Establishing or Revitalizing Ministry to Women in Your Church
Implementing a Three-Dimensional Design
Today like never before, women are hurting. They are overwhelmed with responsibilities and inundated with lies. Many come from unhealthy and dysfunctional backgrounds that have left them ill-equipped to handle the pressures they are facing. Due to the demands of life and the breakdown of the family, many feel isolated and alone.
When women walk into our churches, they are looking for someone to care about them, encourage them, and listen to them; they desperately need the body of Christ. They want to know that they are not alone, and they need the hope that a personal relationship with Jesus can provide.
While every church is unique in personality, size, and resources, we can all be intentional about ministering to the hearts of the women we encounter. This Three-Dimensional Design is created to help you reach any woman through varied levels of interaction-from big events to one-on-one connections. Whether your church is large or small, this model can be modified and implemented to meet the unique needs of the women you are called to minister to. In order to design a vibrant ministry for women in your church, we will explore:
1. What Ministers to a Woman?
2. Purpose of Big Events
3. Purpose of Small Groups
4. Purpose of One-on-One Connections
5. Incorporating Outreaches and Missions
6. Implementing the Three-Dimensional Design in Your Church
This unit helps you understand the overall principles of the Three-Dimensional Design for ministry to women. We have also developed specific training units to help you succeed in each of these areas:
* Ministering to a Woman’s Heart
* Planning Big Events
* Forming Small Groups
* Creating One-on-One Connections
You can access these training units by logging into the membership area at www.women.ag.org.
What Ministers to a Woman?
We can discover what best ministers to a woman when we understand her design. God created the first woman, Eve, with distinct differences from her counterpart, Adam. “Adam was created from the ground and was assigned tasks. [But] Eve was created from Adam’s side. She was designed specifically for relationship-created to meet Adam’s relational need and equipped to bear and nurture children.” Read Genesis 2:18-24. What does this reveal about a woman’s unique design?
Since creation, men and women have been distinctly different. Here are some general differences between most (although not all) men and women:
* Mentally: Women have a more integrated brain structure and can multitask. Men are more singularly focused.
* Emotionally: Women process emotions through talking; they are more emotionally expressive. Men process emotions through action; they are more emotionally reserved.
* Verbally: Women communicate mainly to express themselves; they expand on details. Men communicate mainly to exchange information; they condense details.
* Relationally: Women primarily desire to bond with others. Men primarily desire to distinguish themselves; bonding is secondary.
* Intuitively: Women unconsciously perceive details “intuition.” Men often overlook small details.
* Physically: Men and women differ in every cell of their bodies!
These insights reveal that what ministers to a man may not be what ministers to a woman. While sermons can challenge and inspire, genuine life-change happens when someone enters a woman’s emotional world, connects with her, and encourages her on a personal level. Women experience the most growth within a one-on-one relationship that provides:
Understanding/Compassion: The understanding a woman brings to another woman can be a catalyst for healing and strength.
Presence: The ministry of presence is extremely important to women. Because most women process emotions verbally, the need for a listening ear is vital.
Conversation: Some women learn and process information best through discussion.
Example: Living godly lives and sharing lessons learned from our own experience can make a lasting impact on the women in our life.
It would be unhealthy for a male pastor or leader to have the relationship described above with a woman in his congregation. The Bible tells us that women are the best models of godly behavior for other women (Titus 2:1-6). Women understand women. Allowing women to minister to other women will give freedom to church staff, and prevent unhealthy emotional and physical attachments from forming between male pastors and women in the congregation. This is why ministry to women, by women, is a vital part of a healthy congregation.
A Three-Dimensional Design
After looking at the needs of today’s woman, clearly a relational approach is necessary for effective ministry to them. Yet many women today are missing the benefits of a healthy one-on-one connection with another woman. While events and programs are important components of ministry, we must remember to intentionally establish ministry to the individual women in our churches and communities. We should strive to facilitate healthy one-on-one connections among women.
Does this mean that big events and small groups are not needed? As we shall see, all facets are vital to a woman’s spiritual journey.
Purpose of Big Events
Big events should be designed to appeal to the women in your entire church and surrounding community. Ideally, these gatherings would take place two to four times each year. Meal functions, worship services, theme-parties, and retreats are examples of big events that can invite, include, and inform all women.
It is important to have events that every woman is invited to attend-women in any age group and walk of life. Since these are one-time events and don’t require ongoing commitment by participants, they are also good opportunities for women to invite friends.
