In women’s ministry, we talk a lot about prioritizing friendships, community, and support. So when someone suggests that we’re making programs more important than people, we balk in offense.

“Of course we value relationships above programs in our ministry!” we say.

It’s easy to write off this program vs. people pitfall because we do value relationships. The truth, however, is more complicated. As ministry leaders, we value relationships, but we also want to show our churches and leaders that we’re good stewards by creating quality ministry programs. We’re balancing other people’s expectations with the needs of the women in our ministry, and sometimes programs can feel like the path of least resistance.

We’ve already talked about how much women’s lives have changed in the past several decades, and how programs are now competing with the very real demands of work and home. Based on this, here are two things women need more than programs:

Two things women need more than programs

Rest and free time to connect with Jesus. By default, programs are programmed, which usually means there’s not a lot of time for relaxation and free time for prayers and devotions. Busy women are like dry sponges–they crave less structure, less activity, and more connection with the source of living water (aka Jesus). Scheduling unstructured free time goes against the grain and can feel uncomfortable (especially when we’re answering to other leaders), but women need space to unwind and connect with each other organically.

One easy way to foster rest and free time is with a retreat kit that builds in quiet time, worship, prayer stations/walks, and journaling reflections.

Care and prayer. Spontaneous and informal acts of kindness (like a meal delivered in a time of need, and a care package sent to a college freshman away from home for the first time) are often more impacting than a formal Bible study or event. Arguably a ministry with an army of women that are ready to reach out and meet a need at a moment’s notice is more valuable than one with lots of moderately attended events but few servants.

Can you think of other things women need more than programs? Share your comments below.