Over the past several years, I’ve had the privilege of knowing and learning from women ministering in church plants. A few years ago, God opened the door for me to become a ministry mentor to a precious church planter’s wife in my state.
Ministry to women in any setting is filled with both opportunities and challenges. Ministering to women in church plants is no exception. If you are ministering to women in a church plant or are considering beginning a ministry, I hope you will find some of these ideas helpful.
One of the things I love about church plants is that they are already out of the box of “how we have always done it.” Sometimes the wide-open spaces of being out of that box can seem overwhelming. So, where do we start?
- Begin where you are. Do not try to do it all. Start small and follow God as He opens new areas of growth. If you are just beginning a ministry to women, consider starting with weekly Bible study and a few fellowships during this next year. The good news is that you don’t need a lot of structure to have a successful ministry to women. Keep it simple, relational, and biblical.
- Lead with a unified vision. Church plants typically have a strong vision statement. Ministry to women should align itself with this vision. The vision statement can provide helpful guidance and boundaries as you begin and maintain ministry to women.
- Trust God’s timing. An important aspect of God’s plan for women’s ministry in your church is His perfect timing. As leaders, we must prayerfully seek to understand God’s timing. Getting ahead of God—doing too much too soon—limits the impact of your women’s ministry. When we run ahead of God, we can find ourselves spread too thin and outside of His provision. Falling behind God—failing to obediently respond to opportunities He places before us—can be just as devastating. Effective ministry happens when we join God where He is working when He is ready for us. This requires much prayer, patience, and wisdom.
- Use what you have. Trust God to supply what may be lacking. He always provides exactly what is needed to do everything He has called us to do when He is ready for us to do it. The problem for many of us is that we do not recognize some of God’s provisions because they arrive wrapped in unfamiliar packaging. Ask God to open your spiritual eyes to see His provision for your church’s women’s ministry. Then believe that what God has provided is exactly what is needed.
- Find others to serve alongside you. I have a friend whose family has been sheep ranchers for several generations. She has shared many valuable insights from her experience with sheep. One of the things her father taught her was to “always mend fences in pairs.” Working in pairs is more effective and more fun. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 reveals that “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either fall, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.”
Ask God to reveal whom He would have come along beside you to work among women. I’m not talking about your best friend or someone who is just like you. But a ministry companion—someone selected by God to work alongside you to complement your gifts.
- See each woman individually. Another valuable lesson I learned from my sheep-ranching friend is that to strengthen the flock you must see each sheep individually. Doing so allows the shepherd to respond to the unique needs of each sheep, strengthening the herd one sheep at a time. Building relationships is key in any ministry, especially with women. We can become so focused on the women as a group that we overlook the fact that they are individuals. Jesus demonstrated the importance of seeing each woman individually in the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:4-7). Leaving the 99 in a safe place, the shepherd went out to find the one that was missing. Jesus also reminded us in John 10:27 that He knows each of His sheep. We should strive to do the same. A smaller church provides a great opportunity to get to know each woman more personally.
- Develop a network of women’s ministry leaders in other churches. One final lesson my sheep-rancher friend taught me has to do with learning from others. When she first began working in the family business, she wanted to impress others. In her enthusiasm she made many mistakes scaring the sheep and making things more difficult. But then she began to watch the more experienced sheep handlers, noting how they gently walked among the sheep, motivating certain sheep to lead others to the pens. Look around and find other churches that are effectively ministering to women. Seek out these leaders and learn from them. A ministry mentor can also provide valuable encouragement, guidance, and prayer.
- Allow God to equip, empower and encourage you as you seek to be obedient to Him. All leaders need to do this regardless of church size or circumstance. In a church plant, it’s not uncommon for the initial responsibility for ministry to women to fall on the pastor’s wife. Sometimes she does not feel called or qualified to minister to women in this way. This is a hard place to be. If this is you, I pray God will continue to equip, strengthen, guide, and encourage you until He provides others to lead. Ministry to women is challenging. Even leaders who are called to minister to women sometimes feel inadequate and become frustrated. In my early years of ministering to women amid drama, gossip, and judgment, I vividly recall saying to God, “This ministry would be so much easier without some of these women!” And I’ll never forget God’s gracious response, “Martha, these women are the ministry I have called you to.” Ouch! Clearly, I still had a lot to learn (and still do).
None of us are perfect leaders. God doesn’t need us to be. He calls us all to be obedient and to trust Him. I’m so thankful that when we fall short, God restores, refreshes, and continues to use us for His glory!
I would love to learn from you! What are some things you have learned from ministering to women in a church plant that might be helpful to others?
Martha began her professional career practicing law in Texas. In 1999, she became the Women’s Consultant for the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention where she served until her family relocated to northern Wyoming. Martha has had many opportunities to lead women’s conferences and retreats nationwide. God has given her a passion for discipleship and called her to minister to women. She is the author of the women’s Bible study, Attending the Bride of Christ: Preparing for His Return. She also serves as a Lifeway Women’s trainer and contributed to the leadership books, Women Reaching Women and Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level, and written articles for Lifeway Women’s blog. Martha and her husband, Roger attend CrossPoint Baptist Church of Worland, Wyoming where she is a Bible study leader and a member of the women’s ministry team. Martha and Roger have three wonderful children, two fabulous sons-in-law, one amazing daughter-in-law and four precious grandchildren. Visit her website at www.marthalawley.com for more information.