Assessing The Culture
Evaluating your specific and individual ministry situation and developing a biblical philosophy uniquely crafted to your women has been our focus up to this point. Now to broaden the context surrounding your ministry in the twenty-first century, it will be essential to consider the broader culture.
The Impact of Culture on Your Women
This generation can be very fickle. Ours is not a culture where loyalty is deemed a virtue. If they “don’t get something out of it,” women will just go somewhere else. Commitment to friends, marriage, and church no longer comes easily or naturally for most. Many of this generation are cynical and distrust institutions such as the “organized church.” They are secular, much less involved with religion than their parents. Over 30 percent of adults live alone. But even for those living with someone, psychologists have invented such terms as “crowded loneliness” and “living together loneliness” to describe this culture’s need for fellowship and intimacy. Additionally they are easily distracted, and there are multiple distractions: TV, DVDs, and video games. People have short attention spans, live at a fast pace, and have a lack of discipline. Spectators, not participants, as Kerby Anderson of PROBE ministries describes them.
These multifaceted cultural pressures must significantly affect your planning for a Women’s Ministries Program. Although the feminist movement produced some positive results, numerous negative ones as well substantially impact young women today.
Many have been indoctrinated with the idea that personal worth is found only in competing with men in the marketplace. Homemaking and mothering skills have been devalued, so the woman who chooses to stay home and care for her children often feels guilty for doing so and enjoying it. She faces challenging questions from those who do not choose to stay at home, and she is often caricatured by the mass media as mindless.
Consequently, those necessary skills, which many of us older women learned at our mother’s side in previous generations, have not been transmitted to this generation. Many young women received no training in how to manage a home, cook nutritious meals, live on a cash basis within their income, nor do any of the things such as sewing and knitting that women of earlier generations learned almost automatically.
From the sixties forward affluence and national optimism led to parental indulgence. A generation of entitlement (“I have it coming to me”) demands personal freedom, self-expression, and self-fulfillment as a constitutional right; it values choice and variety. Trends toward smaller families and more and more two-income families have become the norm.
During the 1950s, in over 70 percent of the homes, the husband was the breadwinner and the wife was home with the children. In our new millennium this pattern reverses to the point where only 30 percent of families fall into that formerly traditional pattern. Sixty-eight percent of women with children under six are in the workforce today. That figure continues to grow at an astonishing rate.
These women must be the church’s target audience. Understanding and appreciating their needs provides ways of meeting them. Insisting on old methods results in failure and frustration for all involved. How aware are you and those you work with in developing your ministry of this impact of our present culture on your women?
On the other hand, we must not toss out good methods that effectively ministered to older generations. Somehow we must incorporate methods and styles that provide something for all. In evangelism we should use every method to reach the unbeliever; in discipleship we cannot compromise biblical standards to accommodate what the world says we must do-but we can adapt our methods to become more effective.
An effective Women’s Ministries Program is really evangelism and discipleship at many levels simultaneously. Ministry such as this challenges a woman’s creativity and blesses her in many ways. A Women’s Ministries Program serves effectively as an umbrella spanning the activities needed for young and old, new and mature believers. A Women’s Ministries Board accountable to church leadership, yet with the authority-to plan, promote, and implement programs, provides a most practical way to proceed, It will relieve the pastor and male staff of a burden they are unable to carry alone.
Recognize the Distortion of Sexual- Relationships Today
In 2000 some 5.5 million couples lived together without marriage. With the rising acceptance of extramarital sex, men do not find it necessary to make a commitment to a woman. This pressure on young women needs to be addressed regularly from the Scripture. Many of these couples come to church on Sunday and participate as part of your congregation. This troublesome undercurrent of sexual license affects the way you develop the content for your particular ministry. The understanding and support of an older woman encourages young women to maintain a life of purity.
The sexual relationship is frequently viewed as a right open to all rather than the privilege reserved for the protection of marriage. Purity and self-restraint run against the prevailing flow of culture and practice of upcoming generations. Titus 2 makes clear that older women are to teach younger women the importance of purity, and this relates specifically to a healthy understanding of God’s gift of the sexual relationship
The church must reach this media-saturated generation and their children. We will most effectively reach them as we recognize their characteristics and provide ways to attract them. Insisting on old methods will end in failure. Consider how the following characteristics of this generation might impact your ministry; some will help you and some will present challenges for you to overcome:
– Places a priority on personal relationships
– Appreciates and demands diversity
– Sees change as good, not bad; is easily bored
– Cannot always count on family for support
– Does not believe in absolutes
– Believes there are many roads to God
– Feels free to express negative emotions
– Prefers short-term commitments
– Believes the Existential philosophy “You only go around once.”
Consider the Unique Needs of Single and Career Women
The enormous growth in the number of singles living alone presents additional challenges. Their number includes those never married, the widowed, and the divorced. Single parent families increase every year, and economically these are often the most disadvantaged in our society. No one can measure the damage divorce has wreaked on the children-and these children are the parents of upcoming generations.
How do we minister to singles? This concern increases continually in the local church. Over one-third of my home church is single; therefore, we have a Minister to Singles and a strong singles ministry. I recognize that frequently smaller churches do not. However, even in our singles ministry, we have found that single women still desire connection with women of the church. They are weary of associating only with their peers. Life lacks a certain reality when it lacks intergenerational connectedness. Single women also have many questions, questions that require the counsel of older, spiritually mature women. Consider these questions I was asked when invited to meet with a small group of Christian single women:
1. Can you offer encouragement for women who have not had the example of a Christ-centered marriage in their homes that their own marriages can be different, and how can women learn to recognize when their relationships are following the unhealthy patterns they learned as children?
2. Define submission and describe how we are to apply it in the following situations:
a. with men at work
b. with men friends
c. in our church
d. in dating relationships
e. with Christian versus non-Christian men
3. What are our natural instincts and desires as women? How can we constructively deal with those desires in our current position as single women? How can we be content?
4. How should we handle the situation when a single friend becomes pregnant?
5. When we are interested in a dating relationship, is there an appropriate way to pursue it?
6. If we have already given up our virginity, is there any way we can be pure again before God, and how can we deal with the guilt that may be involved?
7. What kind of ministry options are appropriate and available to single women?
8. Can a divorced woman have a ministry in the church?
Because we offer an evening program, many of our singles and career women teach electives. They are been involved in outreach and missions. They are generous in their giving to special projects, and they love the Heart-to-Heart relationship, both as Juniors and Seniors. (This program is described in detail in chapter 11.) The abilities that have made them successful in business can be tapped for use in the family of God. That’s why I’m so thrilled to see some of them take the initiative to form an evening class for business and professional women.
We also have to recognize that the number of single parents, especially single mothers, is increasing. We in the church can do much to help, and we need to find creative ways to do that. For instance, our Men’s Ministry recently had a workday where several groups of men went to the homes of single mothers and widows to do repairs and yard work. The Heart-to-Heart Friendships have worked here, as well.
Give Your Program an Umbrella of Protection and Accountability
A Women’s Ministries Program serves as an umbrella for the activities needed for young and old, new and mature believers, providing protection and accountability. The Women’s Ministries Board is accountable to church leadership but enjoys delegated authority to plan, promote, and implement programs. This structure is really the only practical way to go. Often this can free the pastor and male staff to concentrate on the development of male leadership.
The above article, “Assessing The Culture” was written by Vickie Kraft. The article was excerpted from Kraft’s book Women Mentoring Women.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”