Our women’s group is a place of blessing

Jane Follett describes how her church has developed their women’s ministry and how God is bringing together women with many different gifts to share

The church of Christ the King stands next to a large housing estate on the edge of Kettering. Built on a greenfield site in the 1980s, it is the only church serving the estate and the main provider of youth work, mums and tots groups, children’s clubs and older people’s groups. Our church vision is “Growing Together … Deeper in Discipleship, Closer in Friendship; Further in Partnership …. Growing Relevant Relationships”. If our church were a stick of rock, it would have an Anglican, evangelical and charismatic flavour and “Jesus” written through the middle!

A parish survey back in 2005 revealed that while many people thought the church served the community really well as far as young families and older people were concerned, there were women between 40 and 60 who felt there was nothing for them. As a result, I was asked by our vicar to take on and develop a women’s ministry.

I began to meet with other women in the church to pray, and read articles in the press about building community and in my Bible about the way the Lord shepherds people. I sensed the Lord was encouraging me to start a weekly group for women.

A team came together to pray and plan, and in February 2006 we started the WEFT group. “Weft” is the name for the horizontal thread that is woven onto the framework of vertical threads on a loom. The weaver eases them together to form the fabric. Jesus is like the framework and the weaver, and he is weaving us closer to him and to one another.

We began by inviting only women from church because we wanted to establish its roots. It was to have the relaxed feel of a youth club, be hugely welcoming, fun, offer different options for activities and the opportunity for women to talk about the Lord freely. Each meeting was to end with a ‘thought for the evening’ and a time when we prayed for anyone who would welcome prayer.

Once we were established, we opened the group to the wider community and women started to come from the estate. We decided to let it grow by word of mouth, as we wanted to retain the intimate, friendly feel and couldn’t cope with huge numbers.

Five years on, we still meet every Monday night during term time and have about 25 women who come regularly. Most weeks we have three craft activities on offer. There is also a reading group that meets monthly. We have had a support group for women wanting to get to grips with unhealthy eating, led by Carole and Jenny – both nurses – and one woman lost over 10 stone! There have also been exercise groups for young mums and a netball group. Into the mix have gone film and popcorn nights, 'Antiques Roadshow' evenings with a local expert, memory evenings, campfire with toasting marshmallows and singing, walks with a local wildlife warden, a visit from 17 owls, meals (in and out), games and barbecues.

The Lord has brought women with many different gifts to share. My co-leaders, Diana and Sheila, both have City & Guilds in creative needlework and floristry, and others have brought their gifts and talents including: choral speaking, crochet, knitting, ceramics, felting, silk-painting, embroidering, patchwork . . .

The activities are the “relevant” part of the “Growing Relevant Relationships”, which is part of our church’s vision. They are just what our hands do while we enjoy being together. One of our members told me: “Weft makes the week special – seeing old friends and learning new skills. If life is difficult, Weft helps to re-focus on the real meaning of life. The companionship is wonderful!”

With a surge of interest in making things, we now have younger women who enjoy coming too. One young woman joined us one evening explaining that she had just moved onto the estate. She didn’t know anyone, but had heard we were a friendly group. Three years on, she still pops in from time to time, two little children permitting.

We have been there for women who are bereaved, divorced, lonely, isolated, pressured by family demands, illness and depression. But if you walked into WEFT, you would find it hard to know because there is always a buzz of laughter and a sense of purpose. If someone is upset, there are hugs, tea and prayer, and the knowledge that we will be there next week.

The Lord has been at work in and among us all in this very low-key group. Suzanne tells me the friendship and company have helped her through some very difficult times and Lynne calls the group her sanctuary. She has seen many answers to prayer for her family and, through the group, has come to know Jesus as her Saviour and returned to the faith she knew as a Salvation Army ‘Sunbeam’ 60-odd years ago.

Starting and leading this ministry has been costly in time and energy from planning programmes to setting up tables and clearing away at the end of the evening. But each week I ask the Lord to give me the strength I need and to enable me to meet each woman with the love and compassion of Jesus.

I have so much enjoyed getting to know these precious women, who I love spending time with each week. To see a woman come in tears, or obviously low and then see her relax as she gets immersed in the activity, and then prayed for at the end of the evening is a joy. To see friendships grow, to see women flourish and develop their gifts, to see women who don’t come to church moved at one of our services – all these are confirmation that the Lord is using WEFT as a blessing in our community.

Could you do it?

Here are Jane’s five tips for starting a women’s ministry in your church

• Ensure the work comes within your church vision and then pray for a specific vision for the women you feel the Lord is calling you to minister to

• The Lord rarely calls lone rangers, so work with the blessing of your church leadership, get chatting, write an article in your church magazine and find out who else he is stirring, then meet and pray

• Only plant what will suit the soil of your community

• Start with a taster event and see what response you get

• Only commit to a regular group if you have a big enough team to sustain it

Ideas to try

Creative Advent/Easter evening: We have found these to be very popular. We organise about eight craft activities, including wreath-making and pay a couple of outside specialists to help us. We also have a few good quality craft stalls. Women book in for two activities when they arrive and have two, one-hour sessions with mulled punch and refreshments. We then have a three minute ‘Advent Thought’ and invite everyone to light a night light around a central large wreath. We end with lights out and a carol.

Beading Evening: This runs similar to the Advent evening. We supply lots of beads and thin leather thongs, which are set out in bowls round small tables. You could ask a jeweller or beading specialist to give a demonstration, or a talk and have jewellery and bead stalls available too.

Coffee & Croissant Mornings: We have these at least three times a year and they are a good opportunity for women from church to get together. We usually have a theme for discussion for the last 40 minutes and sometimes have a craft on the side. We always have real coffee and warm croissants and jams, flowery tablecloths and fresh flowers.