Advice: Women’s Ministry Cliques

Dear Mel:

I don’t know how to deal with this situation at church. I am involved at church but I want to be more involved. I have turned in the questionnaires for upcoming events so many times stating what I’d like to help with and yet, no one ever calls me to help out. The women’s ministries leader is a fairly controlling woman and she only chooses her closest friends to help with things. I feel like I’m back in middle school. Shouldn’t church be an all inclusive place for everyone? I feel like if I ask anyone from church, I’ll look like a whiner. What ideas do you have in dealing with this?

Dear Rejected:

This certainly does take us back to middle school feelings of being inadequate, doesn’t it? I’ve seen these kinds of scenarios in churches. It’s not often easy to resolve. I’ll do my best to give some ideas and hopefully my readers will chime in and give you more.

Let’s start with your issue. I am going to assume you being looked over each time has to do with the women’s ministries? Do you feel comfortable addressing your concern with the leader? If you can do it in a way that isn’t accusatory but instead maybe ask if she got your card to volunteer for xyz position in the next upcoming event. Posing this question to her can give you a feel for how to proceed. If after this encounter you feel comfortable, call her and ask her to coffee. When you meet, again try not to accuse but just state how you are feeling and what you’d like to help with and how.

If after meeting together you still feel that she’s overlooking you on purpose, you might ask to meet with the pastor and her to discuss it. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. You will have to decide how far you want to pursue this. Is there another ministry that could use your help? Does it have to be women’s ministries that you are involved in or could you find your place somewhere she’s not in charge? I do hope she doesn’t realize she is choosing only close friends to help and this issue can be easily resolved.

Here are my thoughts on women and being controlling. Most of us run a household, children, etc. We have learned to be in charge of many areas and sometimes don’t know how to let go of that need to control. When we’re not willing to submit and serve without being in control, it is selfish. We need to check our own hearts and the reason we feel we need to be in charge.

I hope you will update on this situation. I pray it comes out well for both of you.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  1 Peter 4:10

Do you have advice for ‘rejected’? Have you ever experienced this? Please share your stories in the comments below.



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  1. This is one of my biggest pet peeves at churches. There always seem to be one really controlling woman in the bunch who thinks it should always be her way. I want to serve but sometimes, just sometimes, I’d like to have my ideas heard. It’s very frustrating. Great response. I hope you find a way to be a part of women’s ministries.

  2. I think too often women get the idea that a certain ministry at church belongs to them. If we start to get that kind of attitude it’s time to step down. I’ve been to several churches where the same woman has been in charge for 20 years! Why not give someone else a chance to do the job? I personally think all ministries at church should be a group effort and never have one person who is totally in charge. It’s unbalanced when one person has all the control.

  3. I’m in charge of our women’s ministries. I try not to be controlling but the problem is, there are not enough who step up to help. Maybe that varies at different churches but for me, it’s always me having to do a majority of the work because no one steps up to do it. But I do agree that you should not be overlooked if you are volunteering to help.

  4. Great answer to a very common problem Mel!

  5. Normally I would say this might be a perception problem but because you have filled out the cards volunteering to help many times and never receive a call I’d say action needs to be taken. You can’t be the only one she is overlooking. Mel’s advice is sound. I would add this to it because I see this happen all the time. Do not talk about this with anyone else at church. Don’t gossip about it because it will take away your credibility. Go to her. Discuss it. And then go from there.

