...mostly because I am the coordinator for a small group that ministers to women. It's called MOPS and has been around a really long time. I love it and it has been transformational in my parenting, my marriage, and my personal relationship with Jesus.
I agree with what Sarah wrote. Especially this:
We need Jesus. We are seeking deep spirituality. We are seeking fellow travelers. We are hungry for true community, a place to tell our stories and listen to another, to love well. But above all, point me to Jesus--not to the sale at the mall.She is so right. Even the women who don't know they are seeking him, are still doing it. Some of them will wake up one day and realize the void they are trying to fill with all sorts of things and activities just can't be filled, except by a personal relationship with Jesus. There are probably women in my church who are even trying to fill that hole with "church" instead of Jesus.
I was kind of digging what Sarah wrote. Then I started reading the comments and came across someone who called MOPS a "Jesus Lite" group! So I suppose that was the point when Sarah's article became a little more personal and made my hair stand up.
If anyone asked, I'd be among the first to say that any group that meets at any church ought to be, first and foremost, about strengthening the participants relationship with Jesus. It doesn't matter if it is a general meeting, men's group, or children's church. Beyond that though, you just can't make any more generalizations about what a ministry ought to look like. It doesn't seem though that Sarah stops there.
Maybe it's the headline her editor put on the article - "Why We Don't Need Women's Ministries"? That question could certainly lead me to believe the Sarah thinks we should shun all measure of anything woman-specific within the church. And that whatever meetings our church does have should be gender neutral.
But then she writes this:
We are hungry for authenticity and vulnerability, not churchified life hacks from lady magazines. Some of us are drowning, suffocating, dying of thirst for want of the cold water of real community.
And I wonder... how do you build real community without talking about the every day? How do I get to the point where I can share my authentic self with you if I don't know you? If I can't trust you?
In a good women's ministry, we can share recipes or make a cute craft and STILL be authentic, drinking "the cold water of real community." I am surrounded by people who do not know Christ, or do not know Him as well as I do. If I start off our relationship by sharing my secret sins and asking them to do the same, they aren't going to come back for another super sharing session of deep spirituality. That wasn't even Jesus' model. He met people where they were, and then invited (not shocked) them into relationship with Him.
BUT, if I start my MOPS meeting by sharing a meal, doing something with our hands, and eventually talking about the challenges we face in our daily lives, THEN, I may be given the opportunity to share something deeper and more important. Or invite that mom to serve with me wrapping Christmas gifts at a local ministry. MOPS is not a 'Jesus Lite' kind of ministry. It meets moms where they are so that women who are further along in their personal spiritual journey can bring other moms along with them. It is about moms not having to mother alone, by giving them real relationship with other moms, and hopefully with Jesus.
I hope that Sarah's point is not that we should throw out all attempts at community building and just hold prayer meetings and exegetical Bible studies. Lots of people will be left behind in that spiritual context. I'd love it, but not every meeting of every women's ministry needs to be so intense.
Instead, since she did offer to bring the cupcakes next time, I hope that Sarah is using hyperbole to show us that it isn't enough for our women's ministries to just host social events and "churchified life hacks from lady magazines", that instead, we should always be thinking about how we can sharpen one another (Proverbs 27:17).
Ultimately, I am encouraged by Sarah's open letter to know that there are other women who want to enter into authentic community. And I am encouraged to continue to use MOPS as an outreach to the women I know who are thirsty and need a cold drink of fellowship.
Are you part of a women's ministry? How do you balance the need for social time, unhindered by littles or work, with the call to draw those same women into a closer walk with God?