Why do we have Women’s Ministries at SBCC? Why is there a women’s pastor? Why do we even bother staffing such a thing? SBCC hummed along for 27 years with no formalized commitment to women’s ministries, so why the change? As a pastor here at SBCC, specifically overseeing women’s discipleship, I will attempt an answer from what we believe to be true about women and the church.
Women are equal, but different. We believe that Scripture affirms that women are equally saved, equally gifted and equally called. What does this mean? It means that at Santa Barbara Community Church, we hold to the high view of women we see exemplified in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. We hold to a standard of biblical interpretation that takes seriously the big picture of what Christ calls us to with respect to unity and diversity within the church, and which also wrestles deeply with the cultural context of Scripture. When Jesus enfolded women among his closest followers, and when Paul equipped, trained, and depended upon women leaders in the early church, neither was a statement that men and women are the same. Rather, we believe it is a hearkening back to the origins of God’s design for creation that we see in Genesis 1-3. Men and women are designed for partnership – in life, and within the church.
Our differences are worth addressing. While men and women arrive at the same destination at the foot of the Cross, one might say we took very different paths to get there. Women are different in how we hear and respond to the Gospel. We tend to dwell less in the land of ideas, and more in the land of application, and are quick to recognize spiritual need. Women are highly relational, and usually formulate plans and goals based upon relational considerations. We are joiners and inviters, and tend to bring children, non-believing husbands, neighbors and friends with us. In short, women reach portions of the community men might never reach, and vice versa. While men and women learn from each other’s teaching, it is helpful (and, one might argue, sometimes necessary), to have a message tailored more for the lives we live, so that we can apply the Gospel to our respective “worlds” effectively.
The landscape for women has changed radically: In less than a generation’s time, there are more women than men in colleges, grad schools and the American work force. However we look at this, the reality is that we have turned a corner in our culture, and it isn’t easy. Women have been raised with so many mixed messages, and it’s sometimes confusing – and exhausting. We are pressed on all sides to “have it all” and “do it all.” That attitude seeps into Christian culture as well. How we live out our faith in this changing environment is a challenge that requires support, encouragement and tools.
Women are key to the health of the Church. If we believe that women are equally saved, called, and gifted by our Lord, then our efforts to draw women into leadership in the body of Christ should reflect that. Women should be given opportunity to recognize and use their giftedness for the collective building-up of God’s church. Not all will be leaders, as is true for men, as well. But for those women who are gifted for that, the encouragement of those gifts should be provided. And women are usually faithful to see their ministry extend to the larger networks of their lives – work, neighborhoods and home. Sadly, the leadership development among women lags far behind the leadership development of men in most evangelical churches. The reasons vary from philosophical beliefs about women in leadership, all the way to the pragmatic difficulty of men mentoring women. A ministry for women, by women, helps cut a path of encouragement for those wishing to deepen their faith, their discipleship, and their leadership for Christ.
The presence of a women’s ministry in no way promotes any sort of “gender ghetto” approach to ministry in the church, are where men are manly-men, and women are girly-girls, and each stays in their own corner of ministry. Women’s and men’s ministries are simply an affirmation of the fact that, while Scripture tells us that the ground is level at the foot of the Cross and that we are both needed for the health of the church, men and women are different. And vive la différence!
What is there for women at SBCC?
The “Gathering” (Bible study) consisting of a corporate time of teaching and worship, followed by several small groups meeting for discussion and prayer. This year we are delving into a study entitled Intentional: Choosing to Live for Christ, about living out the attributes of Jesus. The Gathering meets on Thursday mornings (with infant to preK children’s program available), or on Monday nights (no childcare). Sign-ups begin now with early September start dates.
Satellite Women’s Bible Studies in various homes if Monday and Thursday do not fit well with your schedule.
Working Mom’s Group, meeting monthly, focuses on prayer and support for those who are raising kids and working outside the home.
StoryNight occurs twice yearly (October and March). We have a fun night of food, entertainment and a story from one woman’s life. Watch for announcements.
Women’s Discipleship Group focuses on issues involving sexual abuse. Statistics continue to agree that one out of every three women experiences some form of sexual abuse in their lifetime. For those whose past has been marked by sexual abuse, we know that the wounds can run deep. A confidential discipleship (not counseling) group goes throughThe Wounded Heart, a book by Dan Allendar. This group begins in October. (Sign-ups for this group will not be run on the website, so if you are interested, please contact Alison McWilliams, *protected email* or Susi Lamoutte, *protected email*.
Mentoring. Though not a “program” per se, we encourage cross-generational mentoring as an outgrowth of women’s ministry involvement. The intentional discipleship that has grown out of women’s ministries is vitally important to who we are as a ministry seeking to reflect the love and truth of Jesus.
Jen Hatmaker Conference. This coming January, 2015, SBCC is hosting Jen Hatmaker for a women’s conference. It will sell out, and you will want to be there!
In closing, women’s ministry is not all about women. A woman’s sphere of contact and influence is wide. How we equip women to be followers of Jesus has a large ripple effect, both in our Body, and in our community. Come and join us!