  6. Mel you addressed this question very well. I would approach it in a similar way, in person and by email with the pastor cc’d on it. First I would pray about where God wanted me to serve in that church, is what I want His will or mine? If this is His will, then I would inquire as to the status of the questionnaires. I seek confirmation that it was received, and ask when I might be hearing back from someone. Get a firm date which gives you a prayer and follow up timeline. If you have no heard from someone by that date email them and the pastor to let them know you are willing, able and earnestly seeking a place to serve your church family. Ask them for some guidance as to where they feel, prayerfully, you would fit best. By getting dates and following up you can maintain an adult atmosphere because this will feel more like a professional discussion rather than picking team mates in a school yard. If none of this works, and you are still feeling called to serve your church find a new way to serve that isn’t being done yet. Working with a group with unmet needs could be exactly where God wants you to be.
    Shanyn recently posted..Live, don’t die alive

  7. In my experience, it might be best to just find another place to serve. You’ll just end up frustrated with this woman because she’s not going to really let you help anyway. Your ideas won’t be heard. And if she’s been in this position for a long time she’s got the pastor on her sidetoo. I’ve btdt. It didn’t turn out well. Pastor totally didn’t care how she ran things because the job got done. Only us less popular gals got the brunt of it so no one cared.

  8. One of the frustrations at our church is that the women’s ministries is made up of all much older ladies. There is no balance of ages so there is nothing that is ever planned for us younger wives and moms. I’ve asked if it would be okay to have a mom’s night out and if they wanted I could do all of it and I was told no, they had the events for the year already planned out and budgeted – this wouldn’t have to cost a thing. I’m tired of teas and potlucks. Don’t get me wrong I do love these elders but tehre is nothing at our church for us younger women. I understand this woman’s frustrations.

    • Maya, that is very frustrating and I have seen this before too. It seems they need another branch of women’s ministries or something. Since you’ve already gone to the leadership, have you thought of talking to the pastor? Might be worth a shot if you really want something for the younger women but be warned that it might upset the older women. It maybe necessary though. Not all gatherings have to go through women’s ministries and you’re right, it doesn’t have to cost anything.

      • You could go through the Fellowship committee or try the youth group director. Sometimes the older ladies will do anything to look like they are supporting the youth. Sorry you are going through this. It is difficult to be left out. I stopped serving on several committees because of this same type of issue. Older “circle” ladies generally buck any type of change. Will pray for you and them.

    • Another thought, Maya. I used to plan girl’s night out. It didn’t involve the church at all. I’d set a time and date and gals from church would meet at Applebee’s for half off appetizers after 9pm. We had some really great turn outs! That might be an idea and one that doesn’t involve the church and doesn’t require permission from anyone.

  9. It’s hard to be in a position of leadership – sometimes you have NO ONE volunteering, and other times you have so many people volunteering that you have to pick and choose. If I was the leader in the situation described, my default would probably be to pick my friends to help, simply because I KNOW them {I know what they can do, how they work, etc.}. At the same time, if someone was offering to help, I would do my best to make them feel included in some way. I know too well what it’s like to be overlooked because I wasn’t part of the “in crowd.”

    I think your advice is great, Melinda – I think simply asking the leadership if they had received your interest card and taking positive steps to get on her radar is the right step. My guess is that she probably isn’t overlooking you on purpose, and she may not even realize she is doing so.
    Ashley Pichea recently posted..Blueberry Baked Oatmeal {recipe}

    • Don’t you think that by only choosing your friends because you know their abilities, you might be squashing someone’s God given gift to serve? If you have someone saying, “put me in coach!” and you ignore them, you could be losing someone who could really take your ministry to the next level. You just never know who might be asking to serve. Just a thought.

  10. Oh boy, I can relate. i attended a church once where the leader was so controlling that i could never enjoy any event we did have. She controlled things down to how the napkins were set out and everything was her way or the highway. Everyone was too scared to stand up to her so nothing ever changed. She could never understand why attendance was always so low. And if you didn’t attend an event she would actually call you out in front of others and make you feel guilty! I don’t know how she stayed in such control. We left that church. it was too much and her husband was an elder who reined with power too so there was never going to be any change. A few years later the church split and they were asked to step down from their positions. There are some battles you can’t win so be careful when going to this woman.

