By Martha Lawley
After years of ministering among women in a smaller church, God helped me see that much of my stress stemmed from a “bigger is better” mindset. In some ways, I saw our women’s ministry as inferior because it was small. God challenged me to carefully evaluate my standards for measuring the success of our women’s ministry by asking a few basic questions: What kind of impact does God care about? What would a successful women’s ministry look like to Him? If you lead women in a smaller-church setting, take some time to consider these same questions. Then, begin to implement the following action steps into the ministry God has given you.
1. Begin where you are.
I’ve found it easy to get overwhelmed when I start something new. Beginning or fine-tuning a women’s ministry can seem overwhelming in any setting. Do not try to do it all. Start small and follow God as He opens new areas of growth. Trying to do more than God intended will hinder your women’s ministry and may waste valuable resources.
2. Trust God’s timing.
As leaders, we must prayerfully seek to understand God’s timing. Getting ahead of God—doing too much too soon—limits the impact of your women’s ministry. When we run ahead of God, we can find ourselves spread too thin and outside of His provision. Falling behind God—failing to obediently respond to opportunities He places before us—can be just as devastating. Effective ministry happens when we join God where He is working—when He is ready for us.
3. Use what you have.
God always provides exactly what we need to do everything He calls us to do when He is ready for us to do it. Believe God has provided exactly what your women’s ministry needs. Scripture teaches God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). Hebrews 11:34 reminds us that our weakness is turned to strength through faith. Yet, we tend to structure our women’s ministry to hide our weaknesses. Always expect God to do something miraculous even through your weakness.
4. Find others to serve alongside you.
I have a friend whose family has been sheep ranchers for several generations. She has shared many helpful insights from her experience with sheep. One thing her father taught her was to “always mend fences in pairs.” Working in pairs is more effective and more fun (Eccles. 4:9-10). Ask God to reveal whom He would have come along beside you as you minister to women. I’m not just talking about your best friend or someone who is just like you. Instead, I’m talking about a ministry companion—someone selected by God to work alongside you to complement your gifts.
5. See each woman individually.
Another valuable lesson I learned from my sheep ranching friend is that to strengthen the flock, you must see each sheep individually. Doing so allows the shepherd to respond to the unique needs of each sheep, strengthening the herd one sheep at a time. To strengthen your women’s ministry, see each woman individually. Strive to make decisions based on each woman’s individual needs. Jesus reminds us in John 10:27 that He knows each of His sheep. We should strive to do the same. As we’ve already seen, it’s much easier to get to know each woman more personally in a smaller church.
6. Find God’s ministry niche for your women’s ministry.
I believe God has uniquely equipped each church for specific ministries. He has uniquely equipped the women in your church for the ministries He has planned for your women’s ministry. Consider the giftedness and passion of the women He has brought to your church. This will provide valuable insight into God’s plan for your women’s ministry.
7. Develop a network of other smaller-church women’s ministry leaders.
A final lesson my sheep rancher friend taught me has to do with learning from others. When she first began working in the family business, she watched more experienced sheep handlers and noted how they gently walked among the sheep, motivating certain sheep to lead others to the pens. If God is leading you to begin or grow women’s ministries in your church, look around and find a few other churches that are effectively ministering to women. Seek out leaders from other smaller churches and learn from them.
This article is excerpted from Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level compiled by Chris Adams.