By: Martha Lawley
Let’s begin by examining three common ministry myths that can immobilize women’s ministry in a smaller church. As we consider these myths, please do not become discouraged. Most of us in smaller churches continually struggle against these mindsets. I once heard someone say the two greatest things about God are that He loves us right where we are and He does not want us to stay there! Unmasking these myths helps us more clearly see God’s perspective of ministry, allowing us to join Him where He is already at work.
Myth 1: Women’s ministry was meant to be easy.
This myth is rooted in the mistaken belief that freedom from difficulty is evidence of God’s blessing. In other words, if I’m doing God’s will, things should be easy. Interestingly, I have yet to find sound biblical support for the idea that the center of God’s will is problem free. In fact, just the opposite. In His earthly ministry, Christ faced every challenge you and I face in ministry (and more). God’s precious, one and only Son—who did only what the Father told Him—ministered without sin, yet He faced every challenge imaginable. Why should we expect anything different?
Ministry, although a marvelous privilege, was never intended to be easy. It enriches our lives and strengthens our relationship with God and others, but it can be difficult. Many of my frustrations in ministry are the direct result of my mistaken expectation that ministry should be struggle free. God desires for us to minister from His perspective—to have the mind of Christ concerning ministry (Philippians 2:1-11). I’m learning to seek daily God’s renewal of my mind concerning ministry.
The myth that true ministry is struggle free leads to disappointment, discouragement, and defeatism. This particular myth also sets us up for another smaller church ministry pitfall—the grass is always greener (or the carpet newer) in the larger church.
Myth 2: Women’s ministry in larger churches have greater impact.
After years of ministering among women in a smaller church, God helped me see that much of my distress 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?
Jesus taught many lessons on kingdom economics, clearly illustrating that the economy of God’s kingdom is intentionally different from the world’s. For example, the first shall be last (Matthew 19:30), the least shall be the greatest (Matthew 18:4), and we must lose our life to gain eternal life (Matthew 10:39; 16:25). Kingdom ministry should not be measured by the world’s standards for measuring success.
As ministry leaders we must ask ourselves whether we will choose to operate under the principles of the world’s economy or the principles of God’s kingdom economy. God can change our minds about how we measure success in women’s ministry. His Word provides the only valid measure of success. Think about the women in your church and consider the following questions:
- Are the women in our church being transformed into the image of Christ
(2 Corinthians 3:18)?
- Are they equipped to view every aspect of their daily lives as ministry (Colossians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 10:31-33)?
- Do they know and use their spiritual gifts (1 Peter 4:10)?
- Are others hearing and experiencing the message of salvation through them (Philemon 6)?
These biblical measurements guide us toward a women’s ministry that God will bless with eternal impact.
When I think about the many ways smaller church ministries can have a significant impact on the kingdom, I immediately think of my home church. I’m astounded at how God has used our little church in northern Wyoming to impact the world. God progressively transformed many believers, and they lived out God’s kingdom agenda. From within our midst God has raised up missionaries, ministers, and countless lay leaders who serve around the world. My church is not alone. Many of today’s missionaries, ministers, and other lay leaders are the product of smaller church ministries. Don’t let the enemy deceive you—women’s ministry in the smaller church can have similar eternal impact for the kingdom!
Myth 3: Women’s ministry in the smaller church is more challenging.
This myth is rooted in the sinking sand of self-centered focus. When I lament over my own personal struggles, I (like Elijah) eventually convince myself that I’m the only one. No one else has it as difficult as I do (1 Kings 19:10). Isn’t it interesting how coming to that conclusion somehow makes us feel better?
In reality, women’s ministry in a smaller church is no more or less challenging than women’s ministry in larger churches. Each size church faces unique struggles, and each possesses unique strengths. That is not to say that smaller-church women’s ministry is no different than women’s ministry in larger churches. Important differences create unique opportunities for each.
A women’s ministry that is self-centered in focus suffers limited vision. Self focus promotes defeatism—“we can’t do that” or “that will never happen here.” Ministering in a smaller church, we continually face the challenge of limited resources. God is teaching me to resist my natural inclination to focus inward on what is lacking. With His help, my focus is shifted to Him, His will, His way, and His resources. I’m discovering God always provides what we need to do what He calls our women’s ministry to do. (Although not necessarily what we have decided we should do.)
How do you see your women’s ministry? What are your expectations for the future? I once heard a speaker say, “whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right!” As leaders, our attitudes can limit the ministry of which God has invited us to be a part. God can do anything. Nothing is impossible for Him (Matthew 19:26). But whether we or our women’s ministry will be a part of God’s miraculous kingdom work depends in part on our focus. When we compare our women’s ministry to that of larger churches, we give Satan a big foothold. Comparing leads to focus on self—our resources or lack thereof—instead of a God-centered focus. Complaining and complacency are its result. A God-centered women’s ministry focuses on God’s kingdom, His resources, and His standard for measuring success.
No matter what its size, any women’s ministry clearly focused on God and His agenda can help transform women in all dimensions of their lives, equipping them to faithfully respond to God’s call. The ministry will then have immeasurable impact on the kingdom through God’s power.
This article is adapted from a chapter written by Martha Lawley and found in Women Reaching Women: Beginning and Building a Growing Women’s Ministry compiled by Chris Adams.