Developing A Biblical Philosophy
Toward the end of the last chapter we listed twelve elements of an effective Women’s Ministries Program. In this chapter we want to examine each of those elements in some detail, because we believe a ministry to women without a core philosophy behind it will flounder and ultimately fail. Use these elements to develop a philosophy for your ministry; they will provide guidelines for setting your priorities and making decisions.
An Effective Women’s Ministries Program Starts with Prayer
Even if you are the only one interested in developing a Women’s Ministries Program, begin to pray and ask God to give you one or two other women willing to meet with you and pray. Include the pastor’s wife if at all possible. As you three or four meet regularly to pray, begin to ask God about some of the following issues:
1. How open is the leadership of the church to a Women’s Ministries Program?
2. Do you presently have a program for women? How effective is it?
* Are you personally involved in the present ministry?
* How open to change are those involved to evaluation and expansion?
* Would potential leadership meet with you to pray and plan?
* When should you involve your pastor as you begin?
3. What kind of resource people do you have among your church women?
4. Whom could you enlist for leadership and support for the ministry?
5. How should you approach both church leadership and other women?
6. What direction should your ministry to women take?
7. How do you sense God might have you begin?
8. How can God use you to encourage and strengthen your church?
9. How can God use you to encourage and strengthen your pastor?
10. Ask God to protect you from a critical and impatient spirit; change comes slowly.
An Effective Women’s Ministries Program Knows Its People
Using as an example the survey provided in the previous chapter, develop such a tool to gain a clearer understanding of your particular group of women. You will acquire important information for planning purposes: the needs and interests expressed, the experience in your group, how many women are working outside the home, the general age breakdown. From this information you can begin to evaluate various specific aspects of any proposed program. Should the group meet in the evening or in the daytime, or both? What has been the previous history of the Women’s Ministries
Program at your church, and how will that impact your planning? How far do your women travel to the church? Is yours an urban church or a neighborhood church? The answers to each of these questions will influence the various decisions you make as you develop your program.
The more of your women that you can survey, the more effectively you can plan and the more relevant your program can be. Be creative in reaching all the women of the congregation, whether or not they expressed interest previously. Often the survey can be included in the church bulletin, even over a period of several weeks. In addition, if your church has a Web site, the survey can be posted there, completed and returned by e-mail, or if your church sends e-mail notifications, perhaps they could send every woman the survey by e-mail as well.
An Effective Women’s Ministries Program Enlists Church Leadership
A key step in organizing a Women’s Ministries Program is to inform and educate the male leadership of the church, especially if they do not share your vision. Their support is crucial to the long-term success of women’s ministry. It is a rare exception to find leadership that places a Women’s Ministries Program high on its agenda. Usually the leadership leaves that to the women to do for themselves, including paying the expenses. We can respectfully point out that there is nothing in the Bible about a youth, college, or singles’ ministry, but Titus 2:3-4 gives a definite command for the older women to teach and train the generation following them.
Although we take an offering at our Women’s Ministries events, all our expenses, including childcare, are included in the overall church budget. This concept developed as we ministered over the years. We continue to run a tight ship and do all we can to “pay our own way,” but we have the comfort of knowing that if we are not completely successful we have the support of the entire church.
(The offering received is deposited in the church general fund.)
Some denominational churches have a women’s organization already in place with a structure that has been the same for a hundred years: WMU, WOC, WMS. Often these programs in their original form do not adequately meet the needs of today’s woman without significant revision. When a key older woman from one of these groups supports the new approach, the transition can be much less disruptive. Ask God to give you such a visionary older woman.
ORGANIZED AND THOUGHTFUL PLANNING
The women from Northwest Bible Church compiled a written proposal (see Appendix 1 for an outline of the material contained in that proposal). They included quotations from well-known women about the need for a relevant ministry to women and quotations from women in their own church in response to the survey. They detailed the plans they had in mind. They demonstrated their conviction that a woman was needed on staff to administer the program. Then they invited the elders and their wives for dinner and presented each elder with a folder containing the detailed program laid out clearly. They answered questions and discussed the subject thoroughly. This thorough approach and the evidence the women offered convinced the elders, and, consequently, a salary for a Minister to Women was included in the next year’s budget, and I was hired. Expenses for a Women’s Ministries Program were also budgeted, including childcare expenses. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to provide childcare at no cost to the mothers bringing their children. These women are the very ones we want to reach, and if we make the cost prohibitive we will defeat our own purposes.
