Below you’ll find the show notes for episode 67: The Importance of Christian Fellowship for Women’s Spiritual Growth from the Women’s Ministry Toolbox Podcast.
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The Importance of Christian Fellowship for Women’s Spiritual Growth
The following is an excerpt from Rethinking Fellowship: A Handbook for Hosting Meaningful Women’s Ministry Events. © 2023 by Cyndee Ownbey
Chapter 2 What’s at stake?
Despite the beautiful sisterhood we may have already created, women’s ministry is often viewed as an expendable, rather than meaningful, ministry within the church. When budgets need to be cut or church calendars are streamlined, ministries and activities that don’t support the church’s mission can wind up on the chopping block. While relationships are important, leaders ask, does this ministry or event help people know the Bible better? Does it help them to live out biblical truth?
The stats are stacked against us. Churches as a whole are struggling to impact the hearts and actions of believers. Studies have shown that believers have lost sight of a biblical worldview. What do I mean by that?
“A biblical worldview [is] defined as believing that absolute
moral truths exist; that such truth is defined by the Bible; and
firm belief in six specific religious views… Jesus Christ lived a
sinless life; God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator
of the universe and He stills rules it today; salvation is a gift
from God and cannot be earned; Satan is real; a Christian
has a responsibility to share their faith in Christ with other
people; and the Bible is accurate in all of its teachings.”⁹
Research has shown “only 9% of self-identified Christians have a biblical worldview.”¹⁰ What does it mean if potentially nine out of every ten women attending your women’s ministry fellowship do not have a biblical worldview? Regular Bible study and Sunday morning sermons have not been effective in cultivating a solid foundation of biblical truth. Many, if not most, of our women are unable to defend their faith. The faith of our women is fragile. Society is crumbling around us and our response in many cases has been to host potlucks and game nights with barely a hint of Jesus and a 5-minute devotional read out of a book. In many ways, the church in general has failed to equip women to stand firm in their faith. Christian fellowship events offer an opportunity for us to fortify their faith.
Feasting on a ministry menu filled with fellowship and food has altered the palate of many of our women. Many of us have trained the spiritual palates of our women to crave overly themed, heavily decorated, fellowship-focused events instead of hungering for Truth, theological discussions, and Christ-centered conversations. Your task may be to rewire their taste buds to crave fellowship with Christ. What an impact we could make if every time we gathered, we remind our women:
- Who God is
- What Jesus has done for them (gave His life so they can live)
What if Jesus was never an afterthought or an addition, but Jesus was everything?
We began our journey examining Acts 2. If we follow the lives of the disciples in Acts 3 and 4, we learn John and Peter are jailed for teaching in the temple and healing the lame man. The officials told them to never again teach anything about Jesus. Peter and John did not bow to their demands. They replied, “We cannot keep quiet about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20 CEV)
My prayer is that we will not keep quiet about what we have seen and what we have heard. We know who will reign victorious! We know the end of the story! We know where to find hope and freedom. Our women want to know these things too. Let’s tell them!
Chapter 6 Rethinking Event Themes
I taught first grade for four years before staying home with our boys. I was the queen of themes. I found ways to tie all the basic skills and curriculum requirements (math, reading, writing, science, and social studies) to any given topic. The décor in my classroom and well-crafted lesson plans used animals, plants, and more to deliver the content in a fun and creative way.
Some women’s ministry teams have adapted a similar approach to their women’s ministry events. The food, décor, devotional, and games all center around one concept or idea. Done with restraint and a focus on God’s Word, themed events can help women remember the biblical truth and focus of their time together. Sometimes, though, events look more like a first-grade classroom studying bears than a church event for Christian women.
Women’s ministry themes aren’t all bad. Your leader or team may have prayed for a scripture verse or passage to use as focus or thread connecting the women’s ministry events and activities for the year. Repeatedly pointing women to a biblical truth and dedicating time to studying and applying that truth will build biblical literacy as women study that passage in scripture. As the theme creates a thread of connection between events women can know and understand God’s Word in new ways.
