Women’s Ministry Ideas, Especially for Your Small Church
Learn how to start a Women’s Ministry in your Christian church, including outreach events, building relationships, Bible Studies, and more.
So you’ve been thinking about starting a Women’s Ministry but you’re not sure where to start?
With any desired change, our problem isn’t typically needing to learn more, think more, or pray more. Our biggest obstacle usually is DOING.
Our fear holds us back. Uncertainty drives our thoughts. Other important things get in our way. And we just never get started.
In order to get you DOING, here is a 4 Week Plan to start your Women’s Ministry, broken down by the weeks with just 7 steps. Once the snowball starts rolling down the hill, it gains momentum and starts growing. But sometimes that snowball needs a little kick to get started.
So here goes!
I always write with the small church in mind. So while large churches can follow these same steps, I promise they can work in your small church too. Whether you have 2 women or 20, a healthy Women’s Ministry can add a lot of benefit to your church.
- A setting for women to laugh, to cry, and just do life together with other women. It brings us together.
- An environment for friendship and encouragement. Growing deeper in relationship is God’s desire for community.
- A place to grow to learn about God and His Word. The ultimate goal is knowing Jesus and living for Him.
So, here’s a 4 weeks plan with 7 actionable steps to build a women’s ministry in your small church. Follow these steps, don’t over-complicate it, and repeat to yourself: Done is better than perfect!
(Note: My assumptions are 1) you know Jesus and feel inspired to do this ministry, 2) you care about the women in your community and desire to meet their needs (not just your own), and 3) your church leadership supports you and has given you permission to form this ministry. If those things are in question, take care of them first and come back here soon!)
The Foundation of Women’s Ministry
Women Need Relationships With Other Women
- God made us for community: Hebrews 10:25 (don’t give up meeting together)
- We make each other better: Proverbs 27:17 (iron sharpens iron)
- Women are called to mentor women: Titus 2 (older women teaching the younger)
Women’s Ministry is for ALL Women
You don’t need to be a girly-girl and you don’t need to like the color pink.
I’ve met so many women who avoid women’s ministries for the following reasons: I don’t really like to be around other women. They’re so catty. I hate girly-stuff. I don’t like crafts. I’m not a stay-at-home mom. I wouldn’t fit in. I don’t know anyone.
You don’t need to be a certain age, life-stage, or personality type.
The truth is a lot of women don’t like pink, don’t like gossip, and don’t like crafts. None of these are essential to a Women’s Ministry.
Women’s Ministries exist to meet needs. Friendship, laughter, support, encouragement, exhortation, service, spiritual growth. The core of a women’s ministry is sharing God’s love and doing what He commands. A healthy women’s ministry attracts an eclectic group.
- Olders, youngers, and in-betweeners
- Working, stay-at-home, and retired
- Introverts, extroverts, and other-verts
- Jesus-lovers, Jesus-seekers, and even Jesus-avoiders
A Healthy Women’s Ministry Has a Strategy
Whether you are starting from scratch, reviving your new year, or just wanting to re-boost some momentum, work this 4-Week Plan. A little intentionality can go a long way!
- Refresh your dreams, your lists, and your prayers
- Adopt a strategy instead of just filling a calendar
- Find some support along the way
4 WEEKS TO START A WOMEN’S MINISTRY IN 7 STEPS:
WEEK ONE – FIND A MINISTRY PARTNER & ADVERTISE A PLANNING PARTY
STEP 1) Find a Ministry Partner (or two) for more Effectiveness, Better Ideas, and Less Misfires
Having a team of two or three does some amazing things.
- More fun, less stress
- Better events
- Encouragement to keep going
Even if your church is small, don’t start this ministry alone! We are made for community. Everything is better with a friend. And in a small church, if you plan an event together, even if no one else shows up, you still have your friend!
Doing ministry in teams, even if your team is just tow, protects us from burn-out and reminds us we are not failing when numbers aren’t what we would like! Because you are never alone. Think about Bert & Ernie, Siskel & Ebert, the Lone Ranger & Tonto. It’s just a better plan.