A PROTECTED AND SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENT
I believe the elders of Northwest Bible Church demonstrated the kind of enlightened leadership essential for a vital Women’s Ministries Program to thrive in a local church. It is imperative that the pastor and elders understand the need to provide for the women of the church. They should recognize that women have needs only women can meet. Paul’s exhortation to Titus (Titus 2:3) should demonstrate that women have needs only women can meet. They must delegate that ministry to spiritually mature women who can design and implement the program. Church leadership for its part must provide the facilities, personnel, and money necessary as an integral part of the church program. Women should not have to run a bootleg program on the side supported only with bake sales and garage sales. I view the relationship of the Women’s Ministries Program to the overall church ministry much as the relationship of a wife to her husband. The husband provides the environment for the wife to accomplish the ministry given to her by God in the home. That supportive environment includes providing the finances necessary to accomplish their mutual goals. In the same way, when a church invests its funds to equip women, the entire church will reap handsome returns.
An Effective Women’s Ministries Program Articulates Specific Goals
The development of specific goals keeps a Women’s Ministries Program continually on track and provides a measure of its direction and effectiveness. Some suggested goals are:
* To minister to the needs of our church women
* To encourage growth toward spiritual maturity
* To encourage outreach through missions and evangelism
* To equip women to serve others in the church
* To provide opportunities for ministry to the community
These are the kinds of long-range goals that must be kept in mind as the whole ministry is planned and implemented.
An Effective Women’s Ministries Program Is Led Women
Of course, I am biased about the need for a woman on the church staff for women. Call her what you will-Minister to Women, Pastor to Women, Director of Women’s Ministries, or Chairman of the Women’s Ministries Board. You may have to start with a volunteer, but don’t give up the idea that this position deserves a salary, whether the woman filling it is a part-time or full-time staff member.
A staff person can focus her attention full-time on the needs of women, both corporately and individually. She can plan and implement long-range programs that enjoy continuity. Because she meets regularly with the church staff she can speak for women, correlate the Women’s Ministry with all other church activities, and add the relational insight that women bring to leadership. In most churches women make up more than half of the constituency, and they are usually unrepresented on the church staff. In a number of delicate counseling situations, I have been able to share with our pastoral staff the issue from a woman’s perspective. They heartily thanked me for it. A staff member can be more regularly available for personal counseling, which can become an important aspect of the ministry. Her ability and availability to counsel women provide the protective aspect of the ministry mentioned earlier.
Here is an excerpt of a letter I received from a young woman that illustrates the importance of having the women’s ministry directed by a staff woman:
Your stability in serving in serving at Northwest to the women is an intangible ministry. Your commitment through the years is an unspoken anchor in this society of constant change. The fact that you’ve been there, involved in women’s lives, is one of the threads that binds the newer folks to the ones who’ve been involved for years.
I remember being amazed at how open our discussion group was from the very beginning, and I think the face that you has built into lives of so many of those women for such a long time allowed them the freedom to open up.
At the present time women are graduating from seminaries and Bible colleges who have been highly trained and could fill these positions if churches realized the need for a staff person to oversee women’s ministries.
The goal of the staff woman should be to equip others to do the job, not to do it all herself. She is a pacesetter, not a prima donna. Delegating to other women an opportunity to serve in a position for which she is gifted sets her up for success, and she will want to keep serving. This delegation requires honesty, humility, and discernment on the part of the leader.
WOMEN’S MINISTRY BOARD
In addition, and equally important, a Women’s Ministries Board will be the heartbeat of an effective Women’s Ministries Program. The size of the board will depend on the size of your church. The job descriptions for our board are found in chapter 7 as an example. We update them each year.
The present chairman and I select the new chairman. We choose her from current board members serving their second year. There is a new chairman each year. Each one I have served with led in a different style, but each was wonderfully efficient and indispensable to me. We consult frequently, and she takes care of communicating with the board and Women’s Ministries about responsibilities, opportunities, and coming events; chairs the board meetings; and generally assists all the board members as they need it.
My job description is also included in chapter 7, because the chairman will have to assume many of those responsibilities if you do not have a woman on your church staff.
