In Defense of Women’s Ministry

Bunko gatherings, sewing circles, tea parties and crop nights.  What do these activities all have in common?  They are all stereotypes of women’s ministries in churches. And as a woman, I’m hurt by these common misconceptions.

Bunko gatherings, sewing circles, tea parties and crop nights.  What do these activities all have in common?  They are all stereotypes of women’s ministries in churches. And as a woman, I’m hurt by these common misconceptions.

It is amazing to me how pronounced such stereotypes have become in the Christian subculture.  Prominent blogs rail on the superficial and shallow nature of women’s ministries—“Glitter and Glam Fashion Night, anyone?,” Christian magazines declare that women’s ministries contribute nothing to the church body except for the opportunity to socialize, and according to a seminary-graduate in her early thirties, “As soon as I hear that an event or Bible study is being hosted by the women’s ministry, I stop listening.  Why would I want to participate in something so ridiculous?”

The really sad thing is that my friend admitted that had not even attended a single women’s ministry event at her church.  However, the stereotype was so deeply rooted in her mind that she wasn’t even willing to give the women’s ministry at her large, urban church a chance.  By simply being labeled as a ministry run by women for women within the context of the larger church, all of the activities and ministries of those women were automatically written off as “trivial” and “insignificant.”

As a conference planner dedicated to researching and understanding ministry trends and as a seminary student passionate about ministry to women, may I offer the following points in defense of your church’s women’s ministry?

1. Is the stereotype accurate?

While I am willing to admit that some women’s ministries do match the description above, it is probably not as common as you think.  After all, what gets reported and repeated?  The women’s ministry that raised $1,000 to help women to leave the degradation of the sex industry or the Bible study kickoff where each lady in attendance had to wear a plastic tiara and pink feather boa in honor of her status as a “Daughter of the King?”  Unfortunately, the unusual, the extreme, and the sensational are usually what we tend to remember and retell, thereby contributing to the caricature of women’s ministry.

If you have never participated in your church’s women’s ministry, I encourage you to attend at least one event or Bible study before making a decision about the quality of the ministry.  If you enjoy the program, consider attending more regularly and be sure to let the leaders and volunteers know that you appreciate their efforts.  When asked, share with others what specifically you enjoy about the ministry and any personal spiritual growth that you’ve noticed as a result of attending.  By speaking openly and honestly about your positive experience with your church’s women’s ministry, you are helping to tear down false stereotypes and freeing others to participate in a ministry that may be the very drink that their thirsty soul needs.

2. Be the change you want to see.

If you have attended two or three of the women’s ministry activities and are still disappointed with the quality of programs, pray about how God might use you to respond to this felt need.  If you feel that the Bible studies are “fluffy” and light on theology, volunteer to research Bible studies and DVD curriculums that are biblically-accurate and more theologically-deep. 

If you sense that the women’s ministry is only targeting a certain segment of women, brainstorm the cares and concerns of women in other life stages.  For example, women in their twenties may be concerned with advancing in their career.  Women whose children are no longer at home may be wondering what God has store for their future, and women in their seventies and eighties may struggle with feeling irrelevant and that they have little to contribute. 

With the cares and concerns of others staring you in the face, now pull out a second sheet of paper and brainstorm possible ways to help meet those needs.  With concrete suggestions in hand, make an appointment with the leaders of the women’s ministry and respectfully suggest that you would like to help broaden the efforts of the ministry by personally heading up an initiative focused on women in a certain life stage.  There is nothing leaders appreciate more than volunteers—especially volunteers who are dedicated, innovative, and respectful of those in leadership.

3. Embrace the common goal.

No matter how successful the women’s ministry, there will always be differences of opinion as to how Bible studies should be conducted (DVD or live teaching?), who the retreat speaker ought to be, and whether or not the women are spiritually mature enough to handle the study of controversial topics (such as the role of women).  When tempted to casually remark to your small group how much you disagree with a decision or action of the women’s ministry, first ask yourself:

  • Do I disagree to the extent that it is worth sharing?  If so, is this an opinion that would be better served if I voiced it to someone in leadership instead?
  • By sharing this opinion will anyone or any ministry be built up and strengthened, or am I only saying this to blow off steam?  Will sharing this opinion be perceived as gossip or as constructive criticism that is genuinely helpful?

Finally, remind yourself that all of you, yourself and those with whom you disagree included, are united in a shared commitment to see women flourish in their relationship with God.  This shared goal should therefore prompt a desire to work together as a cohesive whole and the commitment to support one another and the ministry in prayer.

In short, women need theology, and your church’s women’s ministry is one of the most accessible avenues of biblical instruction outside of the sermon every Sunday.  And that makes women’s ministries very valuable indeed.

Tiffany is the Women's Ministry Coordinator at Irving Bible Church, and a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. A proud, native Texan, she and her husband, Jason, live in Grapevine, Texas. She is passionate about advancing the God-given value of women and helping women to embrace their unique identity in Christ. She serves as a board member for the Association for Women in Ministry Professionals (AWMP) and served for the past 3 years on the leadership team for Polish Ministries, a ministry dedicated to helping young professional women connect their faith with their career.


