RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–If churches are not involving as many women as they can in women’s groups, they are missing opportunities, Linda Clark, executive director of California’s Woman’s Missionary Union, said during a seminar on blending women’s groups at national WMU’s Experience the Joy of Missions Conference.
Using the analogy of cooking, Clark said it’s important to measure three things to help assure the success of any women’s group: direction, women and leadership. A purpose or direction for the group must be established, she said, because the main reason people leave a group is lack of purpose.
“Regardless of what you call your group, any Christian women’s group needs to have missions at its core,” Clark said at the conference, held Sept. 27–Oct. 1 at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina. “For example, even if you say your focus is evangelism, evangelism is missions. They are interchangeable.”
Also, real needs verses perceived needs of the participants need to be measured or identified, Clark said. For example, are the women young mothers who need childcare? Will a morning meeting time conflict with their careers if they work outside the home?
“It is vital that you invest time in getting to know the women in your church,” Clark said. “Yes, it will take time. But it’s necessary to build relationships through things such as Bible study, mentoring or just getting together for lunch.”
Clark also suggested that if a generation gap is part of the equation, then women’s ministry leaders might consider reading books and other resources to help relate to today’s generation. After real needs are realized, it’s important to tailor the group to meet those needs.
A third need Clark identified is the need to evaluate the background and commitment of group leaders.
“Leadership is critical,” Clark said. “We desperately need to develop leaders in our churches. It may be a matter of starting with the basics of helping women to see the leadership potential within themselves, then provide them with training and resources.”
Leaders need preparation, training and accountability, she added.
“God has equipped every woman who’s ever lived with a set of skills, [and they] need to use those in service to the glory of God,” Clark said.
Continuing with her cooking analogy, Clark said it is necessary to sift out distractions and negativity.
“It’s important that you not get distracted from your group’s purpose or let negativity infect your group,” she warned.
Once women’s groups are established, everyone involved can benefit from blending the groups, Clark said. For example, women’s ministry groups and Women on Mission groups can complement each other. Clark suggested blending the emphasis that women’s ministry groups place on Bible study with the emphasis that Women on Mission groups place on application. Or pair a group’s focus on spiritual growth with another’s focus on growing leaders.
“Blending groups is done with lots of prayer and intentionality, but it can be successful because God can do all things,” Clark said. “Although a group should not abandon its purpose [when blending], it is important to set personalities and individual agendas aside.”
Blending groups is valuable because it maximizes results as women grow, develop relationships and benefit from everyone’s abilities, Clark said. Groups may choose to blend on a permanent basis, a set number of times a year or only on certain occasions.
“When you blend things together, you bring out the best flavor,” Clark said.