Big events should provide opportunities for across-the-board participation. Meals provide the atmosphere for everyone to participate. Most women enjoy visiting and sharing a meal together. Worship and listening to a speaker are also inclusive activities. The large group environment helps women to meet others; icebreakers and mixers can facilitate introductions.
Another positive aspect of big events is the ability to communicate to the majority of the women in your church at the same time. This will help generate excitement and help them to feel included in the life and community of your church. At your events, allow time for women to sign up for:
* district women’s events
* women’s small groups
* opportunities for one-on-one connections
* community outreach events
* missions projects
Purpose of Small Groups
Small groups provide fellowship and mutual support for a woman’s journey. These groups can be as diverse as the interests and needs of the women in your church. Craft groups, Bible studies, and recovery groups are all examples of ways to involve and instruct all women.
Depending on the size of your church, you can offer any number of the various types of groups listed below.
Fellowship Groups: Simple gatherings help women feel a deeper sense of belonging and involvement in your church. Fellowship groups introduce women to others in their stage of life-seniors can join for tea, and mothers of preschoolers can meet for lunch at a park while children play. Or fellowship groups can involve all generations in a breakfast club, coffee with the pastor’s wife, or a dinner club. As these relationships are strengthened over time, they will provide care, accountability, and encouragement that women need.
Common-Interest Groups: Women love to gather regularly for a common hobby like scrapbooking, gardening, exercise, etc. Not only do common-interest groups foster relationships, they can allow women to bless others by making cards for the ill, donating garden produce to families in the church, etc. This is also a nonthreatening way to involve women who are not yet comfortable with each other. While focusing on an activity, the women become open to deeper levels of conversation.
Compassion Groups: A great way to involve women is by giving them opportunities to make a difference in their church and community. Compassion groups help women contribute their gifts and energy to care for widows, volunteer at a shelter, show hospitality, etc. As women serve others, they build friendships and a sense of significant involvement.
Prayer Groups: Nothing forms spiritual bonds like uniting together in prayer. These groups can meet periodically for prayerful intercession and worship. They can focus on different issues such as teen children, marriage, unsaved friends and family, or even prayer for church leadership. For creative group ideas, search “Small Groups” at www.women.ag.org/inspiring.
Study Groups: Because women tend to process information verbally, study groups help women internalize biblical truths in a powerful way. Many Bible studies and topical studies are written to help women apply Scripture to their role as wives, mothers, businesswomen, etc. Some of these resources include discussion questions that prompt meaningful conversations.
Growth Groups: True discipleship happens best in a small group setting. Growth groups can provide life-stage instruction, such as how to manage finances, improve marriage, raise teenagers, etc. Growth groups can also provide issue-related support, giving women the opportunity to recover from divorce, eating disorders, depression, addictions, post-abortion syndrome, etc. For a list of books and Bible studies, go to “Books and More” at www.women.ag.org.
Purpose of One-on-One connections
While many churches offer big events and small groups, many fail to be intentional about creating opportunities for one-on-one connections. Life-giving relationships are extremely important for the emotional and spiritual health of a woman. In addition, one-on-one connections are highly adaptable to each woman’s individual needs and schedule. They can meet as determined by individuals, providing a flexible yet effective way for women to invest in and inspire other women. Depending on the size of your church, you can offer any number of the various options listed below.
Mentoring: A simple arrangement produces the most effective mentoring relationship. Many times we tend to make things more complicated, and we hinder participation. It’s best to allow the mentor and mentee to decide when and where they will meet, and for how many times. For example, they can meet once a week, bi-weekly, or monthly for 60-90 minutes each time; they may consider the mentoring relationship to be fulfilled after six meetings. Encourage the mentee to determine the type of relationship she would like to have with her mentor. For example:
1. Life stage mentoring provides guidance for mothering, marriage, new career, etc.
2. Life skills mentoring teaches how to cook, study the Bible, manage a budget, etc.
3. Life change mentoring encourages weight loss, anger management, spiritual disciplines, etc.
Intentional Friendship: Nearly every woman has something to offer through intentional friendship. Those who have walked through a particular situation can now walk with someone else who is in a similar circumstance. For example, you may become aware that Ann has been diagnosed with breast cancer, and you know that Susan is a breast cancer survivor. Simply contact Susan and ask her to call, e-mail, or meet with Ann to offer encouragement and support. These intentional efforts can turn out to be a one-time encounter, or may blossom into a lifelong friendship.
Prayer Triads: Prayer triads are much more relational than the “prayer chains” of the past, and they do not require a great deal of time or resources. They are simply a way to ensure every woman in your church has someone she can contact when she needs prayer.
