A Note from Chris Adams: Serving in women’s ministry is hard. Serving women who are in messy places in life is even harder. If we aren’t careful, we will fail to take care of ourselves as we minister. When we become unhealthy—emotionally, physically, or spiritually—we will not lead women well. Dr. Deb (First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA) shares what she has learned serving women in pain for many years.
Ministering to women gets messy. It’s not all meaningful Bible studies and fun events. It’s challenging and difficult, and sometimes, it’s just too much.
I began teaching my first Bible study 38 years ago. I was 20 and knew absolutely nothing about what I was doing. I only knew my Mom had always taught Bible studies in our home and that’s the way it was supposed to be. I did not understand the call that God has specifically placed on my life. I served in every area of church life from Vacation Bible Schools to leading the student ministry. And I taught women. That was the hardest part of how I served.
I learned some difficult lessons:
- There’s a line not to cross with friendships. Friendships get messy when confidentiality is broken, when others feel we’re being cliquish, or when jealousy takes root in the relationship.
- We like some people more than others. It’s OK to be closer to some and put up a healthy boundary with others.
- We all need friends and confidants. We were created to live in community.
- We cannot trust everyone.
- When we are not in a healthy emotional place, we choose unhealthy friends.
- I’m going to make mistakes. It’s not been intentional, but at times I have misunderstood the direction I was suppose to lead out in. I have been overly compassionate and eager to help, leaving myself vulnerable to manipulative people.
- Some women will want my job…or my life. This means there may be creepers and even stalkers. Why?
- It may look glamorous. It’s not.
- It may look easy. It’s not.
- It may look like it creates happiness. It does.
- Most women are just getting by in life. Life is hard on women. The challenges just keep coming. It’s overwhelming.
- Not everyone wants to be a better person, make the world a better place, or grow in her spiritual walk. This one is the toughest to understand. It goes against everything we know from Scripture about life. Serving God and others is described repeatedly. Growing closer to Christ is why we participate in this thing called ministry. Growth is the continuation of life; it’s a natural progression. But some people are comfortable where they are, and others are too afraid to move from what they know. So they will refuse to support, attend, or participate in church life. Sure, they’ll come to a fun little party. There’s no challenge there, but also there’s no depth and no growth required. No life change. This is frustrating, discouraging, and at times steals our hope away from us. But we go on for the sake of those who do crave growth and have an earnest desire to be a part of changing the world.
Next week, we’ll look at how to protect ourselves from messy ministry.
For more help and resources on ministering in the messy, check out Women Reaching Women in Crisis and Steps: Gospel-Centered Recovery or refer to the other articles in the Hurting Women or Ministering in the Messy categories.
Dr. Deb Douglas has served in women’s ministry for over 37 years. Now she spends her time working with Purchased Ministry, a ministry to women in the sex trade industry. Deb is also the Director of Biblical Counseling at First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA. She was the first to graduate from New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary with a Masters degree focusing on women’s ministry and has earned a Doctor of Education in Ministry degree from NOBTS. She is “Pearl” to 3 sweet grand babies, “Mom” to Jared Douglas and Katie Chavis, and wife/sweetheart to Paul Douglas.