Since I was small, I have enjoyed the idea of archaeology. Whether a fictional exposition in the movies or the images of real life expositions, I have always been intrigued—not just by the discovery, but primarily by the process. Of course, all sizes of tools are used by archaeologists during their digs for historical artifacts, but I am most captivated by the painstaking care for the treasure by use of the smaller tools and brushes that gently remove dirt, or the sifting of dirt to be sure nothing of value is accidently left behind. The process of unearthing something of value that has been buried for centuries requires a lot of gentleness, patience, and passion.
In a recent conversation with my pastor, we discussed this same idea of unearthing, and in this case, unearthing need. He explained that as he prepares his sermons each week, he keeps in mind not just the needs of the people in the church, but how during his sermon he can help unearth their need. In other words, people don't always know what their needs are. For him, addressing the needs of the people, moving them from the theological truth to the life-changing application, is as much about the process as it is about the ultimate goal.
In the context of most ministry areas, there is a great deal of discussion on relevance. We want to connect with people by addressing their current struggles and longings, to acknowledge their pain and help them move forward and grow closer to God.
This presupposes, however, that the women we minister to have properly unearthed what their needs are. I believe that to be truly relevant is to carefully help women unearth the needs that they might not entirely be aware of. Carefully—because like a treasure that's been buried for centuries, unearthing these needs means being prepared for fragility. For example, when a woman is struggling to conceive a child, her need may sometimes be about more than the unfulfilled longing for a child. The need might be actually have to do with an attitude of expectation, a coveting.
Of course, it is good for women to desire children, but to what end? To fulfill personal desire or to please God? Of course, pleasure can be had in actions that please God, but so often our "needs" are framed by the language of "rights" and "wants" to the neglect of God-centeredness. For our task, unearthing needs requires relationship, an understanding of Scripture, the ability to think theologically, and courage to speak gentle truth.
Relevance that is really just resonance can only take us so far. To be truly relevant, we need to pull out our tool belt with the gentle tools of ministry to help women—through the teaching of Scripture and an awareness of what women are facing in this new century—discover their hidden needs which will help them to draw closer to God.