Ideas for Women's Ministries
Discover your leadership style1
Think about women you know that are leaders. Each brings a distinctive style to leadership.
- Gregarious or outgoing women typically lead through a cheerleading, you-can-do-it style.
- Strong-willed women bring a direct and opinionated get-the-job-done style of leadership.
- Easygoing personalities offer a steadiness and a calming approach.
- Reflective personalities offer good, solid information for those they lead.
You have permission to do it your way. There is not just one way to lead. Be yourself. Lead the way God created you to lead.
At a “Kollege of Knowledge” activity at American Baptist Women’s Ministries’ 2009 National Women’s Conference, the above idea sparked discussion of additional leadership styles that include Listeners, leaders who Delegate, and Relational leaders.
Pray, pray, pray2
One women’s ministry began 15 years ago with 3 women who met regularly for prayer. They had seen the diversity of needs among the women and longed to find a way to address them. They simply prayed that God would make a way—and they continued to pray for 3 years before a door finally opened.
In order to ensure that everyone who wants to share has the opportunity to speak, use this process:
- The leader or a designated person will share first.
- After that person has spoken, she then invites another to share. Who you invite does not need to be the person next to you.
- After the next person has spoken, that person is given the privilege to invite another to share.
- If you have something to say but are not ready yet, say “pass for now” and then invite another to share. You will be invited again later.
- If you don’t want to say anything, simply say “pass” and proceed to invite another to share.
- Do this until everyone has been invited.
Monster Salad Party4
This is a great part for a summertime just-for-fun get-together, and it’s great for a large group of women. You’ll need a brand-new, small, plastic swimming pool and lots of aluminum foil. Completely cover the swimming pool with the foil. Invite women to come to a salad party. Have each woman bring one bag of salad greens and one or two pounds of other salad vegetables cut in small pieces. Some women might provide extras such as bacon bits, chopped hard-boiled eggs, and shredded cheese. Have the church provide several salad dressings, crackers, fresh bread, and beverages, as well as plates and beverages. Put the foil-covered swimming pool on a large table. As the women arrive, have them put their greens and veggies into the swimming pool. Toss the salad well before eating. Put the bacon bits, eggs, and cheese in small bowls next to the swimming pool. Set out the dressings, crackers, and bread. Have beverages available at all the tables.
This idea sparked the sharing of other ideas that worked:
- At a children’s event at church, we put small Bibles in ziplock sandwich bags and buried them in a large tub of cool whip.
- At a children’s event, we put trinkets in plastic eggs and hid the eggs in a small plastic swimming pool filled with jello.
- We asked women to bring a can of soup to add to a giant pot of soup for all.
- Use a new birdbath as the salad bowl.
- Salad potlucks are always a hit with our group.
Become an eavesdropper. Anytime women gather, listen. Pay attention to their conversations and their laughter. Pay attention when someone is expressing passionate feelings or concerns—any concern. Are they discussing caregiving stressors, challenges with teenagers, or grief issues? Are they expressing unmet personal needs or noting needs around them? What’s uppermost on their minds? A key element of building a ministry to women is connecting with women where they live.
This idea sparked the following discussion and ideas:
- Listening is a learned skill
- Survey your church women every 3 years either by a printed survey or through one-on-one conversations. Sample questions: What books would you like to read?, Would you participate in a book club?, What types of things are you interested in?, etc.
- Our congregation was invited to read The Shack by William P. Young – it was a church-wide emphasis. A date was set for coming together as a church to discuss the book. The church was packed!
- Mug & Muffin groups – ask women what their needs are, i.e., “What did you need from the church when you were 20 years old? When you were 30? When you were 40? Etc. We compiled the lists and posted them for review.
- Friendship is a common need. There’s a lot of loneliness out there.
- We offer 2 Bible studies at times when working women can often attend: Thursday evenings at 5:30 right after work, and 11:30 on Friday (lunch break). We get 50 to 60 women attending these. We’re using Beth Moore resources.
- Faith and Film Discussions: watch a movie and talk about themes and implications for life, etc. Serve popcorn. People begin sharing their stories. We’ve watched the movies “Crash” and “The Secret Life of Bees.”
- We have a group called Sunday Bunch for widows. It’s not a pity party; we might go out for brunch, or garden together, etc.
- Mentoring – identify a woman to match with a younger girl. We suggest a set time period for the mentoring relationships.
- Go to where the people are. We took our ABW meetings to the nursing home and went from attendance of 2 to 20.
