Have you been asked to plan a program for the women in your church? Has your youngest child left to begin kindergarten, and you are asking the Lord how he wants you to use these free hours? Are you singled out by others for leadership even though you try to stay “behind the scenes”? God may be encouraging you to step out in new areas of your life, perhaps to develop a specific ministry chosen by God for you alone.
As you consider this possibility, you may be asking yourself, “Am I ready?” You may wonder, How can anyone prepare to do the work of God? Yet the dictionary defines ministry as “the act of ministering or serving.” By daily serving your family, friends, and community, you may be preparing yourself to respond to God’s call.
Jesus is our greatest example of service. In Philippians 2:6-7 we are told that our attitudes should be shaped by Jesus Christ.
Who [Jesus], being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
What were the qualities Jesus displayed? In Philippians 2:3-4 we read, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Few of us feel qualified or worthy to lead others. Because we are acutely aware of our own inadequacies, we feel someone else could do a better job. However, through the unique experiences, circumstances, and events of our lives, God has equipped us to minister to others. And thankfully, by his Spirit living in us, he uses us as his instruments to personally complete his work. We are not left alone.
As Beth Knighton stated, “Anyone who has a need that God has equipped me to meet is my neighbor.” This is true. Does that mean we are to try to meet the needs of every person we meet? That would be impossible. When God reveals a person’s need to us, he will give us either the ability to meet it or the insight to contact another person who is capable of meeting that specific need. A friend may come to me about financial problems, and I may not have the resources to help. But I may recommend another believer who has the expertise, or I may call on the local church body for help.
Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27), so the privilege of ministry is ours. You may wonder how God prepares us for ministry. Our ability may come through difficult life experiences. Have you been through a crisis with a teenager? Have you overcome financial struggles? Do you remember how you handled the busy hours of young motherhood or the loneliness of widowhood? God comforts and teaches us during these difficult periods of life so that we can reach out and comfort others. We can praise God “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Cor. 1:4).
Many times we are equipped with a particular talent or skill for service that is different from others. I remember Myrna Alexander’s testimony. A pastor’s wife and author of several women’s Bible study books, she spoke at a women’s luncheon I attended and told the story of a woman named Emily.
Emily felt deeply hurt and frustrated because she thought she had no gift to offer God. One day she shared her distress with Myrna whose reply was simple. She turned to Emily and asked, “What do you really like to do?”
Emily paused to think for a moment before answering, “Sewing, I guess. Sewing is one thing I really enjoy.”
Myrna smiled, “Then, Emily,” she said, “Sew. Sew for God’s glory! Use this skill to minister to Christ’s body, his church.”
Emily left Myrna’s home that day and prayerfully considered the suggestion. Later a beaming Emily approached Myrna after a church service. “I am going to sew for Jesus!” she said, “I’ve invited several young mothers to meet with me each week. I plan to teach them to sew while we have a time of Christian fellowship and encouragement.”
God used Emily’s gifts and skills for his glory. What are the gifts and skills he has assigned you? What experiences has God used to comfort and teach you that you can share with others? Before we can effectively reach out and serve others, it is helpful to ask ourselves certain important questions. Are you ready to search for the special ministry God equipped you to fulfill? Take time to consider and complete the following Personal Inventory Questionnaire that is divided into three parts.
In the first part of the questionnaire, biblical passages and questions are provided to help you examine your heart to see if you are developing into the woman God intends you to be. Though we are all imperfect, God provides goals and aspirations in his Word that give us direction as we seek to become women he can use for his glory. The next questions are offered to help you identify your God-given talents, skills, and abilities. Finally, you will be provided methods for identifying the needs of others and for discovering ways you can personally meet those needs. Reflect and enjoy this time as you consider God’s work and plan for your life.
Have you put your hope in God by placing your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting him with your life?
Paul challenges us, “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.... Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Rom. 13:9-12, 14).
Have you sought the inner beauty described in the following passage?
Peter states, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment.... Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful” (1 Pet. 3:3-5).
Have you sought the following qualities attesting to your faith in the Lord Jesus and his Word?
