Why do most women benefit from group interaction? The support and love of a small circle of friends can nurture a woman in a unique way. Personal relationships help meet several basic needs—acceptance, affirmation, and accountability. These three A’s serve as the primary purposes of any women’s group within the church.
Women need a sense of belonging, a confidence that they are a significant part of a whole, an important member of a body. Statistics and trends in divorce, spousal abuse, and sexual harassment in the workplace indicate many women are not finding acceptance. Loneliness becomes a woman’s greatest enemy when she senses isolation. Small groups, especially within the church where beliefs and lifestyles are similar, can provide women with acceptance. In words and actions, other women in the group express love, concern, and understanding. Women are strengthened by the acceptance of others.
Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, accepted her unmarried cousin, Mary of Nazareth, who later gave birth to Jesus Christ the Messiah. Elizabeth loved Mary despite what other people thought. She praised Mary for her faith in God and befriended Mary while awaiting the birth of her own child (see Luke 1:39-56). Christian women today can offer acceptance and love to others.
A grateful word, a loving hug, or a kind gesture goes a long way with a woman. Encouragement is not just appreciated by women, it is necessary for them to thrive. Members of a group can offer encouragement to one another and promote personal growth. In Scripture, Phoebe was an encourager to Paul (see Rom. 16:1-2) and Priscilla, with her husband Aquila, was an encourager to Apollos (Acts 18:24-26). During the trauma of the crucifixion, a group of women supported Jesus and each other by standing together at the foot of the cross. The affirmation of godly women was crucial to the establishment of the early church. Christian women today are strengthened by the affirmation of others.
A woman may wish to change or desire to reach a goal, and if she senses support from others it may be easier. Whether she is seeking personal or spiritual growth, a woman’s self-discipline is developed in part by accountability to others. A Bible study group, a weight control program, or a life support group provides an external checks-and-balances system to supplement internal discipline. Naomi became Ruth’s accountability partner in her search for God and a fulfilling life (see Ruth 1:6-22). Women today are strengthened by their accountability to others. Small groups can actually encourage believers to grow closer to each other and closer to God.
How have you seen women respond to the acceptance, affirmation, and accountability they find in small groups? How can you further encourage these group elements in your women’s ministry? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
This article is an excerpt from Women Reaching Women: Beginning and Building a Growing Women’s Ministry compiled by Chris Adams.