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Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Women's Ministry - What is it Good For?
As a continuation of the last post and a few other things I have read recently, I thought I would just bluntly ask the group here the question - "what good are women's ministries?"

This is not to assume one answer or another, or to necessarily question the existence of Emerging Women, but to get honest responses. Have you benefited from such ministries? Have you been hurt? Are they a good thing in general? What dangers do they hold? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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posted by Julie at 11:49 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 4/22/2008 12:22:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    you are asking the wrong question.. the right question is "why not"?

    if created equal with equal possibilities i see no good reason why any woman should be left out of posistions of leadership and ministry because of her sex.

    men have argued with tradition and sometimes even with medieval anthropologic world views about women´s lacking abilities in handling sacraments.

    some essentialists say women always act out of emotional impulses and cannot be relied on, while others think of this as a woman´s particular strenght.

    i don´t agree with any of these arguments. being a young female theology student, i cannot, with any possible reasoning reach the conclution why my sex should keep me from doing a job i know i can do - i´m getting the proper education to work as a minister, just as my male companions do, i have ritual and liturgical experience - even more than some of my fellow male students have, etc etc

    i understand this may be a bit "on the side" of your blog post´s intention, but my instinctive reaction caused me to get my tapping fingers working and send this sighing message from a theological faculty far far away (norway)

  • At 4/22/2008 01:56:00 PM, Blogger Preacher Mom

    I am assuming that you are referring to events such as Extraordinary Women events. If so, I have also been a bit leery. They seemed somehow shallow or "rah-rah" to me. However, I was given tickets to such an event by a family member and decided that since I like the musicians and one comedian in the line-up I would go.

    Some of it was just like I expected.

    Other parts touched me in places in the heart I haven't been touched in a long time. One speaker was a single mom of 4 with a theology degree from a seminary. True, she still runs more on the conservative side than I do, but I thought she was fantastic. See, I'm a single mom of 3 with a seminary degree. In listening to her speak, all I could think was, "She knows! She understands! I'm not the only one!"

    If there is a strength in such programs, perhaps this is it: hearing your story out loud and being affirmed in your own triumphs and encouraged in your own struggles.

    I'm still not completely sold, but I am encouraged by my experience that weekend.

  • At 4/22/2008 01:58:00 PM, Blogger heather weber

    I will answer as an assistant pastor and a women's ministry coordinator in my church. In theory and idealism, I am against women's ministries. In practice, I am for them. For now.

    Let me explain: Ideally, I envision Christ's body as a community of believers in which intimacies could be shared regardless of differences in sex (or race, or age, etc, for that matter). However, it's my observation that we're not "there" yet. There are women in our church who would never in a million years feel comfortable talking about certain intimate details or confessing particular sins to a group that included a male. Nor do I know many men who feel comfy talking about issues of pornography in female company. Those are extreme topics that aren't easily discussed between genders when the application is personal (i.e. "I struggle with this), but I think there are probably plenty of other issues that complicate gender relationships, too.

    In theory, I long to see a church where the sexes are so reconciled to one another that new believers have plenty of healthy, nonsexual male-female relationship models to build upon for doing ministry together, for praying with one another, for confessing sin one to another.
    For now, we just dont' have that (We, as in, we here in my part of Iowa City, IA). That's where women's ministry comes in. Womens' ministry events or women's gatherings that are meant to be more than just a social, how-ya-doing/can-I-have-your-muffin-recipe get-together, often have a way of helping take down the guards that people put up in mixed-gender settings. They have the potential of creating places of safety for women who, let's face it, have been hurt by men, or have simply learned to be distrustful of men. (Now, it doesn't work so well when women are distrustful of women, but that's another issue). So, when the guards are down and people are more comfortable, it's easier to build relationships, easier to confess struggles, easier to make personal statements. Still, there have been many women's ministry events I've hated attending. Many times I've felt excluded from somethign more interesting/important (the men's stuff)so that I could sit and learn how to make crafts. That is not the sort of women's ministry I aspire to, but one that encourages spiritual growth and community.

  • At 4/22/2008 09:48:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    I think there is a difference between a women's getaway that's all about female bonding, laughing, letting loose and sharing the journey, and a women's "ministry" that assumes what women need theologically is different than what men need. I am for the former; I'll take a pass on the latter.

  • At 4/22/2008 11:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    I have a repulsion with the words "women's ministry"...the words are so impregnated with stereotypes and baggage that make me want to vomit. However I revel in a good community of women, connecting, being real, and dropping all the stereotypical baggage that is imposed on us. I love being in the company of women that let their intellect shine and their fight be revealed. Who choose to define themselves based on who they are to God and to themselves and not some contrived and imposed definition based on shoulds and social mores. I choose not to throw out the substance I want with the labels I reject. So I will gather with women in authentic community but reject the traditional baggage of women's ministry.

