Monday, December 05, 2011

A Response to "Why We Don't Need Women's Ministries"

Sarah Bessey recently shared her open letter to women's ministries and it got me to thinking...

...mostly because I am the coordinator for a small group that ministers to women. It's called MOPS and has been around a really long time. I love it and it has been transformational in my parenting, my marriage, and my personal relationship with Jesus.

I agree with what Sarah wrote. Especially this:
We need Jesus. We are seeking deep spirituality. We are seeking fellow travelers. We are hungry for true community, a place to tell our stories and listen to another, to love well. But above all, point me to Jesus--not to the sale at the mall.
She is so right. Even the women who don't know they are seeking him, are still doing it. Some of them will wake up one day and realize the void they are trying to fill with all sorts of things and activities just can't be filled, except by a personal relationship with Jesus. There are probably women in my church who are even trying to fill that hole with "church" instead of Jesus.

I was kind of digging what Sarah wrote. Then I started reading the comments and came across someone who called MOPS a "Jesus Lite" group! So I suppose that was the point when Sarah's article became a little more personal and made my hair stand up.

If anyone asked, I'd be among the first to say that any group that meets at any church ought to be, first and foremost, about strengthening the participants relationship with Jesus. It doesn't matter if it is a general meeting, men's group, or children's church. Beyond that though, you just can't make any more generalizations about what a ministry ought to look like. It doesn't seem though that Sarah stops there. 

Maybe it's the headline her editor put on the article - "Why We Don't Need Women's Ministries"? That question could certainly lead me to believe the Sarah thinks we should shun all measure of anything woman-specific within the church. And that whatever meetings our church does have should be gender neutral.

But then she writes this:
We are hungry for authenticity and vulnerability, not churchified life hacks from lady magazines. Some of us are drowning, suffocating, dying of thirst for want of the cold water of real community.
And I wonder... how do you build real community without talking about the every day? How do I get to the point where I can share my authentic self with you if I don't know you? If I can't trust you?

In a good women's ministry, we can share recipes or make a cute craft and STILL be authentic, drinking "the cold water of real community." I am surrounded by people who do not know Christ, or do not know Him as well as I do. If I start off our relationship by sharing my secret sins and asking them to do the same, they aren't going to come back for another super sharing session of deep spirituality. That wasn't even Jesus' model. He met people where they were, and then invited (not shocked) them into relationship with Him.

BUT, if I start my MOPS meeting by sharing a meal, doing something with our hands, and eventually talking about the challenges we face in our daily lives, THEN, I may be given the opportunity to share something deeper and more important. Or invite that mom to serve with me wrapping Christmas gifts at a local ministry. MOPS is not a 'Jesus Lite' kind of ministry. It meets moms where they are so that women who are further along in their personal spiritual journey can bring other moms along with them. It is about moms not having to mother alone, by giving them real relationship with other moms, and hopefully with Jesus.

I hope that Sarah's point is not that we should throw out all attempts at community building and just hold prayer meetings and exegetical Bible studies. Lots of people will be left behind in that spiritual context. I'd love it, but not every meeting of every women's ministry needs to be so intense. 

Instead, since she did offer to bring the cupcakes next time, I hope that Sarah is using hyperbole to show us that it isn't enough for our women's ministries to just host social events and "churchified life hacks from lady magazines", that instead, we should always be thinking about how we can sharpen one another (Proverbs 27:17).

Ultimately, I am encouraged by Sarah's open letter to know that there are other women who want to enter into authentic community. And I am encouraged to continue to use MOPS as an outreach to the women I know who are thirsty and need a cold drink of fellowship.

Are you part of a women's ministry? How do you balance the need for social time, unhindered by littles or work, with the call to draw those same women into a closer walk with God?

5 comments:

  1. Great article! Some people do not understand "Lifestyle Evangelism" as a potent way of outreach. You did a great job getting your point across!!

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  2. Thanks Shawna Lee. I could have rambled on about this topic for another 1,000 words or so. I am glad to know that my point came across.

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  3. I have always believed in lifestyle ministry...I can only speak for myself but the good Lord has so blessed me with wonderful women who have come along side of me to mentor and point me to my Savior by their examples and in turn, I get to walk next to others and share my life with them and share Jesus. It is what I think is the Jesus principal!

    I want to tell you how much I think you have grown as a woman and the friendships you have made but more importantly to me is the value you have learned of these relationships. I love you Ladybug!

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  4. I gotta say... I agree with both of you
    I have always been in the awkward position of never quite fitting in just right with any women's ministry groups...even the ones I spearheaded when I was in full time ministry.
    Perhaps it was because my children were too old and everyone my age had babies or because the ladies who had the parenting advice I so longed for, were much older and disapproved of my status as a single mom.
    When God finally led me to the phenomenal man He created for me, the "relationship" groups were submission rhetoric in disguise and defied any challenge I may have offered in referencing other scripture of God's encouragement of a loving, passionate relationship.

    I personally appreciate scrapbooks and oogle over stickers in the craft store but don't have the wherewithal or inclination to spend hours working on one...only because I know I'd feel defeated when I had a "forever unfinished" project. And while I'm oft used as a resource to those who are in child rearing years I've since experienced, unfortunately (at least on the what's going on in your house front) the relationships are not reciprocal and can sometimes leave me feeling spent.

    I agree, we have to meet people where we are
    I also agree that we need to be more honest about where we are, so we have the chance to meet more people :)
    A Christian woman can have a bit of Parents, Cosmo, and the coupon section all interwoven into the intricacies of who her creator intended her to be...we need to embrace each and every piece :)

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  5. Anon (aka Mom) - You definitely set the standard for relationship building!

    And Baba, well said. I especially like this: "I also agree that we need to be more honest about where we are, so we have the chance to meet more people." It's kind of my personal philosophy on relationship building right now.

    I may need to borrow you magazine/coupon reference for a future post. There's scripture to back all of that up.

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