This past semester I had the privilege of co-teaching a women’s Bible study with someone whose teaching style is very different from mine. Whereas my style is more systematic, going through each passage verse by verse, hers was more organic, weaving Scripture into stories and personal testimonies from her own life. As Providence would have it, the combination of our styles was a real gift to the group. At the end of the semester we received feedback from the group about what they learned over the semester, and while some latched on to my style, others were very moved by hers.
The fact that both of our teaching styles, as different as they were, resounded with different women, is a picture of where women’s ministry is today. There has been a movement among younger women to reject the women’s ministries of the past, but that is not, I believe, the wisest idea. Nor is it the answer to the problem. Yes, we should abandon any women’s ministry that is inherently superficial in content or emotionally driven, but we should not mistake form for content–ministry strategy v. ministry substance.
We need to think about women’s ministry the way church planters think about planting churches. When it comes to outreach, it’s not always a matter of where you want people to be, or even where they should be–outreach is about meeting each demographic where they’re at. If you’re reaching out to 20 something college women in New York City, then inviting them to a tea party may not be the best plan. But if you’re doing women’s ministry at an aging church in a small town in Georgia, it’s not such a bad idea. Remember, the idea is to host events that would be appealing to non-Christian women, events that women can invite their friends to. But the event itself should not be confused with the substance of the ministry. Women’s ministries, no matter the form, should be founded on strong Scriptural and theological content.
Which brings me to my second concern about the rising dissatisfaction in women’s ministries. While a women’s ministry should certainly be founded on solid, doctrinal principles, our theology should include a robust understanding Christian fellowship. This is one thing that women’s ministries tend to do very well because women are, generally speaking, very relational creatures. That is also why so many women love to hear other women share their testimonies and their triumphs over hardship–we encourage and empower one another to persevere. This is a truly important aspect of women’s ministry, which is why I caution against a total rejection of emotionalism in favor of intellectualism. In a culture that has profoundly wounded women, we must tend to their hearts, and a solely intellectual ministry will fail to do so. You may not be walking through a season of life when a more emotional style of teaching or setting is appealing to you, but trust me, other women are.
All of that to say, if our women’s ministries are to reflect the diversity of Christ’s Body, we must stop blanket condemnations of women’s ministers whose styles we simply do not like. Beth Moore, and women like her, have taken the brunt of this in recent years. They have a flourishing ministry all over the world and their content is extremely Biblical, so we should be THANKING GOD for this strong arm of the church! Unfortunately, this brand of women’s ministry has undeservedly become the scapegoat for a lot of women’s frustrations that there are so few options for us. The answer is not, however, to do away with them (and subsequently all the work God is doing through them). The answer is to add to them. Women come in all different shapes and sizes, which means women’s ministries should as well. Wherever you are, figure out what women in your community are looking for. More than anything else, they need the Gospel, but it’s your job to figure out the best way to present it to them.