  • At 4/23/2008 07:24:00 AM, Blogger Nancy

    I too am energized by authentic and deep connection with other women. It is certainly possible to experience such a thing at a women's retreat but it depends on the mindset of those organizing and attending such an event. Like most of you, I have mainly felt like a fish out of water at "traditional" women's events (you can add baby and bridal showers to the list).

    A dear friend of mine and I started a small women's group several years ago that meets every other week. The goal of the group is to get real with one another and develop deep relationship with one another, supporting eachother in our spiritual, social, physical and emotional being. In a sense, a "growth group" using relationship as the vehicle for change. We have added some women and lost some. Unfortunately, you will find in this sort of microcosm the same junk that you do on the macro (faith community) level...differences of opinion can be the source of division, distress and ultimately disconnection. Few people have the stomach (let alone understand how ultimately unavoidable it is) to get in the mud and stay there with one another and work things through. The forced and limited environment of a retreat is not the most conducive for this sort of process but can certainly give a taste or sow the seeds for it. We found that just getting real (dropping the facade) with one another took some time (think years rather than months).

    Anyway, the group has been a powerful experience on a number of levels and each of us who remain have found it to be life-changing. We have seen one another through such struggles as marital separation, health crises, deaths of loved ones, alcohol and drug concerns in family members, new marriages, empty nest, marital struggles, church family struggles, family conflicts, career development concerns, spiritual crises, and the list goes on and on. There is no formal study format to the group but there have been times we have read materials together, watched tapes like NOOMA, listened to music or recordings of a sermon and discussed them. We have avoided structuring the group in any of the traditional ways (no "leader", democratic versus autocratic style of operation). Believe me, this was a struggle for some, especially at the beginning. For those of us able to keep with it, it has been a blessing and if you have a desire in your heart for such a group...well, go start one up! As a warning though, the group came to be perceived by the faith community that this group grew out of as kind of a rebellious and subversive sort of thing. We declined to be a formal "small group" and go through the process that was eventually established for such groups. We read and discussed a book ("Captivating") that was seen by that community as spreading feminist (gasp!) ideology and was discouraged by that community as small group material. I was literally told by a church leader that they had "concerns" about the group. So beware that being involved in or starting up such a group could get you into trouble. ; ) And if you are attracted to such "trouble"...you will not be disappointed.

  • At 4/24/2008 09:43:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Julie I am so glad that you posted that question, the responses are so very helpful just in seeing that other women out there feel like I feel.

    I founded a website that largely is about making resources available and making use of them as an example (not as the one and only answer). I think that is one way in which the truth of God already including us is discovered - which makes a women's website obsolete (I so relate to Heather).

    I also agree that all of the connotations that go along with the title "women's ministry" can be repulsive. I'm not interested in striving to be June Cleaver, or in encouraging that because that's just a denial and therefore neglect of reality. There are very real things that we could be focusing on.

    I don't think that women need anything differently theologically either -- other than maybe meeting those needs for ourselves.

    I was let go by a group because they weren't going in a women's ministry direction - why would they see my position that way? Because I am a woman? Why was I not seen as a fellow leader? I admittedly did see myself as a director over a women's ministry - but thought it was understood that my intent was to lead us to unity and so there really was no women's group kind of thing. I felt so relegated and am still healing.

    At the same time, it's almost ironic because the focus of my site is toward women (though not women-only). So am I relegating myself? And what if I didn't? Is there a need? I don't know and am feeling confused lately.

    A guy that I know recommended to me recently this book on what women are contributing to leadership - and who they are. On one hand, I see that it would be useful to bring out in the open, maybe in that they are setting an example - we CAN and DO contribute in all areas. On the other hand, I felt a tinge of mistrust and questioned why HE would send me a book pertaining to only women. It just seemed so patronizing. I know that he appreciates and loves women, but I also know that is objectively.

  • At 4/24/2008 12:51:00 PM, Anonymous Karen in AZ

    My involvement in "women's ministries" through the years has varied - more involvement at times, less at others.

    While my DH was in seminary, there was a group of women - mostly wives of seminary students - who met together and were mentored by one of the faculty wives. This was so valuable for me at that time. My DH was preparing to enter a new world of ministry and I needed to be prepared as well. I would say, however, that the mentoring was informal and our focus was on gathering, learning from each other and building each other up.