- We surveyed our church women to find out what they wanted. We asked them if they valued women’s ministries. We asked them, “What would you like?” “Would you be willing to support it with attendance and financial support?” We received an emphatic “No, do not disband the ABW organization in this church.”
Women’s ministry provides an excellent arena for organizing mentoring. Some women are looking for a sense of connection that a mentoring ministry can provide. Other women are seeking guidance in specific areas of their lives, like health issues. Pairing mentors and mentees for a determined time frame offers a powerful way to strengthen believers in their faith.
This idea sparked ideas for pairing women in intentional friendships:
- Have index cards on the tables. Ask the women to write a prayer request and her name on a card. Scramble the cards. Each woman take one card and commit to pray for the woman and her request.
- Match gifts to needs. We do this in our senior care ministry.
- In our Bible study group of women in their 80s, we give each member a name of a young woman or girls in the church and encourage her to call the young woman or girl once a week to encourage her or to simply check in with her: “How’s your day going?”
- Intergenerational relationships work.
Give Permission to Break the Silence7
Domestic violence is defined as “a repeated pattern of behavior used to gain power and control over another through the use of intimidation, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, physical assault, or sexual abuse.” One in every 4 women in each church community is currently being abused by their partner, or has experienced abuse at some time in the past.
One church women’s group got the men’s ministry to underwrite the cost of purchasing 20 copies of an educational resource for victims of domestic abuse, which they set out on the women’s table at church. Within three months, all 20 copies discreetly disappeared. Over the next 5 years, the church purchased hundreds more of these resources that continue to provide permission to seek help for church members or friends of members. Check with your area crisis center for domestic violence for excellent brochures, usually available at no cost.
This information and idea sparked the following discussion and ideas:
- Elder abuse by caregivers is an issue, too.
- Bring a purse. Go to the Dollar store. Fill the purse with items such as toothbrush, comb, shampoo, etc. Take to a shelter. (When people flee to a shelter, they go without these necessitities.)
- Talk to your pastor to find out how your pastor counsels people who are in abusive situations.
- Alzheimer’s is also a “silent” issue. Families are often reluctant to share this info, and they suffer in silence.
- A good book about seniors’ issues is Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of Our Elders by Mary Pipher.
- Provide respite for caregivers.
- Plan an activity for girls around self-esteem, food issues, etc. Use a format like The Tyra Banks Show.
There are lots of opportunities available for women to go on short-term mission trips. For example, your group could paint and wallpaper a home for pregnant teenagers. Your group could build a home in Mexico, or clear a vacant lot in an inner-city neighborhood, or host a vacation Bible school at a Native American reservation. Mission trips can easily be a part of your women’s ministry programs every year. Connect with the Christian agencies in your community and state to find out what needs they have that the women in your church could fill. For other ideas, contact your ABC region office or Valley Forge, or the missionaries that your church supports both at home and abroad.
These ideas sparked more ideas:
- Adopt a needy anonymous family at Christmas and give them gifts of fook and household items.
- Deliver White Cross supplies by caravan to the recipient mission location.
- In Henry Blackabee’s words, “See where God is working and join in.”
- Angel tree ministry – gifting prisoners’ families
- Consult your town’s manaer. Use this local government person to get ideas and to network. Be a part of the community. Be a missional church.
Tribes in a church9
If you struggle with finding common grounds for women’s ministries that include both homemakers and working women, allow them to develop separate and distinct identities. Allow them to be individual “tribes.”
This idea sparked ideas for book discussion groups:
- We have 2 book discussion groups among the churches in our area. 25 persons come to each one. The books are announced 3 months in advance.
- Book suggestions: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson; Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers; Bless God and Take Courage: The Judson History and Legacy by Rosalie Hall Hunt.
Getting to Know Their Needs10
Form a panel comprised of the following persons:
· a woman in her early retirement years,
· an empty nester,
· a woman keeping up with the demands of teenagers and a career and the encroaching needs of an aging mother or mother-in-law
· a woman feeling the overwhelming challenge and exhaustion of parenting young children.
· a single woman
Invite each woman to talk about her “world” and her faith. What is her single greatest need right now?
This idea sparked discussion about the sandwich generation. It was also noted that there is a difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s, and the Veteran’s Administration (V.A.) is a good source for information.
