“Change”—a buzzword in America right now—is not a new concept, but it is almost always a controversial one. Even though change is one of the most consistent realities in our world, it is not always easy for people to accept or welcome change. As a general rule, young people easily embrace change because they want things to be fresh and new, while older people are more skeptical of change because it is untried and unfamiliar.
In the last 50 years, an unprecedented number of changes have taken place in our world, especially regarding technology. And with significant change comes a question often asked by church ministry leaders: How should we respond to changes in our world? One of the strengths of fundamental churches is a Biblical commitment not to change doctrinally, so we have sometimes dug in our heels against change in general. By default, we may use the same methods in women’s ministry that our mothers and grandmothers did. We run our missionary groups, fill our missionary closets, and lead Bible studies the same way they have been done for years. But is this approach wise, since the people we are ministering to have changed dramatically? Perhaps the most important question has been overlooked: Biblically speaking, what areas of ministry can be changed, and what things should never be changed? This overarching question will determine all other decisions about change.
Here are five changes we can make in women’s ministry to help us minister more effectively, and five mistakes to avoid.
Five changes to consider
1. Do use new areas of communication to reach women.
Many women today use the Internet as their primary source of information. Last year Oprah Winfrey posted a 10-week online course on spirituality that reached millions of women. She told her online audience, “There are certainly many more paths to God other than Christianity. I’m a free thinking Christian who believes in my way, but I don’t believe that it’s the only way with 6 billion people here on the planet.” The online community needs someone who will respond to unbiblical teaching. Perhaps it is time to consider an online Bible study or book discussion group. Women’s online events might reach more women than anticipated. Consider the ministry of the apostle Paul: He often changed his venue to reach different groups of people. Besides teaching in the synagogue, he spoke to Lydia by a river and to the men of Athens on Mars Hill. The ways we communicate truth are not sacred, but the message is.
2. Do use fresh avenues to present Biblical material to women.
Research has shown that individuals learn better when they engage more than one sense in the learning process. Consider these media sources in teaching, studying, and training. Find someone to help set up PowerPoint, audio and video clips, and other media to impact your audience. Look for other interactive teaching methods that involve the women in more than just discussion. Jesus was a master teacher Who used many different formats to share His unchanging message with the world.
3. Do encourage young women to share their ideas for ministry.
Many women’s ministries are led by older women who have grown up in the church doing things a certain way. Young women have a different frame of reference, so their ideas might sound radical at first; but talking and listening to them is a first step in bringing your women’s ministry up to date. They are the future of the church and need to have someone hear what they are thinking. Get to know some women in this age group personally and ask them to share their thoughts on women’s ministry. Paul helped Timothy develop into a young, effective minister of the gospel; and we, too, need to be reaching younger women to develop future leaders.
4. Do consider the changing needs of women.
Since 1950 the number of women working outside the home has increased from 18 million to over 70 million. Have you considered offering Bible studies in businesses during the lunch hour? Today more families are homeschooling than 20 years ago. Have you considered hosting an educational day for these families to connect with your women’s ministry, or providing a homeschool advisor during daytime Bible studies to supervise children doing their work? Since 49 percent of first-time marriages fail, more single moms have needs that should be addressed by the church. Have you ever considered providing a meal before an evening Bible study or a tutor who will help kids with homework while their moms study the Bible? These are just a few of the questions that your women’s ministry needs to address in order to continue ministering to women in our changing world. Jesus often met external or immediate needs of people in order to eventually meet their deeper need of belief.
5. Do evaluate your programs to see if they are effective in ministering to women’s needs.
Taking the time to have women fill out evaluations might seem like a waste of time, but it can give you valuable feedback on what is working and what is not. Honest input will let you know if the women in your church consider certain programs valuable or ineffective.
However, while being flexible about these methods of reaching women, we must stand firm about doctrinal purity. These are things we should never change.
1. Don’t change Biblical doctrine.
Core beliefs and convictions—which are developed from Biblical doctrines, not religious dogma or church tradition—form the unchangeable foundation on which our churches are built and operate. Women’s groups should not waiver in their commitment to the infallible, inspired Word of God. Strong theology will develop strong women who will think and act Biblically. Sometimes truths from the Bible are unpopular, but as Pastor Tony Evans once said, “If the truth rubs the cat’s fur the wrong way, turn the cat around.”
2. Don’t change the Biblical role of women.
Our Biblical basis gives us a solid foundation for ministering to women in a Biblical manner. This means that despite the shift in many churches to an egalitarian view of women in home and church settings, we should follow the New Testament model for male leadership. It might be unpopular, but it is Biblical.
3. Don’t settle for materials that are Biblically weak.
We have an obligation to train women to choose study materials that are doctrinally correct and not just entertaining or popular. We have an obligation to choose materials that properly exegete Scripture and teach the true meaning of God’s Word. God’s Word is not only unchanging, it is also powerful and holds the key to life and godliness. Human philosophies will come and go, but the Word of God will stand true.
4. Don’t abandon the local church.
Many women’s groups operate outside the local church. Perhaps some women will be tempted to be involved in a large parachurch organization that reaches women. But, as a study of the New Testament shows, God established the local church for evangelism and discipleship. It wasn’t a pastor trying to garner support for his local congregation, but the Author of the church Who addressed many letters of the New Testament to local churches.
5. Don’t rely on programs, but on God to build His ministry.
Don’t be discouraged. Ministry can sometimes be difficult, but God rewards faithfulness, not flashiness. God’s children are called to continue to work for His glory not only when it is easy and rewarding, but also when it is hard and discouraging. Keep “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
Jeannie Vogel is a women’s ministries consultant and workshop leader for Regular Baptist Press.