The Investment Your Church Women Need
Since the dawn of Christianity, the chief Shepherd and his undershepherds have been deploying women for the work of ministry. The resurrected Christ appeared first to Mary Magdalene and commanded her to go and declare the good news of the resurrection to the disciples. In Acts, the work of the apostles was strengthened through women serving in key areas of ministry such as praying (1:14), gathering (12:12), and instructing (18:26).
Every pastor I know deeply desires to encourage, empower, and equip the women in his church for gospel ministry.
A new Lifeway report on the State of Ministry to Women found an encouraging 80 percent of women strongly agree their church values women. However, only 63 percent of women strongly agree their church invests in and equips women. Even more concerning, only 43 percent of respondents report putting their spiritual gifts to use serving God and others. How can pastors work to close this gap so more women are equipped and engaged in local church ministry?
Although most churches value women and desire to see their ministries flourish, it’s not uncommon for women’s ministries to lack funding and practical support from church leadership. If your church devotes few financial resources to women’s ministry, it may be wise to reevaluate.
Although most churches value women, it’s not uncommon for women’s ministries to lack funding and practical support from church leadership.
Depending on church contexts, having a paid staff member (even part-time) with hours devoted to supporting women’s ministries can be a worthwhile investment. But if that’s not possible for your church, consider allocating money to send women to conferences and training events, providing funds to purchase women’s discipleship resources, and reimbursing leaders for coffee or meals used for shepherding and discipleship.
If your church already allocates a generous budget for women’s ministry, it may be time for a review. Sometimes women’s ministry budgets are spent largely on social events, and money needs to be reallocated to also fund training and discipleship.
Women’s ministry doesn’t need to be expensive or extravagant. But equipping women for ministry will cost something. Budgeting for these expenses in advance can help ensure the intention to equip women becomes a reality.
In many churches, only men are offered robust theological training. But in Paul’s ministry, women are described as colaborers. Although women ought not to teach men, a woman with sound theological training will profoundly affect her entire congregation as she teaches, trains, and equips other women; as she encourages, exhorts, and spurs on her elders; and as she holds the needs of her church family before God in prayer.
Years ago, my pastor at the time invited a group of women to meet with him on Saturday mornings for small group leader training. He taught us how to ask women to join small groups, how to structure our time, how to lead in a group setting, and how to deal with inevitable interpersonal conflict. This training excited, encouraged, and empowered me to lead small groups—and I haven’t stopped. My current church has paid for me and other Bible teachers to attend Simeon Trust conferences and has organized weekend intensives for women on how to study and teach the Bible.
Since not all women are Bible teachers, it’s helpful to also offer training in evangelism, prayer, and discipleship. As you plan training for women, consider the unique challenges they may face like caregiving and changing seasons that affect their availability to attend. And consider the unique contexts in which women minister. Rather than suggesting a model of evangelism or discipleship that works well for men, brainstorm with sisters in the congregation about models that can encourage women in their specific circumstances.
Regularly pray for the Lord to equip the women in your church, and routinely ask women leaders how you can pray for their ministries. Pray publicly for women’s ministry during pastoral prayers in corporate worship. Pray for women’s ministry privately and in elder and staff meetings.
Further, encourage the women of your church to pray. In the book of Acts, the ministry of prayer is a key role for women. For example, women are gathered in prayer for the giving of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14) and John Mark’s mother Mary gathers a group in her home to pray before Peter is miraculously released from prison (12:12).
Consider how you can offer opportunities for women to use their gifts by interceding for the ministries and members of the church. Invite women to join extended times of prayer and fasting, not being unsympathetic to their life circumstances but not assuming they can’t or shouldn’t if they have young kids.
Most women’s ministry leaders aren’t full-time staff. They’re often volunteers trying to balance busy lives in addition to the demanding spiritual needs of their ministries. For many women, particularly those caring for children or working full-time outside the church, ministry planning and preparation happens late in the evening or early in the morning. So, like all ministries, women’s ministry can feel draining, overwhelming, and isolating.
Like all ministries, women’s ministry can feel draining, overwhelming, and isolating.
According to Lifeway’s study, only 5 percent of women’s ministry leaders say they plan together with church staff. One of the most important ways pastors can alleviate this isolation and overwhelm is by inviting women’s ministry leaders into conversations with staff and other leaders and listening to their needs and perspectives. Consider regularly (once a quarter or a couple of times a year) meeting with women’s ministry staff and/or lay leaders to check in on how women in the church are doing, how the ministry is going, and how pastors and elders can support it.
God made us male and female and has given us the charge together to make his glory known in all the earth. When pastors and elders come alongside sister saints and empower them for the work of ministry, they reflect their chief Shepherd who called women to sit at his feet, follow him, and declare the good news of the gospel to the world. And as history bears out, when the gifts of both men and women are meaningfully employed in ministry, the entire church is built up for the glory of God.