Why I Don’t Do Women’s Ministry

I really hate those “home parties.” You know, the ones where you go to someone’s house and hear about the latest gadgets, skin care products, or overpriced home décor. The hostess serves brownies and everyone talks about their kids and how busy they are. Then the sales representative stands up and gives a hyper-peppy presentation punctuated by polite gasps of delight from the women packed in the living room.

A few of the women get really giddy about the whole thing and start ordering everything that catches their eye. Some of them find just a couple of things they like, grab another brownie, and head home. I twitch uncomfortably and look for the least expensive item on the order form. I feel obligated to order something. After all, the hostess cleaned her house and made snacks for us, and if I don’t order she might not get her free “hostess gift.”

I learned my lesson when I once tried to leave one of those parties without buying anything. I had spent the entire party looking at my watch and thinking about how if I wanted to, I could make those doodads myself with some cardboard, fabric scraps, and magic markers. But I didn’t want to. And I certainly couldn’t imagine paying for any of them. But as I tried to leave, the sales representative cornered me with a desperate smile and asked me what I was going to buy. Everyone else stared at me as if I had been caught shoplifting. I did manage to escape without lightening my checkbook, but not entirely unscathed.

I don’t go to those parties anymore. I’ve conquered my sense of obligation to attend. I don’t even try to come up with excuses anymore. I just picture myself at the party, looking at my watch, wondering why in the world I agreed to spend my evening there. I imagine the feeling of watching the other women and wondering why I seem to be the only one who isn’t enjoying myself tremendously. And I politely decline without bothering to explain.

I must confess I’ve had the same experience with women’s ministry events. It’s been a long time since I attended a women’s Bible study, luncheon (why don’t they just call them “lunch”?), or anything else just for Christian women. I’ve spent enough of my life feeling bored, self-conscious, and out of place (think junior high gym class).

In my experience, the people who plan these events make all kinds of assumptions about who I am as a women. For starters, most assume I’m a full-time stay-at-home mom (and the best time of day for a meeting is, of course, 10:00 in the morning). They also seem to believe I enjoy making refrigerator magnets, spend most of my time thinking about fashion and chocolate, and can think of nothing better than getting away from my husband and kids (even though I’ve been at work all day) and hanging out with my “girlfriends.” This isn’t me—at all.

I used to think I just didn’t fit. Somehow I wasn’t like most women, and this probably had something to do with my spiritual life, so I should try harder to fit in. Now I realize that’s not true. In fact, the funny thing is, I don’t really think I’m a misfit. Most women I know feel the same way I do about women’s ministry programming. I know that women’s ministries do connect with many women and provide important opportunities for growth. But they seem to be focused on serving a relatively small segment of the population. So I wonder: Why do so many of our women’s ministry efforts treat women as if they all have the same lifestyle, schedule, goals, affinity for June Cleaver, and penchant for pink roses? And why are we expected to call ourselves “girlfriends”?

I don’t mean to undermine the importance of women’s ministry, or trivialize the effective ministry that’s happening in many churches. But by and large, I believe our churches are running shallow, one-dimensional programs that miss important opportunities to minister to many women.

And I suspect I’m not the only one who has felt misunderstood and discouraged by the “ministry” we have experienced. We can be and do so much more. Why don’t we challenge each other? Why don’t we take ourselves seriously? Why do we alienate so many women with our ministries?

This blog post first appeared here on Christianity Today’s GiftedForLeadership.com.

  1. Lori says:

    I completely relate to this entire post 100 percent – or at least I could have a few years ago, before I became a stay-at-home mom. In fact, one significant reason why I didn’t want to become a stay-at-home mom was my fear that I would have to attend all those silly luncheons and women’s Bible studies on Tuesday mornings. But since my unexpectedly long stint as a stay-at-homer, I have developed a genuine admiration and awe for this segment of the population for all kinds of reasons that I didn’t appreciate before. And in the past two years, I have started attending one of those Bible studies. Honestly, my main motivation is for socializing, and especially if it’s in the evening, it’s an excellent way to get out of doing bedtime duties! I think women simply have vastly different socializing needs depending on if they’re with kids all day or if they’re at work, and I have been in dire need of more social time. But I think we all need substantial Bible study that doesn’t condescend or treat us as if we’re all the same. That’s hard to find in a women’s ministry. As for women’s events, I’m still not down with those. In fact, last week I was invited to one of those awful parties. It was actually part of our Bible study schedule because it’s a ‘Christian’ company, so I felt even more obligation to attend. So weird and awkward. I filled out my order form for the cheapest thing in the catalog, as I always do at these things, and in return I got a stern look, not even a thank you. And as usual, I told myself I would never attend one of those parties again. Oh, the guilt!

