As a young mom, I wrote a letter to my church asking them to consider formalizing the role of women’s minister. The executive pastor called me in for a meeting and promptly offered me the job. I was speechless. At the time, my four children ranged in age from 5 to 1. Was this man out of his mind? He explained it was clear I cared deeply about the women of our church, and he trusted me to figure out my calendar on my own. He knew a secret often overlooked in our frenetic culture: We make time for what we care about most.
So, with my husband’s enthusiastic support, I spent naptimes and evenings building a women’s ministry. During those years, I didn’t commit to the PTA or book club, I rarely gave time to exercise, and I didn’t watch much TV. Though those activities all held value, I set them aside to make room for ministry because I could feel it bringing something to life inside me. Even more, I could see the power of the gospel at work among God’s people, changing lives by his Spirit and his Word.
My situation isn’t that unique. The women in our churches juggle many commitments. Whether a woman is leading a Bible study group, participating in a Bible study that requires preparation, or planning a conference, she will be faced with how to integrate these ministry activities into all the commitments of her busy life.
Here are five considerations that have helped me decide if, when, and where to commit my time:
1. Remember Your First Area of Ministry
Our first area of service is to our primary relationships. Any ministry commitment we make should be one that doesn’t compromise our relationship to our spouse, children, or parents. This doesn’t mean it won’t take time away from those relationships (like going to the gym or book club, it almost certainly will); it just means we remain mindful of the effect of this time trade-off.
If you’re married, talk to your spouse about your desire to take on a ministry role. Be sure you’re on the same page about finding a place to serve and about the time commitment it will entail. Pray together about how you can each best encourage spiritual growth and church involvement in the other. In my experience, the time I’ve given to ministry has made me a better mother, daughter, and wife. The time given to ministry outside my home has helped me treasure and nurture ministry inside my home. Those who spend their days in professional settings and who carve out time for a weekly church Bible study or discipleship relationship, for example, often speak of not only their own spiritual growth but also a growing heart and ability to minister to family, friends, and co-workers.
2. Evaluate (and Re-Evaluate) Your Calendar
Though most of us complain of busyness, paying attention to our “spending habits” with regard to time will often reveal discretionary time we can claim for a better purpose. Take inventory of your calendar to determine where your windows of discretionary time predictably fall. Then look for an area of service that corresponds to those windows. Quantify how much time you can give before committing, and then keep an eye on the actual time commitment once you step into a ministry opportunity. As you enter into new seasons of life, re-evaluate whether your ministry commitment still fits with the changing demands on your time. A role that requires you to regularly miss a child’s activity is probably a bad fit for your season. Two years from now, though, it may fit easily into your next season. Look and pray for commitments that allow for maximum opportunity to serve your church family, within the network of essential responsibilities to which God has presently called you.
3. Look for a Role that Resonates
Sometimes we take on a role of service without reference to our gifts or preferences because there’s an immediate need God allows us to meet. That’s a valid reason to serve, but not always a long-term one. Our participation level and servant perspective will often remain healthiest when we commit to an area of ministry we feel a personal connection to.
What do you love? Missions? Social justice issues? Mentoring young moms? Hospitality? Bible study? Look for a way to step into service in an area of ministry that quickens your pulse. There’s a reason God gave you your particular set of gifting and passions. Let that function as a reference point for determining where to invest your time in order to connect fruitfully with the body of Christ around you.
4. Define the Commitment
Women often burn out in ministry because a role that began as manageable mushroomed into an unmanageable burden over time. To avoid this, consider committing to roles with a clearly defined job description and time frame. A good ministry leader can tell you exactly what she needs from you. Ask her to give you a written description. Then take on additional responsibilities only as you both agree to them. A good job description will define specific tasks, weekly time commitment, and expected length of service.
Committing to an open-ended role is overwhelming and risky. Rather than promising long-term mentoring of several women, for example, why not consider offering to meet with a woman every other week during one season or semester? The better defined everyone’s expectations are upfront, the more likely you’ll be able to entrust your time to the ministry role in question. All that said, there will be times in ministry when we’re called to extend ourselves beyond all expectations. By God’s grace, those times often bring not only the greatest stretching but also the deepest joy.
5. Partner in Ministry
Giving time to ministry will mean taking time from some other area of our lives. Since many women are primary caregivers, often domestic tasks take the hit. Before you resign from your ministry role because the sink is full of dishes, consider a ministry partnership of sorts. We recognize the importance of a pastor’s family understanding that the entire family shares in ministry, not just the pastor. This same principle is true with other areas of ministry within the church.
I’ve taught an evening Bible study for the past 15 years. My immediate family knows that by managing dinner and dishes on that night of the week they’re not just helping Mom; they’re partnering with me in ministry to women. If a ministry role requires you to sacrifice an increment of time that affects your family, consider how they might partner with you to help shoulder the tasks that otherwise fall to you.
By taking on a defined commitment that fits with your calendar, your passions, and your value of primary relationships, serving in women’s ministry can become not just feasible but also richly rewarding. If you care about ministry among women, if you see its great potential for impacting home, church, and community for the glory of Christ, consider making it a joyful priority among the other demands of life. It’s a simple way to spend a portion of our time to affect eternity.
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 Wilson)
- 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)