Question received: Do you have any suggestions about how our women’s ministry can engage professional women more effectively and encourage them as they minister in their workplaces?
As in all organizations, whether implicitly or explicitly, women’s ministries in the local church have a target audience in mind. Your church might target the 32-year-old junior executive, who tries to leave work early at 8 p.m. to make it to the gym and would never head out for the weekend without her laptop. Well, maybe not. We all most naturally make decisions through the lens of our experience. Statistically speaking, most women’s ministry leaders have never sat in a boardroom, been responsible for the livelihood of their team members, or authored a corporate strategic plan that would affect thousands of people. But the women who have can be powerful missionaries to a harvest of professional workers. And it’s vitally important that we incorporate them well into our church’s women’s ministries, as one of the great joys of being family in Christ is that we learn from one another’s experiences and encourage one another in our various callings.
Here are four ways to engage and encourage professional women:
1. Respect Their Work
Whether through lack of interest, ignorance about their daily lives, or assumptions about their desires or calling, we can communicate to professional women that we think they’re just waiting around to do something else. For single professional women, for example, we can assume they’re simply biding time before becoming a wife and mother. But Scripture has a high view of work—for both men and women, both inside and outside the home. From the beginning, God had Adam and Eve work in the garden together (Gen. 2). He commands us to work faithfully—whatever our work is—as unto the Lord (Col. 3:23–24). Work will not end with Christ’s coming; we’ll continue to work in the new creation (Isa. 65:21–22). Even the Proverbs 31 woman worked in the marketplace, making and selling goods.
Unless you live in an urban center, a professional woman walking through the doors of your women’s ministry is already likely to feel somewhat isolated. Greet her with a respect for her daily toil, an interest in the joys and challenges of her day, and a trust that God has her where he wants her. We want to cultivate curiosity about and empathy for all the women we serve in our women’s ministry, including professional women. Consider visiting a professional woman in her workplace, if possible, to understand what she does and how she invests her time and energy.
2. Equip Them for Outreach
Several years ago I worked for a wonderful corporation that encouraged employees to know each other—backgrounds, interests, and private pursuits. To that end, the company sponsored clubs open to participation on company time, in company facilities and advertised in company hallways. Unless, that is, your club was for Christians. The Muslim club, Hindu club, any other club had posters in the elevators, announcements at headquarters events, and a high-level executive sponsor. Our Bible study’s advocate, on the other hand, had to meet with executives several times to even get permission for us to meet. That permission came with the terms of meeting behind closed doors with paper taped over the conference room windows, and no advertising. (Many other companies, however, allow Christians to openly recruit and gather.)
Corporate America is a mission field. Encourage and remind women in the workplace of God’s faithfulness through Scripture; that God is equipping them for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16–17); that God is making his mission field ripe for the harvest (Matt. 9:37–38); and that they’re promised to be hated for their faith (John 15:18–19) but that Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33). If you teach a women’s Bible study group, for example, keep professional women in mind as you illustrate and apply the Scriptures. If you lead the prayer ministry, seek out professional women to discover how you can pray for them, even asking for specific names of coworkers for whom they’re praying or major upcoming projects they have.
3. Make Your Ministry Accessible
If your women’s Bible study only meets on Wednesday mornings, or your volunteer team wants to have a planning session at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday, you’re essentially telling professional women they’re not invited. It’s not possible on all occasions to select times that work for everyone, but it is possible to select a time that clearly cannot work for anyone in a certain group. It’s helpful for your women’s ministry leadership to either have a professional woman seated at the table or, at the least, have a professional woman to run ideas past as you’re planning.
4. Network Them Together
You’ve likely seen a church group for young moms, single women, empty nesters, and so on. How about one for professional women? In my workplaces, God blessed me tremendously by having a couple Christian women at the office with whom I could share struggles, ask questions, and celebrate triumphs. How powerful, then, would it be for professional women within my church body to meet together regularly and mutually bear one another’s burdens? Simply having a group for professional women to connect shows that you value them and aim to care for them as you would other women in particular life stages or situations.
Of course, even as we may network specific groups of women together for more targeted discussion and prayer, it’s a privilege to be a family together with all women in our church and to learn from the diversity of one another’s gifts and experiences.
Women ministering in their offices are powerful. Like family, coworkers of all different stripes are placed together to labor toward a common goal. The on-the-job demands and hours spent in close contact can bind women in a workplace together powerfully. And God does tremendous things. I’ve seen souls saved, families healed, addictions overcome, and much more because of relationships I made in an office I wouldn’t have been able to make otherwise.
So, church, let’s take this opportunity that God’s given us and minister to professional women well, equipping them to advance the gospel. The body of Christ will be all the richer for it.
Editors’ note: This continues a series addressing your specific questions related to ministry among women through the local church. We have a team of women eager to respond to a select number of questions. Please send all questions on the subject of women’s ministry to our coordinator for women’s initiatives, Mallie Taylor (mallie.taylor [@] thegospelcoalition.org).
Then make sure to pick up a copy of Word-Filled Women’s Ministry: Loving and Serving the Church (Crossway, 2015) [review]. This new book casts a vision for ministry among women that’s grounded in God’s Word, grows in the context of God’s people, and aims for the glory of God’s Son. You can also now register for our 2016 National Women’s Conference, June 16 to 18, in Indianapolis.
Previously in this series:
- Why Women’s Ministry? (Kathleen Nielson)
- 5 Ways to Minister to Women in Crisis (Kristie Anyabwile)
- 5 Questions for Choosing Bible Study Material for Women’s Groups (Mary Willson)
- 3 Ways to Incorporate Group Prayer Into Your Bible Study (Melissa Kruger)
- How Can I Help Women Struggling with Sexual Issues? (Trillia Newbell)
- 7 Ways Women Can Grow in Studying and Teaching Scripture without Seminary (Nancy Guthrie)
- How Do Busy Women Serve in Women’s Ministry? (Jen Wilkin)
- 3 Ways Women in Ministry Can Humbly Submit to Church Leaders (Gloria Furman)