To get started, if your church does not have a staff person for women, the pastor can appoint a woman with spiritual maturity and organizational skills to serve as Chairman (or Director) of Women’s Ministries. Then she should pray and seek other women to work with her as a team, women who have a love and vision for women. As your program develops, you will find various categories of activities demand supervision. That is why it is important to have a board of several members, each of whom has an area for which she is responsible. Authority goes with responsibility. The coordinator should be free to be creative and innovative within the guidelines set by the board. No member of the board can be a loose cannon doing her own thing. The board should discuss each area and cooperate with the person in charge of it. That will provide accountability, yet allow each woman to use the unique gifts God has given her. This freedom with supervision is the secret of achieving the variety that makes a program successful. The Chairman (or Director) cannot be a dictator, demanding everything be done her own way. That may be difficult for her if she is a strong leader. Yet it is especially important to be flexible if you want to attract younger women. They often will not fit into our old forms or traditional ways of doing things. Do not elevate forms or methods to the status of the inerrancy of Scripture. Never say, “We’ve never done it like that before!” or, “It won’t work!” Be open to new ideas. Design the program to meet the needs of your women, and the women you would like to reach, rather than forcing the women into an outmoded form.
I learned a good lesson one year in planning for our Christmas luncheon. Susan, the board member responsible for special events, came up with the theme of a Mexican fiesta. I am not overly fond of that cuisine and wasn’t particularly excited about the menu or all the details required to pull it off. However, remembering my commitment to allow flexibility and freedom within the leadership, I agreed with her plan, though without much enthusiasm. The end result was an outstanding luncheon, enjoyed by everyone and much appreciated. I could have squelched this delightful opportunity if I had demanded that every aspect of the program be as I would individually prefer it. I would have robbed Susan of the opportunity to minister to the entire body with her creative and artistic gifts. I was glad to admit I was wrong.
Our Women’s Ministries Board meets monthly for business. We do not have any men at our meetings, either elders or staff. They have delegated the job to us. We are, however, accountable to the Elder Board and must follow their guidelines and report to them when requested, but they trust us to do the job. The Women’s Ministries Board also meets for prayer just before the Women’s Ministries Session on Tuesdays and every other week after the Women’s Ministries Session. As a staff person, I report to the associate pastor on a regular basis. An organizational chart of our Women’s Ministries Program is found in chapter 7.
EXPOSING THE MYTH
The myth that if you give women an inch they will take over the church is just that-a myth. If you give women significant ministry in the very area God has commanded for them, a ministry to the many, very real needs of women, they will be so busy and so fulfilled that the resentment and restlessness they often feel will find no fertile ground in which to flourish. Exposing this misconception about women will benefit your entire congregation.
An Effective Women’s Ministries Program Identifies and Develops Leadership
The first consideration in developing leadership is an understanding of giftedness. It is important to match people to the tasks for which they are gifted. Because I believe that God provides gifted women to meet the needs of each congregation, it is helpful here to consider what the Bible teaches about spiritual gifts. Some women do not realize that they have been equipped from the time of salvation with special abilities from the Holy Spirit to strengthen their fellow believers (1 Corinthians 12:7).
Because an effective Women’s Ministries Program requires a team effort, we help women identify their gifts. We must find out what individual women like to do and what they do well. We need also to observe when and where a woman’s service is not effective. We in leadership should do that for ourselves as well. A wise leader recognizes that she doesn’t do everything equally well. Where I am weak, someone else is strong, and if we are working together, her strength supports my weakness.
A SPIRITUAL GIFT IS A SUPERNATURAL CAPACITY FREELY AND GRACIOUSLY GIVEN BY THE SOVEREIGN GOD AT THE TIME OF A PERSON’S SALVATION, ENABLING THAT PERSON TO MINISTER TO OTHERS FOR THE PURPOSE OF ACCOMPLISHING GOD’S WORK.
There are several reasons you and your women should understand and exercise spiritual gifts. When we in leadership are careful to fit women into jobs that suit their gifts, they will enjoy doing them, do them successfully, and be willing to take on new responsibilities as their confidence increases. Conversely, when you place a woman in an area where she is not gifted, she often finds the job so burdensome and unrewarding that she is reluctant to serve again.
KNOWING YOUR GIFTS GIVES YOU AN INDICATION OF GOD’S WILL
When people know how God has gifted them for service, it will be helpful to them to determine where God wants them to serve. Many times a person has more than one gift, so do not limit service to just the most obvious or the one most often used.
KNOWING YOUR GIFTS HELPS YOU SET PRIORITIES
If you understand your gifts, it will help you resist saying yes to every opportunity that comes to you. You can choose to serve in areas fitted to the gifts God has given you, and you won’t feel that nagging guilt for saying no to other opportunities. In fact, as you recognize the way the gifts benefit the body of Christ, you will see that to accept something God hasn’t called you to do will rob someone else in the body of the opportunity to exercise her gifts.
