Help for hosting messy conversations at your women's ministry meeting.

Is there a place in your women’s ministry for messy conversations?

Messy conversations that tackle taboo topics such as abortion, pornography, sexual abuse, addiction, mental health, and homosexuality?

Admittedly, even seeing those words on the screen makes me a bit uncomfortable. I don’t want to offend anyone.

I think sometimes we forget that all of these taboo topics are tackled in the Bible because God knew we’d face these issues too.

There are women in your church who are struggling and the world is quick to offer information, opinions, and solutions, that don’t align with God’s Word.

We have a great opportunity to share biblically based information and support that our women desperately need.

But we may not feel equipped or prepared.

If the idea of hosting messy conversations makes you nervous, I am here to help.

Today I’m sharing ten tips for messy conversations, five messy conversation starter ideas, and a list of resources. I pray they’ll provide a launching point for your team as you plan.

10 Tips for Messy Conversations

1. Inform Your Supervising Pastor

Don’t blindside the church staff. There’s always the possibility someone will be offended and call the church office. Or maybe they’ll be grateful and call the church office to say thank you. Your pastor may wish to offer some advice or have a discussion about how and what will be shared to ensure it aligns with your church doctrine and the Bible – view this as a positive, not a negative.

2. Share a List of Resources

Don’t leave women wondering “now what?” Give them a list of local and online resources where they can find biblical help and healing. This list might also include books that have been vetted. Be sure to see my list at the bottom of this post.

3. Guide the conversation but don’t require participation

Not everyone has or wants to share the personal details of their struggle, past, or sin life. Create questions in advance that will allow women to discuss the topic(s) without requiring them to share something personal. If they want to, they will.

4. Bring in trusted, female Christian counselors

Counselors are trained to handle messy conversations with care and compassion. They know how to provide help. Your church office should have a list of counselors that have been vetted.

It’s always better to have a counselor present than to wish you had provided one.

5. Publicize the event or meeting topic

Your women should not be blindsided by the content of your event or meeting. Some topics are triggers for women – we owe it to them to allow them to prepare in advance or opt out. Compassion is key. 

You might be surprised by the turnout. Women want to have messy conversations and discuss real-life, hard things.

6. Ask your women to keep all sharing confidential

While we think this should go without saying, many women need reminders that this means not even speaking about the conversations with their spouse or cloaking what they hear as a “prayer request.”

7. Know your legal obligations

Do you have to report spousal abuse that has been shared to the police? What do you need to do a woman confesses she is suicidal? Ask your pastor for guidelines and direction.

8. Stay late

Be prepared for women to approach you after the event has ended with questions, stories, or comments.

9. Offer prayer, not advice

It’s impossible for us to understand the complexities of a situation in just a few minutes of conversation. Consider training prayer counselors for events that tackle messy topics. See also #4.

10. Complete a post-event evaluation

Take time as a team to discuss what went well, what may need to be tweaked going forward, and how the women responded. Remind your team to maintain confidentiality by not sharing names or details.

You may agree there’s a need for messy conversations but aren’t quite sure how to get started.

These five messy conversation starters provide great launching points that utilize readily available resources.

5 Messy Conversation Starters

  1. Invite a speaker to share her story. Ask for her outline so you can be prepared for what she will share, ensuring hope is offered and resources are provided.
  2. Ask a non-profit ministry, such as a director at a pregnancy care center or human trafficking rescue group, if they could come in and share about the work that they do.
  3. Show a movie that tastefully tackles the topic. Watch it yourself first. Discuss it afterward.
  4. Host a book club focused on a messy topic.
  5. Show a documentary such as Speaking to Sparrows.

An important note on asking women to share their story: The most powerful conversations start with real people sharing their real-life story. However, be very careful as you plan not to break confidentiality by sharing the names of women in your church that you know have or are dealing with a messy topic. Please approach them first, before throwing their name in the ring as a potential speaker. God may have not yet released them to share.

Messy Conversation Resources

afiliate links follow

  1. Shelia Gregoire of Love, Honor, and Vacuum 
  2. Dr. Juli Slattery of Authentic Intimacy
  3. Phylicia Masonheimer author of Christian Cosmo
  4. Girl Defined, authors of Sex, Purity, and the Longings of a Girl’s Heart

As always, be sure to thoroughly vet any resources you share with your women.

As your team plans and prays, please be careful with any assumptions you make. Don’t assume a topic isn’t an issue for your women. Don’t assume it’s an issue that limited to women in a certain age group either. 

What other tips do you have for having messy conversations?

You may also want to read:
Tackling Taboo Topics
Speaking to Sparrows
Is God calling your ministry to shine a light on sex trafficking?
Post Event Evaluation Form (Free Printable)



One year ago: Gather & Glean: Retreat Planning
Two years ago: Bible Study Review: We Saved You a Seat
Three years ago: Icebreaker: A Day in the Life (Free Printable)
Four years ago: Do your women know how to contact you?
Five years ago: 10 Things Icebreakers Should Not Do
Six years ago: Icebreaker: Women’s Ministry Bingo (Free Printable)