Wednesday, September 17, 2008

#44 Women's Ministries


American Protestant churches often have a program called a Women's Ministry. As with most specialized church programs, the bigger and more warehouse-y the church, the more likely it is that it will have a Women's Ministry.


A women's ministry has female members who are married, widowed or single but are too old to be in the singles ministry. (A singles ministry is basically a glorified church-endorsed dating service with an unwritten rule that only 20-somethings can be involved. They will not turn away anyone who is single but by the time you're 29 and still haven't gotten married, you are pretty much ready to bail out.)


The photographs and graphics used to promote the women's ministry almost always feature

1. flowers (especially sunflowers)
2. coffee mugs
3. a jubilant woman or a group of women experiencing fellowship.

Promotional materials for a women's ministry never represent the side of Christian life where things aren't happy and calm, or when you just plain feel like death warmed over and want to kick everyone in the balls. It could be assumed that this is for advertising purposes. The message you are likely to infer is "If you fellowship with our Women's Ministry then you will be like the happy pretty lady side-hugging her friends or running through a field."

But Jesus don't need no advertising.

Below are a series of pictures. One is from a women's ministry promo kit and one is from a feminine hygiene advertisement. Can you guess which is which?






Did you guess correctly? Okay, that was easy since there were words on the Christian one. How about this one. Which is the women's ministry photo, is it A or B?






Yeah, again with the words. But they're too hard to photoshop out. Onto question 3.






Christian women's ministries promote a lifestyle that is not promised in the Bible. Women may feel like they won't fit in if they don't look like the people in the pictures, or they may feel inadequate or weak in their faith if they aren't shiny, happy and bouncy all the time. But nowhere does the Bible say that if you trust Jesus then you will always feel and look like this:


The truth is that sometimes you will feel like this.


You will not always feel like this.


The truth is sometimes you will feel like this.


Once again. You will not always feel like this.


Sometimes you will feel like this


Recap: Jesus don't need no advertising.


Simone said...

Can you be in a women's ministry if you are fat? I don't see that represented either.

Fabulous images, you toothless hag.

Anonymous said...

yikes! That is terrifying and hilarious.

Anonymous said...

Is someone who says, "I work in marketing" really saying, "I work at lying"? Is saying, "Let's advertize!" really saying, "Let's create false associations with this and happiness/sex/money/power/etc."?

PS I really like the objectified/Romans advert. Where was that from?

Unknown said...

i almost chocked here while drinking coffee...

JNoah said...

Stephanie: Love the blog! I know you've done a post on catch-phrases, but I think there's enough material to do one on "Church Signs" and "Bumper Stickers" all by themselves. I don't know about the rest of y'all, but I live in Alabama, and there's rarely a week that goes by that I'm not driving and see a church sign that reads something like, "God Answers KNEE-Mail," or something like that. I think I might have enough credits to enter seminary as a third-year student with all the theological training I've received from church billboards and signs.

But you can't look at them too closely, because, as any bumper sticker may tell you "Warning: In Case of Rapture This Car May Be Unmaned."

stephy said...

Hi Jnoah!
I saw a "God answers knee-mail" church sign just the other day! And that's here in Seattle, the opposite of the bible belt.
My dad used to have that "in case of rapture" bumper sticker. My friend used to say "In case of rapture, can I have your car?" haha

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the sign that says "You are now entering the mission field", well-placed on your way out of church.

That bead photo is horrifying.


Simone said...

I came back to read the comments and was struck again by the closing statement of "Jesus don't need no advertising." Everyone seems to be in agreement, but wouldn't people going around and witnessing and spreading the Good News be considered viral marketing of Jesus? I'm a Supergrass viral marketer so I know all about it.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget, no Women's Ministry, or really any Church group for that matter, is complete without a workbook. If you don't have something to fill in, how can you know that your actually accomplishing anything?

Percipia said...

"Women's Ministries" will continue to be necessary as long as the church stifles women in other areas. To me, they're the little bit of extra dough you give the kids to make 'cookies' with when you're trying to get a pie in the oven.


shelly said...

I would probably reword the final statement to "Jesus needs minimal advertising." (I'm thinking St. Francis of Assisi-esque minimal.)

The church I attend does have a women's ministry; but I'm not involved with it. Maybe it has to do with the uber-feminine advertising!

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work Stephy

susan s. said...

I'm here from the MadPriest's blog and I am glad there are others who feel this way. Slightly off topic, my least favorite word in the Christian word is actually a mis-use of a word. "Fellowship." Let's 'fellowship' together! Ugh!! It's a noun, people! Hello? (that's my other nerve destroyer.)

I look forward to reading more here.

Christopher said...

I am really enjoying your blog. You've inspired us Christians of other persuasions to take a poke at ourselves.

Can Bass 1 said...

My word! Whatever will Felicia say?

Anonymous said...

Bravo! But I just couldn't resist adding some possible Women's Ministries advertising slogans...

"Between love and madness lies...Women's Ministries." (Obsession)

"Women's Ministries: They're not just for breakfast anymore!" (Florida OJ)

"Women's Ministries: Think outside the bun!" (Taco Bell)

"Women's Ministries: 99.44% Pure." (Ivory soap)

"The Few -- The Proud: Women's Ministries." (Marines)

"Women's Ministries: The other white meat." (Pork)

and finally

"Women's Ministries: 8 out of 10 cats prefer it! (Whiskas)

David Keen said...

and you didn't even mention Joyce Meyer and the power of a praying handbag, or whatever her latest book is. Or maybe you have another post coming on magic formulas for the Christian life and how to milk them as an author. Great blog, I'm here from Madpriest too.

stephy said...