In 1 Timothy 3:11, we find the following guidance. “Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things” (NASB).
If married, have you considered your family’s feelings? Will your children receive the time and concern they need? Is your husband willing to support you as you seek to reach out to those outside your home? Can you be involved in ministry while maintaining a peaceful, loving home environment?
Peter also states, “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives” (1 Pet. 3:1-2).
Lorine Shannon, past coordinator of women’s ministries for Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, writes in her manual Lord, What Do You Want Me to Do? “The woman who is the delight of her husband and her children, who has the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, who has a hospitable attitude and charm, owes nothing to chance because her outlook and influence has the solid foundation of the principle and wisdom of the Lord.... She is a vessel of honor.”
Now that you have considered God’s desires for women, the next step is to identify your specific gifts and abilities for service.
Gigi Tchividjian, daughter of Billy and Ruth Graham, writes in her book Diapers and Dishes or Pinstripes and Pumps, “The Scriptures teach that at the moment of salvation, when we become a member of the body of Christ, which is the church, each of us is given a gift or gifts (see 1 Cor. 12). These gifts are uniquely suited for us and our particular situation or task.” You, too, have been given gifts. One joy in the Christian life is discovering these so that you can minister to others.
Joyce Turner, previous national women’s coordinator for the navigators, writes, “Each of us has at least one spiritual gift. Let us start where we are, use what we have and do what we can. Who knows what great things God has in mind, even with us!”
As we seek to be Christ’s body in the world, he equips us to fulfill our role in accomplishing his purposes. Cole Huffman, in his article “Meet Your Cell Mates,” compares each member of Christ’s body to a cell in the human body. Each is needed for the body to function to fulfill God’s plan. “Life in the body of Christ is sustained by the interdependent function of individual believers. As ‘cells,’ believers serve the body as they relate to one another. Just like a cell, each believer carries out specialized work he or she was designed to do.”
As you continue in your walk with the Lord, ask the Lord for wisdom as you search for your particular gifts. In doing so, you will begin to recognize your friends’, neighbors’, and family’s needs. Ask yourself, “Are there ways I can meet these needs?”
For example, you may write that a friend says, “It has been so hard caring for the children lately. Jim, my husband, has been working overtime for months. I feel like I never see him. Managing three children sure hasn’t been easy.”
When your friend mentions her difficulty in caring for her children, her words may be communicating a deeper message, one of loneliness or a feeling of neglect by her husband due to his job situation. How could God use you to comfort and encourage her?
The following questionnaire, developed by Mrs. Onilla May of Colorado Springs, Colorado, is circulated annually through every gathering at her church, including women’s Bible studies and programs, Sunday school classes, choir, and new member classes. When the forms are completed and collected, a resource committee transfers all the information to specially printed three-by-five-inch cards which are filed by category. An alphabetical file and interests file enable the church to identify the interests of each woman and also help each of the women to use her gifts and talents in meeting needs within the church.
Every Christian needs a place of service where she is comfortable and where her interests and talents lie. We want to be sure that you are asked to serve in those areas where you have maximum effectiveness. Please write interest for those areas where you have a skill, talent, or an interest in serving. Write experience for those areas where you have had some previous experience—not necessarily in church situations.
Please feel free to write all over this paper! Please comment when it helps to clarify.
Take time to fill in this survey. You may be surprised at your many God-given skills and abilities that can be used by him to minister to others. After each person fills in the above Women’s Interest Survey, the results can be placed in a categorized file system so that specific women can be identified who possess the gifts needed for recognized areas.
Now that you have considered your biblical role as a woman, discovered your personal talents, gifts, and abilities, and learned ways to identify the needs of others for ministry opportunities, it is time to search for God’s unique purpose for you. In the following pages you will find a variety of creative and alternative views for Christian women’s ministry. Remember to pray that you will be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting as he directs you into a specific ministry.
We will return to the Personal Inventory Questionnaire in the final chapter and evaluate your answers based on the ministry opportunities you will read about in the Resource Guide for Women’s Ministry.
“For God... made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Cor. 4:6-7).