What I wish I had known about women’s ministry

Hilary Tompkins » Church Leadership Mind Heart Wisdom Culture

Making mistakes, succumbing to critics, and hoping in the wrong things—God wastes none of it.

What I wish I’d known about perspective

One of the great things about accumulating years is that the older we get, the more we can look back on and learn from. It’s helped me to take the long view in the midst of current circumstances. People don’t transform instantly; growth takes time. Repentance gets worked out in everyday life. Kids grow up. Friends move away. Change is constant, but the immediate is sometimes much less important than the long-term.

The good news is that God wastes nothing! Our experiences, our relationships, and even our pain—he is purposeful in all of it. A friend of mine says, “God doesn’t call people to do easy things. Ever.” When I’m struggling for perspective, experiencing God’s sovereignty in the hard things helps me say, “Lord, I see what you did there!” and builds my faith for the future.

What I wish I’d known about critics

As a people pleaser, critics have been the source of significant pain in my life. By God’s grace, critics have also forced me to confront my fear of man. Ed Welch’s book, When People Are Big and God Is Small, helped me to see how my fear actually disguised a desire for approval from people instead of God. Judgmental critics had their righteousness to keep them company. Their goal was to force me to compare myself to their standard instead of Jesus. But when I’m looking at myself, I can't see Jesus.

The good news is that God wastes nothing!

I prefer to hang out with sinners saved by grace, who tell me stories of redemption where Jesus is the hero, stories where sin is crushing and awful but where the cross is front and center, and the freedom of repentance is joyful. It’s been incredibly redemptive to see how loving God first enables me to love people better—even critics.

What I wish I’d known about hope

In the early days of ministry and family, I hoped for outcomes that would make me happy and comfortable. I hoped our kids would be healthy and smart. I hoped my husband would be a successful, well-liked pastor. I hoped we’d have enough money. I hoped I wouldn’t experience pain. These reflected my belief that hope and contentment lay in well-controlled circumstances. Then I heard a missionary ask, “What do you want?” expecting her answer to address her physical and financial realities. She replied, “to be continually brokenhearted, persevering, enduring, and tender.”

But when I’m looking at myself, I can't see Jesus.

I’ve asked friends to pray that for me—to recognize that my hope lies not in ideal circumstances but in what Romans 5 calls “access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” Paul goes on to say that because of this, “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” I want God’s glory to be reflected in my story, so that my suffering produces endurance, character, and hopeful brokenness. I could spend the rest of my life thinking about how this hope does not disappoint—because the love of God has been poured into our hearts. It changes everything!

What I wish I’d known about women’s ministry

I’m amazed at how incredibly adaptable God made women. All through their lives as their circumstances change, they adapt and rise to the occasion. Most of the time, they’re adapting because of relationships. A young woman leaves home and adapts to find new friends and experiences. She lives with others and finds a job, learning to fulfill the demands of the workplace. A young wife finds ways to serve her husband. A mother changes her sleep habits and daily preferences to meet her children’s needs. An employee juggles expectations in the home and outside of it. A mother of teens and an empty nester change their schedules to accommodate new demands. Grandmas delight in serving their grandkids.

Women volunteer, assist, lead, give, sacrifice, and devote their mental and emotional time and energy to the people they love. For these reasons, we must be flexible in the way the church serves women. In women’s ministry, I’m constantly looking for ways to make our ministry accessible to women in various stages of life, asking how we can show God’s love to those who so actively and unselfishly serve all of us.

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