The role of women's ministry and how it is done is a major area of concern for me, something I've discussed at length with other women online and something I've written about before, so I was really interested to read these two posts from Sarah Styles Bessey on how she feels about women's ministry and what can be done to tackle these issues.
My church doesn't have a "women's ministry" program, which I do quite like because I think this encourages all the things that Sarah talks about wanting - studying together, genuine fellowship, praying together, offering up our skills to serve - without compartmentalizing and falling back on stereotypes. But when I read about such programs, conferences and events I'm always left wondering whether they are serving all women as best as they could.
In her post from Saturday, In which I write a letter to Women's Ministry, Sarah says:
"Please may we be the place to detox from the world - its values, its entertainment, its priorities, its focus on appearances and materialism and consumerism?
So here is my suggestion: Please stop treating womens' ministry like a Safe Club for the Little Ladies to Play Church.
We are smart. We are brave. We want to change the world. We run marathons for our sisters, not so that we can lose weight. We have more to offer to the church than our mad decorating skills. I look around and I can see that these women can offer strategic leadership, wisdom, counsel and even, yes, teaching. We want to give and serve and make a difference. We want to be challenged. We want to read books and talk politics, theology and current events. We want to wrestle through our theology. We want to listen to each other. We want to worship, we want to intercede for our sisters and weep with those who weep, rejoice with those that rejoice, to create life and art and justice with intention."
And in her follow-up post today, she invites readers to talk about what might be done to address the issue and wonders if women's ministry as an organised, structured thing is even necessary.
"I know one church in my personal sphere that does womens' ministry incredibly well. (I wish I could get there for their weekly meeting but it's too far away.) They inspire me with their passion. The women of the church are ferocious for love, beauty, justice, honesty, true relationship and sisterhood. Even though they do the girly-thing sometimes, its balanced out well. And they work tirelessly out in the community, empowering each woman to use her gifts to make space for God in her family, her friendships, her work and her sphere of influence. They truly are a prophetic voice for peace and wholeness and the kingdom of God as a sisterhood.
So it can be done.
Since there are so many of us, waving our hands and saying YES! to my letter, what do you think we can actually do to bring our perspective forward within the context of the Church - with humility, love and a heart to learn?"
If you haven't read the posts and joined in the discussion, I thought you might be interested in doing so. As Sarah says, I don't think it's as simple as telling women to go out and create the women's ministry they want, if that just means another program that achieves little. It's an issue that needs more consideration.