KNOWING YOUR GIFTS HELPS YOU ACCEPT YOURSELF
Often when considering service we make the mistake of comparing ourselves to others with different gifts, particularly the public gifts, and begin to feel inadequate. When a woman discovers her own gifts and begins to serve in those capacities, she experiences the satisfaction of serving as God designed her. That experience develop, in her a growing sense of satisfaction and fulfillment and self-acceptance.
KNOWING YOUR GIFTS IDENTIFIES AREAS NEEDING DEVELOPMENT
Additionally, when a woman discovers her spiritual gifts, she then has direction for prayer and development.
For instance, if you have the gift of teaching, perhaps you would like to pursue further education or take seminars to develop your speaking and teaching skills. Perhaps you have the gift of exhortation or mercy. Maybe counseling training would sharpen and develop those gifts. If your gift happens to be the gift of giving, perhaps you would find a key place in the missions program of your church, studying the various agencies requesting support.
GIFTS MENTIONED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
1 Corinthians 12
Message of wisdom
Distinguishing between spirits
Contributing to needs
Message of knowledge
Gifts of healing
Speaking unlearned languages
The important thing to remember is that spiritual gifts are given not simply for our own benefit but for the building up of others in the body of Christ. Therefore, we really don’t have an option about using them. When a member of your physical body stops functioning, the whole body is sick. The same holds true when a member of Christ’s body does not use her gifts for the good of the rest of the members. The whole local body suffers loss. Romans 12:5 tells us that we belong to one another. We are not our own to live life totally independent of one another, focused on pleasing ourselves.
I delight to make women feel special, as they are, but we must also challenge each one that she is uniquely gifted by God with influence in her sphere of relationships.
We must remind each woman that God holds her responsible to use her influence to serve Christ by ministering to others. Ministry that only pampers or entertains does not draw a woman toward her full potential and on to spiritual maturity.
HOW TO DISCERN YOUR SPIRITUAL GIFT
1. Start with prayer, individually and with others. Ask God to reveal your gift.
2. Study what the Bible has to say about spiritual gifts.
3. Ask God’s people what they observe about your abilities and effectiveness.
4. Examine your strongest desires or interests.
5. Look for an opportunity to serve in that capacity.
6. Allow God to confirm by experience and the feedback of others.
7. Notice the area in which you experience joy and ease in exercising your gift with results beyond expectations.
Additionally, there are many spiritual gift tests that help confirm or inform people about their gifts. One test is published by Church Growth Institute, P. 0. Box 4404, Lynchburg, VA 24502-0404.
Another is the Trenton Spiritual Gifts Analysis published by the Charles E. Fuller Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth, P. 0. Box 91990, Pasadena, California 91109-1990. We offered these tests to our women when I taught a series on 1 Corinthians 12. Many women said that they were surprised at what the tests indicated, but as a result they could see possibilities they had not previously considered. However, the tests should be confirmation of the other factors just listed.
An Effective Women’s Ministries Program Is Founded’ on Bible Study
Bible study should be the central focus of a vital Women’s Ministries Program. God’s Word is what people hunger and thirst for, often without realizing that the Bible is what they need. You can draw women to varied programs that interest them, but you will not have the steady spiritual growth you desire without consistent teaching of the Scriptures as relevant to the lives of women today. The goal of an effective ministry should always be to develop spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:11-13; 1 Peter 2:2).
A church Women’s Ministries Program cannot enforce the stringent rules of some parachurch organizations. Those rules suit their particular purpose and structure, but a church program must be designed to meet the needs of all the women of the church. These women are found at many different spiritual levels-young lambs and mature sheep. Since the Women’s Ministries Programs provide opportunity for women to invite their neighbors and friends to a church-sponsored event, your audience will range from believers and new believers, the scripturally untaught, to the spiritually mature and knowledgeable in the Scriptures.
That is why your Bible teaching must include the gospel frequently for those who have not yet come to faith; be clear for the new learner, yet also challenge the mature Christian. That is not an easy assignment, but it is possible.
WHAT AND HOW LONG TO STUDY
Today’s culture is not geared to lengthy commitments. Sometimes it is advantageous to divide the study year into three sessions of between six and ten weeks each. Fall sessions can begin in mid-September and end in mid-November. That frees the women for the holiday season. The winter session begins the week after New Year’s week and ends in mid-March. We take one week off during school spring break and hold the spring session from late March through mid-May. This approach makes it possible to study different subjects each session. Others find two sessions, fall and spring, beneficial.
