Thursday, October 27, 2011

Do We Need Women's Ministry?

Did that title grab your attention? It caught my attention when I first read it -- I read a blog that I discovered on Facebook called "Why We Don't Need Women's Ministry." Click here to read it yourself.

I've stewed on this article for a few days now and decided to respond. There are some points she makes that I agree with, but there are other things that I think I'll politely disagree with -- or maybe it's that I'm taking a different angle. Since TMC's Women's Ministry is currently promoting our Home Groups (not too late to register!) with an emphasis on "domestic skills", I feel the urge to defend our programs a bit in light of this article. See if you can follow me here...

First off, I'll be the first to admit that I am far from a domestic diva. My role in the Halpin kitchen is comical. My husband does 99% of the grocery shopping and almost as much of the cooking. Every now and then I'll have an urge to bake, but it's mostly to fulfill a chocolate craving. When I provide a baby meal for a family (which is next to never), it's either a gift certificate or take out (what new mom doesn't love Chipotle!) And although I'd love to say I can sew and be like those creative geniuses on Project Runway, I can't. I depend on others to create and design my wardrobe (along with my pillows, curtains, and kids' Halloween costumes!) I don't iron my husbands shirts unless it's an emergency and he's the one who makes the dry cleaning drop offs. Wow, I'm building myself up to be quite the Domestic Queen aren't I?

So when I read an article like this, I would usually gravitate toward her opinion. I am all for a strong woman who has a spirit of independence, can run a business if she chooses to do so, and holds two masters. This same woman could also be a theologian who plunges into the Word of God, correctly interprets Scripture and applies it to her life. But where does domesticity fit into all of this?
Let's take a look at what this article says and then I'd like to respond:

"But I'm here with you tonight because I want what the world cannot give me. We're choking on cutesy things and crafty bits, safe lady topics, and if one more person says that modest is hottest with a straight face, I may throw up. We are hungry for authenticity and vulnerability, not churchified life hacks from lady magazines. Some of us are drowning, suffocating, dying of thirst for want of the cold water of real community. We're trying really hard--after all, we keep showing up to your lady events, and we leave feeling just a bit empty. It's just more of the same every time."

Agreed. BUT, cannot a sophisticated, educated woman also know how to dress well, plan a party, and keep her house clean? Do you think we she just knows how to do all of that? No, not the women I know...and I know lots that fit this bill. They've been taught or it was modeled to them. And in my opinion, that's what a good women's ministry will do -- it will disciple women to bear the image of Christ, to know the Word, and build community among other women. AND, it will create a culture that will help us in areas where we can grow and learn. Discipleship and mentoring can occur in many different environments.

"We're not all mothers, some of us work outside the home, some of us have kids, and others don't or won't or can't. Is womanhood only about wifehood and motherhood? What about those among us that are not wives and mothers? We're not all in the same season of life. We are - or should be - diverse image bearers of a Divine God."

No, of course we're not all mothers of wives. That is one of my favorite things about our Women's Ministry at TMC -- it's one of the few ministries that any woman can be a part of no matter her marital status, the number of kids she has, and what her career path resembles. I tend to think that Women's Ministry is one of the most diverse ministries a church has to offer. However, there can also be value to focusing into one particular "group" in order to teach and encourage for a particular time. When Mary led a book study on Did I Kiss Marriage Good-bye? she had an incredible opportunity to teach and mentor single women in our church, from all different backgrounds and ages.

"We need Jesus. We are seeking deep spirituality. We are seeking fellow travelers. We are hungry for true community, a place to tell our stories and listen to another, to love well. But above all, point me to Jesus--not to the sale at the mall."
 I love this. I agree with it through and through. If a women's ministry isn't pointing women to a deeper relationship with Jesus, then it is useless. But, I'd like to challenge us (or perhaps it is just this particular blogger?) to see that this kind of discipleship can be had over a warm piece of homemade pie, a cutely decorated cup-cake, or even a sewing machine. Just ask my daughter.

