Women’s Ministry in a Post-Modern World
Barbara J. Parker, Ph.D. is the Women’s Leadership Consultant for the Dallas Baptist Association. Dr. Parker has served in various ministry positions for over 20 years and continues to actively serve women through the local church, small groups, and Bible studies.
I recently read that women’s ministry is almost nonexistent in large evangelical churches! I think the author was meaning that traditional, event driven women’s programs are becoming extinct, but I can assure you that women doing ministry is alive and well!
There is nothing in Scripture that indicates the local church must have a specific, formal program called women’s ministry; however that is what most people think of when they hear the term women’s ministry. Ministry among women can and should occur in a variety of ways. When placing the word women in front of ministry, it describes any action performed by women in service for God. Therefore, women’s ministry is not to be defined only as ministry performed by women for other women.
Elizabeth Elliot best described this idea when she stated,
“We are called to be women. The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does make me a different kind of woman. For I have accepted God’s idea of me, and my whole life is an offering back to Him of all that I am and all that He wants me to be.”
CULTURAL CHALLENGES AND CHANGES
I think we would all agree that women’s ministry is reacting to the pressures resulting from cultural shifts in gender relations, generation preferences, economics, politics, and religion. As early as 2009, women’s ministry leaders were acknowledging changes were happening and women’s ministry would no longer function as it had during modern times.
During the past decade a clearer picture of what those changes would be has emerged. Research has shown that teenagers are leaving the church during early adulthood or may not affiliate with a church at all or until later than previous generations. One in four members of the millennial generation are unaffiliated with any particular faith. People no longer attend church as a cultural expectation, which presents challenges to those leading women’s ministry.
One result of the trend of remaining spiritual, but unaffiliated with the local church, has been the proliferation of independent ministries. Women are being drawn to national speakers as role models and for spiritual training, at a great loss to the local church. “National women leaders should be a reference point, but not a replacement for female leadership at the local church level” (Shellnutt, 2016, para. 25).
So what are we going to do? Here are a few suggestions:
- Pray for the women in your church. Pray for young leaders to rise up and serve.
- Pray for the men in your church. Pray for a collaborative ministry between all members of the body of Christ for Kingdom growth.
- Build relationships with women of various ages. Mentor those spiritually younger than you and seek godly wisdom from those more mature than you.
- Be flexible. Women’s ministry is changing and we must be willing to adapt.
- Remain grounded in Scripture. Hold fast to the truths of Scripture so that the culture does not drive the ministry.
Do you have other ideas on how to define women’s ministry in the 21st Century? I’d love to hear your comments and ideas.
Burke, D. (2015). Millennials leaving the church in droves, study finds. Pew Research. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/12/living/pew-religion-study/
Elliot, E. (1976). Let me be a woman. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
Kinnaman, D., & Lyons, G. (2007). Unchristian. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
Nielson, K. (2015). Why women’s ministry: Questions you’re asking. The Gospel Coalition. Retrieved from https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/why-womens-ministry
Shellnutt, K. (2016). The bigger story behind Jen Hatmaker. Christianity Today. Retrieved from http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/november-web-only/bigger-story-behind-jen-hatmaker.html?visit_source=twitter&start=4
Taylor, M. (2009). Brave new women: The transformation of women’s ministry in 21st century culture. Retrieved from http://leadnet.org/brave_new_women_transformation_of_womens_ministry_21st_century_culture/