In addition to support & encouragement, sometimes your best ideas might not be as great as you think. And you need another perspective to bring that to light!
It happens to me all the time: I’ll have this great idea, and I share it with my friend Gwen. Half-way into sharing this amazing notion, I start to question the words coming out of my own mouth. Why did I think this was a good idea? That doesn’t sound as good as I thought.
But as the conversation continues, back and forth, with feedback and input, MY idea becomes OUR idea, and it is SOOOO much better. There is perspective, clarity, and even unintended troubleshooting that comes with a team. Everyone needs a “Gwen.” She makes things better and saves me from a lot of mistakes.
Where can you find a Ministry Partner?
There is a woman somewhere who cares about this ministry at your church. It might be the older prayer warrior, your best friend, a young woman who is barely out of high school, or a faithful woman you haven’t really talked with at length. But I think she’s there in your church.
If you can’t find her quite yet, click here to find us on facebook: Solutions & Support for Small Churches: The Creative Little Church Community. And we’ll partner with you until you do!
STEP 2) Advertise a Planning Party
I know we haven’t covered what this Planning Party entails yet, but if you are willing to take a risk and trust me, pick a date toward the end of Week 3 to have a Women’s Ministry Planning Party.
You need to pick the date now so you can advertise it. You’ll learn more about the Planning Party in Week 3.
It’s possible no one will join you at this party, but you may be surprised to find others who have been craving a women’s ministry. And you’ll never know unless you ask. So, do a sweeping invite for a Women’s Ministry Planning Party! It doesn’t matter at all if anyone else ends up joining you – it might just be you and your “Gwen” attending. And that is just fine!
If others may never come, why should I publicize this?
Inviting others into the process does a few things:
- It shows you value their input even it they don’t want to give it.
- May bring great ideas into the process that you have never thought about.
- It builds momentum, whether people come or not. If they come, awesome! You get to learn about their needs and desires. If they don’t come, everyone who saw it advertised will still be wondering what’s coming around the corner!
So pick a date, time, and place that work for you and your Ministry Partner. The location might be your church, your home, or a local coffee shop. And remember, we will cover what to do in this meeting in Step 5. All you have to do this week is pick the date, the time, and get the word out.
Advertise ASAP in your church bulletin, email announcements, flyers, and social media. Use whatever avenues you have available to spread the news. Let everyone know it’s happening even if you think no one would ever come or you think very few people even care.
Try this for wording: “Hey! Join us for a Women’s Ministry Planning Party! We are starting something new and would love your input. Meet us at (place) from (time) to share your ideas and have a little fun too! Contact (name & number/email) if you have any questions.”
So, Week One was all about finding a ministry partner and advertising a planning party. Don’t over-think this. Just Go! You’re going to be okay. Just get the snowball rolling down the hill!
WEEK TWO – MAKE A LOVE LIST & COMMIT TO THE FUNNEL
STEP 3) Make a Love List
Whether you are a list-person or a list-avoider, this list is non-negotiable.
But this list isn’t a boring to-do list that you’ll never be able to conquer. It’s a love list!
Grab your journal and list all the women you can think of connected to your church, by name. (If you completed Step 1 and have a ministry partner, do this together!)
List women over the age of 18 who are still living and breathing on this earth. Include any woman with a connection to your church.
- Regular attenders, occasional attenders, once a year visitors
- Close friends, acquaintances, friends of friends
- Happy women, ticked-off women, even crabby women
If you think of a name, write it down.
- If you met them at a friend’s Christmas party
- They left your church but you still see them on facebook
- If they come late, leave early, and never talk to a soul
Every woman is included on this list.
You might know them a lot, you might know them a little, or you might think you know them better than you do. It doesn’t matter.
All these women matter to God. And all are in your circle of influence. They have needs to meet. And they have gifts to share. Each and every one of them.
