Right on Target

Despite our best intentions, the experiences, teaching and fellowship activities we plan for our church don’t always resonate with everyone. Targeted ministry activities often better connect with those who may skip churchwide events. 

Lifeway Research recently conducted research among women who attend evangelical or Black Protestant churches in a typical month. Those who had experienced activities at their church planned specifically for women had much to say about the benefits of ministry designed for them.

Churchgoing women said these events provided something they wouldn’t receive otherwise. Less than 1% of women whose church offered activities specifically for women said women’s ministry failed to add value beyond those offered in other church activities. The majority of women in these churches said the women’s ministry helped develop stronger relationships among women in the church (68%), refreshed and restored women spiritually and emotionally (65%), provided a place for women to ask questions and openly discuss faith topics (58%), fostered relationships across age groups (56%), and provided a safe place for women to be transparent about needs and hurts (56%).

Your Women’s Ministry

Think through the programs at your church—the intentional activities with specific ministry purposes that church members do together following principles that have proven effective. Often church leaders go through cycles of investing in programs, pulling back when those programs seem unproductive, and then rediscovering a need for programs. 

Programs fail when activities lose their intentionality, grow in non-ministry purposes, or fail to pass along the wisdom that made the activity connect with its purpose. Programs also can become outdated when the context changes in ways that render previous wisdom ineffective. 

Women’s ministry can be seen as a program. In some churches, it may include several programs. Until recently, little research had been done on how churches conduct women’s ministry and the impact it’s having on women. Our research defined women’s ministry very broadly to include any activities designed specifically for women. 

Among churchgoing women, 63% say their church has an organized women’s ministry. Another 21% say they don’t have anything formal, but their church does offer activities especially for women. Few women say their church has no activities for women (8%) or that they are not aware of any activities for women (7%).

Of women’s ministry activities intended to develop community and fellowship, the majority of women say their church offered food events such as potlucks, brunches, dinners, etc. (63%), and holiday events (58%) in the last year. Other common fellowship activities include outdoor activities (32%); cooking together or meal prep (29%); craft or hobby events (29%); attending Christian concerts, comedians or shows (28%); field trips to shop or take a tour (26%); and game nights (24%).

When looking at women’s ministry activities designed to disciple women and encourage their walk with Christ, offering Bible studies for women is the most common (57%), followed by offering times for women to pray together (46%) and providing opportunities to serve in their community (42%).

Benefits for Women 

We have found six common advantages women can receive from a ministry designed specifically for them:

1. Relationships

Individual women testify that women’s ministry helped them develop significant relationships with women at their church that wouldn’t have happened without that ministry (55%). Also, half say they developed significant relationships with women in different age groups because of the women’s ministry. 

2. Interest

We are used to measuring attendance at activities that help people spiritually. But what is the measure of what got them there? Through women’s ministry, 45% of churchgoing women say they became more interested in attending activities that helped them spiritually. At a time when apathy is one of the biggest enemies of the church, growth in spiritual interest is a marker of God’s handiwork. One of the impacts of women’s ministry is increasing this spiritual desire.

3. Motivations

There can be stretches at church where people are doing church things, but we aren’t seeing movement in their inner motivations. And when we see movement, it may only be one person at a time. When we see almost 4 in 10 women (38%) say women’s ministry helped spur movement in their life to instill more intentionality in their walk with Christ, that is worth some celebration. They’re not saying this happened to all of them at the same time. But this was the ministry God used to make them more intentional. 

4. Service

A week probably doesn’t go by in which opportunities to volunteer are not presented at your church. But many weeks go by with no new names expressing interest in serving. More than a third (36%) of women say women’s ministry helped them find a place where they can use their gifting to serve those in their church. It may be the impact on their motivations. It may be an opportunity to serve within the women’s ministry itself. It may be relationships that led them to serve alongside a new friend. Regardless, we see another way that women’s ministry got the ball rolling.

Some women’s ministries also provide avenues to serve together in service projects or ongoing activities within the church or the community. Thirty-two percent of women say women’s ministry has given them tangible ways to serve people in their local area that they wouldn’t have participated in otherwise. 

5. Mentoring

Not only does women’s ministry help women develop relationships across age groups, it also connects women at different levels of spiritual maturity. The goal isn’t to simply be in the same room together. Through the women’s ministry, mentoring relationships are encouraged. A third of churchgoing women whose church offers activities for women say they have personally been mentored by a more mature believer.

6. Evangelism 

Women’s ministry also impacts personal outreach. Thirty percent of women say these activities have made them more confident to present the gospel to people they know. A similar number (28%) say they have been more motivated to invite people to church. The impact of more than 1 in 4 women being more evangelistic can change a church and impact many lives with the gospel.

Specialized Ministry

Nothing described in this article is unique to women’s ministry. Evangelism, service, fellowship and a desire to follow Christ more closely are all encouraged in numerous ministries of the church. Yet many women say the specific ministries designed for them is what made a difference. 

Ninety percent of women agree their church invests in and equips women. However, the agreement drops to 72% among women whose church does not offer activities specifically for women. 

Specialized ministry, in this case for women, can meet needs more directly than activities designed generically for everyone. God still uses churchwide sermons, Bible studies, prayer times and service projects to meet people where they are, but statistically speaking, generic ministry may connect less often. Investing in targeted ministry, like women’s ministry, can engage people within your church more directly and more effectively.