“A Term to Love: Women’s Ministry”
There are times when I don’t know whether to love or to detest the term women’s ministry. Sounds crazy coming from a ten-year veteran, proponent for and leader of a local women’s ministry, doesn’t it? Indeed it does. In my attempt to be honest and open, I promise to do my best to prove my rationale.
I absolutely detest women’s ministry when what it represents is a shallow-minded, cliquey group of ladies meeting regularly to gossip (even in the name of prayer) or to undermine the “other” women in the church or perhaps even worse, undermine the male leadership of the church. Likewise, when women’s ministry represents an inward-focused, let us-learn-more-so-we-can-know-more-and-never-give-more-of-what-we-know ministry that separates itself from the rest of the Body, I want to throw the term in the trash can with my latest copy of Vogue or Cosmopolitan (which I don’t purchase or read, by the way, but it’s all I could think of at the moment.) When it fails to radiate the message of the Gospel or falls short of exhorting biblical womanhood, I think, quite frankly, we could all do without women’s ministry.
On the other hand—and thank goodness I have two hands—I absolutely adore the term women’s ministry. When its heartbeat is aligned with the Word of God, and its ladies are in tune with Him through vibrant, intimate relationships with the Father through the Son and by the Holy Spirit, I am deeply encouraged. When women’s ministry is an active, woman-to-woman and women-to-women means of the Good News being displayed and lived out in the life of the local church, it is an absolute privilege to be a part of. When it’s about the life-giving influence of women loving and serving other women, coming alongside them in the varying seasons they encounter and pointing them to Jesus, it is worthy of our efforts. And, when its impact reaches to the next generation of younger women and girls, you’d better believe that women’s ministry is something that I can honestly say that I love.
What does this type of ministry that I love entail? As many a seasoned women’s ministry leader would tell you, there’s not one, or even two or three or four, cookie-cutter ways to have and maintain a gospel-centered, relevant women’s ministry. Not all will look or function the same. However, if a women’s ministry is to be based on the redemptive work of Christ and simultaneously foster holy transformation within the lives of its real-life women, it must have a framework that is based on biblical principles and foundations. Of course it must! Things like compassion, submission, discipleship, community and the Scriptures are just a few of the major foundations of this type of ministry to women.
Those crucial components will then, Lord willing, produce women that will covet and live out the type of women’s ministry that we decided to love and not detest. Women that will pour into the lives of others because of the love and grace that have been poured into them. Women like the one we have been speaking of throughout this series.
“To be as solid as the day is long theologically and firmly complementarian, to delight in the leadership of our elders, and be enthusiastic about the educational ministry of the church. To be committed to cultivating a women’s ministry in the local church that complements and supports the work of the pastors, elders, and deacons, that nurtures and equips our women for growth and service, and that promotes a comprehensive view of manhood and womanhood.”*
I’ve highlighted in bold what we will briefly focus on today: committed women who cultivate a women’s ministry that nurtures and equips women for growth and service. Truly, I love this! How to unpack the fullness of this statement in less than a few remaining paragraphs is going to be interesting to say the least. It’s worth a shot.
It starts with committed women who cultivate. Oh how I sometimes wish a snap of the fingers would yield a fruitful, gospel ministry to women. But it does not. I’ve tried. (Not really, but in my earlier days I might have thought it to be a plausible idea.) The reality is that it takes committed women, who have been saved by grace through faith, who understand that Jesus and His sanctifying work in the lives of His people is worth the love, time and effort. It can be called covenantal living . . . that is, living in relationship with God’s people based on the fact that we are His people together, bound to Him and to one another, because of the fulfillment of the work of the Cross. Cultivating ministry in this type of context makes so much sense . . . We do what we do for the glory of God and we wait patiently for the Lord to do what He says He’s going to do in the individual believer’s life and in the corporate life of His Body.
What exactly do committed women who cultivate do for the glory of God in women’s ministry? The second part of our statement tells us: they nurture and equip women for growth and service. To nurture is to “give tender care and protection to” and to “encourage somebody to grow, develop, thrive and be successful” and to equip means to “provide somebody with necessities” or to “prepare them to accomplish something.”
Umm. I need and want that. You need and want that. Women need and want that. For the sole purposing of glorifying God, we should have it. The call of God on a woman’s life—on my life, on your life– was not meant to be lived out in isolation, lived without the tender care and encouragement from other women. We need them to have a sincere interest in our joys and our challenges, in our sufferings and our victories and they need us to have the same! Like a “nursing mother” as Paul termed it, we can and should nurture one other by imparting “not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives.”
That means involvement. Sharing and doing life together, exhorting one another on to a vibrant walk with the Lord and with others is what nurturing and equipping women is all about. Growing in not only knowledge, but in wisdom living. Serving one another but also serving the entire church at large, even the community, in the Name of Jesus together.
When it comes to the term women’s ministry, could what we have just described get any better than that? Not for me it doesn’t (well, there’s always room for improvement, or course!) One thing is for sure: I want to love the things that He loves, things like a gospel-centered women’s ministry. And anything less I want to continue to detest. In the most gracious way possible. 😉
i Women’s Ministry in the Local Church by J. Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt. Crossway, Wheaton, IL. 2006. (Pg 21)
ii Encarta Dictionary online
iii 1 Thessalonians 2:7 (NKJV)