Starting a Women's Ministry
By Debra Johanyak
A few years ago my husband and I moved to the suburbs and joined a small Baptist church. Our congregation provided a close-knit sense of family worship and spiritual nurture, but I found myself missing women’s ministries like “Woman-to-Woman” and “Preschool Moms” that had enriched my spiritual walk at our former church.
As we became acquainted with many church members, I asked some of the women about the potential for women’s fellowship.
“Oh, we tried it for awhile, but it fizzled,” a kindly 50-year-old sighed.
“Some of them had other things going on in their lives, and a few just forgot to show up.” Liz shook her head.
Her words challenged me. After all, I had several years experience in organizing committees and chairing meetings at my teaching job. Instead of expecting to be catered to, maybe I should do some of the catering.
“Well, I’m going to give it a try. I’ll ask God to bless or block it, according to His will.” I couldn’t tell if Liz’s smile was sympathetic or encouraging.
I then asked the pastor’s wife for suggestions.
“Breakfasts have worked in the past, but I don’t know about now.” Knowing how busy she was with the choir, children’s Christmas play, nursery administration, job, and family, I asked if she could recommend women from the congregation who might be good speakers. She gave me a couple of names and I got started. Here are some of the things I did in the beginning to launch our women’s ministry:
Start with a small event.
I found a local restaurant to accommodate our 30-something members for a Saturday morning breakfast. PR (“public relations” or “promotion and recruitment”) was my next step. I designed an attractive flier and sign-up sheet that I placed in the church foyer. The pastor cheerfully agreed to include the upcoming breakfast in his Sunday morning announcements, and I asked the church secretary to include it in the church bulletin. Because there was not enough time to make arrangements for a speaker, I decided to prepare a devotional. Though I wasn’t used to this type of public speaking, I had made enough conference presentations to help me “wing it.”
When the day came, 30 women showed up for the event. It was fun to see women from ages 20 to 60 join us, and to hear them laughing, listening, and loving as they eagerly formed new bonds of fellowship or strengthened old ones that had been missing for a while. My talk focused on how to develop communication strategies for building intimacy in marriage and friendships.
Before I left, I announced dates and locations for future breakfasts and continued to publicize. Attendance continued to grow. Programs included a Christmas ribbon-tying craft supplied by one of our creative members, and a presentation called “The Easter Dress” the following spring, based on a guest’s personal story. We also drew names for Secret Sisters, who were revealed in our last meeting for the year in May, and we agreed to start up again in September. Our pastor’s wife offered to start a devotional series on the Proverbs woman since her schedule had freed up.
When our second year began a few months later, numbers dwindled a bit due to weather, a flu outbreak, and a crowded church schedule, yet we never dipped lower than ten. The women remained committed and enjoyed the Secret Sisters ministry. In December we held our “special edition” women’s breakfast which was catered, followed by a church decorating party.
Plan for Spiritual Nourishment
By the end of the second year, our women were becoming restless for more spiritual “meat,” as the “milk” was no longer enough. They wanted deeper study of the Word, more accountability for themselves, and a mutual commitment for prayer and support. As a result, we launched “The Five Aspects of Women,” a Tuesday evening Bible study that began meeting the following fall, our third year.
Be Open to Creative Ways to Reach Women
The Bible study was bittersweet for me. I couldn’t attend because I already had a teaching commitment on Tuesday evenings. One thing leads to another, especially when God’s hand is in it. In a couple’s study that my husband and I hosted, six ladies and I, close in age, got to know each other and shared occasional comments about mid-life issues and concerns. We decided we needed a forum to discuss anxieties and opportunities associated with mid-life. Voila! “Mid-Life Madness” ministry was born as a plan for an evening of fun, friends, and food to deal with the complexities of peri-menopause issues like “hormonal horrors,” “family feuds,” and “spiritual spotlights.”
Out came another sign-up sheet and I got busy with fliers and advertising in the church bulletin, and, new to our worship service, a power-point presentation! I kept the PR simple for this event because some topics required discretion. Our event drew over 20 women who competed for the “memory game” prize, shared favorite Scriptures, and the sharing of information, some of which was presented in the form of books, handouts, and on-line printouts. Just when you think you’ve spent all your creative energy, another idea creeps up and taps you on the shoulder!
Be Sensitive to Specific Need Groups
Our church has been growing the last couple of years, drawing many young couples with children, so we’re thinking about starting a group of “Mentoring Moms” to pair older women with younger women, according to Titus 2. The idea really gelled when a 28-year-old mom of three, pregnant with her fourth child, telephoned to chat and became enthused when I shared my idea. She feels that spiritual moms are greatly needed by the young mothers at our church and she is excited about getting her own “Mentoring Mom” since she hasn’t been raised in a Christian home. So we’re off and running again!
I am in awe of God’s timing! He has it all figured out. Each of us is here for a purpose, and He will help us fulfill it. As Solomon put it in Eccl. 3:1-8, ‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”
New directions continue to multiply! This past year we began another new Bible study on the book of Esther, co-led by three of us. We’ve also invited unchurched women from the community.
Another new initative was our first women’s retreat that drew 40-plus women for an exciting overnight adventure at a local church camp with a guest speaker who motivated us to see life’s difficulties as learning opportunities.
When our family came to our new small church, I had no idea that so many meaningful ministries would become available in such a short time, and that God would use me to be the catalyst for starting them. A women’s ministry feeds and nourishes women who turn around and impact the world. It is also an exciting opportunity for women to build God’s kingdom, one event at a time.
With a little creativity and persistence you can start a women’s ministry in your church. Just take the first step…you never know where God will lead and whose lives He’ll change.