  • Kelley Mathews

    Good word

    Thanks, Tiffany! Women's ministry, like any church ministry, can be done extremely well or extremely poorly. Most are somewhere in between, and it can only benefit us to encourage the positives and work on the negatives. I think WM has gotten a bad rap in recent years, but so many are moving away from the frou-frou into meaningful study of Scripture and then service to the community. We certainly need to investigate before dismissing outright, and consider how to help make our WM a source of equipped, energetic women of God!

  • Kay Daigle

    I, too, Have read the Blogs Critical of Women’s Ministry

    Amen, Tiffany. Like you, I have been burdened recently about a number of posts which present a general caricature of women's ministry. Everything those writers hate about women's ministries resonates with me as well. I have never been one for fluffy or light, either, but many women's ministries do so much more than share stories of health or potty training, but without notice. 

    Your suggestions are right on track. As a women's minister, I always tried to be open to new ideas and changes, knowing I had my own biases as well. When I heard critical remarks through others which originated with women who said they were unable to find a place in the women's ministry, I usually knew better. I was aware that most of them had never tried anything we offered, and it made me sad that they were openly critical of a stereotype rather than the real thing.

    I encourage any woman with concerns and suggestions to first become a part of the ministry to earn the right to speak about what really works for you and what doesn't.. I greatly appreciate such women!

  • Gwynne Johnson

    Perceptions become reality
    Thanks for your thoughtful blog. Sadly perceptions become reality in the minds of many. Interestingly Paul exhorted Titus to empower and equip women to minister to women. I am thankful for the many women who built into my life, and it saddens me to think how many women are missing God’s provision from such an inaccurate perception.

  • Paul S.

    “Contribute nothing… except the opportunity to socialize…”

    Ok, I freely admit that I'm not a woman, so it's possible  I don't have enough 'street cred' to speak on the subject of women's ministries. 🙂

    However, I thought this comment by "Christian magazines" was quite interesting. Are they implying that fellowship isn't one of the purposes of the church? If it is, it seems to me that rather than criticizing women's ministries for this, it should be celebrated…

  • Melinda Cadwallader

    Tearing down and rebuilding…

    Thank you so much for this great insight.  Lots of truth, here.  I also believe that it is never too late to reassess the ministry and re-connect with its leaders to ensure the heart of direction is in unity.  So many women are comforted by cliques they keep, and sometimes that does not allow for fresh perspective.  It also creates a "who's who" in womens ministry that turns many women away.  

    Are the leaders serving or are they just titled "leaders"?  Does every event have a turn towards Christ or is it just social?  Are our bible studies balanced with the needs of the congregation or do we just buy up eveything thats hot off the press?  These are questions we, as the leadership in womens ministry, should be asking ourselves, regularly.  These are the areas that stifle growth, prohibit new relationships and set a poor example of women who live by a higher standard. 

    Just like in our marriages, our work and in our faith, we must continually re-evaluate our progress.  Womens ministry can be full of virtue as well as strategy.  Women, in unity, are highly capable of great ministry growth.

  • Visitor

    Sadly Disappointed

    I just read this article, and I am a woman who speaks from experience of having participated in a frou-frou women's ministry. I am a very sensitive person, but am not stereotypical and was treated differently (more poorly) than my brother, growing up, because I was a girl, although I was a tomboy.

    As a grown married woman, I find I cannot relate to any women in my church. We cannot have children due to my husband's fertility problem, even though we'd love to.

    I've been to women's Bible studies and retreats at my church and just decided to not attend the one today because last night was, as expected, very disappointing. I am tired of eating grourmet petite meals and tea. I'm tired of the "beauty" product favors and of crochet days. I don't care to hear women complain (brag) about how much they do and how tired they are. You can't talk to them honestly because they try to outdo you in terms of what they did. For example, my teacher friend said, "We went on a field trip today and I got off an hour early. I'm glad I got a nap in!" Another woman at the table (as always) responded by saying "you're lucky. I don't have time for that."

    The women are always expected to cook and help in the church kitchen just because we're women. I'm somewhat new to Christ (3 years in) and not much of a cook on a broad scale. People have actually been rude and expectant towards me, expecting me to clean, but ignoring my husband. They share recipes with me about what I can cook for my husband (weird things like mashed cauliflower that he'd never touch and neither would). What the heck? We take turns cooking and I am a meat and potatoes girl anyway.

    I wish there were some deeper women's events, but I have yet to find any. One of my spiritual gifts is Pastorship, but of course I can't be a pastor in my religion. I can spend hours studying scripture, meditating, and leading philsophical discussions with others my age, but my church elders have warned me and my husband that we need to particpate in events if we are going to have our own ministry.

    This is more of a vent, but I just wanted to say I wish these things weren't so frou-frou.