Many years ago, my Mom and I attended a wedding shower. At first glance, you might assume this would be a fun event…it wasn’t. Instead, from time the first invitation was sent out, everyone on the receiving end was on edge.
The problem was many of the people being invited had very strained relationships. Several among the group hadn’t spoken in years.
Adding to the uninviting atmosphere was the fact that several invitees had very bad party manners. They were known for their explosive tempers that were prone to erupt over even the slightest provocation. Those who had seen them blow up and storm out of other gatherings tended to tip toe around them as if they were walking on egg shells trying to avoid detonating their anger.
Of course, they weren’t the only party poopers on the group. There were other attendees who tended toward self-pity, and chose to use other people’s happy moments to throw a pity party for themselves. Finally, there were the few who felt that everyone in the room needed to hear their opinion on every topic. Whether or it was requested or not, they felt it was their job to tell everyone else what was wrong with them and how they could fix it.
Yep, this promised to be a “fun” party. (Can you hear my sarcasm?) Even though this should have been a celebration of a beautiful time in a young woman’s life, I can say with certainty that I wasn’t the only one wondering “How bad is this going to be?” as we prepared for the party.
Well, the day for the shower finally arrived along with all of the guests. As everyone waited for the bride to arrive, the best word to describe the atmosphere was TENSE. (Like dentist office right before everyone is supposed to have a root canal TENSE.)
Everyone just sat there waiting---barely talking. From time to time someone would try to make polite conversation by asking general questions, but they were always met with brief answers followed by more silence. (Can you say “awkward?”) It was like sitting in a room full of strangers rather than a room filled with people who’d known each other most of their lives.
When news arrived that the bride was going to be late---everyone held their breath thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding me?” (At least that’s what I was thinking---they might have been thinking something more colorful)
And we continued to wait.
Until…..someone brought up a topic that changed the complete atmosphere in the room.
Not just any chocolate, but a particularly delicious chocolate, that happened to be a local favorite. (Looking back on my childhood and teen years, I do not remember ever having a holiday or a celebration that didn’t include this chocolate.)
Everyone in the room LOVED this chocolate. Considering we were in a room filled with chocoholics that was saying something.
In that moment, the entire mood of the room changed as we found common ground. Suddenly, everyone was talking about their favorite variety (light, dark, or white chocolate). There were stories to be told about buying the chocolate, giving or receiving the chocolate as gifts, or just times when they really really enjoyed this brand of chocolate.
(Even as I’m typing this, I have to stop and laugh at this group’s obsession with chocolate, yet, it was something truly amazing to experience.)
By simply changing the focus to something everyone that everyone loved, the entire environment of the day changed.
The tension was gone.
People were interacting with each other and participating in the party.
Grudges were temporarily laid to the side and replaced with fond memories.
By the time the bride finally arrived, everyone was ready to celebrate and she was given a very nice shower all because we’d found something that united us more than the things that divided.
I was thinking about this blast from the past a few weeks ago as I had a conversation with a minister’s wife about the need for women to lay aside the things that divide us and come together in unity as members of the body of Christ. Specifically, we were talking about the need to embrace and incorporate women of all demographics into the local women’s ministry.
As we were talking my friend asked, “So what would that look like? Would we invite everyone to the same event and have a table over there for the married women, a different table for single gals, separate tables for older women and yet another section for the young?”
My reply was that I believe this is exactly what needs to STOP happening.
I believe that the Holy Spirit is calling God’s women to a place where all of the tables are available to everyone. Rather than being divided by demographics, each table at a women’s event should be a combination of married and single, young and old, working women and stay at home moms. As we come together, fellowshipping with women who have different circumstances and perspectives than our own, we are all able to learn from each other, challenge each other, love each other, and contribute what we have to make a difference in the lives of women, in our churches, and in the world around us.
The truth is that no one group or demographic has everything that is needed.
We all need each other. The body is of Christ is incomplete and cannot function properly unless we are all working together and contributing our unique gifts to the common good. That’s when women’s ministry will be at its best and can do its greatest good.
