Unfortunately, the words “gossip” and “women” are often viewed as inseparable.
When a church offers “women’s ministry,” gossip is often an unwanted by-product whether or not we witness it.
A recent survey I conducted of women’s ministry experiences resulted in a staggering number of comments about gossip. Here are just a few of those comments.
“I haven’t found one with mature women that don’t use it as a tool to gossip/do other damage.”
“Many turn into just gossip events, no agenda.”
“Too much gossip!!!”
“I recently resigned my position as Women’s ministry director at my church. The women are not interested in doing anything but go out to lunch and gossip about other women in church.”
I don’t think we always realize what a rampant problem gossip has become at our women’s ministry events and activities.
Pastors often joke in the pulpit about gossip masked as a prayer request, but the survey comments point to something much deeper.
We are in a spiritual battle, and our enemy knows one of the best ways to cause discord is to use our own words to gossip about others.
Gossip results in broken relationships, destroys trust, and creates an environment filled with suspicion.
If I open up and share about “x,” I don’t know who might talk about it.
We must protect our women and our ministry by doing all we can to put a stop to gossip.
The list below includes some ideas you’re likely already putting into practice, but I hope it will give you some fresh inspiration to be even more intentional in your efforts.
10 Ways to Put a Stop to Gossip
1. Interrupt and stop gossip in its tracks.
Interrupting gossip is not only okay, but it is also necessary. You may want to say “I’m sorry, but whether or not that is true, we have no business sharing that information with others.” Or “I apologize for interrupting you, but does Tess know you’re sharing this?”
2. Train your leaders to be prepared to stop gossip in its tracks.
Do some role-playing, so they have some practice and feel more prepared.
3. Teach about the power of our words.
If the Lord leads, focus an entire Bible study, event, or retreat on words – the Word of God, our words, the power of words, gossip, etc. Highlight verses about gossip.
4. Set up guidelines.
Put covenants and discussion group guidelines into place that specifically express a “no gossip” policy. Remind the group of these guidelines regularly.
5. Be intentional in the collection of prayer requests.
Have a list of prayer request guidelines for your group. Teach them to frame their request to be personal requests and not so specific. For example, please pray for me as I minister a neighbor that is going through a difficult time. Collect prayer requests on note cards or a spreadsheet to remove the opportunity to share the details. Re-word prayer requests or omit details when emailing them out to the group.
6. Use humor.
When done well and in the right context you may be able to joke “I’m sure I didn’t just hear some gossiping going on in this corner.”
7. Encourage a spirit of sisterhood and unity.
Cultivate a community where your women protect one another and don’t tolerate gossip about one another.
8. Stop, drop, and pray.
Lead an intentional prayer out loud with the offender/group to pray for the one being gossiped about without spreading the gossip. “Lord, you know the details, and we ask that you be with Fran and protect her and her family from any gossip. Lord help us to be supportive and to pray for her, keeping her confidence and not sharing the details with any others, not even as a prayer request.”
9. Choose a different chair or group to sit with.
Don’t offer a listening ear. Ask the perpetrator why are they telling you this? If they respond that they thought you’d want to know, let them know you don’t. If you’re feeling bold, let them know, “I’m sorry, I don’t want to hear about that situation. It’s not our business.”
10. Offer up a verse from the Bible.
Say something along this lines of, “I’ve recently memorized Ephesians 4:29 which says “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”, and I’ve been really convicted about saying only positive things about others. Could we please change the subject?”
What God’s Word Says about Gossip
Leviticus 19:16: “Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord.”
Ephesians 4:29, the Bible urges: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Matthew 12:36-37 that “…on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy; do you really want junk like that in your belly?” (Proverbs 18:8, MSG)
As leaders, we must be bold to root out any evil that seeps into our women’s ministry events and activities.
We must create safe spaces for women to share, repent, receive godly counsel, and begin healing. If women suspect what they share will be circulated, they won’t share.
Lord, give us eyes to see and ears to hear when gossip creeps into our women’s ministry events and activities. Give us discernment and boldness in how best to handle incidents of gossip when they occur. Grow in our women a desire for unity. Convict all of us when our words turn from concern into gossip. May the words of our mouths and the meditations our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, our strength, and our Redeemer (Psalm 19:14).
What other tips do you have to put a stop to gossip?
You may also want to read:
How to Love on Women Wounded by the Church
Women’s Ministry Training Ideas
10 Ways We Unknowingly Hurt Women in Our Church
Prayer Warrior Boot Camp for Groups
Gathering Prayer Requests
One year ago: Episode 5 – Gather and Glean: Publicity Mistakes
Two years ago: How to Minister to Angry Women
Three years ago: My Favorite Bible Study Resources
Four years ago: Women’s Ministry Team Job Descriptions – Part 1
Five years ago: 10 Sweetheart Banquet Ideas