When we think of missions, church planting may be the first thing that comes to mind. Yet it is often not thought of as ministry to women because the focus of church planting is much broader. As I reflect on my time in Thailand, here are some of the ways church planters help women.
1. Education of women helps to provide options for a future.
This can include tutoring, financial assistance, advice, encouragement and even linking people to provide wholesome opportunities for the future.
2. Supplemental work to increase income
Many of our church planters have done craft projects with women so they can earn additional money to help their families.
3. Marriage development ministry
Many women who come to faith are in difficult marriages. Through the help of church planters, they find support for these challenges. In many cases we have seen husbands come to Christ as a result of his wife’s living testimony. In other situations the marriage ends but the woman doesn’t have to face the divorce process alone.
4. Model female leadership
Many of the church planters are women. As a result they are able to be an example and role model to the women and girls they minister to.
5. Inter-church women’s retreats and seminars
These kinds of meetings provide opportunities for women to develop their gifts, to mutually support each other and to practically help each other. Even after the missionaries are gone, these gifted and willing women are able to lead retreats. This suggests how much they are valued by the women.
6. Establish churches that help elderly women
In several churches I know of, funds are provided to help elderly women. Church members will also visit and care for them as modeled by the church planters.
7. Encourages participation by women
In the churches established by OMF missionaries, women lead worship, share testimonies, teach and in some cases preach. Women are vital to most of the churches. I helped with a church plant where it was started with two elderly Thai women and one younger Thai woman. The main church planter was a single woman working with these women. One of the Thai elderly women in her 70s went on to help start a second church! She had the gift of giving even though she was poor.
8. Finding freedom in Christ
We have seen many women find freedom in Christ via the church planting ministry of missionaries.
9. Partnership with local church planters
OMF church planters have worked alongside many Thai women who are church planters. In most cases these women are bi-vocational. One woman is a cook so she makes her living making and selling food. Another woman has a beauty salon but volunteers 10 hours or more a week to do evangelism and discipleship in a church planting team. This is like Priscilla and Aquilla using their occupation to assist Paul in planting a church in Ephesus.
10. Lends a safe place for women in crisis
Church planting missionaries have helped women with medical issues, basic female issues, debt relief, raising children, learning to read and pregnancy. We once had a single unwed Thai girl live with us during her pregnancy and birth. Another time, we provided a safe house to protect a woman from a violent husband. Church planters regularly do these kinds of things.
God is able to use church planting as a blessing in the lives of women. Have you ever considered being a church planter?