Women’s ministries in denominations all across the country are in decline these days. We are struggling to reinvent ourselves: changing logos, changing names, changing formats…anything to remain relevant and appeal to today’s woman.
Some of the changes are attracting younger women, while at the same time alienating the ministry “veterans”.
As we tailor our programs and “brand” to appeal to a certain demographic, we are accepting that we may no longer serve the needs of the faithful women whose hard work and dedication have kept us alive to this day.
Perhaps we need to rethink some of our strategies for the success of our women’s ministries.
Any marketing strategy must know its target audience. “Today’s woman” is mentioned in many of our modernization campaigns.
So, just who is “today’s woman”? It is common for women’s ministries to use the term to mean the generation in the 20-35 age group, while some church-growth programs target an even younger demographic: 18-28.
Using those targets to define today’s woman means that any woman over 35, or possibly 40 at the outside, is relegated to the group of “yesterday’s woman”. But how can that be? I am well over that outside limit, but here I am TODAY. And I’m still a woman, still working, functioning, ministering and still loved by God. My prayers, efforts and energies do not impact yesterday. They matter today. The fact that God has chosen for me to live past yesterday into today is proof that he has plans for me… today. If he doesn’t call me home today then he can use me tomorrow. That makes me a “woman of tomorrow”, as well.
That being said, a woman of “a certain age” does not have the physical strength and energy of a younger woman. We tire more easily and must pace ourselves. We do need younger women to work along side us, to inspire us and give us new vision and perspective, to help us adapt to the changing world around us. A ministry composed of dedicated women of all ages and backgrounds is a richer, more vital ministry.
All of today’s women need each other. As 1Timothy 5 says, we should “Treat … older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters ….”
How do we grow our ministry while including women of every age and considering them all to be equally valuable as women of today?
Many of our local church groups are either dying out or becoming isolated from the wider organization as a result of “burn out” of the local leaders. Many of these women have worked tirelessly most of their adult lives to support missionaries and do God’s work in their congregations and communities. As thanks they have been labeled “well-intentioned dragons” or anachronistic dinosaurs or even less attractive epithets. Perhaps some have acquired control issues as a result of doing most of the work by themselves for far too long. Maybe, in the process, they have alienated some of the women who would have shared the burden and in so doing locked themselves into a role that they no longer have enough physical or emotional energy to fulfill. Does that mean they have become ”yesterday’s women"?
They are here today, so God must not think so.
It is our ministry organization’s responsibility to respect and support these woman as mothers of our movement, enabling them to share their wisdom and experience in ways suitable to their physical age and capabilities.
Working without recognition and appreciation is one of the recipes for burn out. When our women burn out they no longer reach out. They stop communicating with the organization. If they are still holding offices in the ministry they become dead-ends and road blocks to the flow of communication. Their church and local group become disconnected from the larger movement.
While we want to have programs and a vision that is attractive to young, modern women, we must not exclude anyone. We are all destined for God’s purpose and we need to encourage one another to that end.
I don’t think it would be very appealing to any woman to join an organization that uses up its women and discards them when they become frayed and worn. How much more attractive to see that as we become the “mothers” of the movement we are honored for our service and, rather than being put out to pasture, are slipped into areas of ministry that make the most of the gifts we have acquired along the way.
Galatians 6:9 (New International Version)
9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.