Crossing Back Over the Bridge
by Beth Seversen
What is new and what’s tried and true? Women’s ministry teams everywhere are asking these two questions. As Women’s Ministries Director of our church, I was asked to research the age groups and life stages of our programs to reveal the women we were ministering to and those we weren’t. Ministry team members gathered statistics on attendees’ ages and noted how many were single, married, divorced, or widowed. We were drawing women from a wide age range, but had noticeably fewer young adult, single, and newly married women. We began to ask, “Who are these women and what are they looking for?”
Who they are
While reaching moms of preschoolers through MOPS, we were not attracting mothers of older children. These women were not attending any women’s programs at church, nor were we offering them opportunities for growth in areas of parenting, marriage, and spiritual growth.
What they are looking for
Women’s ministries generally put forth tremendous effort for special events. While some women do bring non-Christian friends, many aren’t interested in attending church events. And often church women don’t invite their neighbors because they are not ready to trust us with their friends.
Postmoderns are more experientially oriented than in past generations. They want to see evidence of truth born out over time in relationships. They want to know how making a commitment to Christ is going to change their own lives and make a positive difference in the lives of those they know and trust.
Our research confirmed our suspicions and provided us with a guide for future planning. This year we will be focusing on developing ministries that meet the needs of young career women and mothers of elementary and older-aged children.
We also examined our Eternal CPR program. “C” stands for eternal cultivating of Christ-like friendships by sharing God’s love with women who do not yet know Him personally. “P” stands for the eternal proclaiming and modeling of God’s truth in these friendships. “R” is for eternal reaping - challenging our friends to respond to the truth of God’s Word by embracing a powerful relationship with Jesus Christ. Were our programs integrating these three very important elements?
Our findings disclosed that we needed improvement in the areas of cultivating and reaping.
We have numerous opportunities for spiritual growth, but few for having fun with girlfriends who aren’t Christians. This fall we are adding pure fun to our women’s ministries programs. Friends can sign up for a healthy cuisine course, a container gardening workshop, or a field trip to Chicago. We want our women and their girlfriends to know “cool things” happen at Hillcrest Church!
Resources for reaping
Two books helped me to re-think how our women’s ministries can do effective evangelism, the “R” to our CPR. A key concept in Becoming a Contagious Church by Mark Mittleburg is that we need to accompany postmoderns across the bridge over the divide sin has created between God and man. Relationships and experiences are the catalysts that draw people to the bridge and help them go over it.
The Church of Irresistible Influence by Robert Lewis and Rob Wilkins carries the same analogy further to show us that all of us who have crossed the bridge entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and integrated into the life of the church must now cross back over that bridge to the world we left behind and show people the relevance and authenticity of the Christian faith.
What does this mean for women’s ministries? If we continue to program only for the women who are already attending church, we will become more isolated, less attractive to unbelievers, and less effective in reaching lost women and their families for Christ. We must kick ourselves out of “the club” and reach out!
Bridging back into the community
Women’s ministries must bridge back to the community, to the lost women in our lives in our neighborhoods, book clubs, and play groups. We need to take God’s Word to our world instead of expecting the world to come to our churches. Encourage women to give attention to their unbelieving friends and to cultivate ministry opportunities and friendships outside the church. Suggest participation in their public schools, library committees, garden clubs, Junior Leagues, and golf and tennis groups.
Then equip them with the skills to naturally share their faith so they can invite friends into their homes to lead neighborhood Bible studies. Send them out to get involved in their communities befriending Aids victims, unwed moms, battered women, street people, and the illiterate.
Give them a vision for the world and remove their fear by showing them this is Jesus’ desire for us and provide them with skills to accomplish it.
I find women are open to Bible studies once I have befriended them. Here is a way they can come to know Jesus over time, by enjoying other neighborhood women, falling in love with God’s Word, and with the Savior Himself. Lost people cannot reach themselves. They need brave friends who will cross back over the bridge and take them by the hand to show them the way.
Consider evaluating your women’s ministries and see where the Lord leads you. I think God is sending our women to Samaria. And He is asking us to give them the commission, the charge: Go to Samaria, there are thirsty women waiting at the well for you!