There are many advantages to these shorter, complete sessions. For one thing, it is much easier to get a teacher for six, seven, eight, or nine weeks than to find someone willing to teach from September to May. That is true of securing elective leaders as well. I am often asked what material we use for Bible study. Our teachers have always prepared their own studies, but that is not a requirement. We have had studies of Bible books, character studies, and topical studies.
Some of the Bible series I have taught over the past several years are available on audiotape. Those are listed in Appendix 2. They can be ordered if they would be helpful to your group. Individual questions that allow a person to study the passage before she comes to class will challenge the serious student and help the new one learn to use the Bible in personal study. Everyone won’t answer the questions, but those who do say without exception that they benefit from them. Examples of questions for this home study are also in Appendix 2.
In addition, many excellent study books for women by women are available in bookstores. Some authors I might suggest would be Jill Briscoe, Dee Brestin, Cynthia Heald, Carol Kent, and the authors of the various studies in the Women’s Workshop Series. There are also new videotaped series available as well.
WHO WILL TEACH?
Who will teach? This is where much dependence on the Lord is necessary. First, the teacher should be a woman. I have surprised men when I have been invited to speak to them in seminary classes, and I’ve stated, “Women can teach and apply the Scriptures to women better than men can.” When I humorously observe that most of their illustrations come from football, baseball, or the military, they usually get my point. A woman teacher has an empathy and understanding that communicates to women. Women respond more openly to a woman and come more readily for personal counsel, which is a vital aspect of the ministry.
But suppose you believe you don’t have a woman in your church who can teach. Does that mean you must go outside your church for leaders? Not necessarily. I am persuaded that God gives each local body the spiritually gifted people necessary to bring that particular body to maturity, including spiritually gifted women, so I believe there probably is a woman in the church who can fill this role. Pray for guidance. I cannot overemphasize the importance of praying about every aspect of your program. Also, be very careful that you look for a person who teaches the Bible. It is easy to be captivated by a good storyteller or someone with a charismatic personality who just talks about emotions and experiences, or who keeps you laughing. She might throw in a Bible verse here or there, but that is not systematic Bible teaching, and you will not have steady spiritual growth from that type of message.
Is there a woman in your church who teaches a home Bible study? Is there a woman who has been involved in parachurch Bible studies, such as Bible Study Fellowship or Community Bible Studies? Is there a person who always blesses you when she teaches? Is there a woman most people consider to be a godly example and knowledgeable in the Scriptures? Ask her if she would be willing to teach one lesson or a four- or six-week session in the Women’s Ministries Program. Start small. Maybe she has prepared a series for use elsewhere. You can evaluate her effectiveness in speaking to a large group. Some people are very effective in small groups, but not as much so in larger groups. We try to look for women who project a personal warmth and love for women-a woman with compassion and humor. The teacher functions as an important role model while she teaches.
If you find you truly do not have anyone in your church who can take on the task. you could begin by asking a good teacher in the community to start you off, but try not to depend on importing people. One of your primary goals is to develop the gifts of your own women, and that will never happen if they keep seeing “experts” do the job.
One church in our area asked me to start their Bible study series. I told them that I would come and teach a seven-week series at the end of their Women’s Ministry, year if they used their own women before that. They didn’t think anyone would do it but they found three women willing to take four weeks each. I came in at the end of that year and taught the seven-week series, but they have never needed me again because they had found several in their own body willing to develop their gift of teaching. Keep praying and expecting! Even though it can be easier to use an excellent video, or to import an expert, ask God to enable you to develop women in your own body. This will personalize, deepen, and strengthen your ministry to your own women as well as develop the women God has given your congregation.
An Effective Women’s Ministries Program Develops Variety
VARIETY IN THE WEEKLY PROGRAM
We have found that dividing our weekly program into two segments meets a variety of needs. In the first part of the program we gather for Bible study together. Then we allot fifteen minutes for announcements, service opportunities, testimonies, special music, and an offering. During the second half of the program we offer various electives or interest groups. These range from developing spiritual and practical skills to support groups. An extensive list of electives we have offered in the small groups appears in chapter 8.
