Perhaps you’ve noticed a drop-off in the attendance of your women’s ministry events.
Maybe the Bible studies that once drew women in abundance are all but limping along.
Across the country and around the world women are leaving their local church and joining online Christian communities in large numbers.
The number of online ministries, online Christian book clubs, and online Bible studies is staggering!
A quick search on Facebook shows:
- Over 388,000 women follow the Proverbs 31 Ministries online Bible study.
- Women’s Bible Café Studies have almost 10,000 women enrolled.
- Over 30,000 women signed up for the online Daniel Prayer Bible study this summer.
And those are just the Bible studies!
While we struggle to attract women to women’s ministry events, online ministries for women are flourishing.
So why are women leaving the physical church and heading online?
And how do we stop this mass exodus?
We must look at the reasons why women are leaving, address them, and make any needed changes so women aren’t running away from but to the local church.
Here are 10 reasons why women are leaving the physical church for online ministry and how we can start making changes to stop the exodus.
1. Women have been hurt by church members.
Problem: Whether it be an issue of gossip, a snarky attitude, hypocrisy, or some kind of snub, wounded women are seeking safe places.
Solution: We must lead by example and teach our women to love one another, offer forgiveness, and seek restoration.
2. Efforts to serve or lead have been rebuffed.
Problem: Many women are eager to serve and even lead, but churches and women’s ministries often make it difficult to become involved. Opportunities aren’t advertised, volunteer training is lacking, and the desire for control is so strong others are intentionally locked out.
Solution: When a woman volunteers, say “Yes!” and put her to work ASAP. Offer regular training for all of your volunteer roles. Encourage your team to reach out into the church body in search of volunteers. Far too many ministry teams do it all themselves.
3. Women’s ministry events and activities are offered primarily during the daytime.
Problem: Bible study is only offered during the daytime while many women work. A lack of childcare can be a problem for those who are at home with their children (whether young or homeschooled).
Solution: Easily remedy this situation by offering Bible study in the evening. Far too many churches have been slow to meet the needs of working women. Survey your women to find out what times/days there are available. Offer childcare for children of all ages.
4. Freedom from conviction.
Problem: Online interactions allow women to pick and choose what they share. Don’t want someone to see that sin you’re struggling with? Hide it. If they want to have their ears tickled with partial, omitted, or twisted scripture it’s there for the taking.
Solution: We must allow the Holy Spirit to convict. We need to be open about our own faults and struggles. When God prompts us to confront (and only then) we must do so in the most loving way possible (never publically). We must teach our women the Truth.
5. Condemnation for a committed or perceived sin.
Problem: Churches can be ruthless when it comes to offering grace and restoration. Divorced? You may be shunned. Had an abortion? You may be shamed. Struggle with a mental illness? You’re not praying hard enough. Had an affair? You need to leave.
Solution: We’ve got to put a stop to women slapping labels on one another. We must not tolerate gossip of any kind. We must ask God to help us to see past the outer actions to the heart of our women. We must never belittle, condemn, or even joke about an area one of our women may struggle with. We must love them where they are at, pray for God to bring awareness, and help them (when asked) to overcome their stumbling block.
Problem: Women’s ministries are notorious for being cliquey. If you’re not part of the “in group” you feel slighted. Inside jokes just add to the exclusivity.
Solution: Gently and lovingly force your women to interact with one another outside of their clique. An easy way to do so is to regularly use icebreaker games. As they find women with which they share common interests their circle (Lord willing) will widen. Harness the power of a small group. Ditch the large group Bible study format for smaller discussion groups (pray and pull names). Shuffle your women at women’s ministry events during the discussion portion – add a discussion portion if there isn’t one.
7. Lack of depth.
Problem: Women want meat. They want to be challenged. They don’t want fluff or feel good studies and events (not really).
Solution: Get serious about the content and take the focus off the décor. Choose studies that have women digging deep into God’s Word. Offer practical training on how to mentor, share the Gospel, or pray. Every event should align with your mission statement – if not, rework it or throw it out.
8. Little to no time to share.
Problem: Many women want to talk. They want to share what’s going on in their lives and they want to talk about what they are learning. Online that is easy to do. In real-life many of our women’s ministry events are structured like a college lecture. Discussion is usually relegated to the end and is often cut short.
Solution: Build your events AROUND discussion. Set up tables with chairs instead of rows. Prepare questions in advance. Train discussion group and table leaders to keep the conversation moving and on topic while following the leading of the Holy Spirit. If you’re going to have a speaker, request discussion questions and plan time for the women to talk through what they have just heard and learned. Discussions help solidify the information they’ve just received. Challenge your women with application questions.
9. Looking for specific help with an issue.
Problem: Your church doesn’t offer a ministry that caters to their specific need – step-parenting, divorce, abortion, depression, autism, widows, single moms, unequally yoked, caring for aging parents, cancer, etc.
Solution: Partner with other churches or organizations in your area. Check out Divorce Care. Know what ministries you can refer women to so they can receive in-person mentoring and support. If there’s a big need in your church, then speak with your Pastoral staff about launching a ministry to address those needs.
10. Women are tired of being made to wait.
Problem: If women miss the start date of a Bible study or small group they are often made to wait until the next study or group begins. This could mean they have to wait MONTHS to get plugged in. Women don’t want to wait to connect and study – and chances are they won’t. Online ministries and studies provide opportunities for them to jump in anytime they are ready. And they are welcomed warmly.
Solution: We need to keep the door open. Let women come to Bible study even if there’s only a week or two left. God will use the time they do have with your women to build relationships. We know that God’s Word does not return void – they will learn something even if they didn’t start at the beginning. Make it known that women are welcome to join at any time. Women aren’t going to open a door that appears locked.
Please hear my heart on this, I’m not saying all online ministry is bad. There are many effective, helpful ministries that serve a real need.
What I am saying is it’s time we pull our heads up out of the sand and acknowledge that women are leaving the church in record numbers. We must examine why and address the reasons if we’re going to stop the mass exodus.
Online ministries know the local church is lacking and offer an alternative to those who are hurt, waiting, and longing for a place in which they feel loved and accepted.
It’s time we do what we can to make the church the place women want to be – while at the same time being what they need us to be.
In what way(s) do you think God may be calling your ministry to make changes so women will seek out the local church first?
One year ago: 5 Ways to Keep Absent Team Members in the Loop
Two years ago: Tips & Tools for Bible Study and Small Group Leaders
Three years ago: How can we keep cliques from harming our ministry?
Four years ago: How to Frustrate Your Women’s Ministry Team