    When my children were young, I was very involved in "women's Bible studies". The fellowship as well as the time in studies was great. The studies were not "women" centered, but dealt with real spiritual issues. Plus, it was a chance to be doing the fellowship thing with ADULTS.

    Now, it's harder to get out (I have fibro and poor evening vision for driving along with fatigue), but I have still enjoyed the times of fellowship and study. (The last study I was in, interestingly enough, was on 10 Lies the Church Tells Women - or something close to that - along with several articles.)

    What is the benefit of women's ministries? It may depend on your time of life or interests. But it is a chance to get together, to have fellowship, for younger women to learn from older women (hey! that's scriptural!), to just share with other women, to pray with other women.

    It doesn't replace corporate worship. It doesn't replace family time. It doesn't replace male/female interaction.

    Each has it's own place. It's own purpose. We connect with each other in very different ways in the various forms of meeting.

  • At 4/24/2008 02:43:00 PM, Blogger Sensuous Wife

    I'm going to comment right off the bat before reading everyone's comments because I want to offer a fresh candid response.

    Good grief!
    Why not?
    *Because we need time to talk girl talk in a spiritual context.

    *Because nothing so refreshing to my soul than hanging out with some women who love Jesus and love me.

    *Because it's a lovely step toward building intentional community.

    *Because no one else can comfort, console and mentor me like another woman

    *When a church dedicates part of their budget to hire a woman minister to be on staff full time to minister to and care for the hearts of women in the congregation, that makes me feel valued and loved. Also, it's likely that women will love and nurture each other regardless of staff status but isn't it respectful and venerating to say to a woman "here you are and we love your heart and all you have to offer to other women. We know you'd do it anyway, but here's a salary so you can free up your time that could be spent making money somewhere else so you can have those hours free to love, care for, pray with, and generally minister to the women in our community."

    That's all I can think of right now.

    Oh, I did remember something else. There's something that feels deeply right with the world when I realize that there are several women on my church's staff and they are not all assigned to women's ministry. They offer ministry to all aspects of the body of believers. So it's not like if you're a woman and you want to minister you can ONLY serve the women population.

    I love my man friends. They are my brothers and they fill a special place in my heart. But they cannot minister to and touch my heart the way the love of a sister can. Women are uniquely powerful and precious.

  • At 4/24/2008 03:46:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    I have been a participant in several WM groups in my lifetime. They were all different. Since most, but not all, of my experiences were good ones, I don't have an aversion to the terminology yet. WM groups can offer something a mixed sex group cannot - the ability to be transparent and talk without having to explain yourself. Equal but different.

    On the positive side, WM groups have made it possible for me to connect with inspiring and loving women one-on-one. Finding that person you can open up to is like finding a needle in a haystack, but worth the search. I'll never forget the night I stood for hours out in the parking lot after a Christmas Tea, talking with a woman whose husband had left her (I was also separated at the time) and she advised me to follow my desire to reconnect with my parents before it was too late. I took her advice and moved 2000 miles to do so, and 10 years later, I find my elderly parents to be my inspiration and comfort. No one can love you like mom and dad. I still remember her sincere and sweet spirit. I have several other encounters with women that have sustained me over miles and years.

    On the negative side, I dislike the hype, programming, special speakers, self-esteem lectures, commercialization and so forth that can be the focus of WM. I am also uncomfortable with women who have been educated in all the "right" ways to
    minister. I detest Christian book stores and radio stations that are geared to SELL stuff. Don't even mention "Christian" TV to me. I do love music and reading, but I think what we have now is so far from what God had in mind for us. I prefer small discussion, Bible study and prayer groups. We don't need to be told what the Bible says about women (it's plain to see) or how we should "feel" about ourselves as women. We don't need special Women's Bibles or CD's or whatever. All that stuff just distracts from the real thing - connecting with God and each other.

  • At 4/25/2008 01:42:00 PM, Blogger Euodia

    WM is a term that can carry all kinds of baggage, stereotypes and misplaced expectations. My personal experience is that whatever else may constitute "women's ministries," the context can include both the most gracious as well as the most vicious elements of humanity. I've seen both sides - and have learned from both.

  • At 4/25/2008 01:49:00 PM, Blogger Charlotte Wyncoop

    As long as women face issues based on their womanhood, there will be a place for a woman focused ministry. I find such hope in other women who have 'been there, done that' and found solutions.
    It frightens me however to be at churches that want to cover up gender issues by not having places for gender oriented discussions to happen. Men and women need places to talk about gender issues and to cross converse...

  • At 4/26/2008 11:48:00 AM, Blogger Euodia

    Check out "Why I Don't Do Women's Ministries" by Amy Simpson of Gifted for Leadership here:



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