At Gifted for Leadership, we spend a lot of time griping about women's ministry. And I don't necessarily mean "griping" in a negative way - most of the discussions we have are constructive. We've simply been burned by the traditional systems and are looking for better ways to foster true discipleship and community in the lives of women beyond surface-level social gatherings. When we see healthy examples of these values, then, we figure we'd better share them with you.
I went on my church's women's retreat last weekend. I surprised myself by attending. I wasn't going to go, but my friend was leading worship and she asked me to come and sing with her, so I agreed. I don't know why I was so reluctant. I went through a mental checklist. Let's see? Do I love my church? Check. Do I love the women in my church? Check. Do I love retreats? Check. So, what was my problem?
I'm aware that I have an unhealthy - and maybe unfair - view of women's retreats. The image I usually conjure is a homogeneous group of women discussing topics that would only make me feel isolated and cynical. Like I said - unmerited, right? But I know these feelings are at least somewhat grounded in experiences I've had. And judging from the comments we've received on women's ministry-related posts, many of you share these views.
I have good news, though: Last weekend shattered my feeble perceptions of women's retreats. I encountered a community of women of different ages and life stages dedicated to Christ and one another. Instead of leaving the retreat cynical, I was refreshed and sensed a new vigor for my relationship with Christ, my ministry in the church, and my family.
So, what about this weekend was so formational for me?
The leaders broke us into small groups for the worship, teaching, and discussion times. Instead of choosing these groups arbitrarily, however, they intentionally placed us with women we might not connect with on a normal Sunday morning. In one group, for example, I saw a new mom, a single woman in her thirties, an "empty nester," a mother with school-aged children, and a newlywed.
I learned lessons about myself through the experiences, trials, and wisdom of the women in my group. We get stuck when we rely on ourselves and people our own age to define what is meaningful and true. We need insights from the body of Christ to pull us from the mire of our own viewpoint and champion us toward unity in Jesus (Ephesians 4).
What about you? Do you resonate with my women's ministry frustration? What has been the core of that dissatisfaction? When have you met God through the lives and encouragement of other women?