  11. As a pastor’s wife who has been in ministry for over 25 years now, I have a few thoughts on this subject. In some churches, the women’s ministry has often fallen on my shoulders because I am the pastor’s wife. It can be a heavy load. I may come across controlling to some, I’m not sure but a lot can ride on my shoulders when I am in this position. Have a great event, everyone’s happy, not much gets said. If the event doesn’t turn out well, it is talked about forever and everyone has an opinion on it. and trust me, I hear all about it. This always pushes me to try to make every event a successful one. There have been times that word never got to me about someone who wanted to help. I would suggest, as others have, that some responsibility falls on your shoulders to follow up with this leader. I hope she is not purposely ignoring you. Time will tell. Definitely take the initiative to follow up.

  12. I’ve dealt with this too. You know what I did? Started my own ministry separate from the church. They don’t have to give you permission to do something – unless you are using their resources of course. If God has laid something on your heart, be in serious prayer about it and then act. You can meet in your own home, at a restaurant, or some other location. My actions did ruffle a few control freaks but I had my pastor’s blessing and he let me use the church building for it. So if you really feel God leading you, step up and around those who try to hold you back. She’s not in charge of God’s work or His people 🙂

    • that is awesome! This site is my ministry. My books are too. You’re right, only God need give us His permission and go ahead! If we wait for permission from people, we may never get it. Thanks for your advice.

  13. Lost and Found Lady

    WOW! What great responses! I’m so glad I picked today to check the site and read both the intricate dilemna and the well considered suggestions.

    Otther than *clap* *applause* for the other suggestions, here goes.
    If God means for you to participate, no matter how often or well positioned the human-based ‘no’ is, His YES trumps their ‘no’. Life events will orchestrate to promote you anyway. Jesus was not accepted as the Messiah by the majority of the religious people of his day. Oh well. Jesus went on to save the world from our sins despite their objections.

    Secondly, God’s acceptance and statement of “WELL DONE” is our end game goal. When we are standing before Him, His opinion will reign. I find myself so much happier when I remember that God’s viewpoint of me is blameless and beyond accusation. Ephesians 1: 4 “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Do you feel holy? Blameless? Intellectual understanding is not the same as really getting these facts installed in our core selves. Trust me, I’m not there yet either. When I do remember, it helps.

  14. wow, this is a common problem in churches. I don’t see in scripture where the model of ministry is denoted by anyone being a leader or “having a ministry” that is theirs. These seem to be common era terms or cultural to christianity, not scriptural or ordained and modeled by Jesus or God. My understanding of ministry is as Jesus said, serve one another and love each other as I have loved you. This is virtually non existent in today’s ministries. At least I have not witnessed anything close to what servants or sacrificial love is like. Maybe this is why the church has such a bad reputation.
    Having said all of that, my answer is, church has become a social club, and maybe you should consider what it is that you would be joining, or what it is you are involved in. Does it resemble the ministry of Jesus? If not, why would you want to participate?
    I know my perspective is different than everyone else’s, but it is a valid perspective.

    • I completely agree with Dawn,..Neither did I see anything close to sacrificial love in the church I went. Controlling people who are in control put their wifes, sisters, and others in other controls, and then wonder why people are running to other churches… People in position seek more glory for themselves, instead of glorifying God.
      I had to endure close to 15years of trauma because of these control and ‘like-minded-and-like-pockets’ ‘circles’..
      Seriously, these people are the very reasons why churches are all divided…
      And I tried talking to church leaders as well… It didn’t work for me.. Reason? Because they themselves are puppets in their hands, where sermons too are decided by the control freaks.
      No hard feelings, but I underwent 7 years (and still recovering…) from the complex and other insecurities these ‘circles’ give you.
      Maria Albina recently posted..When its so bitter in there….

  15. This is linked in the 31 days of depression but it shouldn’t be, #25 should be here.
    I guess I just read this post and went on the first time through, too depressed to think about finding the right post or doing anything about it. Glad I decided to read through them again! Happy to say I am having a good day today!


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