BENEFITS OF ELECTIVES
* Women have an opportunity to serve the Lord using all their skills. They are not limited only to Bible teaching or working in the kitchen or nursery. If, as Scripture teaches, all of life is ministry, then our professional women-the lawyer, financial planner, nurse, and counselor-can profitably share their knowledge with us and increase their impact and ministry. The homemaker can teach basic skills, such as cooking, sewing, time management, and hospitality. The mature mothers can teach child rearing from babies to adult children. All of life’s training and experience become resources for the electives. This greatly expands opportunity for ministry and leadership development.
* Women to get to know each other because the group is smaller and they meet for several weeks. Many friendships begin here and continue.
* Women learn some skill (spiritual or practical) that they have needed or wanted to learn. So they grow in ability and confidence.
* Women learn to care and pray for each other because we allot fifteen minutes of the elective time for sharing and prayer. Many women pray aloud for the first time in this small group, because it’s safe.
* Women’s gifts ae discovered. The electives provide an obvious wat to spot new leaders for Women’s Ministries. Most of the women on our board have helped teach an elective. Many continue to do so after their term on the board is complete.
9:30-9:40 Group singing
9:40-10:15 Bible lesson
10:15-10:30 Announcements, recruiting, offering, special music
10:30- 10:45 Elective time
(including 15 minutes of prayer and sharing)
We hold a training session for the small group leaders before the fall session of the Women’s Ministries Program to go over the elective leaders’ guidelines and to provide some training on how to lead a small group. A resource book we suggest is How to Lead Small Groups, by Neal F. McBride (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1990). We tape the orientation session so new leaders coming in during the year can listen to it and read the book before the winter and spring sessions, when it is difficult to hold another orientation session. In chapter 8 we have provided a copy of our handout
“Guidelines for Elective Leaders.”
Our women look forward to our annual retreat. A retreat has several purposes.
* Retreats provide an opportunity for the women to nurture existing relationships and to build new ones through small and large group activities. A second an equally important purpose is to have a concentrated time of Bible teaching from skilled Bible teacher. Third, in our world of pressure and demands, retreats provide an opportunity for reflection, restoration, and refreshment for our women.
* Many of our women invite friends and family to the retreat, knowing that will have the opportunity to understand the message of the gospel. We always inform our retreat speaker that we will have those who do not know Christ our group, so that she will be sure to include a presentation of the gospel.
* Retreats provide for intergenerational contact as well as an opportunity for participation for women who work outside the home to get better acquainted \\ those who do not.
Retreats take a great deal of careful planning and fall under the duties of the special events coordinator. She recruits committees and delegates the responsibilities of registration, skits, free time activities, and hospitality. However, the entire board participates in choosing the speaker(s) after listening to tapes. A breakdown on planning and the committees required to hold a retreat are also included in chapter 9.
During the summer we hold two or three Saturday Specials, a one-day event complete in itself. These usually come in June and July and include Bible teaching, a missionary speaker or a book review, and three or four elective workshops. These specials provide an opportunity to keep in touch during the summer months and also expose new women to women’s ministry. These specials can be included during the school year as well, especially to reach the younger, the working, and the single women in your church.
*A Christmas luncheon, a mother-daughter dinner, or similar day or evening special events provide other opportunities for inviting friends and family to visit our Women’s Ministries Program. A special speaker is invited by the board, and a theme is set for publicity and decorations. Sign-up sheets enlist helpers for the decorating and for kitchen help. These service opportunities provide an entry point for new people to volunteer for this limited involvement and thereby gain a sense of ownership of the ministry. Many of our board members began by helping out in these small ways. We are constantly on the lookout for interested and faithful people who are willing to serve others. Chapter 9 includes a checklist for planning a special luncheon.
*End-of-session luncheons add variety to the program by changing our format for the last week of each session in a number of ways.
1. We specifically plan for the format to be a luncheon for the day group and a dinner for the evening group. (Some suggestions for menus are found near the end of chapter 9, in the section “Finishing Well.”)
2. The program on the day of the luncheon is different as well. We may or may not have the full Bible lesson. We sometimes have a speaker from one of our outreach ministries, for example, Crisis Pregnancy Center, share its ministry. Or sometimes we have some of our own women report on their recent missions trips.
3. We do not meet in the elective groups that day, but rather use that time for women to give testimonies about what their electives have meant to them. Sometimes we set up tables to display the various crafts or projects made during the electives.
4. The teachers for the upcoming session present a brief preview of their classes. One of our favorite programs provides a question-and-answer time from the Bible teacher. Each week a box is available for anonymous questions, and this question-and-answer session provides an opportunity to cover a number of those.