  2. Cheryl says:

    Thanks for expressing what many of us feel, Amy. Even as a stay-at-home mom, I would echo your statements. There is a huge opportunity to minister to women, and we often miss it by stopping at the surface.

  3. Larissa says:

    Amen. Nuff said 🙂

  4. charity jill says:

    I know I’m late to the game on this one but I’ve been checking out some of your posts and felt compelled to comment on this one: THANK YOU. I hate these kind of things. They remind me of the money-changers tables. One time I had a person who I was trying to get to know better invite me to one of these parties — and consequently, she became quite enraged with me for not hosting one, myself, in my college community house. I resolved to not go to anything like it ever again. A couple of years later, I became part of a church plant with my then-fiance-and-soon-to-be-husband and one of the first big social events for women was one of these spa parties. I did not go. And despite being a leader of small-groups, I was also not invited to any of the following social events formed by the women of the church (they called themselves “High Fives for Wives”). It was an intensely wounding and somewhat humiliating experience. For what it’s worth, I felt like getting that off my chest! I appreciate finding that other women are as turned off by this commercialized socializing as I am.

  5. Buky says:

    Wow, you have been reading my mind! I am a SAHM and i no longer attend most of those kind of events.
    Why call a bible study/prayer meeting and there is a large spread of food? Are we there to fellowship or eat?

    I am a busy woman and certainly dont have too much time for “hanging”. My time is very precious to me and i’d rather they just get on with the main focus of the meeting.

    I spend good time with my family and my idea of hanging out is not to talk about babies, diapers, craft or school-runs. I actually welcome the opposite and I am not into “Pink”.

    I’d rather spend time by myself than make arrange for babysitter only to be bored at an event.
    Thank you for speaking my mind!

  6. Alicia Lockert says:

    You hit on a few ideas that I agree with. My problem with WM is that “it’s all about us”, personally I’m looking to find opportunities to serve others’ needs through WM and to do what the Bible says we should be doing which is to spur one another on to good deeds! As I sift through the websites about WM I am sorry to say I find nothing about how Women can organize to help the hurting in their community. This makes me sad. We are a people who only serve ourselves (I’m including myself in this statement). I plan to change my WM and make it about serving others! Thanks for the thoughts.

  7. I am sitting here thinking that we must have been separated at birth!!! I can SO relate to everything–I mean EVERYTHING–you said here! 🙂

  8. Rose says:

    BINGO! No, not the game. My sentiment to your post. Exactly what I have been feeling. I have such a burden on my heart to organize a women’s ministry and I love the comments about it being about serving others, especially in our community. There is such a need. I believe two important things needed with women today are ‘discernment’ and ‘serving’. Praying that God directs my path to be a doer of His word in this area. THANK YOU for your insights.

  9. EMSoliDeoGloria says:

    I don’t go to those parties either. I think after my first one or two I decided that my sanity and time could not be sacrificed in such a way. I deeply value my friendships with women. I have had some really bad experiences with “women’s ministry” in the church. The best I can say of any formal church organized WM event I’ve been to is that it “wasn’t awful” – more often, they have been a waste of my time and energy, not to mention a significant temptation to discouragement and sinful comparison.

  10. Barbara says:

    Sounds like you have been around some poorly led women’s ministries. I agree there is so much more that can be done with and for women and my experience is that most of the time it’s happening. I serve women leading in churches and have been so blessed to see what they are doing to bring Christ to others. Do we have it perfect – of course not! But, this post reads like most of our churches have it wrong. Women’s ministry is an ever changing ministry! If you are with a group that does not ministry to your needs go find another one! There are a lot of good women’s ministers out there!

  11. I can’t almost believe you have written out my points of view about ladies’shopping metings and women ministries… in my country, Portugal, they have changed the word from ladies to women to talk about those ministries, but I still don’t feel well about these meetings. I have been a busy teacher all my life, I am now retired with plenty of time but please don’t invite me to those meetings. As far as now I hadn’t met many like me… Thank you!

© 2012 Amy Simpson.