Friday, 17 August 2012

Not the same category

Me and you no dey for de same-u category
Me and you no dey for de same-u category

Not de same category O …

--- Fela Anikulapo Kuti

My church is trying to re-vamp its Women’s Ministry. This particular department has been limping for some years now and my pastor’s wife was on a mission to find out why. A meeting was called for older women that served in certain key areas in the church. The purpose of the meeting was simple: to give us a chance to think about and respond to the question of why we thought the Women’s Ministry wasn’t thriving. There was a two minute-long, pregnant silence as we sat in a group, avoiding each other’s gazes.

I was puzzled by the silence. This was not a difficult question. This was no mystery. Did we honestly have no inkling of what part of the problem might be, no personal opinions about this, or were we all too shy (or just pretending to be)? Had we never thought about this issue privately before?

Two minutes were all I could bear, and so I asked myself why I, personally, rarely attended any women’s meetings or events. I looked around at each of the women at this meeting and decided that Ms. Big Mouth needed to speak up and ‘save the day.’

“Well, I just took a look around at the 8 women here and I noticed something. Let’s just go round the circle,” I said, pointing to each woman one after the other: “Married; not yet married [single parent]; married; widowed; not yet married [single parent];  no longer married [yours truly]; married” – and, lastly, there was someone in the ‘it’s complicated’ category, but I didn’t say so!

I pointed out that those of us present represented the [my] wider church. This is how diverse we were, if we really took the time to think about it. And so, if by “women’s” meetings, we really mean “marriage enrichment” meetings, then we need to be clear and upfront about this so that potential attendees are targeted properly, and so that those that aren't married understand from the outset that while they can certainly learn a lot from the meeting, the meeting was not necessarily planned with them in mind. 

There’s nothing wrong with marriage enrichment meetings. They are clearly important and sorely needed. But if we really want to reach more of the older women in the church – at least in my church – we have to pause and ask ourselves who these women are and what their needs might be. The needs of other women have to stop being an afterthought – a last minute, hasty add-on of a few words (or a last minute adjustment to the meeting title), to hopefully cater to their needs.

The problem with this approach is that it insults the intelligence of those that the hasty add-ons and throw-ins were meant to assuage. When your needs are an afterthought, you know it. It shows.

Who says we all have to be in the same meetings all the time just because we’re all women? That’s another part of the problem, I think. It’s okay to say that we’re different. Sometimes, a small meeting for older women who have never been married, for instance (as opposed to a youth meeting which older, unmarried women are expected to attend, be enthusiastic about, and perhaps even grateful for), is exactly what’s needed to do the trick. Sometimes, married women need their time together to hash out and pray about their own unique issues.

When ‘general’ women’s meetings are the goal, though, a thoughtful approach is needed to focus on (as one married woman – the only other one that spoke up– said during this fact-finding meeting) 'those things that bring us together.'

How refreshing, I thought.

The truth is: we’re not all in the same category. And that’s perfectly okay. 


  1. I concure! In my own local fellowship/church, I am the only single (single) lady :-) Every other lady is married or divorced/single mum, apart from the youth. But, we find loads in common, we share a heart for reaching out with the gospel, so we us our uniqueness to reach others and have fun with one another - sharing our life stories, mistakes (that others will know and beware), pamper weekends (giels still want to have fun!!)
    I think we (the church) need to find a balance and get a grip as we seem to be losing the more mature single ladies ( they don't know what to do with us!), widowed/divorced/single mums as well, because we still have it in our heads that it does not happen.
    A good step in the right direction - find put who is where, what is needed, be open and willing to learn/be teachable to the Lord and He will certainly bring forth a vibrant women's group, with kingdom purpose (souls and discipleship/mentoring),not only on 'how to get married and keep a marriage' - good, but very singular :-)

    1. I'm so impressed to learn that you're the only single lady in your church! How rare that is (to find a single lady that would remain in a church without 'possibilities', if you know what I mean). It says something about you - and about your church. From what you describe, they have clearly worked on creating an environment where everyone can thrive; one in which these 'categories' almost don't seem to matter. What a big achievement - kudos!

    2. Our church has a successful general women's ministry, we meet every third saturday of the month. But there are also ministries for different groups of people e.g young ladies under 30 etc. However, the ministry that is limping is one meant for the singles/widowed/divorced mature women. Somehow these categories of women are so different in themselves, and it is difficult to get topics/issues relevant for all three. For example, while the singles want to meet a man and get married like yesterday, the divorced do not want to hear any mention of marriage. Then the church is not open to the fact the divorced women do exist, and seem to teach that so long as their husbands are alive they cannot remarry - while the divorced seem to be allowed to marry - and the church favors/sympathises with them more than the rest...its complicated. But I usually say that at least the church is trying to do something. Human beings are complicated.

    3. That's amazing. Your church must be huge. Mine is small, so I suppose it's harder to attend to different groups meaningfully. Yes, I can see how lumping never-married singles, widows, and divorced women together would have its challenges. It's totally complicated, but kudos to all churches that are doing what they can (including mine).

  2. Dear RMJ,
    you are now added to our African Women Bloglist. Thank you,

  3. If I have to attend another all encompassing women's meeting ( from 18 to 60!!!), I might scream! This was a great post- get it together, church!

    1. LOL! I had to burst out laughing - you're so funny ("18 to 60")!!! Thanks - we mean well, but really do need to get it together.