Consider asking several women to be prayer triad leaders-you will need one leader for every three women. Utilize big events, small groups, or an e-mail list to make women aware of what triad they are a part of. Let them know they can share prayer needs through e-mail. The triad may want to get together for coffee periodically, but no formal meetings are required. The most important part of the prayer triad is for every woman to know that she has two women praying for her.
A word to smaller churches: In smaller churches, women tend to be more involved serving in multiple areas because there is fewer paid staff. These women are dedicated moms, busy grandmas, and have full-time careers, but they come to church in order to minister. While these women experience joy in serving, they often miss opportunities to build life-giving relationships with other women. One-on-one connections ore definitely essential, even if your church is small!
For relational resources, search “One-on-One Connections” at www.women.ag.org/inspiring.
Incorporating Outreaches and Missions
Our goal for any ministry is to help women become spiritually mature and Christlike. A major sign of spiritual maturity is compassion for others. Christ commands us to love and serve one another, and our love for God is seen most clearly when we minister to those in need. Consider offering opportunities for women to help with missions or compassion ministries. Contact your district women’s director for missions opportunities, and look for outreach opportunities in your community. To find ideas and ministries, search “Outreaches and Missions” at www.women.ag.org/inspiring.
Implementing the Three-Dimensional Design in Your Church
The Three-Dimensional Design is effective in any church setting. We encourage you to customize this plan to fit your church’s unique needs, resources, and size. Your ministry can be as simple or elaborate as you wish. The key is to include at least one aspect of each dimension-big events, small groups, and one-on-one connections-as well as outreach opportunities.
For example, a small church might have a limited budget and leadership team. They may choose to attend two events per year: in the spring, they attend the district women’s conference; in the fall, they host a simple “ladies night” at the women’s coordinator’s home. Following each event, they begin one small group Bible study that meets bi-weekly. Throughout the year, every woman also has a one-on-one connection through prayer triads. And periodically, they donate to their district missions project.
Keep in mind that simple is better. Avoid designing a ministry that will become a burden in the long run. You can use the following guidelines as a starting point for establishing your ministry. However, realize these steps are meant to be supplemented by additional training units that help you coordinate the details of various ministry aspects. Login to www.women.ag.org, and browse topics within the “Establishing Ministry” category.
Use these steps when designing or re-designing ministry to women in your church:
1. Establish a leadership network.
* Read all the planning guides included with this unit.
* Meet with your pastor or other church leadership, using the Meeting with Your Pastor page.
* With your pastor’s approval, individually contact each potential member of the planning committee-big events coordinator, small groups coordinator, connections coordinator, missions coordinator, administrator.
o Share your vision using the Vision for Ministry to Women pages.
o Discuss each person’s potential responsibilities using the Women’s Leadership Team page.
o Ask them to pray about the decision.
o Once a planning committee is finalized, set a date to meet together for step three, “Meeting with the Planning Committee.”
* Contact your district women’s director:
o Ask your church for the district phone number, or go to www.women.ag.org/districtdirectors.
o Inquire about brochures, resources, online tools, retreats, and training events she offers.
o Ask her to add you to her mailing list.
2. Develop ministry guidelines.
* Create a mission statement and ministry name:
o A mission statement can help direct your planning. Depending on your situation, you can develop a mission statement on your own, or with the planning committee during step three.
o Consider your church’s mission statement, your pastor’s vision, your personal direction from God, and the needs of women in your church and community.
o Consider the mission of the National Women’s Department: “Our mission is to touch the lives of women by the transforming power of Jesus Christ, disciple them to follow His example, and train them to minister to others.”
o Create a mission statement that is compatible with the above, and is precise and simple-no more than two sentences. You can also create a ministry name that reflects your mission. Allow this mission to guide your planning for the rest of the year.
* Create a basic calendar.
Big events, small groups, and one-on-one connections work together to connect women throughout the year, especially when this model is used within semesters or trimesters. A big event invites all women to sign up for small groups, one-on-one connections, and any other projects offered in the coming weeks. Small groups begin to meet shortly after the event, while one-on-one connections meet continuously throughout the year, as determined by individuals. As small groups end, allow a break period so leaders can rest, then host another big event. So an annual calendar could look like this:
January February March April
(Break) Small Groups———————————————-
May June July August
(Break) Small Groups———————————————— (Break)
September October November December
(Break) Small Groups——————————————— (Break)
* Print a copy of the Calendar Planner and write the dates you’ve gathered so far (your church’s events and small group schedule, district/sectional events, potential dates for Big events). You will finalize this calendar when you meet with the planning committee.
3. Meet with the planning committee.
* Use the page titled Meeting with the Planning Committee as a guide.
