I left the studio last evening feeling just a little defeated and I still haven’t quite figured out why.
Maybe it was because it was the first time I was in the studio alone; was I missing the presence of another body in the room? Or did I feel the topic, though addressing the relevance of a women’s ministry in the local church today, had no real relevance at all, no one was really interested?
My guest, and good friend, Mary Varner of the Bibleway Fellowship Baptist Church of Houston, Texas (www.bibleway1.org), shared her epiphany how God spoke to her thirty thousand feet in the air returning from a conference about the women’s ministry in her church more than thirty years ago. With only an airline paper napkin on which to write, God “told” her that if she wanted the ministry to grow larger, it would have to be smaller. Out of this epiphany came the small cell concept for the ministry, the breaking down of the large group into small groups of no more than six women with a trained “mentor,” to not only teach but to guide the women into transparent real talk about everyday life situations and challenges, the leaders also sharing their challenges and wounds, showing their scars as well.
Our conversation reminded me of the wonderful conference sponsored by Sisters Inspiring Sisters (Anita Russell/Renee Cureaux), in which I shared this past weekend. The overall theme dealt with hoarding and not just the hoarding of material things, but the things women hoard emotionally and psychologically. When we watch the reality shows that deal with the extreme clutter, or hoarding, we shake our heads and “tsk tsk” the absolute unbelievable incredulity of it all. All we see is the “trash” these individuals have stuffed into almost every corner of their homes, leaving only small spaces for access from one room to another. What we do not see is the treasure that is hidden in the middle of all the mess. It is the same way with our lives; we hoard our pain and our shame; we hold on to toxic relationships hoping that they will get better. We rehearse our emotional misery and pick at our psychological scabs. We memorialize our scars and tell our stories of despair to whomever will listen. Because we continue to hold on to this trash, we miss the treasure, God’s own treasure, which is us. If, because women are relational, everything we do, everything we are, touches everything else, is it any wonder that we find ourselves dragging ourselves through life?
First Lady Varner’s model for a women’s minstry brings this ministry back to a relational level, makes each woman connect with the other women. It provides a safe environment for women to share their hearts and their wounds. Women are relational and a ministry that helps to build relationships within the church can only strengthen that church to go out into the world to share their story about the gospel that brings life and love.
Regina Glaspie of Fresno shared her heart for taking the principles of a healthy and well lived life out into the community. Just a little weary of the church traditions and rituals, Regina has an outreach to the community, to edify and build up the hearts of the unsaved with, and through, the love of Christ. Certainly, this is a daunting task for women who are used to “doing ministry” in the cocoon of the church, but it is one that reminds us all that we are more alike than we are different (to paraphase Maya Angelou), that a woman’s story may run along parallel tracks, the only difference is that one may be saved and one is not. The time has really come for the saved to go into all the world, even if the world is a little wary of our motives at first. The call is to be who we are in the midst of them without beating them over the heads with our religion.
We are a few generations removed from those times when women came together to can food and make quilts and wash clothes and share their life challenges; we are so busy today we don’t have the time to make the time to maintain the one or two friendships we do have. The church has to step into this void to remind women that we really do need one another, especially in these chaotic and complex times.
I was gratified by the facebook comments that reported that there are women’s ministries that are relevant and thriving. Even so, it appears that there are still some ministries that simply go through the motions, ministries that the women in the church do not trust or whose role has been relegated to special events only and busy work.
I think that if women are going to get over their issues with one another, issues that have nothing to do with reality but our insecure takes on one another (yes, even in the church), the church is going to have to move its women’s ministry into the 21st century, addressing all the real needs of every woman, regardless of generation, and moving each woman towards relationship rather than just membership.
Women’s conferences are inspiring and uplifting, but every woman should be able to return to their church from their favorite conference to a ministry that will continue to uplift and inspire her, a ministry that will be there when her strength is waning and her heart is broken. She needs that relationship that will stand in the gap for her, that will link arms with her and walk with her through her valley. Women really are like spaghetti; everything we do, everything we are, touches everything else. Calling all women to real relationships and calling all churches to genuine ministry to women!
Some Conferences to consider:
Yesterday, I Had Heartburn, But All I Needed Was a Good Dose of the Holy Ghost
Cut Loose and Dance In Front of Your Haters
Girlfriend of the Most High
When I Think of His Goodness, I Put On My Stilettos
If the Devil’s Stalking You, Drink a Red Bull and Fly
This Is Your Problem, Now Kiss It Good-bye
Shake, Shake, Shake, Shake the Losers Off
No, these are not real conferences, but I have copyrighted the names just in case…..
Remember: “A Woman’s Place Is In the Will of God!”