Of course, this answer is always followed up by “How do we get there? How do we get women who seem to have nothing in common to come together and not only fellowship but literally support each other and work together for the greater good?”
I believe the answer is very much the same as the solution to our wedding shower in crisis:
We need to learn that the things that unite us are far greater than the things that divide.
Even more specifically, we need to focus on the ONE WHO UNITES US rather than all of the things that divide.
Young or old, married or single, career woman or full-time Mom, we all have one thing in common: Our first purpose in life is that have an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That is the reason we were created and every plan and purpose in our lives should flow out of that relationship.
The answer to all of our heartaches, all of our questions, all of our fears, our hopes, our failures, our dreams, and our struggles are found in Jesus. It’s our love for Jesus, our testimonies of the things He’s brought us through and helped us overcome, our love for God’s Word, and our desire to please God and grow in our relationship with Him that will break down any and every wall within Women’s Ministry.
Jesus is the uniting factor that is greater than anything that can divide us.
The principles found in God’s Word apply to EVERY woman no matter her demographic.
The Women’s Ministry that makes love for Jesus and a desire to learn and obey God’s Word it’s foundation, will have a firm basis to build a united group of women who can overcome any prejudice or barrier for the sake of Kingdom service.
Practically, this means that the topics discussed within a Women’s Ministry Event will need to be common spiritual topics that apply to every woman. Rather than choosing the topic, “Loving your husband and children” the leaders could choose the topic, “Loving the people in your lives.”
A group discussion about anger and frustration could involve input from a mother struggling with anger and frustration when her children disobey, a single woman struggling with anger and frustration with her co-workers, or an elderly woman struggling with anger and frustration over the changes in her life. A wise leader will guide the group toward discussing how to overcome the root problems inside of each us that result in anger and frustration. Rather than focusing on the different situations, focus on the common struggle and how to overcome.
Realistically, the responsibility for choosing topics that will apply to everyone and leading a discussion group to give every woman an opportunity to share how the Biblical principle can be applied to her situation will fall on the leadership. It’s their responsibility to set the focus, the tone, and the atmosphere for the Women’s Ministry.
However, the leaders can’t do everything. Another important component in creating a unified women’s ministry is encouraging every member to have an atmosphere of grace.
We’d be kidding ourselves if we didn’t admit that there are obstacles and challenges to be overcome in creating a Women’s Ministry where everyone is welcome. It’s going to involve changes in attitude and actions from all of the women involved.
Single women are going to have to lay aside any self-pity or feelings of jealousy toward married women that they believe “have it all.”
Married women need to stop treating single women like second class citizens who are waiting for their real lives to start and begin offering single women an equal seat of respect at the table.
Single women need to make it clear that they would NEVER betray their sister in Christ by making or receiving any advances toward any married men. We need to be committed to doing whatever we can to help our married sisters and their marriages succeed.
Married women will need to stop being afraid that the single women will steal their husbands and be open to friendships with single women.
Younger women need to see the wisdom and value of older women and be open to a mentoring relationship.
Older women need to be open to trying new things and valuing the creativity and passion of younger women.
Both career women and full time Moms need to make the choice to end the “Mommy wars” and start respecting the other’s choices. We need to realize that we don’t have to make the same choice as another woman or even agree with her choice to show her respect, love, and see her as a valuable, contributing member of the Kingdom of God.
All of us---no matter where we fall on the demographic sphere---need to offer other women the grace, understanding, and support that we’d like to receive.
We need to STOP focusing on the differences and START focusing on these questions?
Do you love Jesus?
Are you doing your best to serve Him and obey His commands?
Are you trying to serve Him and fulfill the unique plan and purpose that He has for your life?
These are the things that unite us.
These are the common goals.
This is what makes us not just friends, but sisters, Even more than sisters, we are fellow soldiers in the army of God---each fulfilling her own duty to accomplish the overall mission: Bringing glory and honor to Jesus Christ and leading others to a personal relationship with Him.
This is what unites us---it is far greater than anything that could ever divide.