5. Special music and an extended opportunity for fellowship make this session enjoyable. We extend the nursery time these days and ask the mothers to bring a sack lunch for their children.
The end-of-session luncheon (or dinner) proves to be a good time to invite women who don’t usually come to Women’s Ministries, just to whet their appetite. We also use this time to verbally express appreciation to each elective leader and to give each one a small gift.
Your church facilities affect your ability to include some of the things I have mentioned, but I find women to be incredibly creative in planning events and programs that provide warmth and fellowship under many differing circumstances. Hopefully examples will simply stimulate your own creativity. It is your ministry.
Music speaks to the heart and the emotions. Special music provides an opportunity to prepare the women to receive God’s Word. It serves almost as an emotional glue stimulating feelings of fellowship, love, reverence, joy, peace, adoration, humility, any awe. Beautiful poetry set to music often expresses our emotions in ways that would: not be possible through spoken words alone. It focuses our attention. Music is a wonderful way for more women to share their gifts and talents with the group.
An Effective Women’s Ministries Program Provides Support Groups
Many women feel isolated today. Some are badly damaged from their background or in their present situations. We must face the reality that those things going on – the world are also happening in the church. Women you sit next to have been via:-of incest and child abuse. Some have had abortions. Some have discovered that husbands are homosexuals. Some have husbands divorce them for another worn_
Some are having affairs with other men. Some are struggling in very difficult marriages. Some struggle with addictions such as alcohol. We started our support group program with an elective using the spiritual twelve-step program one of our women was trained to use. Since then, that group has met regularly on another day.
Detailed information about support groups is given in chapter 10, Appendix 3, and Appendix 4. The list below gives some of support groups offered by Northwest Bible Church.
* Abortion Recovery
* Cancer Support: “Uplifters” and “CanSupport”
* Care Givers
* Divorce Recovery Group
* Hand-in-Hand (Widows’ Support Group)
* Marriage Enrichment
* New Mothers
* Twelve-Step Study Group
As you can see, variety is an ever-developing aspect of the creative ability of women to respond to others and to our culture.
An Effective Women’s Ministries Program Encourages Outreach
A failure to reach out to others in our community would condemn the ministry to eventual self-destruction. Missions begins at home and extends around the world. We are committed to providing our women opportunities to serve in the church and in the community. Outreach has become an extensive part of our ministry and developed even more after our basic program was well established. Outreach ministries provide a place where some of our older women who have been faithful and involved in missions outreach for years can plug into the overall Women’s Ministries
We send tapes of our weekly Bible studies to all the women missionaries our church supports. We also take interest in special missions projects, personally and financially. We help support women on short term missions trips to other countries, such as Romania and the former Soviet Union. We help sponsor many of our young people as well.
At our annual, weeklong missions conference, we invite women missionaries to speak about missions from a woman’s point of view. This exposes our women to world missions, and for many it is their first personal encounter with those involved in international missions.
In addition, our women have been involved in a multitude of local outreach programs since we began the Women’s Ministries. Each year new opportunities surface; one outreach may replace another as we grow, expand, and adapt. The list below gives some of the outreach programs that have proved effective for us, as well as some suggestions to stimulate your own thinking. Chapter 10, Appendix 3, and Appendix 4 give more detailed information.
* Captain Casserole
* Church Office or Library Assistance
* Citizens’ Awareness Table
* Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC)
* Evening Bible Study for Business and Professional Women
* Homeless Outreach
* Hospital Visitation
* Marriage Enrichment
* Nursing Homes
* Sharing Closet
* Special Missions Projects
* Special Needs Children
* Tutoring Ministry
Our foreign missionary women affirm the encouragement of the Women’s Ministries outreach to them. Below are several letters expressing their appreciation for the impact of this ministry.
My husband, children I live in a small village that is 100 percent Muslim. At present we are learning the language and rare in stages of Bible translation. The government does not know we are cluing this, otherwise we would be asked to leave! Therefore, my husband has to hold a secular job, which has been teaching English, but now he has permission to do full-time “linguistic research. Have three small children: 3 – year old twins, a boy and a girl and a 1 – year old girl. With this background, I would like to tell toy how much I enjoy the cassette tapes of your bible teaching that NWB sends me. After listening to the series on Hebrews, I wondered, Who is this who can speak directly to me on tile other side of the world. The highlight of my week is to put the kids down for a nap and listen to your tapes. What you say seems, often, to apply to me even though I’m in a foreign county living a Different lifestyle from women in the U.S. What a blessing you must be to tile women in Dallas. And what an encouragement you are to those of us with young children. At one point (or may& several) of wondering why I am here in this strange culture with little children, not understanding the language or the customs (people), you reminded me that my feelings are normal and this is a special time, not only, for my children but for me. It is also good to be reminded that as Christians we are all foreigners, even in our own country.