Keep this list in a safe place. And be ready to add to it as other women come to mind.
This list becomes a prayer list. A strategy list. A living, breathing, growing list.
STEP 4) Commit to the Funnel Strategy
I love to look to Jesus when I’m visioning, strategizing, or just dealing with people. So here is a ministry strategy based on how Jesus ministered on this earth.
Now, I know “strategy” is a business-y word to some, but strategy just means focused planning. And I think God is okay with planning as long as it doesn’t negate Holy-Spirit-intervention or God-redirection. So let’s embrace this Jesus-strategy!
Jesus’ Exampled a Funnel Ministry, not a One-Size-Fits-All Ministry
Jesus did not minister to all people in the same way.
- He did not give the same message to the curious that He gave to his disciples.
- Jesus did not try to meet all the needs of all people at one event.
- He wasn’t disappointed that He only had 12 disciples. He expected it.
5000 came out of curiosity and received a free meal on a hillside. Crowds followed Jesus to learn more and He shared relatable parables about farming to a people who would relate. 12 traveled and ate with Jesus, and He taught them to do the ministry. 3 came to the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus urged them to stay awake and pray.
We can learn a lot from this.
A Women’s Ministry can have a Pajama Pizza Party without a Bible Study. It’s okay to have a Small Group learning about Jesus that isn’t yet committed to evangelism. And it’s great to have just two women in a Discipleship Group. Because that’s doing ministry like Jesus.
Let me explain.
UNDERSTANDING THE MINISTRY FUNNEL
If you pour something in a funnel, it will naturally flow through the top and out the bottom (as long as it’s not clogged).
Imagine this image is a funnel:
Like a typical funnel, it’s clearly larger on the top and gets smaller as it goes down. The top and the bottom are open so things can flow through.
Now, picture people all over this image. Some people are outside the funnel in the white space on your screen, some are jumping in the funnel, and some are traveling down through the funnel. Then watch at the bottom of the funnel: someone is squeezing out bottom, grabbing a friend, and jumping back in the top again! Fun, huh?
That’s how ministry works!
So what does it mean?
This special funnel has layers. From top to bottom, biggest to smallest, the layers look like this:
- Outreach – come on in and join us!
- Community – stay in and build relationships!
- Growth – get to know Jesus and learn about God’s Word!
- Discipleship – live what you learn and reach out to others!
If you have women outside the funnel, what would bring them in? Maybe a Movie Night or a Paint Party. (Jesus got the attention of non-believers with miracles, stories, and food.)
If you have women who are ready to grow deeper in faith, you may offer a Bible Study or a Mentoring Program. But everyone starts somewhere. And most people dip their toe in the water before they dive deep. Discipleship is a process.
How the Funnel Changes Church Ministry
By applying the funnel strategy to your women’s ministry, you’ll do things with more intention, find yourself less frustrated, and meet needs more effectively.
If you are reading this article, you are probably on your way down the funnel. You want more depth. You want more meaning. And you want more Jesus.
But remember that some of your women aren’t there yet – they might even be outside the funnel. They need an invitation to jump in and dip their toe in the water. Build relationships. Maybe they will follow at a distance for awhile.
The funnel reminds us that everyone isn’t at the same place, and every event won’t meet everyone’s needs. There is no failure when more women come to a movie night and less are interested in being mentored. They are just not there yet.
A healthy women’s ministry isn’t one-size-fits-all. It’s perfectly healthy to have less women in a Bible Study, more joining a Walking Club, and lots coming to a Dessert Night. There is not failure there. This funnel leads us to a few principles.
- Design events with specific purpose to meet women’s needs
- Don’t try to reach every need with every event
- Expect to have varied attendance at different events
Be patient. Remember, Jesus did not invite 5000 people to the Garden of Gethsemane. He gave the 5000 free food on a hillside!
Every woman will not be excited about a Bible Study, and that is okay. Ministry is about meeting needs and if what they need is friendship, start there. Welcome them where they are, just like Jesus did.
