Christian Women Bible Studies: Connecting Women to Jesus
by Constance B. Fink
Just last month Jackie Oesch and her husband, Norb, boarded a plane to China for a two-week missions trip with several other ministry couples. This was just one of many international trips to increase global vision to ministry leaders. When she’s not overseas, you will find Jackie speaking at a women’s conference, leading a women’s Bible study, or lending a shoulder to cry on for a hurting woman in ministry. Currently, she is focused on writing a Bible study series. One look at Jackie and it is clear she knows exactly what God has called her to do in her life and ministry.
In the early years, she was thrust into the role of pastor’s wife in San Antonio, Texas in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. There she discovered her passion to connect women to Jesus through women’s ministries. As a result, she established Christian Women’s Ministries, an organization in her denomination that launches women’s ministries in churches across the country.
After listening to the stories of many hurting women, Jackie also founded FullValue ministries to help women find their full value in Christ. The backbone of this ministry is a Bible study guide based on the crippled woman who Jesus healed in Luke 13:10-17. Women discover that no matter how many hurtful and cruel things have happened to them along life’s road, Christ reaches down and picks them up, declaring them worth full value and priceless to Him.
After serving in churches of all sizes, she and her husband started the Pastoral Leadership Institute. PLI nurtures church leaders by providing growth experiences to enhance the effectiveness of their marriages, families, and congregations. PLI is a four-year post-graduate program for pastors in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and includes the Partner Program for pastor’s wives. As director of the Partner Program for the past eight years, Jackie’s primary responsibility has been to provide a safe environment for them. By participating with her husband and empowered by her relationship with Jesus Christ, the ministry wife grows in the knowledge of who she is, is educated about her unique supportive relationship to her husband, and is equipped as a woman of influence.
In spite of these involvements over the last 40 years, Jackie’s ministry road had a very bumpy start. For years, she struggled with depression and a shaky marriage, but after deep soul-searching, she began to understand God’s unique call for her, and was finally free to pursue His plan for her life. Today, life is exciting for Jackie. She is invigorated when she ministers to others because she says “yes” or “no” to opportunities based on the specific ministry which she knows is hers.
JBU had the opportunity to talk with Jackie about what she has learned and what she sees as important for women as they minister within their homes, churches, and communities.
JBU: With the many demands of ministry, how did you determine your priorities?
Jackie: The first step was coming to a biblical understanding of ministry. Up to this point, I had no ministry boundaries. I thought I was the one who needed to do whatever needed to be done in the congregation. I had no foundation to say “yes” or “no,” so I said “yes” to everything. As a result, I didn’t enjoy ministry. A dear friend once said, “If you don’t know who you are when you come to a congregation, they will tell you.” My burnout forced me to examine my life and what God had called me to do.
Based on Acts 16, I realized the simple and clear mission: God has called us to preach the gospel to people. Once I grasped this definition of ministry, I began the process of recognizing my personal ministry. One of the first things I discovered was that personal ministry is not synonymous with congregational ministry. Rather, it is the unique life to which I have been called.
JBU: What does your personal ministry look like today?
Jackie: My ministry is not my husband’s, and it’s not a specific activity. It’s all about priorities. I view the wife’s ministry like a target: the bull’s eye is her husband, the next ring is the children, and the outer ring is others. For me, the outer ring involves writing and leading weekly Bible studies, but this will be different for each woman according to her gifts.
My central ministry is to my husband. When I understood that Norb was my God-given ministry, my thinking changed from a martyr to, “I will bless my husband by taking care of the details of our life, including taking care of the four kids, so he will be healthier and better equipped to serve others.”
We have served in all sizes of churches from small to large. I am the founder and director of two organizations, as well as the co-founder of the Pastoral Leadership Institute. But in all, my central ministry has been my husband. I look for ways to care for his needs. I send him off each day with cleaned clothes, nourishing meals, and a satisfied sex life. I have a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment knowing that I am doing ministry specifically designed by God for me.
After my husband and children, I have only a small place on my ministry plate for other opportunities so those things need to be selected very carefully. The biblical reference for my discovery of boundaries and guidelines for saying “yes” and “no” to opportunities is found in Acts 16:9, 10 and Proverbs 31:11, 15, 20, and 23.
JBU: What is an important need of women in ministry?
Jackie: They need someone to talk to. When they come to our conferences, they are like stuffed garbage cans ready to spew out a lot of stuff. We provide a safe place for them to talk shortly after they arrive. Once all the junk is out of the way, they are ready to be refilled. At the close of the conference, we encourage them to go home and find a friend who is walking a similar path. Make time for this relationship. Communicate with each other on a regular basis. It’s essential. It takes work and you must be willing to be vulnerable, but I guarantee it will make you, your family, and your ministry healthier.
For the past eight years I have focused on ministry wives in leadership. I ask them to identify areas in which they desire to learn and grow. Without exception, three concerns surface. First, she wants to develop a deeper and more consistent devotional life. Many women cover up this need with busyness, and can’t hear the cries of their soul. If she doesn’t recognize the need, she won’t slow down to meet it.
Secondly, she wants to balance ministry and marriage. This requires clarification of her priorities and giftedness so she knows when to say yes and no. In doing so, she is a model to her children.
Thirdly, she wants to develop relationships. She feels lonely and isolated, and craves meaningful friendship. Relief comes when she finds someone to care for, as well as someone to care for her – this may not necessarily be the same person.
JBU: What is one of the changes women in ministry face today from your first church 40 years ago?
Jackie: When we began our ministry, most of our ministry was at the church. We were able to reach un-churched friends by inviting them to attend and participate with us. The women’s ministry would hold all-day events. Weekly Bible studies fed and nurtured women in their relationship with the Lord. The church was the place where it all happened.
Today, the church is a place from where God’s people are sent out. Women are very busy today. We can no longer sit back and wait for people to come. Rather, the church is the place where God’s people are filled and then sent out to reach the lost one by one. The important goal today in women’s ministry is not to invite others in, but to create a sense of urgency in each woman to see herself as one who is sent.
JBU: What is a significant lesson you have learned about your walk with Christ?
Jackie: When I consider my walk with Jesus, I stand amazed that He has chosen to walk “in” me. He is the One who makes me worthy because He has redeemed me when I was lost and condemned. He has done it all. My responsibility is to praise and thank Him, to serve and obey Him, and to connect others to Jesus.
JBU: How do you stay connected with Christ?
Jackie: I have a regular quiet time. This daily discipline is essential. I always ask, “Lord, what do you want to say to me today from this passage?” Scripture wasn’t written to be a mystery. It’s applicable. It offers hope and encouragement and makes sense of life.
JBU: How have you stayed passionate about ministry?
Jackie: Although my ministry has changed through the years, I’ve learned that matching my spiritual gifts to ministry has nurtured my passion. Identifying and using my gifts for the good of others gives energy and value to my life. I live with intention.
But without the personal study of God’s Word and the working of His Spirit in my life there would be no passion, only busy work and eventually burnout. God’s Spirit working in me to use the gifts He has given keeps my passion burning.
For more about Christian Women Bible Studies please visit our home page