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Why COVID-19 Has Impacted Women's Ministry

COVID-19 has changed the landscape of Women’s Ministry for the foreseeable future. For many, this disruption resulted in a pause on many Women’s Ministry activities. Quickly, some began to see opportunities for new ways of doing ministry. What began as stop-gap measures needs to transition into long-term strategies. This allows Women’s Ministry to flourish and embrace new opportunities, despite the challenges we face. As we envision the next steps for Women’s Ministry, we should evaluate our new landscape.

We are confident that Women’s Ministry is needed now more than ever!

Changes in the Landscape of Women’s Ministry:

Methods of communicating and building community have changed, requiring more leader initiative to make, foster, and maintain connections with limited physical contact. God created women to be relational. Joining with other women is a fundamental need. New and creative modes of gaining information and connecting with others should be utilized.

    • Keeping women engaged is increasingly necessary using innovative ways of uniting together.
    • Using clear and effective communication is vital to ease fear and explain expectations.
    • Checking on women’s personal and spiritual well-being is priority, taking greater effort.

Women’s Ministry has a unique interdependence with other ministries of the church.

    • Ministering to women is dependent upon other ministries (i.e., childcare, children, youth, men’s ministries) in order to function, especially during regathering.  
    • Conversely, other ministries of the church (i.e., hospitality, benevolence, children’s ministry, missions, outreach) are heavily dependent upon women, who function as  caregivers and servants in the church, to facilitate regathering. 

     

New challenges are present, impacting the participation of women in the most critical and foundational area of Bible study, as well as events. These will require creative rethinking and restructuring. 

We must recognize that COVID has affected many women’s responses about mortality, values, family, God, and other spiritual, mental, and emotional matters. Women have either come out of this stronger or with identified needs. Ministry planning must consider these changes in order to be more effective, post-pandemic. 

  • These changes will affect the topics we address, the studies we teach, and the way we approach women.
  • High quality, and likely less frequent gatherings will be required due to the  limited time (see above) for ministry among women themselves.

The need for the gospel is definitely present. Women have a natural segue into people’s lives because of collective pandemic experiences, which positions them to share Christ with others.

Practical Guidance

From before the cross to present day, women have engaged in ministry and have been used by God to reach a lost world.  The Bible shows the influence of women in training children, modeling godliness among younger women, supporting their husbands, and partnering with others in ministry to further the Gospel.  Today, Women’s Ministry is more important than ever.  

Women need to connect, be in community, use their spiritual gifts in service, to be mentored/discipled, and to gather in friendship and support. It is important to acknowledge that while we face new challenges as a result of COVID-19, these God-given needs have not been altered. Three practical ways of rethinking Women’s Ministry in the local church are summarized below: 

Events
Fellowship events will take on a different look as well. The annual Christmas Banquet may not be possible this year. Plan events (i.e., conferences, socials) that can have a hybrid format, that can be conducted in both online/virtual and in-person format. 

Ideas for implementation:
All virtual: 

  • Share a video of a keynote speaker (pre-recorded from a conference or specific speaker for the event) through a Facebook Watch Party and have women view it together. Using moderators, interact with women during the event using Chat.
  • Share a keynote speaker video by using the “share” feature on Zoom. Assign moderators to interact with the women on Chat during the event. Then group discussion can occur “in person” with the women at the Zoom gathering.
  • Host a “gathering” with a fun theme (i.e. pajama party, tea party) allowing women to interact using an online tool such as Zoom. 

Hybrid:

  • Host an in-person speaker or event, utilizing the appropriate social distancing and health guidelines, and either livestream the event through FB live or record it and make it available for women to view at a later time.
  • Interdependence — Recognizing the interdependence of Women’s Ministry, in particular to childcare, children, youth and men’s ministries (see Part 1), it is vital to creatively and considerately work together with other ministries.

Communicating and Connecting
Churches and Women’s Ministry leaders will need to provide opportunities for women to engage with one another via virtual, face-to-face (using a social distancing and/or limited contact plan of action), or hybrid meetings. The challenge is to keep women engaged and connected while addressing and voicing changes in order to lessen fear and anxiety. By focusing on raising up leaders, utilizing various ways of connecting, using technology, and communicating clearly, the Women’s Ministry can position itself to flourish, meet needs, and keep women engaged. 

Post COVID leadership must communicate clearly to alleviate stress and anxiety. The following things may seem simple, but it is crucial to communicate with grace, joy, and love so that ladies feel comfortable and cared for. Communicating with joy and hope serves as a witness and example to women who may be frustrated, nervous, or fearful.

Inform women of any churchwide and/or community rules or restrictions that they need to be aware of. Don’t take for granted that they know what is expected of them.

During each meeting, study, or event, clearly communicate precautions that have been or will be taken to ensure the attendee’s health. 