I’ve spent a lot of time pondering how historical women’s ministry transitioned from the Acts 2 early church to a missions focus in the late 1800’s to the fellowship focus we see in many churches today. Pinterest, social media, and the internet highlight the visual aspects of our women’s ministry events. Images we see as we search for women’s ministry ideas focus on tablescapes, beautiful buffets, photo booths, and stage décor. Rarely do we, or can we, see the biblical lessons taught and learned at women’s ministry fellowship, events, and activities.
We’ve been duped into thinking women’s ministry events should be and are supposed to be visually appealing. We’ve used cutesy themes, décor, and teachings, many of which look like they’ve been pulled from Sunday school lesson plans for elementary-age children or a Vacation Bible School curriculum. Women want and need age-appropriate teachings that build their Bible knowledge. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with pretty things and decorative touches, but it’s worth assessing if our décor dominates, rather than supports, the purpose of our gathering. Women need meaningful meetings, not just pretty parties.
What we name our events sets expectations and influences our impact too.
- Cute or cheesy names (Jesus Loves You Berry Much or Shecuterie) create confusion where you need clarity. Women have no idea if they’ll benefit from attending.
- Fun names reinforce the belief that women don’t desire sound biblical teaching and topics.
- Rhyming and alliteration can repel the very women you want to attract.
- A fluffy or kitschy name (Chips, Dips, and Fellow-sips or Soul Sisters) can signal your event is lacking in depth.
- Puns are outdated. It may have worked well in the 90’s but they repel most younger women.
- Women aren’t likely to take the event seriously if it borders on silly.
Before you label me a party pooper, let me explain. Event names should communicate the activity and purpose. Strive for clarity and reduce confusion. Women should know without a doubt the event is for them. Some teams use the same general name, (Ladies Connect, Girlfriends, Women’s Gathering, Women’s Fellowship) and add a descriptive subtitle (worship night, workshops, blessing bags, Bible study tips). Don’t overcomplicate it. Keep things simple and the focus on Christ.
The early church in Acts 2 was an active and growing church. What spurred their growth?
We see unbelievers were drawn by two things:
- Christ-exalting praise
- Christlike love¹⁴
This should come as no surprise. John 13:34-35 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” People notice when we sacrificially care for fellow church members and those outside of the church. Christian historical writings document Christian generosity to the poor because it was so unique and unusual.¹⁵ Compassion, not décor, prizes, or fancy food, attract people to Christ.
The early church didn’t just attract unbelievers, they converted unbelievers. “People were converted daily because believers were evangelizing daily.”¹⁶ Early Christians didn’t keep the good news to themselves, they shared it boldly and broadly. Their willingness to evangelize resulted in the Lord adding “to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47) The faith of the early Christian church was contagious! There would have been no mistaking their gatherings for a neighborhood potluck or baby shower. Even passersby would have noticed their Christlike love and Christ-exalting praise. Would a guest at your last women’s ministry fellowship be able to say the same?
May God help us to highlight Him as we plan each detail of our events.
9. Barna Group. “A Biblical Worldview Has a Radical Effect on a Person’s Life.” https://www.barna.com/research/abiblical-worldview-has-a-radical-effect-on-a-persons-life/)
10. Barna Dr., George. “American Worldview Inventory 100 2021.” https://www.arizonachristian.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/CRC_AWVI2021_Release06_Digital_01_20210831.pdf)
14. Merida. Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Acts. 40.
15. Merida. Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Acts. 40.
16. Merida. Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Acts. 42
ONB Press, Charlotte, NC Copyright 2023 by Cyndee Ownbey
No portion of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher or author, except as permitted by U.S. copyright law.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
You may also want to read:
Rethinking Fellowship for Women’s Ministry – What is fellowship?