I love going to church! It really is exciting for me to anticipate what God is going to do in each service. Church here in Chile looks and feels a little different than it does Stateside. If you came for a visit you might notice that most of our churches are small houses that we have renovated to work for church buildings, we set up small swimming pools for baptisms, and in winter (right now in the southern hemisphere) you can wear a pajama top to church because it never gets warm enough to take your coat and scarf off! I’ve never actually done that by the way:)
Church is God’s plan. It’s His way of carrying out the Great Commission. And if it’s HIS plan, it should work, right? Yes, it should! And it will, IF we do it right.
As missionaries, Jason and I have frequently asked ourselves, “Are we doing this right?” One of the cool (and scary) things about being a missionary is that you start from zero: No American culture, no traditions. Just you, the Bible, your mentors, and the people you’re trying to reach. It’s the perfect opportunity to evaluate everything.
I’m a missionary/pastor’s wife. I don’t only have to figure out what I’m supposed to do in the church, I’ve got to figure out how to lead the other ladies that accept Christ and form part of our church. I very often don’t feel capable of that responsibility. I lack wisdom, discernment, and experience. I don’t have all the answers.
Should we have weekly ladies meetings? Should we establish a ladies Sunday school class? Should we put together a meal for a church Christmas dinner? How can I try to pair up some of these older women with the younger ones? What can I do to get a nursery going and stabilized? Should I let that lady start a Pilates class in church? How can we better minister to the widows and single Moms?
Without a doubt, there is a lot to consider when it comes to women’s ministries in the local church! Sure, there are a few things as women that God doesn’t want us to do. But how to we prioritize and put the correct emphasis on the things we can and should do?
God made women to be helpers. Eve was created to be a help to Adam. I’m supposed to be a helper to Jason.
And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. – Genesis 2:18
That’s easy. I like easy:) We should help people. But how exactly does God want us to go about it? Take a look at these verses from the Psalms that use the same Hebrew word for helper as Gen. 2:18. Here the word is used to describe how God helps us.
Thou hast seen it; for thou beholdest mischief and spite, To requite it with thy hand: The poor bcommitteth himself unto thee, Thou art the helper of the fatherless. – Psalm 10:14
For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; The poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy. And shall save the souls of the needy. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence. And precious shall their blood be in his sight. – Psalm 72:12-14
Because thou, Lord, hast holpen me, and comforted me. – Psalm 86:17
These Psalms help us to better define the word “help”. This comforts me. This makes my job more clear. I’m supposed to help people like God helps people. And as a women’s ministry leader, I’m supposed to help women help people like God helps people:) Did you get all that?
Here’s a simple way to summarize: Community and Compassion
If you take another look at the above verses, that is what you will see. God wants us to cultivate and live out community and compassion. It’s our job. It’s how we help.
God didn’t just define us women as helpers. He equipped us for the job. Studies have shown that estrogen causes us to “tend and befriend” as women when we’re under stress. Testosterone doesn’t work that way. Interesting isn’t it?
I know there are exceptions to every rule, but my marriage is classic. My husband is compassionate, but I’m more compassionate. He’s very manly (and very handsome), and he needs help sometimes to show more compassion. But that’s my job as his helper!
So, my fellow female helpers, how should we decide what to emphasize in our women’s ministries in the local church? It’s really not too complex. We could just answer every question with another one: Does this cultivate compassion and community? If the answer is yes, and your pastor and male leadership in the church thinks it’s a good idea, then go for it! This will look different in the US than it does in South America or Asia. But that’s the beautiful thing about the Bible, it’s cross cultural.
So let’s get started injecting compassion and community into every area possible of our local churches! The world needs to see Christ’s love through us, and we as women have a big role to play. The men need our help, and that’s what we were made for. So let’s starting helping!
(For further reading check out Women’s Ministries in the Local Church by J. Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt. If you’re like me, you won’t agree the entirety of the book, but it has some great principles.)