by Sharon Hoffman
When my daughters were young, it wasn’t unusual to find me poolside at a dear friend’s house during the summer months. One afternoon, Betty must have noticed the weariness on my face from her kitchen window. It wasn’t long until she appeared at my side with napkins, lemonade, and cookies. Betty listened as I poured out my heart about the weight of motherhood, being pulled in too many directions, and an overload of ministry responsibilities.
As I reflect on that afternoon with Betty, and the numerous ones that followed throughout our six years of ministry in west Texas, I see how those precious times with a woman twice my age taught me much about my need for community. Betty knew what many today seem to have forgotten: we women have an inborn, heartfelt need for other women to come alongside us in every season of life.
Never before have we ever had such ready access to others through email, texts, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and other means. Yet, women tell me often, “I feel isolated and more alone than ever.” The cultural pull on women to do it all and have it all seems to resonate with the bumper sticker that reads, “I am woman. I am invincible. I am tired.”
Throughout the Scriptures, we see God place women in relationships to encourage one another and provide a place of retreat. Just as God sent Mary to Elizabeth and Ruth to Naomi, I believe He longs to place women together for support, friendship, accountability, and encouragement. That is exactly why we need women’s ministry in our churches today. Women are the heartbeat of the home, community, and yes, the church. Many women can’t define the longing they have, they just know something is missing when they are not closely bonded with other women in fellowship. They need Jesus, and we have the privilege of telling them of Jesus if we will commit to come alongside them by opening the doors of our church and our hearts. God designed the body of Christ to help us bear our burdens and to remain steadfast in our love of God. If we take a look at our church calendars, do we see events and service activities intentionally created to foster women’s relationships? Shame on us, if not. We are missing a vital ministry to provide women with the transforming love of Jesus Christ and to provide a place for women to connect and cultivate Christian friendships.
If this is new territory for you, after much prayer, ask your pastoral staff or women’s director to help map out different options for your church to reach the women in your church and beyond. Determine what might draw women closer together in community. You may be surprised who is actually lonely in your church. There are women who appear to have it all together, to know the Scriptures, and to be able to laugh freely, yet they leave each service without connecting deeply with anyone. They are lonely and, quite frankly, unsure whether or not to return next Sunday. But, if a woman is invited to coffee or lunch or a play date with fellow young moms, she is more likely to return. She has someone who knows her and looks for her – a community of women she fits into, not where she feels she has to break into.
Time and time again I’ve watched women relax and begin to let walls down in painting classes, Bible studies, scrapbooking nights, baking cookies together, moms’ groups, movie nights, fitness classes, and girls’ nights out. One lady told me recently, “Until I learned every other mom of toddlers was struggling with potty training, I felt so inferior. Once the room was abuzz with sagas of other moms’ potty-training defeats, I went home with hope and some new friends.” I realized from her statement she felt heard and encouraged by other women who had similar feelings and experiences. We could learn a lot from our ancestors who held quilting bees and canning sessions. They may not have had the label, but they were doing some serious women’s ministry at those gatherings.
Those women knew the term “synergism.” It means doing more together than one can do alone. Ten women working together as one force can accomplish exponentially more than ten women working on their own plans with their own agendas in mind. The purpose of a team is to help a group meld together as one force. Not everyone will be kindred spirits with each woman in your ministry, but hearts will begin to intertwine through similarities, interests, and talents. It is a joy to watch women beginning to know each other, growing, and loving on each other right before your eyes.
Lest you think I personally place priority on women’s ministry just for others, I need to admit I participate in everything our church offers for women because I need support, encouragement, mentoring, and connectedness as well. My dearest friendships have come from the community our church provides. We plan numerous events throughout the year with the goal of refreshing the body, mind, and emotions of women. I have adopted Colossians 2:2-3 as my personal purpose statement and I believe it is the purpose for women’s ministry as well: “That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God and of the Father and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Look at the story of Moses, Aaron, and Hur in Exodus 17. When Moses was tired of holding up the staff as God had commanded him, Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on, then stood on each side of him and held up his hands. He was able to continue till sunset and not give up. God can provide friends to hold up your arms when you cannot, but only if you’ll let them. I don’t know what I’d do without my “arm-lifters” on some Monday mornings. Who grabs your arms and joins you in your weariness, pain, struggles, and hurts? Reach out to women to comfort them and I can promise you they will be there grabbing hold of your exhausted hands when you need it.
Women also need hangout friends, chick-flick-watching, super-sale-shopping, cheesecake-sharing friends. We desperately long to find other women who have “been there” and who share not just our challenges, but who share the love of Jesus. And good old-fashioned fun! You know, like retreats overnight where you forget about home and responsibilities and just eat chocolate while talking late into the night. Something really special and beautiful can happen when God knits together the hearts of women around His heart.
After serving in church ministry 46 years, I believe a healthy women’s ministry is vital to a church’s overall health. This will look differently in each individual church, but speaking life into women will bring life into your church! In small and big ways, we as adult women have the potential to make each woman feel special because they are important to Jesus Christ. Realize this is a woman’s desire — to know she is really known by you and, most importantly, by God. We’re no longer wearing our cheerleading skirts or playing on the playground, but we have the same need as adult women as we did back then – we want to belong. You may ask, “Do the benefits of community outweigh the time and the risks?” They certainly do! I have never been sorry for loving a friend too much, but I have regretted not reaching out to a woman in need before. God created us for companionship, not isolation. Learn to love extravagantly, in your unique giftedness, even if it’s not always easy. Go out of your way to comfort others “wherewith the comfort God has comforted you” (2 Corinthians 1:3).
Reach out and touch some sweet woman’s heart today; you will receive far more than you give. I know this because I experienced such a gift again just last week. By the time we left the coffee shop, our cheeks were wet with tears and we had mascara running down our faces. True tissue time. I got to hear this sweet young momma ask Jesus Christ to be her personal Savior in a coffee shop. Ah, women’s ministry at its finest and oh, how important it is.
So, will we meet our ladies’ heartfelt needs of belonging — belonging to Jesus and showing the way to do that through our love for them? Let’s let them hear something different from us than the world’s mantra of women’s independence. It is vital we offer hope, encouragement, and companionship to walk through difficulty, hardship, and hurts. This sinful world inflicts enough pain on women — let’s prayerfully determine to reach out to one another so we can all be healthier and happier women. I’m certain our marriages, families, and ministries will also be impacted.
To read the entire “Women’s Ministry” feature, click here.