I was fresh out of college and had just joined a new church. Armed with enthusiasm and the experience of a 22-year-old (note the sarcasm in that phrase), I was excited when some new friends suggested we begin a Sunday afternoon Bible study. I had led two other groups through a discipleship program in college, so I volunteered to get things going. Several weeks later, the study seemed to be moving along smoothly. Our group of young, single women was developing deeper friendships, building community, and challenging each other spiritually. Until the education minister hunted me down in the hallway one Sunday.
“Who gave you permission to start a Bible study?” he sternly asked. Somewhat intimidated and a rule follower at heart, the only response I could muster was, “God did.” Honestly. I said it. I wasn’t trying to be flippant or disrespectful. I didn’t know there was a secret code or process. I hadn’t chosen a Bible study full of heresy, but one endorsed across my denomination. Yet, I made some rookie mistakes. It was my first experience of dealing with church authority and while my intentions were pure, I missed some important processes along the way.
Maybe the Lord has called you to develop a ministry to women in your local church. You might have all the passion and knowledge to get it started, but unless you take some important first steps with your church leadership, you might face opposition. I often hear from leaders who feel they don’t get the support they need from those in authority. While there can be unknown reasons for resistance, consider the following three things you can do to establish a positive relationship with your pastor or church staff.
First, meet with church leadership and share your heart for reaching women in your church and in your community. Set up an appointment and be prepared with a plan and how it lines up with the mission of your church. If your pastor is challenging the congregation in discipleship, share how you plan to develop a greater discipleship plan for women. If your pastor’s emphasis for the next year is prayer, consider ways women can participate and lead in that effort. Is your church focused on being more missional? Consider local outreach opportunities and how you can lead a mission group. In short, encourage women to join church leadership to accomplish what the Lord has given them to do.
Second, communicate on a regular basis and seek input from your pastor or leaders. No church leader wants to be surprised about an event or something happening without their knowledge. These are the moments when pastors tell me, “Women’s ministry scares me.” What they are really saying is that they are scared that something is happening without their knowledge. Recently, I was planning to begin a women’s Bible study on Wednesday evenings, but my pastor decided to hold a church-wide emphasis for four weeks at the same time. Once he informed me of the conflict, I was quick to set aside my plans so he could accomplish something for a larger audience. He was thankful for my flexibility and is now willing to champion the study we’ll begin next month. In fact, he is planning to offer a men’s study at the same time!
Third, be mindful of budget expenditures and be grateful for what you are given. I attend a church running around 400 each Sunday, so there is no big budget for women’s ministry. We plan to be creative in what we offer, but I’m also being courageous about asking for money when needed. Because I have followed the first two steps, my pastor and administrator are more willing to find money to accomplish our goals. I will be grateful for any financial support, and my desire is to be responsible and trustworthy of what we are given.
If you’re struggling with getting support from your church leadership, start with praying for your pastor. Pray for your pastor’s eyes to be open to the need of ministering to the women in your congregation and your community. Guard your mouth against gossip, but look for opportunities to move forward in your calling one step at a time.
Kelly King is the Women’s Ministry Specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources and oversees the YOU Lead events. Join her this year and get to know her heart for ministry leaders. Follow her on Twitter @kellydking.