WEEK THREE: PREPARE YOUR PLANNING PARTY & LEAD WITH CONFIDENCE
STEP 5) Prepare for Your Women’s Ministry Planning Party
Parties vs. Meetings
Meetings are boring and bland. They involve lectures, learning, and note-taking.
Parties are fun! They are active. They always involve food, usually music, and sometimes even gifts.
While some people like meetings, MOST people like a party.
So, throw a party! Plan to set up the environment like you would a party. Have fun food. Pretty napkins. Maybe even simple welcome gifts, door prizes, or party favors to take home. This could be as simple as a scripture verse printed on a card or even a candy bar!
Music is welcoming as people enter and fill the awkward staggered-arrival time. Set a happy tone with some tunes.
Be prepared for your meeting ahead of time so you can be relaxed, relational and a fabulous welcomer!
Gather your supplies:
- A timer
- Post-it note pads (1 pad per person)
- Snacks & Refreshments (keep is simple!)
- Music to play and something to play it on
- The M&M mixer printout (optional)
- Extra paper
- Planning Party Agenda (below)
Read over your party agenda a few times so you are comfortable:
- If you are not used to leading group, practice leading the meeting out loud. You will be much more confident if you practice out loud, even if it’s just to your mirror or to your cats!
STEP 6) Lead your Planning Party
Strive to keep each section to 10 minutes as listed. You want to keep the party and the conversation moving. You can set a timer for each section if it helps.
Keep in mind, no one wants to attend another boring meeting – so start with some fun, and definitely some food.
Planning Party Agenda:
START WITH the M&M Candy Mixer (10 minutes)
As with any event, start with a mixer. Even if you dislike mixers and games, they serve a purpose. People need to downshift from their days and their worries.
How to Play the M&M Mixer:
Have each woman grab a few m&m’s but tell them not to eat them yet! Go around the circle and answer a question for each color. (orange: a favorite book or movie, brown: something you did this week, yellow: something you’d like to try doing, red: something you are interested in, blue: something you are pretty good at, green: a food you don’t like.) If there’s only a few of you, still play the game! It’s surprising how much we still have to learn about even our closest friends.
If you want a printable to use for this game, here’s one I found on pinterest: M&M mixer game.
SHARE YOUR VISION FOR WOMEN’S MINISTRY (5-10 minutes)
Share why you want to start a Women’s Ministry. Maybe talk about some of the things in the introduction of this article. Share some of your hopes and dreams. This is the time to paint a picture of a positive future and what God might have in store.
Read Isaiah 43:9: “Behold, I am doing a new thing … now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
God has done amazing things in the past and He’s still at work today!
POST-IT NOTE BRAINSTORMING (10 minutes)
In this next section, invite women to dream about their hopes and for a ministry. But do it this way:
Ask them to think about these 2 questions: 1) What would a great women’s ministry look like? and 2) What type of events would you invite your friends to?
Pass out a pad of post-it notes to each woman and tell them we are not going to talk quite yet. Set a timer for 5 minutes and ask them to jot down as many ideas as they can think of, but only write one idea per post-it note. Just one word or phrase per post-it. Your goal is LOTS of ideas, not your best ideas, just LOTS! (One post-it might read: Retreat. Others might say: Make Meals for Homeless or Game Night or Cooking Together.)
Before you start the timer, state a few rules: There are no wrong ideas. All ideas are welcome. No talking until the timer rings.
After the 5-minutes, have everyone share what they wrote. Encourage and thank each one as she shares. (Celebrate all ideas – no negative comments, no judging, no decisions, just sharing!)
IMPORTANT NOTE: Individual quiet writing time is key in this activity. Don’t give into the temptation to skip the post-it notes. In most groups, when the talking begins, a few people dominate the conversation. Those who are quieter, or thought-processors get left out of the conversation. By giving time to write and then having each person share what they wrote, you will increase participation and ensure that every heart is heard!
