A great gift that accompanies every invitation to speak at women’s events is the opportunity to observe and to learn from leaders in a variety of contexts:
What’s working for them?
How often do they meet?
How does their leadership team function?
I love working with the women at the church I call home. We’ve been together for over twenty years, and so it’s easy to fall into a comfortable rut, to forget that there is more than one “right” way to do the job.
Rethinking Women’s Ministry: Biblical, Practical Tools for Cultivating a Flourishing Community is Cyndee Ownsbey’s invitation to re-imagine and recommit to “intentionally providing biblically sound encouragement and spiritually driven growth opportunities for all women.” (11) Based on survey data from 1,140 women, Ownsbey’s insights have also been shaped by her commitment to the biblical pattern of woman-to-woman, life-on-life ministry outlined in Titus 2, Acts 2, and elsewhere in scripture.
Cyndee’s work has challenged me on three distinct fronts that I am eager to get to work on:
Like most New England churches, we skew older and whiter. Even so, it’s encouraging when young mums participate in our meetings and events. Childcare is provided at times, and, when not, the meeting is scheduled for evenings when dads can pitch in. My goal is to provide opportunities for our young women to begin taking on leadership roles.
Work, spiritual apathy, biblical illiteracy, family responsibilities, and cultural influences all present barriers to full participation, and Ownsbey puts her finger on one influence I had not considered: social media provides opportunities for women to connect online with so much convenience that the challenges that go along with face-to-face ministry may seem unnecessary. It takes discernment to sift through on-line content, to embrace what is good, and to make room in our lives for the people who are near and real.
Good advice here:
“When a woman volunteers, say yes and put her to work as soon as possible.” (25)
But what about the echoing silence that fills the room when no one volunteers?
My plan this year is to start small–to get the women in my group comfortable with the sound of their own voices, sharing their own story in safe spaces, and speaking up with opinions and insights, even on simple matters. It’s much more efficient to do things myself or to consult with “my posse” when planning an event, but the young women in our church are the future of our ministry. They are valued and need to be encouraged to have input as part of a vital leadership team.
A multigenerational team is more likely to birth a multigenerational ministry.” (54)
Rethink Biblical Literacy
Sitting with a group of women around a table with open Bibles can be enlightening. Because my own Christian pedigree is weak and spotty, I have imagined great things about the devotional lives of women who have been born and bred in a pew. I am learning it is not safe to assume anything about the level of confidence women have with handling the Word of God.
Truly, the only way to know, understand, and apply the Bible is to, well . . . read it. This takes time, and it requires significant effort. The role of a dynamic women’s ministry is to partner with women in helping them to see the value of that investment.
With worksheets, coaching tips, assessment tools, and fresh ideas, Rethinking Women’s Ministry provides motivation, know how, and a warm hand on the shoulder for all of us who are trusting for grace to build and sustain a dynamic women’s ministry in our local churches.
Many thanks to the author for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.
For more on women’s ministry as it relates to Bible study and fostering biblical literacy, I highly recommend Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds (Second Edition) by Jen Wilkin. I reviewed the book a few years ago, and you can find my thoughts on it here.
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