August 28, 2020

How Our Church Established A Women’s Ministry

I’ve been working on the draft manuscript for my new book. It’s late, and I’m struggling to put words on the page. I hate to admit it but, I’ve been procrastinating. Well, in all honesty, I’ve been using every avoidance tactic I can find to distract me from having to sit and remember.

The premise of the book is simple—I’m supposed to be writing about how we set up the women’s ministry at Niddrie Community Church and then 20schemes. It’s probably the number one most asked question when I’m speaking at events. People see what we have and want to know how I built it. On the surface, it seems such an easy question to answer but, it’s complicated. Normally I love sharing about our women’s ministry, but the book has been a bit of an evil mountain to climb. So far, I’m only up to chapter 12.

Mistakes Made

Here’s the problem: The hardest bit has been looking back on all the mistakes. I’ve made some humongous ones—some harder to think about than others. It’s easy for people to look and see what we have now at 20schemes or Niddrie and think, Wow! But, looking back, there is much I would do differently. Unfortunately, we don’t get a do-over.

At the centre of our women’s ministry at Niddrie we have something called a ‘Care Team’—nine women who work together, sharing the everyday responsibilities and practical care for the women in our congregation, all in complete submission to our elders. These women are at the heart of what we do—they are amazing.

When we first started our care team over a decade ago, some of the main thoughts that consumed my brain were: How would I train them? What resources would I use? How could I help them build their confidence, encourage them to step out of their comfort zone and trust God? I spent ages looking for a helpful resource to train our care team. I needed something that was biblical, practical, interactive, and relevant to our context.

Frustratingly—even though there’s tonnes written about women’s ministry out there—not much of it was practical, and even less was relevant to ministry in the schemes. In the end, I decided I would have to combine a few things to get what we needed. I chose CCEF’s How People Change video course, combined with a mixture of case studies, topical studies, and practice.

How People Change is an excellent resource. It seemed just what we needed. It’s very practical and would help our women think through how to speak well and biblically into different situations. It dealt with great truths, such as why we won’t challenge and who we are really serving with our fears. On the surface, it looked perfect for us. But, in truth, it didn’t really hit the mark.

Starting from Scratch

This became evident very quickly, and by week three I’d started re-writing it for our context. My mistake was assuming that I could just make a few tweaks and it would miraculously meet our every need. Don’t get me wrong, the CCEF stuff is biblically solid and robust. But, at their foundation, they come from a counselling culture and not one of individual discipleship, within a church setting, as part of ongoing pastoral care. It seemed written from a middle-class churched people perspective. Plus, resources such as Side by Side by Ed Welch (great resource to start with) or Growing Together by Melissa Kruger simply didn’t exist then.

Hear me well: I love the book How People Change and use it every year with our summer interns. But even after I had contextualized, tweaked, and made my own version of the resource guide, it just didn’t do what we needed it to. I was trying to make something fit that simply didn’t because I thought it was the easiest option. Eventually reality dawned, I had to admit the truth to myself, and we took on the challenge of writing our own training from scratch.

We have been working on our women’s ministry training and mentoring program for over six years. What we have now has been through lots of reviews. Now we have something that truly does meet the needs in our context.

Trying to prepare and equip our women’s workers—who themselves are in different contexts, with different needs, in different churches, with their own elders—is no mean feat. We tried and tested it in Scotland, with our patient women’s workers, as well as internationally with twelve experienced women, in some form of ministry, ensuring what we had really did fit the bill. The course we have now is specifically for women who have been asked by their elders to consider women’s ministry in their church.

We aren’t teaching anything new—it’s the same old same old—but the real difference is the way we have incorporated the mentorship with an experienced women’s worker. Again, simply taking the biblical frame of Titus 2 as an older, more experienced woman speaks into the life of a newbie just stepping out. This is what I’d been looking for in the early days.

Back to the Book

Now you see my problem—How do I write all that in one paragraph for the book? Like I said, I’m asked some variation of these questions on a regular basis: How did we set up our women’s ministry? How did we create the structure in submission to the leadership? How did we get women to step up and take accountability? How did we train the care team? In the book, I’m going to try and answer some of those “Always asked Questions”. Hopefully I’ll be able to answer them (if I can get over myself and admit the mistakes!). Some of our mistakes, like the off-the-shelf cobbled together training idea, actually forced me to re-evaluate, re-think, and do something much better in the long run. Simple isn’t always the best.

But, one question I can actually answer now. The number one question after How do you train your care team? is: Can we have your training?

My answer is always the same—NO! But, we can train your women. . . . We have several courses to prepare and equip our women for ministry.

The Ragged School Electives:

The Women’s Ministry Course (On Campus or Distance Learning)

Who’s it for? The course is specifically for women who have been asked by their elders to consider women’s ministry in their church. Students must come with a recommendation from their elders.

Summary: This is designed to help women think through the key issues, assess existing women’s ministry, and work through a draft plan for her elders.

Ministry Wives Course (On Campus or Distance Learning)

Who’s it for? The course is specifically for women who are married to someone who is in ministry (salaried or lay staff).

Summary: The old adage is true—behind every great man. . . . You know the rest. Being the wife of someone in a key role can be hard, lonely, and isolating. This course helps wives think through their role and prepares them for some of the key issues they may face.

The Equip Titus 2 Online Course (Coming September 2020)

Who’s it for? Any church member who want to serve her membership more intentionally.

Summary: When we advertise out intake for the women’s course, it never surprises me how many women want to serve more intentionally but feel ill-equipped and lack the confidence to step out. This course gives a big picture overview, some pointed direction, and a biblically solid nudge in the right direction.

If you want to dip your toe in the water, sign up for our women’s pre-conference 30th October. This year, due to Covid, we will be holding our women’s pre-conference online. So, if you have always wanted to join us but couldn’t get to Scotland, this is your chance to join us virtually.   

For everything else—the training, the books, the updates, the stories, our monthly bulletin in the place to start: [email protected].

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