“What do your women need to hear?” I’ve asked this question repeatedly in my conversations with pastors and leaders of women’s ministry teams.

One of the great privileges of working in our local church to value, love, and disciple our women has been the opportunity to connect with other churches interested in doing the same. Across Acts 29, I’ve observed an eagerness among church leaders to grow in equipping women in the mission of God. Recognizing past blind spots and missteps, they desire to step into a learning process so that women can be fully engaged in the work of gospel advance.

A retreat or conference dedicates uninterrupted space for women to slow down, rest, learn together, build relationships, laugh, have fun, enjoy solitude, and hear biblical teaching. For many churches, this rhythm happens annually, intentionally designed so those attending might be sent home refreshed and encouraged to continue running with endurance the race set before them, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:1–2).

I’ve had the privilege of being invited to join a few churches as a speaker for their women’s events. Each time, I’ve been mindful of the immense opportunity for the Spirit to work. I feel the hope and promise of what might be for this unique community of women.

What Do These Women Need?

I’m always eager for the time we spend together to be intimately connected with where this particular church is at that moment, so I plan my content to be consistent and aligned with the church’s mission and context. This is why my first question is not “what do these women want to hear?” but “what do they need to hear?” Women’s events are often driven by a theme where we impose Scripture on an idea rather than living from the Word of God. Click To Tweet

This is a Spirit-expectant question that reaches toward an understanding of what God is doing in this unique body of Christ. It’s a question for anyone planning an event and those asked to come and minister as an outsider. The question has often stopped teams in their tracks as they’ve looked to me for the direction of content or teaching, but I believe that partnering with what God is already doing in their midst yields deeper fruit. I listen and learn about the church’s season, their particular joys and struggles, and the pastor’s vision for his people. Then I come alongside to fan that flame (2 Tim. 1:6).

To assess what women might need to hear as you plan to speak or are looking to invite a speaker to your next event, consider these three questions that connect your one-time event to the church’s overall mission.

1. What Scripture Is Being Preached?

Women’s events are often driven by a theme where we impose Scripture on an idea rather than living from the Word of God. The opportunity for a fellow sister to handle Scripture rightly and teach faithfully from the text is not to be missed. This can take a lot of directions, but you can start by asking, “What are your pastors preaching through on Sundays?”

I recently spoke at a retreat where the church was working through Philippians. I had an opportunity to join them by teaching through Philippians 2 in greater depth over a weekend. The context that had been established, mixed with the women’s familiarity, allowed us to mine the depths of the passage in a unique way. My prep included listening to the sermons preached and joining in the conversation that had already been started.

2. What Characterizes this Season?

Churches develop and grow through stages, from launch to viability to maturity. Considering where the church is along this journey will offer clues to the joys and struggles individuals may be experiencing as part of the body. This, mixed with the individual needs of your women and their particular life stages, can help craft content that’s applicable and relevant to this unique group. It’s important to speak broadly, but understanding these women’s specific struggles and challenges becomes a meaningful place of connection as you seek to apply the gospel. Women are valued when we slow down to see their place in our churches, but also when their learning is connected to the overall mission of the church. Click To Tweet

3. Where Do They Need to Be Pushed?

A women’s retreat is where you anticipate being encouraged, built up, and inspired—but there’s more. An outside speaker entering a community for more than 24 hours has an incredible opportunity to be bold. Is there an area where these women need to be challenged? Where might this time away be an opportunity for healing? Where are there habits or patterns needing repentance? These types of questions are important as you listen to the Spirit’s leading around how this time may be a catalyst for conversations and work God might want to do long after the speaker returns home.

As a speaker, I consider the conversations I have with women over meals and throughout the weekend deeply important. Women often share their stories, doubts, and questions freely because they know they’ll never see me again. There’s an opportunity to receive them with warmth and send them on, not only encouraged at the moment but with the lasting truth of the gospel.

Women are valued when we slow down to see their place in our churches, but also when their learning is connected to the overall mission of the church. Let’s be purposeful and deliberate to not only give them what they want but what they need. A carefully planned women’s retreat can be an excellent way to fix their eyes on Jesus and equip them for enduring worship and service in the church.

Patti Rosell
Written by: Patti Rosell on April 6, 2022

Patti Rosell is a wife and mother of four. She has her master’s in social work and has seen those skills repurposed in recent years to serve the local church. She has been a member of Seven Mile Road, just north of Boston, for 17 years. Patti serves in a variety of ways discipling women, teaching, writing, and working with pastors to value and love their women so the church thrives.