Below you’ll find the show notes for episode 75, Unpacking the State of Women’s Ministry: Insights from Lifeway’s Survey, from the Women’s Ministry Toolbox Podcast.
Please note: This post contains affiliate links.
Our series on hot topics and hot takes continues today with a look at the state of women’s ministry.
Lifeway released a comprehensive women’s ministry survey in October 2023. They surveyed 1001 female churchgoers and 842 female leaders. (Survey links are at the bottom of the page.) There are a total of 4 documents totaling 443 pages.
The survey covers the function of women’s ministry, what women want, what churches offer, attendance, staff support, and much more. There is SO much we could unpack.
Today I’m going to pull some stats that caught my attention and I’m going to share a few thoughts on each one.
Insights from Lifeway’s State of Women’s Ministry
What do women want?
This is the question on almost every women’s ministry leader’s mind. We know we need to offer things that our women need to grow, but also want to offer things women want.
Here’s the question that was asked, “What needs have you been hoping women’s ministry activities in your church would help with you personally?”
The top answer was 71% selected “Growing closer to Jesus Christ.”
Does that surprise you? Does it line up with what you offer on your women’s ministry calendar? Are most, if not all, of your women’s ministry events and activities providing ways for women to grow closer to Jesus? If your calendar is dominated by food, crafts, and events with a quick devotional, you’re not providing what your women want or what your women need.
Some of you are thinking, we’ve tried to offer things that specifically encourage spiritual growth, but women don’t show up. The survey says otherwise, 73% of women whose church offered discipleship events attended at least one.
There is a desire and a need for women’s ministry events that focus on spiritual growth.
Side note: If you need ideas, check out my latest book, Rethinking Fellowship. It’s packed with them!
The next most popular answer, if you’re curious, was 60% said “support when difficult things happen.” At first glance, we might think that’s hard to plug into our women’s ministry calendar. Support is more likely to come in smaller group offerings – discipleship groups, mentoring, and Bible study. Meals in crisis certainly can provide support, but I think there’s a desire for more. Maybe you’ll want to plan some time for your women’s ministry team to talk about how you can support the women in your church better when difficult things happen.
What ages of women are participating in women’s ministry?
In this recent post, I talked about bridging the generation gap and acknowledged the struggle of most women’s ministry teams to attract younger women. The stats show the struggle is real.
Leaders estimated the percentage of women that participated by age group.
Here are the results:
- Ages 18-25 – 7%
- Age s25-40 – 20%
- Ages 41-55 – 26%
- Ages 56-70 – 35%
- Ages 71+ – 12%
By my calculations, that means 73% of women in attendance are 41 and older.
We’ve got to do a better job of reaching younger women. I encourage you to read the post, Bridging the Generation Gap: How to Engage Younger Women in Your Women’s Ministry, if you haven’t already.
On the plus side, that’s a lot of older women we can train to disciple younger women. Couple this with the statistics that showed women want to grow spiritually and want support in crisis and your team may want to make some adjustments to your ministry offerings and calendar.
What does women’s ministry planning look like in other churches?
Here’s what the survey said:
- 45% of leaders say they plan together with a women’s ministry leadership team. Let’s break it down a bit further.
- 13% say as the women’s ministry leader they do all the planning on their own
- 28% use suggestions from the women in the church
- 5% plan with the church staff
- 8% say planning is organic with women volunteering to lead something
I admit, I find this information very concerning. Every women’s ministry program needs a team of women who pray for and plan your women’s ministry events and activities. If you’re in a smaller church, that might be a team of two.
If you’re the only one running the women’s ministry program what happens if you get sick, you move, or circumstances prevent you from leading? Your entire women’s ministry program may shut down because it all rests on you. Allowing other women to help carry the load protects from ministry burnout and provides opportunities for them to use their God-given gifts.
I talk a lot about the importance of women’s ministry teams from a biblical and practical perspective in my book Rethinking Women’s Ministry and in several posts including How to Build a Women’s Ministry Team.
If you’re leading without a team, I want to strongly encourage you to pray about building a team. Your women’s ministry program benefits when other gifted women in your church serve alongside you.
Other Specific Responsibilities
The survey highlights the fact that in many churches, women’s ministry leaders aren’t just organizing and planning Bible studies and women’s events and activities, they also care for the whole church by providing meals and organizing showers.
The survey asked, “Which of the following are specific responsibilities for the women’s ministry to provide as needed for your church?”
- 55% provide meal trains for those facing illness or crisis
- 47% provide meals for funerals
- 40% provide caregiving for women in crisis
- 40% decorate the church
- 37% baby showers
- 33% caregiving for families in crisis
- 13% weddings
This begs the question, is this the best use of women’s ministry resources? Are there other, better ways to meet these needs in the church so the focus of women’s ministry can be discipleship and spiritual growth? Or maybe these need to fall under specific women’s ministry team member’s responsibilities?
In our church, care is given through our small groups. If there is a long-term need, then the staff may decide to share that request and information more widely. Every church is different and must determine what works best.
Coupling this statistic with the next should cause us to pause.
How Many Leaders Are Paid?
About 1 in 6 women’s ministry leaders are in a paid position.
Whether or not your women’s ministry is primarily responsible for the spiritual growth of your women or the caregiving of the women and families in your church, it does seem that this level of responsibility and importance warrants at least a part-time paid staff position and a healthy line item in the church budget if your church structure allows.
How many women’s ministries are provided with a budget?
And, yes, they did ask about church funds. According to the survey, 71% say that their churches provide the women’s ministry with funds from the church budget.
The statistic on paid positions has received a lot of attention and in some ways rightly so. Surveys of my own community of women’s ministry leaders have shown growth in the number of women’s ministry leaders in paid positions. Our current church and previous church have part-time paid women’s ministry directors.
If your church has not made that transition or fails to see the need, I want to encourage you to be faithful to do what God has called you to do. Satan wants you distracted and frustrated – don’t fall prey to his tactics. Serve well in this season. Share stories and stats with your church staff that show the value of women’s ministry in your church. Pray and ask God to change hearts. Trust God is doing things behind the scenes that you cannot see. Keep your eyes and energy focused on serving the women in your church well.
Philippians 4:5-9 says, “ Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Per Paul’s instructions, let’s wrap this up by focusing on some good news.
Though some may think that the church doesn’t support women’s ministry, there are other stats from the survey that reveal that’s just not true.
- 94% agree that women’s ministry regularly receives support from their pastor
- 93% agree that their church values their women’s ministry
- 96% of women agree their church values women; only 3% disagree
- 90% of women agree their church invests in and equips women
The state of women’s ministry is encouraging.
Women want to grow spiritually. Leaders feel supported and valued by their church and church staff.
What a blessing it is to be a part of the work God is doing in and through our churches.
Today’s Toolbox Tasks:
- Share this post or the podcast episode with your team (if you have one).
- Prayerfully consider how your team needs to respond to the survey results.
You may also want to read:
Bridging the Generation Gap: How to Engage Younger Women in Your Women’s Ministry
Overcoming Women’s Ministry Burnout: Tips to Refuel and Renew Your Passion
8 Benefits of Meeting Regularly with Your Pastor
How to Build a Women’s Ministry Team
10 Dangers to Running a Women’s Ministry Without a Team