GROUP THE POST-IT NOTES (10 minutes)
Work together to group the post-it notes in similar stacks or categories. Maybe everything that is about Bible Study in one pile. Talk about how great all the ideas are.
More post-its in one area doesn’t mean it’s a better idea. You are just grouping to learn more and make decision-making easier later.
Before moving on to the next section, say this: These are such great ideas and I hope we will be able to do a lot of them. To get started this year, you’ll probably see some simple events (maybe the mission trip to Haiti will be down the road a bit). But we are going to hang on to ALL these ideas for the future and revisit the ones we can’t do quite yet!
INTRODUCE CORE VALUES (10 minutes)
Ask the women how they would describe a healthy women’s ministry. Not the events offered, but the characteristics of the group. (like welcoming, happy, encouraging, supportive)
Make a list together of all the words you can come up with. Then, like you did with the post-it notes, try to group similar words and meaning and see if you can come up with 4-6 words that are most important.
The key question is: What kind of ministry would you like to be part of?
You do not need to finalize this section. Just have a working list.
As you talk about this, you will uncover what is important to the women who are present. And if it is important to them, it should be important to you!
INVITE THEM TO JOIN THE VISION (10 minutes)
Say, “Everyone of you is part of this vision. You all have great ideas and gifts & talents to share. Can you think of a way you would like to be involved? Would you like to help with certain events? Are there any hobbies you would like to share?”
Just have a free time of sharing. Listen well and take notes! Be thinking about how you can encourage them to use their gifts and talents in this ministry.
WRAP UP THE MEETING (10 minutes)
Before you wrap up the party, go around the table and have everyone share one thing they are are excited about in the future women’s ministry. Listen well and take notes.
Thank them for coming and let them know you will create a year calendar of some initial events and have it ready next week!
WEEK FOUR: CHOOSE SIMPLE EVENTS FOR THIS YEAR & PUBLICIZE YOUR WOMEN’S MINISTRY CALENDAR
STEP 7) Make Your Year Calendar and Publicize It
With the help of your Ministry Partner and input from your planning party, create a yearly calendar within one week of your meeting. After you create it, publicize it ASAP.
Don’t be intimidated by planning the calendar. It doesn’t have to be perfect. And you may end up doing some additional things. But start here! Putting one SIMPLE event on the calendar for each month, will start the momentum.
Follow these starting principles:
- One event each month is plenty.
- Consider where your women are on the ministry funnel and plan with their needs in mind.
- Choose simple events that will be successful even if only 2 women come.
Don’t worry about the perfect calendar. It won’t be perfect.
Knowing that ahead of time takes the pressure off. You will have events that no one comes to. And some events that surprise you with way more people than you dreamed. Keep great notes and keep learning.
Women’s Ministry Event Ideas for Starting Out
Choose easy, low-prep, low-cost, low-stress events.
The best events are usually the easiest events to plan and lead. If you are anxious about the details or worry about failing, you won’t be present to listen and love the women who come. You will be distracted and stressed out. And none of us need more stress.
People are busy. And you are busy. If your women’s ministry is high maintenance you will burn out and fail. Instead, choose easy events with great impact, and the greatest impact is relationship.
Or try some of theses:
- Pajama & Popcorn Movie Night
- Walking/Hiking Meet-Up Day
- Book Club
- Bible Study video series (recent favorites: Lysa Terkheurst or Bianca Olthoff)
- Mugs & Muffins Fellowship
- Themed Potluck
- Q & A Panel on a specific topic
- Sewing Dresses for Africa out of pretty pillowcases
- Making Meals to freeze for families in need
Whatever you choose, just start!
Put 12 events on your church calendar, one each month, and start publicizing within one week after your planning party. And get the word out!
Congratulations! You just started a Women’s Ministry!
Now, to keep it running and healthy you need to keep learning! But learning as you go is the best way to grow, so don’t wait to start until you get it all down. Remember: DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT!
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