How this Pastor’s Wife Kicked-off her Women’s Ministry

As a small church, you can have a vibrant Women’s Ministry. This pastor’s wife shares her story of hosting a successful women’s retreat in a church of 50. And how her first-ever women’s retreat was a wild success, even without a speaker!

About Susan Overholt

Susan Overholt married a paramedic; eight years later, he became a pastor. So after 32 years of marriage and 24 years in the ministry, Susan found us at The Creative Little Church.

Florida is their native home, but the Lord called them to serve in Montana in 1999. After homeschooling all 4 of her kids, she now works part-time at a Christian college library. She has worked primarily in children’s ministry, but now has a renewed passion for women’s ministry.

A part of our Women in Small Churches Facebook Community, when Susan posted about her retreat success with photos of her snazzy retreat workbook, she was overrun with requests from women asking for a copy. Happy to share, she had no idea the amount of people who would even want to see it! 

Not surprising to us though! We know women in small churches love to learn from each other. We’re tired of big-church ideas that don’t work in small churches and we don’t have time to keep re-inventing the wheel.

So we thought we’d take a step back and find out how this all came about. It turns out that not only was this the first women’s retreat Susan ever hosted, but she also was a newbie at women’s ministry. 

Read on to hear how she started a womens’ ministry from scratch and how she led a successful retreat without a speaker! 

It started with offering women’s Bible Study.

Susan: After the long, solitary life of sheltering-in-place in the Covid-19 season, I felt the Lord nudging me to start a Women’s Bible study, last summer.

I was floored when I saw the sign-up sheet with 18 names on it. The women were hungry for spiritual food and fellowship.

I am the pastor’s wife of a small church in Montana, with around 50 regular attendees – and excitedly – we currently have 12-18 women who show up for Bible study each week.

What’s your ministry background?

Susan: My ministry background is leading our Awana ministry, teaching Sunday school and children’s church and organizing events. I had no real experience in women’s ministry. However, the Lord doesn’t need my skills, He just wanted my willingness. Here we go!

Why did you decide to start women’s ministry and what how did you do it?

Susan: After seeing the enthusiastic response to Bible study, I felt another nudge to actually start a women’s ministry.

So, what does one do when they need information?

Google it!

This led me first to The Women’s Ministry Toolbox, where I promptly purchased Cindee Ownbey’s book, Rethinking Women’s Ministry. After devouring that, I found The Creative Little Church website and Facebook page.

From there, I was able to learn about the upcoming Women’s Ministry Conference. I hesitantly gathered some other women leaders in my church and we watched the conference with anticipation. Consequently, our women’s ministry leadership team was born!

Due to the conference, one inspiring idea led to another. The team was over-the-top excited and couldn’t wait to start making plans. This conference was a game changer in how we viewed women’s ministry.

Of course, a retreat was a must.

Had you done retreats in the past? 

Susan: Our church has never hosted a women’s-only retreat, and we were eager to make it happen. Little did we know how well this event would be received by the women.

We planned for 10-12 and ended up with 20 enthusiastic names on the list. Scratch that old venue off the list, on to look for something larger. What a wonderful problem to have.

The Lord was gracious and had all the details worked out. We were able to book a large house in a small tourist town at the foot of the Beartooth Mountains. 

So if you’re hosting a retreat, you need a speaker, right?

Susan: Now here’s the problem!! I am not a Bible teacher. I’m a great facilitator, but I do not share the same teaching gift of my husband.

Since our women’s ministry is so new, I couldn’t pull from the women to teach as I didn’t even know who had that gift. So, how does a very small church afford a good Bible speaker at a women’s retreat?

Google to the rescue!

Actually, the Lord led me to, a ministry started by Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth. Through this website, I discovered many (so many) wonderful teaching videos that were recorded from past women’s conferences. I listened to most of them and prayerfully considered which videos would work together and be most beneficial to theme of our conference, “Freedom In Christ.”

Our retreat went from no speaker to top-notch, well-respected, and sought after women’s ministry leaders and speakers. Also, included on the website are listening guides and discussion questions, which I love to use in teaching sessions.

Where did you get the idea for your retreat workbook?

Susan: I am an unashamed copycat, but with my own style. So, in true copycat fashion, I created a retreat workbook fashioned after The Creative Little Church Women’s Ministry Conference.

I love event organizing and because I’m extra visual, a retreat workbook was a must have. After scouring ideas from The Creative Little Church and The Women’s Ministry Toolbox on what to include, a 37-page retreat notebook was born using Canva and Word. (Download Susan’s notebook here!)

Other than teaching sessions, what other elements did you include in your retreat?

Susan: On top of the teaching sessions, our retreat events included tying flannel blankets to donate to a local crisis pregnancy center, a scavenger hunt through the town, a hilarious game of Guesstures, walks, a movie, and eating a ton of food. Biblical teaching, a service project, fun, fellowship and food, what more could you ask for?

So, how did your retreat end up?

Susan: Praise the Lord! The retreat went smoothly, the women were encouraged and laughed a lot, the reviews were amazing, and I truly believe the Lord was glorified.

This first retreat was a serious learning process with lots of rerouting of plans; however, with prayer and flexibility it all came together and the women’s ministry team is now planning for next year’s retreat! I can’t wait!

Susan Overholt

Ministry leader and pastor’s wife, Susan and her husband live in Montana. Her favorite go-to when she’s feeling stuck … “Google it!”

If you want more on retreat planning …

Keep checking back for more on planning your women’s retreat! We’re creating a series of posts (some written by Susan!) and will link them here as they are published!

Read More:

An Easy Plan to Host an Interdenominational Women’s Event in Your Community

How to Host a Women’s Tea Party in Your Small Church