10 Critical Concepts for Women’s Ministry

So, it turns out that stroller wheels still run pretty well over hummocky, leaf-strewn garden pathways, and that the thud of a tiny muck boot still makes the same satisfying “bong” against the metal bed of a wheelbarrow.  When the going gets desperate with a little guy, the desperate go outside — just as I did with this little guy’s dad a couple of decades ago, and the truth is that there are some weeks when the only “women’s ministry” that happens in my life is this offering of respite to my daughter-in-law who needs to go to the dentist or spend some time with her husband.  Then, there are the weeks that include space for planning events and projects; for scouring the Bible, listening for God’s voice in preparation for a class or a devotional or a blog post.  Over the past couple of decades of my involvement with ministry to other women, I’ve spent more than a few moments wondering:  “Exactly what should be the focus of a women’s ministry in the church?  Is it to help women know and serve women, or is it to help women know and serve God?  Can it be both?”

Kathleen Nielson and Gloria Furman have compiled a series of ten essays in Word-Filled Women’s Ministry, and they have addressed many of my questions as well as concepts I had not even considered. The ten essays could each stand alone in their focus on a particular aspect of ministry, but what emerges from the whole is a way of thinking about women’s ministry (or ministry in general) that exalts the Word of God, identifies contexts in which women’s ministry occurs, and addresses specific issues relative to women’s ministry.

  1.  Where ministry happens and what it looks like are peripheral.  Of central importance is a steady and purposeful focus on the Word of God, His deeply personal and powerful message of truth.  There is no need to distinguish between having a warm and welcoming fellowship and having an academic and enriching study of a God-breathed text. Through the Word, women will find connections with others through understanding their own stories in light of the Big Story of God’s creation of a people for Himself through His Son.
  2. What it means to be a women and also a Christian is tied up in our having been created in God’s image.  “The perfect unity and differentiation of the eternal Person of the triune God [is mirrored by the unity and differentiation of] the non-identical but equal parts of humanity” — male and female — with roles and responsibilities that are unique and not interchangeable. Colossians 3:16 is a joyful job description from Paul to the faithful men and women who worshiped at Colossae.  “When we come together, everyone will participate!”
  3. The model for biblical leadership training found in II Timothy 2:2 represents four generations of gospel workers:  Paul, Timothy, the faithful men, and “others.”  From this verse flow two qualifications for leadership in women’s ministry:  faithfulness and the ability to teach.  Furthermore, Word-Filled Women’s Ministry offers a sound strategy for training future leaders which is based on another of Paul’s letters to the disciples in Thessalonica.  He emphasized fluency with the gospel message, transparency of life, a parental urgency of purpose, and integrity before God.  Chapter 3 is a gold-mine of suggestions and resources for leadership development.
  4. Ministry to women within the context of the local church provides the rich resource of a broad palette of giftedness and a ready-made community in which to begin living in relationships of accountability and to begin utilizing gifts for the strengthening of the church.  “Until the day when ‘the city’ comes down from heaven, local churches will be outposts of that city, colonies of heaven.”
  5. Grounding a women’s ministry in Bible study is a means of fulfilling the Great Commission.  This does not mean that every devotional has to be lifted out of the four Gospels or include an overt invitation.  Gloria Furman asks (and then answers) some excellent questions with the central point being that Bible study will not only fuel evangelistic zeal and equip healthy ambassadors among believers, but it will also put all of life into perspective within the narrative arc of the history of God’s Forever Kingdom.  The mind-blowing truth is that mortal women may behold the face of God and live.
  6. It’s a treat when the sweet women of our Ladies Missionary Fellowship gather each month.  We love our missionaries, and although our feet are firmly planted in mid-coast Maine, our hearts travel to the ends of the earth in prayer. Through praying for women around the world, we are absorbing the truth that women’s ministry is as diverse as the different cultures where women minister.  Essentially, however, we cannot assume a level of biblical literacy or a gospel mindset anywhere in our post-Christian age, and should be continually asking ourselves if we are centering all our most important events around fellowship and cute snacks or if we are making them into “occasions for rejoicing together in the Word and for celebrating the occasion in the light of its truth.”  This notion will affect the way I go forward with planning baby and wedding showers and other group celebrations.
  7. As women search the Scriptures together, relationships are a natural outcome, resulting in a ministry of mentoring for those who are mature in the faith.  This “life-on-life” discipleship is demanding, and it is tempting to shrink from the opportunity when it comes.  Through the creative use of letters between an older woman and a younger woman, Word-Filled Women’s Ministry explores the relationships of trust, intimacy, and unity that can develop among the women of a church through Paul’s discipleship model found in Titus 2:3-5.
  8. The call for women to be transformed into the image of God must address every area of life, including women’s struggle with sexual sin.  Ellen Mary Dykas presents a masterful analysis of the Luke 13:10-17 account of Jesus’ healing of the bent woman.  Women’s ministry is the ideal context in which to recognize those who are bent by/in bondage to sin; to respond in non-judgmental love rather than intensifying the bent-woman’s sense of shame; and to offer hope and freedom from their captivity to their bodies.  A wealth of practical implications follow, and Ellen describes these using actual examples of young women from her own ministry.
  9. As a Christian Education major back in the 80’s, I graduated full of zeal and fervor into a world in which the only churches who would hire a 21-year-old female as their C.E. Director were so far-removed from my own statement of faith I wondered why they even bothered to interview me.  And those who wondered very politely if I wouldn’t be willing to fill the pulpit during any of the senior pastor’s vacations.  Undaunted, I eventually found employment with a parachurch organization working with children, but it was not until I was able to volunteer my time that I became involved in women’s ministry.  Gloria and Kathleen offer encouragement to those with a heart for ministry.  Learning to work effectively with male leadership and humbly waiting for God to open doors and build bridges are essential.  However and wherever it happens, women’s ministry is at its best when “women reach out to help one another, [providing the] “safety and understanding that the presence of another woman brings.”
  10. Equipping women as co-laborers in Christ should include adequate training in theology, church history, and practical ministry with an eye toward the day that the prophet Habakkuk foresaw when the “earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God.”  The highest aim of all ministry is to prepare both men and women for “that day,” and this wisdom takes us back to the gospel without which we would have no hope ourselves, or hope to offer the world.

