I recently conducted a survey of 1140 women about their experiences with women’s ministry events and activities. (Many, many thanks to everyone who took and shared this survey!)
I’ve wrestled with the best way to present the results to you. There’s so much to share and so many powerful comments that I didn’t want to just offer up a spreadsheet.
I want you to hear their voices and understand their experiences.
So today, in part 1 of “what women wish you knew about your women’s ministry” I’m going to weave their experiences into a conversation in hopes that you’ll hear their hearts and stories.
I’m preparing a special Friday post in which I’ll break down the numbers and share with you in much greater detail.
Perhaps, like me, you struggle with constructive criticism and can be too quick to throw out information you deem inaccurate. Today I want us both to pray and ask the Lord to open our eyes, ears, and hearts to what this woman (a compilation of all the women who took the survey) has to say.
Lord, we want nothing more than to serve you and the women in our churches and communities well. I pray you’ll open our eyes, ears, minds, and hearts so that we may see our women’s ministry from a different perspective. I pray that you’ll help us to set aside our pride. I ask you to help us to know what changes we need to make immediately and in the months and years to come. We long to provide events that point all of our women to you and encourage their faith. Help us, Lord, to do just that. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Picture your favorite coffee shop and a woman from your church that you love dearly and highly respect.
You’ve asked her to give you some insight and an outside perspective of the women’s ministry. Today’s the day you hear what she has to say…
“(Insert your name here), thank you so much for meeting me for coffee this morning. I appreciate your invitation to talk about the women’s ministry at our church and how its event and activities are helping the women in our church and community.”
You nod your head, offer up a quick prayer, and take a deep breath. Bracing yourself for things you know you may not want to hear.
“First of all, let me start by telling you how much I enjoyed our recent women’s ministry retreat. It was great to get away from the busyness of life and dig deep into God’s Word together. The team did a great job organizing the event and kept us on schedule. I loved the time we had in discussion groups getting to know one another. I made several new friends and am praying about asking one of the women in the group if she’d be interested in meeting regularly for discipleship.”
“The workshop we had on prayer earlier this year was one of my favorites! It’s something I really struggle with and I left with practical advice and tips that have enriched prayer life. That fresh look at the ACTS prayer was just what I needed. I wasn’t crazy at first about praying out loud at our table, that was way out of my comfort zone, but doing it together built my confidence in praying out loud.”
“The changes the team has made to make sure we have a get-to-know-you activity at almost every event is starting to make a difference. I’ve seen women who would never cross paths otherwise making connections with one another. I’ve heard so many positive comments from women about the ‘ten-minute testimonies’ even at the events that have been purely fellowship-oriented in the past. They love hearing how God is at work in the lives of the women they sit beside on Sundays! It’s giving them hope and encouragement in their own walk. The new approach you’ve taken in our Bible studies to focus on digging in deeper into God’s Word is really helping the women to learn how to read their Bible and talk about it with others. I know it’s sometimes easier to just push play on a DVD, but the extra effort is paying off!”
She takes another sip of her coffee and a deep breath, causing you to brace yourself for what’s certain to come.
“When you invited me for coffee you asked me to gather feedback from other women in our church so you could get a better perspective on how things are really being received. I’ve got a few things I need to share with you that aren’t quite as positive. I pray you won’t take them personally but will see each one as an opportunity for growth.”
“I spoke with one woman who is very new to our church. She came to one women’s ministry event, but admitted to me she doesn’t know that she’ll be back. She struggled to share her experience with me because she didn’t want to be viewed as a complainer or trouble-maker, but you need to hear what happened.”
“While she was greeted warmly at the door, once she entered the room she was lost. Everyone was busy talking among themselves so she quietly sat down. No one approached her. Even once the meeting started, admittedly 10 minutes late, the cliques in the room were evident. The women are her table weren’t very warm or welcoming and they were quite distressed by the latest rumor about the worship pastor. Unfortunately, she got an earful of gossip. When the women at her table found out that she homeschoolers her children, they remarked about how sheltered and naive her children must be. She felt judged and unwelcome. It broke my heart to hear about her experience, and I know it does yours too.”
“One of the women in my neighborhood also goes to our church, but you probably haven’t seen her at many women’s ministry events. She’s single and works. I try to invite her to our events, but she recently pointed out to me that the majority of our women’s activities are scheduled during the day and exclude working women. She mentioned that she’d love to come to a Bible study, but we aren’t currently offering anything in the evening. She reluctantly told me that the last event we had, the tea party, left her feeling like she didn’t belong. The speaker seemed to think the audience was only filled with married women with children and she is neither. I could tell there was more, but that she didn’t want to share it. After promising never to reveal her name, she admitted that the décor was a huge turnoff. It was over-the-top girly and asking everyone to wear fancy hats was just too much…”
“I’ve heard some rumblings from other women about that tea party event too. I know the team worked really hard to plan that event… but several women mentioned to me the message just didn’t resonate with them and it seemed like the speaker was just trying to get an emotional reaction rather than pointing them to the hope we have in Christ. Our women are so hungry for God’s Word – they want to deep messages than they can apply in their own lives.”
She pauses for another sip of coffee and you know there’s more to come.
“And I hesitate to tell you this, but the tea bag craft while cute, was a ‘miss’ with most of the women. I know there’s a group that loves to get together and make crafty things, even donating some to our homebound members, but I think you all might want to consider limiting the crafts to the craft meet-ups.”
She gives your hand a squeeze and looks you in the eye with great compassion and eyes brimming with tears.
“(Insert your name), I know this wasn’t easy to hear. Would you please let me pray for you?”
Heart heavy and hurt, you nod your head but don’t speak.
Lord, you know I’ve just overloaded (insert your name) with information about our women’s events. I pray you’ll help her to remember the good and cling to it. I pray that as she reflects on the things I’ve shared that she’ll view them as challenges, not criticisms. Lord, give her and the women’s ministry team wisdom to make adjustments in their plans that both honor You and best meet the needs of our women. Lord, I pray you’ll give them the courage to make hard decisions. Guide them and bless them as they seek Your will. It’s in Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
Check back on Friday for a close look at the statics. I pray you’ll be encouraged and challenged.
Press on and don’t give up!
One year ago: How to Divide Women into Groups
Two years ago: Why Your Women Need Save-the-Date Cards
Three years ago: Is there going to be childcare?
Four years ago: One Thing Every Group Leader Needs to Learn
Five years ago: Seven Super Survey Questions