Can all those pictures fit together in one album that we could label women’s ministry? There will never be enough pages or gigabytes to hold them all and that would be a good thing. But is it more than what we do in our groups? Is women’s ministry more than our programmes? Can we think of women’s ministry as an ongoing stream of ministry happening in diverse ways among women throughout our congregational life?
Having travelled around all 19 presbyteries and listened to what is happening in lots of different congregations, it seems that women’s ministry in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland is delivered in the following three main ways:
- Through PW groups
- Primarily through PW groups which also run additional events and activities drawing in a wider group of women
- Without a PW group and through a more informal programme of events and activities for women
This picture challenges us to recognise the diverse nature of women’s ministry within our congregations. No longer do we have one model, no longer does one approach suit all, or as one PW leader said, “one size doesn’t fit all!”
Women are at different stages in their walk with God and in their commitment to be part of women’s ministry. Some have not yet made a commitment to Christ and so need to be personally challenged with the claims of Christ on their lives. Others, who may have been Christians for many years still need discipled and built up in their faith.
With these things in mind, we need to find ways to support and develop the different approaches to women’s ministry throughout our congregations.
In order to grow and develop we need to evaluate; we also need to listen and understand women’s felt needs and real needs. We need to evaluate what we are doing and how, getting the views of those leading existing work, but also listening to what ordinary women in or out of our pews are experiencing and then finding the best ways of drawing alongside them to challenge and encourage.
The album of women’s ministry in the Presbyterian Church is growing, expanding and developing. Let’s ask God to help us find our congregation’s place in it.
Pauline Kennedy is Women's Ministry & PW Development Officer. She is responsible for supporting the ministry of Presbyterian Women, as well as assisting in the development of strategy and coordination of women’s ministry in general.