HAHA Power of a praying handbag!!! This is the first time I'm hearing of Madpriest, I'll go have a look! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hi Stephy, just checked in via maggi dawn's blog, absolutely LOVE it.

Mercifully, rather than a "Women's Ministry" our church has a woman minister :)

Jody Stowell said...

I'm here from maggi's too, great commentary on women's ministries.

Ian Batstone said...

hah! That's hilarious. Amen, sistah.

I heard once that youth ministry should be youth ministering. Doing something. Maybe the same could apply for women ministering.

Please don't kick me in the balls.

Geoff said...

Hey, great blog.

I checked out the other Things Christians Like blog, based on a comment I read here, and I like yours better. :-) The other one's not quite irreverent enough.

Anonymous said...

The second picture is not a coffee cup. It is a tea cup, which signifies our church's T.E.A. (Tuesday Evenings Away). These events are held to give women time to get away together for an evening of edification. It comes from the book Tresures of Encouragement, which was written by the same woman who wrote Treasures in Darkness. Our womens ministry connects with women all levels in and in all seasons of life.

Yes, a lot of women's ministry is seems light and flowery, and I would say that this is because we are called to a quiet and gentle spirit and to love others. The ministry should not have a tone that turns women into what we sometimes feel like (like your pictures)- because that is not true and noble and right. It's just not.

Jody Stowell said...

yes but men are also called to have a gentle spirit and to love others (as modelled by Jesus)

I don't particularly think that segregated ministries can really be upheld as a theologically tenable idea - we image God best together as part of a community of healthy relationships between men and women and I have yet to find a women (or men's) ministry which does not feed the main unhelpful stereotypes of what it means to be a 'Christian' woman/man

Jennifer said...

The Romans add looks so much like a porn add...where'd you find that one?

Big Doofus (Roger) said...

Sometimes I think you're just bitter. ;)

What did any of these ads for Women's Minstries ever do to you?

Some things are just dumb and cliched--but not always wrong. And, then again sometimes these things ARE wrong. But I will say that it's good for women to get together to talk about life (warts and all). The same can be said for men.

emillikan said...

I'm trying SO HARD not to spit out my crackers. Thank you SO MUCH for this. Oh. My. Head.

E.Louise said...

My favourite women's website is this:
http:www/ where you can sign a pledge to be a 'true woman' (get married, obey your husband, have a bazillion kids and make them home-made everything).
It has everything you mentioned. I think you'd like it.

Julie said...

I spit jellybean schrapnel on my iPhone when I got to the pics at the end! XD Thanks for the laugh. Somebody pass me a squeegee?

a.b. said...


Amy said...

my first thought is DUH, Christian culture is into Women's Ministries. Who else would be. :-)
I don't have a problem with ministries for women, men, kids, any particular demographic- people need support from their peers, it's healthier than going through life alone.

I'd never noticed the similarity to feminine hygiene products though, that's pretty darn funny.

But you forgot to mention how the Women's ministry always meets on Tuesdays at 9:30 am.
'Cause you know, all good Christian women have free time then, and aren't at work, like all the heathens.

stephy said...

Yes! They all meet on weekday mornings. Most women in women's groups tend to have weekday mornings free. :)

GingerSnaps said...


I have been on your blog ALL EVENING! Ever since a friend of mine sent me the link. Everything I've read so far has been my lifelong experience. What has been painful for me, you've made it possible for me to also laugh it...and I just love you for it!

This women's ministry thing...what amazed me about the last one I was at? I'm a single mom, but I couldn't go to any of their functions, because they had NO CHILDCARE. So you had to look perfect, and have a perfect hubby at home who would look after your perfect 2.5 children while you attended their women's ministry functions, as well...

Yes, I haz soapbox...

Anonymous said...

did you google Ugly pictures? I feel like I've seen these before...

I don't think there's anything wrong with advertising - as long as you're doing it authentically. We live in a visual culture. It's how we communicate.

stephy said...

I don't believe Jesus needs any marketing whatsoever.

Jeff Pulice said...

with every post I read, I adore you more and more!

Anonymous said...

My Wife had more women be friendly to her in a Secular woman's studies group (as a Conservative Christian), than a woman's ministry group at our denomination convention (and she is a licensed minister as am I).

Chrissy said...

Hilarious! Love it all!
That Romans pic seems to say you'll eventually have a shot at seeing the innocent Christian as the wild sex kitten she is, do to the use of "BEFORE." It suggests that you could possibly objectify her after you "getcha mind right." To me the ad says "A lady in da street but a freak in da bed!" so long as you treat her as a lady FIRST. They also objectify her just by adding the sexy picture. Take out the picture, and the poster might work. But someone's responsible for placing the actual photo in the minds of the men they're prematurely blaming. It practically forces her to be further objectified by men who were not objectifying her until the poster suggested it. Who thought of that?!

Chrissy said...

Also, I scroll past that man's giant mouth really fast to get back to the top! I'm scared to look at him! :)

beckiwithani said...

Spot-on post. The only things I saw missing from your list are hearts (almost always "abstract," brushstroke-style) and script writing. As my husband said while reading over my shoulder, "this whole culture is mired in adolescence,"

beckiwithani said...
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