Respectful Communication Guidelines11
R = take RESPONSIBILITY for what you say and feel without blaming others
E = use EMPATHETIC listening
S = be SENSITIVE to differences in communication styles
P = PONDER what you hear and feel before you speak
E = EXAMINE your own assumptions and perceptions
C = keep CONFIDENTIALITY (Share CONSTRUCTIVELY to uphold the well-being of the COMMUNITY)
T = TRUST ambiguity because we are not here to debate who is right or wrong
One church provided childcare for stay-at-home moms that attended Bible study at the church on Tuesday mornings. Another group of women wanted to form a group to do service projects, but they needed childcare, and the church invited them to make use of the Tuesday morning childcare.
This idea sparked more ideas:
- A church could share childcare with another church.
- Hire someone not involved in your church to do the childcare, so your members don’t miss the programming
- Guarantee childcare to persons accepting a region/state position of leadership, etc.
Single Women Welcome13
In some churches, the “singles ministry” separates unmarried women from the women’s ministry programs. Make sure that your women’s ministry is welcoming to singles. Most importantly, plan events that don’t cater only to married women or to women with children. Have representatives from your women’s ministry team visit several single’s evens and classes in your church. Have the representatives hand out sheets of paper and ask the single women to jot down things they’d like to see the women’s ministry group do. Also have the women’s ministry representative talk about upcoming events and personally welcome the single women to come. Consider getting single women involved in your planning teams or leadership team. They have a unique perspective on ministry in the church, and they have great gifts that would benefit your ministry.
Network through email14
Sometimes a church has a long list of needs for its members. For example, a mother who works on Sunday would like someone to provide transportation for her son to get to Sunday school. An older woman fell, and needs help with meals for a couple of days. One church began a “Ministry in Motion E-Group. An email is sent to persons who have the means to help; the email states the need, and persons respond if they can help. It works!
This idea sparked the following comments and general ideas for fun in women’s ministries:
- “We do everything by email . . . even organizing our group’s White Cross assignments!”
- Go to dinner together as women of the church; do fun stuff; we have 30 women of all ages involved (in a church of 80 members).
- We call our White Cross bandage meeting “Holy Roller Night”
- Bunko (dice game) for Bucks
- White elephant gift exchange.
- Don’t make an event an annual thing. Do it once, and do something else the next year. We call ours “The First Annual __________” and one time’s enough.
Small Churches Join Forces15
If you feel your church is not large enough to make a significant impact in your community, you have lots of options. In one community, 3 churches joined together to accomplish a week’s worth of community outreach projects. They repaired five houses, built one new house, hosted a neighborhood festival, and completed what they called “Tiny Tasks” repair projects. The 3 churches have done this outreach project for 20 years.
Chances are the coffeehouses in your town that are bustling in the events are nearly empty during the day. These places can provide quiet places for your church’s weekday women’s ministry Bible studies. You may want to arrange to pay the coffeehouse a small fee to ensure that you have a section reserved each week for your meetings. Encourage the women to purchase beverages and snacks from the coffeehouse. You may be able to work out a deal with the owner for a special discount for your group. You may want to encourage the women in your group to meet at the coffeehouse on their own or with one or two friends during the week for fellowship and prayer.
This idea prompted someone to point out that her church women’s Bible study meets at a senior citizen’s complex.
Once a year, plan an event to teach women how to handle money. This event would be very beneficial for single women who are just starting out, for teens, and for anyone who would like to learn more about money. Invite older women or women who work in the financial world to teach classes on topics such as saving money, learning to tithe, stocks and bonds, getting out of debt, and planning for large purchases. Make sure all the classes are taught from a biblical perspective.
This idea sparked another community outreach idea to minister to people in these tough economic times:
- Sponsor a clothing giveaway. All the clothing is free. Publicize the event to the entire community. Even the thrift store donates clothing to something like this.
1Linda Lesniewski, Connecting Women: A Relational Guide for Leaders in Women’s Ministry (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2007), pp 50-1.
2Ibid., p. 63.
3Eric H.F. Law, The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 1993), p. 113.
4Women’s Ministry in the 21st Century: The Encyclopedia of Practical Ideas (Group Pub., 2004), p. 30.
5Lesniewski, Connecting Women, p. 71-2.
6Ibid., p. 106-9.
7Ibid., p. 113-4.
8Women’s Ministry…Encyclopedia, p. 191.
9Lesniewski, Connecting Women, p. 159.
10Ibid., p. 164
11Eric H.F. Law
12Lesniewski, Connecting Women, p. 176.
13Women’s Ministry…Encyclopedia, p. 190.
14Connecting Women, p.121. 15Ibid., p. 178-9.
16Women’s Ministry…Encylopedia, p. 64. 17Ibid., p. 165.