Word-Filled Women’s Ministry elevates the conversation about women and our service to the body of Christ a Dubai high-rise above the usual menu of “who gets to do what and under what circumstances.”  With our hearts yearning for the coming of Christ, our egos, our goals, and our boots-on-the-ground labor must all be focused on a harmonious striving for “the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

This book was provided by Crossway in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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37 thoughts on “10 Critical Concepts for Women’s Ministry”

  1. Good Morning, Michele!

    Your first paragraph struck me with its truth … there are seasons in our lives when our women’s ministry might have nothing to do with an organized event at the church, but a quiet 1-1 with the daughters, the friends, the mamas that God brings into our lives.

    Or, for me right about now, nurturing a blogging community that I love.

    Thanks for enlarging my borders today. This has been an encouragement for me …


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for such an in-depth review of this book! I went to a conference by Susan Hunt (one of the contributors) and loved it, so I may have to give this book a try as well!
    Women’s ministry can be difficult, but I agree with you, if we stay grounded in Christ and His word we will learn how to best serve women.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is an intelligent resource!
    Hi Michele, I am glad my break started today! Now I can follow your recent articles without rushing through! Life has been hectic. I have not had proper sleep for over 3 Days now! Resting! Laying! and Relaxing this weekend.
    Hugs friend…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think offering respite to your daughter-in-law sounds like a beautifully important ministry, Michele. Thank you so much for this list. What a wonderful resource you’ve created here. This looks like an excellent book. I’m so glad you introduced me to it! I love how focused on the Word it is.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t think I can adequately express the positive impact of older women in the church who reached out to mentor me – and came side-by-side with me in friendship, prayer support and faith through their willingness to answer my questions and reveal through their generosity of spirit the deep, abiding love of a Father-god! Your post is such a good reminder of who we need to be to each other! Shalome!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My most life-changing friendships were built hovered over Bibles together – learning, praying, and growing together. Women’s ministry can be such a tricky one, but also such a source of beautiful blessings. I loved this book review, Michele!


  7. Michele, Thanks for another well written book review. There is much truth to be gained just from your review. The book sounds like a must read. 🙂


  8. Michele, great review! I was very intrigued as I know God is calling me into women’s ministry. I particularly loved your number 1, “Through the Word, women will find connections with others through understanding their own stories in light of the Big Story of God’s creation of a people for Himself through His Son.”
    I’m glad you linked up right before me #IntentionalTuesday. Blessings Michele!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Michele, I love this: “Through the Word, women will find connections with others through understanding their own stories in light of the Big Story of God’s creation of a people for Himself through His Son.” Relating our stories with God’s story connects us to Him and one another. Thank you, Michele, for sharing your heart and a great resource at #IntentionalTuesday. : )

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Michele, this is such a helpful and inspiring word. Ministry wears many hats and won’t always look like we think it should. It evolves and expands as God grants grace to willing souls to participate in the work of His Kingdom. I was once blessed to lead a small women’s group at church for a few years before worsening health problems made it impossible to do so. Since I’ve been blogging and sharing on-line, it has amazed me how it seems to be morphing into another ministry of sorts and providing an alternative outlet where His word can be heard. Thank you for such a thorough review of this book. It sounds like a ‘must read’ for many! Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Mary,

    I think I loved your opening paragraph first because that’s real life in women’s ministry. The needs of my family are real too and I appreciate the picture that caring for our family (neighbor, friend, husband) is ministry. Thanks for the great book review! Happy to visit from #raralinkup

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Excellent exhortation, balancing ministry of any kind can be quite a feat and these are excellent things to share and think upon as we make decisions that affect others. Thanks so much for sharing this with us at Grace & Truth!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Michele, What a thorough and informative book review! What a wonderful resource for women’s ministry.

    I have experienced the blessing that “Through the Word, women will find connections with others through understanding their own stories in light of the Big Story of God’s creation of a people for Himself through His Son.”

    And have also found that “As women search the Scriptures together, relationships are a natural outcome, resulting in a ministry of mentoring for those who are mature in the faith.”

    How good that in both of these instances the authors share insights on how to cultivate a study of the Scriptures in a healthy and God glorifying way.

    Thanks for sharing!


  14. this caught my eye b/c it is a topic i love! i tho’t i would add another recommendation (since i haven’t gotten to read this book yet…sounds great!) it is another book by kathleen b. nielsen on Bible study BIBLE STUDY: FOLLOWING THE WAYS OF THE WORD it is a helpful book on studying the bible. she has her PhD in literature and it definitely shows in this book…reminding us that the Bible is literature and we need to interpret it with that in mind, not taking pieces of the story out of context but remembering the overall story when we apply it. there are a couple of chapters on metaphors, etc. but I personally liked it a lot and found it helpful. some thought it was on the dry side. i guess it all depends where you are. it is definitely a great resource as well. it doesn’t come with questions so if a group is going to study it, those are needed. (we had someone to do it.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Martha, for the recommendation. I have not read anything that Kathleen ahs written by herself, but I know I’d like her book because I’ve enjoyed hearing her speak via podcasts. Again, thanks for the heads up — true friends share books!


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