The main reason I am writing to you is to ask a favor! I used to teach Bible Study in English to internationals living in Milan. All the ladies have since moved away, most to the States where they have found good churches. My dearest friend from the states is married to an Italian, and they now live in a villa outside Florence. Her husband and is very hostile to her faith, even to the point of continually throwing out her Bible if he finds her hiding places! This has gone on for years. It is hard for her to get to church on Sundays since there are none closer than thirty to forty minutes drive.
So her main fellowship is a women’s bible Study at an Anglican church near her town. She began to attend in the hope that she might provide some good biblical input. There are a couple of other strong believers in it, too. I have given her a series of your tapes, and she promptly took them to the study- and the girl leading it have never heard anything like them! So, basically, you are having a tape ministry in Italy. They keep asking for more tapes. They have just about cleaned me out of just about everything that the church has sent me for the last few years and-are asking for more.
Could-you get someone to send me another set of the Hebrew series, “Winning Gods Approval”? I’m sending them the sermon tapes as well from the church services, but they like the ones from a woman particularly!
After reading a letter from one of our missionaries who was experiencing a particularly difficult time, several of our women wrote to her and called by phone with words of love and encouragement. This letter came as a result of their ministry to her:
I guess many of those sisters who heard my letter prayed-for me because I feel much stronger now. Sometimes I feel tempted to write on about the bright side of tile ministry, but transparency brings encouragement and prayer from the body, a stream of red blood cells.
With the exploding availability of e-mail worldwide, a ministry of encouragement through this medium can be effectively developed and included in the outreach of your ministry. One young woman I know discovered a Web site, www.icq.com, where she and her friend serving in Papua New Guinea could “chat” real time on their keyboards. They chose a time when the missionary’s young children were napping, and encouraged one another via the Internet. Technology needs to be captured in ways like this for kingdom purposes.
An Effective Women’s Ministries Program Encourages Personal Friend-skips
Women are longing for friendships with other women. James Dobson reminds us that the loneliness and isolation women feel today is not because men have changed in the last century. Rather it is because of the breakdown in communication between women. With the increased mobility of people and the breakdown of the extended family, women’s natural opportunities for relationships have been greatly curtailed.
In previous generations women did things together-cooked, sewed, quilted. canned, raised children, and mostly talked. We have largely lost that sense of community, and today the church must step in and assist women to get to know and lovth each other, filling the gap left by the disappearing extended family. Serving on committees and boards together, taking an elective together, going on retreats, and praying together- all provide opportunities for friendships to develop. Fellowship is more than coffee and cake; it is working together toward a common goal.
Here at Northwest Bible Church we also have developed a program of intergenerational friendships called Heart-to-Heart. This program has done much to promo: honest, caring friendships among our women. Details about how to implement the program, along with forms needed, are included in chapter 11 and Appendix 6.
An Effective Women’s Ministries Program Remains flexible and Relevant
A Women’s Ministries program supported by church leadership provides a protective umbrella under which its activities can function. In that way there are not many independent and overlapping things going on with no central coordination or focus. There is accountability, which is essential. Of course, our ministry did not begin with all of the programs just outlined. Many were suggested or added as needs surfaced and as people were available to implement them. At their request I met with a core group to organize an evening class for businesswomen that discussed the issues women face in the marketplace. Our approach for new ministries has been first to find a leader, then to work with her in setting goals and guidelines. I told this group that we had only two basic requirements. One, they were part of the Women’s Ministries program and thus accountable to us, and two, their lessons needed to be based on Scripture. With those basics in mind, they were free to do whatever would meet their needs.
Another woman called and said she would like to organize a support group for women caring for aging parents. I told her to pursue it and we would help organize it. This group has been a great encouragement to women at that stage in life. We also started a support group for widows. They call themselves Hand-in-Hand.
As you can see, only the creativity and size of your group limit the possibilities.
As you begin to pray and plan, assess your particular situation along the lines of the twelve characteristics of an effective Women’s Ministries Program. Use the questions following this chapter to begin to focus on your areas of strength and the areas where you need development.
The above article, “Developing A Biblical Philosophy” 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.”