Our denomination’s women’s ministry, like so many others, is struggling to stay relevant to women of all ages in our changing culture. While we have a stable base of women in their late-middle and senior years, along with a growing girls’ ministry, the women in the generations between these two groups seem to be unable to identify with us.
There are many theories to explain this demographic’s lack of representation in our ranks, ranging from the consumer-mentality and over-crowded schedules of today’s culture to control issues and a lack of creative programming on our part.
At our recent national conference I had the opportunity to dine with the some of the girls and adult leaders of our girls’ ministry. Since these adult leaders are part of our missing generation, and they were giving a week of their valuable time to bring girls to the conference, I asked them what they wanted in a women’s group that would speak to them.
These ladies seemed to relish an opportunity to have their ideas heard by a national officer. With very little hesitation they were able to share some practical ideas. They were especially concerned that there is no organized structure in place to follow and support our girls when they age out of our program and go off to college. After nurturing and training them through grade school and high school, we are losing them even before they become part of our missing “young women”. It was suggested that providing a database of churches and contact women in their college communities to whom our girls could turn as surrogate family members would help to fill this gap. A safe haven where our girls might have a home-cooked meal, do laundry or ask for advice would go a long way toward keeping them connected through their college years.
The women I spoke with expressed a strong desire to be included in the planning of our women’s ministry and suggested one or a series of brain-storming sessions to include leaders of the women’s ministry and our girls’ group leaders, with the goal of coming up with creative, practical possibilities to bridge the gap between our Girls’ and Women’s ministries.
In the classic Paul Newman film, Cool Hand Luke, just before he is gunned down, Paul’s character utters that famous line, “What we have here is a failure to communicate”.
Is it possible that our problem connecting with the younger women is actually a failure to communicate? If so, let’s hope we all realize it in time to avoid our ministry’s untimely demise.