Wednesday, March 05, 2008

How To Ruin A Women's Ministry

Wendy Alsup at Resurgence has just posted on her four top ways to ruin a women's ministry in church. So if you are running a women's ministry, or thinking of starting one, here's some advice on what not to do:

1. Make women's ministry your first priority. I'm not saying to forget your
husband and kids. I'm just saying to think of them as less fulfilling than women's ministry. I had a time in my life when I would drive to church praying intently that the Lord would bless my ministry there, guard my words, and guide my responses. Then one day, the Holy Spirit convicted me that I never prayed the same as I drove toward my house. Women's ministry at church had assumed the place of God's Big Thing in my life. And yet I knew that my ministry to my husband and boys was even more important than my ministry at church. Why was I allowing myself to find fulfillment in one and drudgery in the other?

I think this is Satan's big tool in ministry at every level. I hear about it from church planters and pastors all the time. They get their priorities out of order and sacrifice family on the altar of ministry. I want to be used by God to further His kingdom--but I must always remember that my kingdom influence begins in my home. How can I be a help to my husband in his obligations? How can I minister to my boys? And, from there, how can I minister to those outside of my home in a way that is a blessing and not a burden to my family? Whose needs get sacrificed first? I must be willing to say NO to church things if they interfere with my God-given obligations toward my home.

2. Become territorial. If you are approached by church leadership about restructuring your current pet project, take it personally, resent the leader, and stealthily sow discord among your coworkers in the ministry.

This is SUCH a temptation. I've watched it happen in many ministries over the years. I'm thankful that our elders have done a good job of modeling the exact opposite response. I really got a vision for this as I read Pastor Mark's book, Confessions of a Reformission Rev. It showed me that our pastors are serious about reaching those who need Jesus in our city, and they are willing to step out of their comfort zone to do it. They have all had pet projects that have been sacrificed over the years because they simply weren't the best use of our limited resources. But they take it in stride because they love Jesus and value the mission to reach Seattle above their personal
interests.

I've had my fair share of opportunities for bitterness in ministry over the years. All were temptations to me to take it personally, wear hurt feelings on my shoulder, and project disunity about the ministry to others. Instead, I needed to respect God's sovereign right to administer such things as He saw fit. We women can be some of the worst at being territorial and tearing at each other when we feel our territory threatened. But be warned--this is how women's ministries are fractured and destroyed. And women who participate in such sowing of disunity, in my humble opinion, need to step aside from leadership until they get a grip on the importance of humility. You cannot lead without it!

3. Resent your God-given authority structure. Don't seek your elders' input ahead of time for a big decision in ministry and resent their concerns when expressed. And if your husband asks you to pull back from a ministry opportunity because it interferes with family responsibilities, make him feel your disapproval whenever possible.

In reality, our God-given authority and accountability structure is there for all of our good. Each elder, deacon, and lay leader at Mars Hill has an accountability structure in place for their good and God's glory. We all need someone who can tell us when our enthusiasm has run ahead of our good sense. This is hard to take when you have a vision for something big. But if you believe in God's good hand in directing such authority structures, you'll soon see the safety net they provide for each of us in leadership.

4. Ignore life issues or stages of life that you haven't experienced personally. We tend to identify and empathize with people that share similar backgrounds to us and therefore are burdened to equip people in the areas with which we have struggled. But will your ministry only minister to people like you? Are you even aware of the people in your sphere of influence whose background and struggles are different from yours?

My advice is to surround yourself with counselors at different stages of life from you. Our current women's ministry team has singles and marrieds, with and without kids, including a grandmother. Our team also has ladies from different ministry departments. One is involved with community groups and can speak to the issues raised in this ministry. Another is involved with our addiction recovery/redemption groups and raises issues concerning the struggles these members face. Another represents our counseling ministry and speaks to the issues she sees there. We've only just begun using this system but believe it will help us keep a well-rounded perspective of the needs of our women as a whole. There are women crushed under the weight of raising their kids sitting by women crushed because they just miscarried or can't get pregnant. There's the woman struggling because she feels abandoned by the men in her life, while another is trying to figure out how to deal with a husband she despises. There's the 65-year-old childless widow and the 65-year-old grandmother whose husband was just diagnosed with prostate cancer. Are you aware and responsive to the variety of forms women's suffering and struggles take?

1 comment:

Kim from Hiraeth said...

Excellent advice to women in leadership positions.

I especially agree with point three and the safety net that submitting to one's Pastor and Elders provides ministry leaders.