There is a growing controversy today with churches assessing whether or not to have a women's ministry. Is it mandated in scripture, always beneficial, or not necessary at all? These are questions church leaders are asking. A large church in our town dropped their women's ministry to promote community groups instead. I have friends whose churches only have an occasional women's ministry event, and we have women who join our church because their old church did not offer a women's ministry.
Women's ministry can look different in each church. So first, let's define it. The word "ministry" means "spiritual service." Therefore, in a church, a women's ministry would be where women go for spiritual, emotional, and social needs.
What Does Scripture Say?
The Bible does not mandate that churches have a women's ministry; scripture never explicitly introduces the idea. And while it does describe principles for ministry, the Bible stops short of giving us methods to accomplish it. This gives us the freedom to minister in ways that are effective for our time and culture.
It's true; one cannot reasonably argue that scripture mandates we have a women's ministry. However, I think we can conclude that women ought to be engaged in ministering to other women. Titus chapter 2 tells older women to "train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God" (Titus 2:4-5 NIV). Paul charged Titus to equip the older women in his church so that they might be ready to teach the younger women. The list of what to teach younger women regards their character and matters of the home. With this in mind, we look for the best way for women to learn God's heart for these things by teaching them scripture and how to apply it to their lives. Furthermore, Ephesians 4:11-13 says that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to the church "to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up...in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature" (NIV). One integral way to bring about this maturity of faith is to teach women the Bible (cf. Romans 10:17).
There is no one model for how to minister to women, but many possibilities. It is imperative that a church show they care for women, which can occur in a variety of ways, but the key is spiritual health. From thriving Bible studies with hundreds of people to small prayer groups and everything in between, the women will grow in their faith if they are taught the Bible well.
Women express that they are encouraged in their faith from the fellowship they experience in a women's ministry, finding the strength to go on in life despite the trials, realizing they do not walk this journey alone.
Other beneﬁts include:
· A safe space to share struggles and prayer requests, uniquely as a woman.
· Develop meaningful friendships.
• Spiritual growth.
• Other relationships in their lives are blessed by their maturing.
· Opportunities to serve and use spiritual gifts.
Women have shared private matters and gained wisdom from others in women's groups that they never would've with men present.
A basic difficulty is simply that some women feel anxious gathering with groups of women. Even seeing the words "women's fellowship" strikes fear in their hearts! A simple group introduction or invitation to pray out loud can send someone out the door, never to return. These are women I've met at my church. One woman at our church in Hungary was skeptical about coming, saying, "What, are you going to teach me how to wear a dress?" Ministry leaders can help such women if they realize that they come through the doors with fears, anxieties, and horrible past experiences. Women with similar proclivities will come to your meetings, wondering whether they can trust those around them this time.
Another difficulty arises when a women's ministry becomes a church within a church. Suppose women can attend women's ministry activities without ever attending church services. In that case, it could be a red flag to the ministry leader that the ministry has created a church of their own. Such an ascription of authority to the women leaders may usurp authority from the pastors of the church.
Those leading must be motivated by love, having a heart for women, and displaying a good character, not self-serving or self-promoting. Skills can be taught; a heart to serve has to develop from within. It has been said that "everything rises or falls on great leadership," so having the right women in place is essential.
What if a Lead Pastor is not interested in having a Women's Ministry? Prayer would be the best place to start in this situation, and possibly a meeting with the pastor to hear his heart on the matter and share yours. The Women's Ministry must follow the Lead Pastor's vision for the church and help serve the needs of the women within it.
What if the women's ministry leaders are gossips, slanderers, spiritually immature, or are running a ministry where power and position are more valuable than understanding and obeying scripture? Sometimes, a pastor's best course is to shut down an unhealthy ministry and re-launch it with a healthy vision and leaders to match. To establish a healthy ministry, leaders must be mature in doctrine, character, service to the women, and submission to their pastors and elders.
Although scripture doesn't mandate Women's ministry, it is beneficial if teaching the Bible is foundational and is done with mature leadership and healthy guidelines. The beneﬁts reaped are creating a community where spiritual growth flourishes, training takes place, spiritual gifts receive room for use, and the community provides support and encouragement in a loving environment with hearts oriented towards God.
Look for the next steps in our post on how to start a Women's Ministry!
Join the Conversation
Our most recent episode of "When She Leads," a podcast for women in ministry, is a companion episode to this article. Listen in as our team discusses whether or not churches must have Women's Ministries. Each month, we gather around the table to consider the complexities and realities of leading as a woman.