Now, with all that said, you can challenge Mary and me to bring deeper, more meaningful teaching and/or programs if you feel like we're not hitting the mark. We'd love to hear from you. And, I'd also like to encourage you to get involved with what we're already doing! Our Home Groups are phenomenal; one-on-one mentoring can make a serious impact on someone's life; the books we read in our book clubs are intentional and challenging; and our luncheons will not waste your time. And our newly launched Precious to Him Project will take you into dark places and difficult ministry for the sake of others. Come on over, ladies!

"We are smart. We are brave. We want to change the world." Change the world for the sake of Christ...


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rose of Sharon, Part Two

I had a second opportunity to join with some Moody Church women and hit the streets -- the streets of broken, hurting women who are prostituting themselves late at night, right here in Chicago. The Rose of Sharon Ministry, part of New Life Covenant Church, runs this ministry and loves on these women every single Friday night in some rough, dark Chicago neighborhoods. Since this was my second time going out, I was expecting a similar experience to my first. However, I saw more make-up, sequins, and pimps this time around...this night was much different.
One of the women from TMC who joined us expressed what this night was like for her:

"[Rose of Sharon] was a blessing. I grew up in South America as a missionary kid, and since living in the US for the last 15 years I have had opportunities to do overseas missions and state-side mission work. I don't know that I have ever truly felt more humbled than by this past Friday night.  

I personally know that it is just by the hand of the Lord and my parents prayers that I am not in the same shoes as the ladies we saw Friday night. It was eye opening to actually see these ladies at work on the streets so close to where I live.  It is just so different than looking at poverty or being overseas where you expect there to be lower living conditions. When I see someone who is poor, I say "What do you need?" and I can tangibly give them more food, or clothes or help them find some where to live. Or I can go overseas and help build a school or translate for medical doctors so that people's needs are met.  These ladies (though there are significant tangible needs) there is such a deeper need of freedom from the bondage that they are in. These ladies need a hug more than a blanket, they need reassurance of the love of Jesus more than a bowl of food. These ladies not only are trying to live, but they are believing that love is not real or that love is sex. I know that they felt a love from us praying with them and hugging them that they probably have trouble understanding...

When we moved to Chicago I knew I wanted to do something ministry wise in the city, because there is so much opportunity here.  When I heard about the Rose of Sharon ministry I knew that is what the Lord had in mind when he laid this burden on my heart. I am so grateful for the opportunity to shed a little light, share a little smile, and give a little glimmer of hope to some of the ladies. Thank you for putting this together.  Thank you for having a burden for the women of this city." 

I'm so grateful for women like this who are taking a step of obedience and putting their faith into action. The women we met this night are just like you and me in so many ways -- they are lost and need to be found. As mentioned above, it is humbling to interact with some of these women because they can be intimating. One women I spoke to was distracted because her "pimp" was sitting in his car watching her speak to us. I could feel his eyes burning a hole in me as he stared us down. Another women ran off when we approached her yelling, "Stay away from me! You're taking away from my money." Two women we met were pregnant. But the facts remain the same -- without someone taking the time to tell her that she is loved, that she is worth more than she's ever been told, that there is a life better than the one she's living, she could be stuck in this world forever.

My takeaways from this night were to pray for these women and to go again. The power of the Holy Spirit must be present in order for chains to be broken and healing to take place. We prayed long and hard all night while out and His presence assured me He was with us. There is no way I could do something like this without the assurance that God is with us. And this is not a one and done experience. This is not something to scratch off your list and say you did. In order for this ministry to be effective, Christians have to make their presence known in these neighborhoods offering hope and place for these women (and the pimps!) to go for rehabilitation and a new life.

Isaiah 61 takes a new meaning to me after meeting these women. My challenge to you is to read through this passage -- first read it remembering who you are and where you've come from. Maybe you'll remember what you've been saved from and will sing praises to God that your ashes have been made into beauty. Then read through it again and think of those who are still captive and brokenhearted. Ask God how He can use you to "proclaim good news" and then act upon it. Or perhaps you're feeling like you're still captive and brokenhearted...if that's the case, a new life and freedom is available to you through Jesus Christ. Pray that a relationship with God can begin today for you.

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
   because the LORD has anointed me
   to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
   to proclaim freedom for the captives
   and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
   and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
   instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
   instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
   instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
   a planting of the LORD
   for the display of his splendor.

Believing God,