t work, or we’re limited in what we can do because of resources, space, approval, involvement, and more. But getting frustrated with programs doesn’t help. It distracts us from the true “why” of women’s ministry.
As I speak to women’s groups, I remind them that ministry isn’t easy. In fact, women’s ministry would be a lot easier if women weren’t involved! We’re a tough bunch to coordinate, love, and inspire. But since women are the reason we do women’s ministry, we’d better learn to cope!
So, how can you reach and involve women in life-changing, significant ways? It’s going to look different for different people –after all, if there was a one-size-fits-all ministry, we’d all buy the book and implement every step. Instead, God wants us to rely on Him.
I know you want specific ideas to try, but the following ideas are simply examples to prompt your creativity. I’ve lived out many of these ideas and learned what worked for me and what didn’t through trying and tweaking. You’ll have different trials and triumphs. Consider the questions. Prayerfully brainstorm, letting God lead every step of the way. He’ll bring faces, names, needs, and situations to mind. Let Him prompt, then step out in faith and trust.
Where is the hurt? What are the needs?
Pay attention to what’s going on around you. Ask women, “How can I help you?” Many women will automatically say, “I can’t think of anything,” but as you build relationships and trust, don’t be surprised when you get a phone call that says, “Remember when you asked how you could help?” In recent months, my offers to help have resulted in meeting to help someone learn basic Bible study approaches, planning a child’s birthday party, making 200 cookies for a fundraiser, and shopping for shoes for a funeral.
- Invite women to serve through hurt. My friend recently asked me to find a way she could help others as she was mourning the loss of two children. She needed to feel needed and pass along the support she was receiving. We packed the van with funeral flowers that would soon be wilting and delivered them to widows, single moms, and others.
- Plan a fun evening for women who live in an independent-living complex. Pour into them on a regular basis, and equip them to serve others. Help them make Valentine cards or potted plants for women in assisted-living apartments or hospice-care units.
Where do women connect? How can women connect? Who needs healthy connections?
It’s no surprise women need to connect with each other. We don’t all connect in the same ways or with the same intensity, but we need relationships. We need to be intentional about fostering and modeling healthy relationships that glorify God. It’s not easy, because we meet women in messy places, not to mention we’re messy, too. Relationships aren’t going to be predictable and perfect. When we rely on God to guide, we’ll find purpose and patience through flaws. We’ll challenge, encourage, and teach each other.
- When women are busy, meet them within their hectic schedules. Do your grocery shopping together. Gather several friends and swap coupons, product suggestions, and favorite recipes as you shop. Or attend a child or grandchild’s ballgame or other event.
- Take a walk. Great conversations can happen during long walks. Or meet a small group of women at the gym regularly, intentionally connecting with others as you work out. Enter a 5K together. Have fun and encourage others along the route.
- Gather at a bookstore for book club meetings or a coffee shop for a study group or devotion time. As you regularly show up somewhere, God will guide connections and curiosity.
What spaces need to be filled? What spaces need to be created?
Women are busy, but we’re often filling our lives with pressures and guilt-driven obligations. When we try to fit God into our schedules, we squeeze Him into a block of time instead of letting Him seep into every moment of our days. We don’t need help filling space; we need help determining what space we need to free up and with what to fill space instead of compartmentalizing what’s in our own control and what’s in God’s control.
- As we complain about not having enough time, we’re also investing considerable minutes and hours on Facebook and Pinterest. Instead of social networking separating us in the comfort of our homes, we can use it as a connection point. Host a Face-to-Facebook night where women bring their laptops to learn and teach about social networking. Host a Pinterest project night where women bring their favorite projects and get to try several simple ideas to take home or give away.
- Be flexible as you plan small group studies. Listen and adjust as needed. Ask women why they’re hesitant to study. Consider new approaches to helping others learn even if it means getting out of your comfort zone. Meet one-on-one to help someone get familiar with the Bible, dig into a study, invite women to discuss their questions, and help them make connections with others, God, and everyday life.
- Jot prayer needs on corresponding days of your appointment book when you find out about a specific need. Text or call to remind the person you’re praying on that day.
Get personal. Jesus didn’t designate “program time” and funnel all His ministry efforts into those times. He lived alongside others and did ministry every step of the way. Now it’s your turn.