Let ladies know of basic things like where the hand sanitizer is, what entrance and exit to use or not use, where to sit, why there will be no food served, etc

Outreach and Missions
Currently, a multitude of opportunities exist to practically care for people in our communities, thereby allowing us to share the hope of salvation with those who do not know Jesus. The Women’s Ministry leaders of local churches can train and guide women to reach others with this hope. Women can be an integral part of outreach and missions by using their God-given relational characteristic.  

Practical ways of showing the love of Christ

  • Every community has a greater need for benevolence ministry, providing open doors to be salt and light.
  • Organizing small groups to help in the local food bank, or organizing a food pantry can be of great help in this time of economic strain.
  • Reaching out to your neighbor, meeting needs as they arise

Empowering and equipping women to outreach to neighbors and friends.

  • Education in sharing the gospel. Provide digital or hard copy training on sharing the gospel.
  • Pair women up to practice the gospel presentation, in order to gain confidence.
  • Personal invitations to new seekers into your small groups to help in learning and discipleship. 
  • Realizing that we all share in a part of history, we can find common ground to start conversations and build relationships with others in our sphere of influence that we might not have reached before.

Creating Movement

Due to the changing landscape of Women’s Ministry, these three principles should characterize the approach to ministry. They are also a useful guide to decision making: 1) Perseverance, 2) Flexibility, and 3) Creativity. Woven throughout these three principles is the necessity for prayer and dependence on the Lord (Isaiah 30:21, Jeremiah 33:3). Leaders must pray and persevere in the challenging days ahead. Whatever the future holds, our good God holds the future. As He has done throughout all time, the Lord will faithfully yield fruit in this new season of Women’s Ministry. 

Perseverance 

Women’s Ministry leaders in a changing landscape will need perseverance. This is not the time to give up. Leaders always need the Lord, but may be more aware of that need during this time of crisis. In this challenging time leaders must draw close to the Comforter to find strength and grace to press on in ministry. View challenges as new opportunities, and remember the “why” behind the “what” of Women’s Ministry. Galatians 6:9 offers an important reminder about perseverance:  “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” James 5:8 also calls for us to, “be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” 

Flexibility

The future has always been in the Lord’s hands (Proverbs 16:9), but planning often has a tendency to reflect a mindset of certainty and a perception of having more control than is actually possessed.  Especially during this time, leaders should remember to commit the way of their ministries to the Lord and hold their plans lightly. 

First, being flexible in approach means to consider how to build flexibility into the DNA of all that is done in ministry. Be flexible to serve women where they are – some women, even months down the road, may still feel anxious or be unable to attend in-person activities. Women’s Ministry leaders must address this question: “To meet the needs of women, as well as to maximize participation of women in our spectrum, how can we provide multiple means of engagement for those who choose to participate only online and those ready to meet face-to-face?” Building flexibility into ministry opportunities recognizes the diverse needs of women, enabling all to participate in ways that work best for them. Secondly, flexibility in planning will also be needed. Leaders should consider creating contingency plans for activities that allow for face-to-face, but can quickly shift to accommodate smaller groups or even a total online environment, pending any changes in local guidelines about meeting in person. Lastly, flexibility keeps leaders dependent upon the Lord, open to changes that he may direct to better meet needs, and help them not hold too tightly to their plans.

Creativity

Finally, a changing landscape will require creativity — to re-envision Women’s Ministry as activities, communication and connection, and outreach with the gospel are all estructured. A number of ideas have been offered here as a starting place. But, ultimately, leaders must look to the Lord, the Author of creativity, for guidance. It is each leader’s privilege and responsibility to reflect the Creator. 

Personalize Women's Ministry

The past few months have forced us to think quickly, creatively and have called us out of our comfort zones.

  1. What would you like to incorporate into Women’s Bible studies that have you learned from the past few months? 
  2. Have you and your women realized the importance of gathering for Bible study?

Be aware, the restructuring process may occur multiple times as we continue to meet needs of women and help them grow.  What you’re doing (and will do) has eternal impact. Watch to see where God is at work and join in!

  1. What dreams has God given you for your Women’s Ministry? 
  2. As a leader, do you have someone who encourages you and prays for you?
  3. What are your long-term goals for Women’s Bible study?
  4. What Bible study topics would you like to cover in the future?

Connect With Us

The SBTC’s Women’s Ministry Associate, Laura Taylor, helps women serving in ministry, providing encouragement, biblically-based resources, and support for their ministries.  Specifically, the SBTC Women’s Ministry Leadership Team provides training to equip and enrich women’s leaders at She Stands Conferences; support on SBTC Women’s Facebook group; on-line training; Women’s Ministry webpage; a Women’s Ministry guide; a monthly newsletter; Roundtable Conversations to share ideas; monthly Zoom gatherings and Zone Representatives around the state. As needs of women’s ministry leaders are continually assessed, additional resources will be developed. Laura Taylor may be contacted for further information and encouragement. 

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regathering part II:

Leadership Toolkit

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