January 8, 2013

Starting a Women's Ministry (Philosophy First)

One of my favorite aspects of church planting is that things are ground-up; theology is becoming reality, philosophy is becoming practice. In other words, if you have ideas of how church can be, you can make them happen. Doors are wide open, obstacles are few.

And in church planting, you’re starting something new almost all the time, whether it’s a children’s ministry, a small group, an elder team, a prayer ministry, or an outreach strategy. 

It must also be said that seeing an idea to fruition can also be one the greatest challenges in church planting, and because church planters are seeing multiple ideas to fruition at the same time, it is quite the juggling act. This greenhouse-like atmosphere requires diligence, patience, and back-breaking hard work. Most of all, I believe, it requires thinking through the whys of church. These whys lead to the hows; philosophy of ministry leads to practice and structure.

My husband and the other elders do most of this philosophizing, but when our church reached a point when we needed a more structured women’s ministry, which was around the start of year three, the idea-generating fell to me. With an empty drawing board before me, I felt the weight of my decisions. Just how do you go about starting a women’s ministry?

I realized quickly that the philosophy—the whys—behind the women’s ministry would be the most important decision I ever made. The whys would inform everything we did for and with women in our church. Why would this ministry exist?

From our ministry experience, I’ve seen that there are two main whys for women’s ministry: to gather women together around an activity for fellowship or to introduce women into a process of spiritual growth. One is event-based, the other is a relationship-based. I knew that we could do a series of unrelated events that brought women together or that we could develop a process of connecting that would lead to one-on-one or small group discipleship. In the latter, events would serve as an entry into relationships. There would need to be a What next? after every event, whether it was a small group Bible study or a discipleship relationship or a way to invest in other women.

Honestly, this is still a work in process. We are two years in and still constantly trying to adjust how this philosophy plays out practically. The philosophy of our women’s ministry is that we would constantly drill down to discipleship. We invite women into Bible study, needs-based ministries, or occasional events so that women can connect in spiritually-sharpening relationships.

For many of you, as you are starting a women’s ministry from the ground up, I encourage you to think about the why’s of what you’re building. Those whys will anchor you when you’re discouraged and help you know what you should or shouldn’t give your attention to. Those whys are everything.

Your turn: tell us the philosophy behind any ministry you’re leading, whether it’s your children, women’s ministry, or children’s ministry. What are your whys?

The countdown continues! My book releases in 23 days. Stay tuned! In my next post, I will share practical ideas for starting a women’s ministry in a church plant. Later this week, we'll continue a week of ministry practicals by discussing counseling, something we all have opportunities to do with other women quite often.