This meeting builds focus for the entire planning committee: the administrator, events coordinator, small groups coordinator, connections coordinator, and missions coordinator. The goal of this meeting is to help each person understand the vision and structure of your new ministry to women. You will also review online training and resources that are available, and finalize details like the ministry calendar. Finally, you will encourage the coordinators to create their own teams and you’ll pray together.
4. Host a leadership orientation.
* Use the page titled Leadership Orientation as a guide.
This meeting connects the women’s coordinator with the administrator, other coordinators, and their ministry teams, events team, small groups team, connections team, and missions team. Try to make this fun so relationships can be strengthened. The goal of this meeting is to help each person understand how they fit within the larger vision of the ministry. You’ll discuss the final ministry calendar, online resources, and training. You’ll also encourage the teams to complete their next assignments in preparation for the big event launch.
Team-Building Tip: Consider meeting with leaders over the next several weeks to complete one of the team-building resource listed at the end of this unit.
5. Plan, promote, and host a big event to launch your ministry! (See the training unit titled “Planning Big Events.”)
* Provide an atmosphere and activities that include all types of women. This can be as simple or elaborate as you wish-just make it fun and inviting!
* Introduce the leadership team, small group leaders, and mentors.
* Provide opportunities for women to join small groups and form one-on-one connections.
* Highlight missions projects or district activities that will take place in the coming weeks.
Consider revitalizing your ministry to expand beyond a monthly meeting. A three-dimensional approach offers effective ministry to women because:
* Women need to be invited, feel included, and be informed. Big events can help women feel connected with the life and community of the church. Events also provide a doorway for women who are not yet involved. And because large group settings are not as effective for discipleship, this is the best time to help women join a small group.
* Women need to be involved and receive biblical instruction for their life’s situation. A small group can provide the atmosphere for involvement in one another’s journey. It also provides the right environment for training and instruction. And because women need life-giving relationships, small groups provide opportunities for women to form one-on-one connections.
* Women long for the mutual investment and inspiration of one-on-one connections. A healthy one-on-one connection is the best way to help a woman grow, even through life’s struggles. Yet many women are lacking this connection due to the breakdown of the family and the increased capability of impersonal information exchange. This is why creating opportunities for one-on-one connection is so important.
Once you understand the Three-Dimensional Design-which includes big events, small groups, and one-on-one connections-you can tailor it to your local church setting. With the help of the Holy Spirit and online training, you will be able to establish an effective ministry for every woman!
* Online Training at www.women.ag.org provides more detailed guidance on ministering to women in your church (English or Spanish). You can complete each training unit as a group. Simply login to the membership area at www.women.ag.org. We recommend the following training units.
For implementing the Three-Dimensional Design:
o Planning Big Events
o A Leader’s Guide to Forming Small Groups
o Creating One-on-One Connections
For ministering to women more effectively:
o A Leader’s Relationship with God
o Six Disciplines of an Effective Ministry Leader
o Responding to Difficult Women
o Understanding Personalities
o Ministering to a Woman’s Heart
o Stages of a Woman’s Life
o Ministering to All Generations of Women
o Ministering to 21st Century Woman
* Six Core Training Units for Effective Ministry to Women is a printed packet produced by the National Women’s Department. Packet guides you and your team through six training units, complete with tools for group study. Includes 120 pages, DVD, and CD-ROM (English or Spanish). Call to order: 417-862-2781, ext. 4070.
* Shepherding a Woman’s Heart: A New Model for Effective Ministry to Women, by Beverly White Hislop (Moody Publishers, 2003). This book gives a foundational understanding of a woman’s needs and how to establish healthy relationships with the women you serve. Great for group study.
* The Relationship Principles of Jesus, by Tom Holladay (Zondervan, 2008). This book and companion video, 40 Days of Love, will equip your leaders with healthy relationship principles and skills before they start leading women in relationships.
About the Author
Kerry Clarensau is a mentor, speaker, and author of Secrets: Transforming Your Life and Marriage (Gospel Publishing House, 2009). She has served in ministry with her husband, Mike, for over 20 years in various positions in the Kansas District and in the national office. Currently she and Mike serve as pastors at Maranatha Worship Center in Wichita, Kansas, where she teaches an adult Sunday school class and oversees ministry to women. Kerry also serves as Leadership Development Coordinator for the National Women’s Department. Visit her Web site at www.kerrvclarensau.com.
This article “Establishing or Revitalizing Ministry to Women in Your Church” by Kerry Clarensau was excerpted from: www.women.org website. January 2010. It may be used for study & research purposes only.
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.”