You know what I mean. You’ve sat there looking over the congregation wondering how to get the younger women to become active members of your WMU group. You have prayed about it, brainstormed about it, and worried about it so often it becomes your theme for the year.
When I was the pastor’s wife, my husband David asked me to help recruit younger women to join the WMU. He knew how much I loved WMU, how I had played Lottie Moon in church every Christmas season for years. He knew I went to WMU circles when I was just a baby, my grandmother holding me while we collected money and prayed for those missionaries near and far. He knew I was at Mundo Vista as a camper the first year it opened, a staffer for many summers. He knew I had a story to tell to the nations.
He also knew I was eight months pregnant with a belly so fat I could not see my swollen feet.
If you’ve been a pastor’s wife, you understand that when your beloved husband asks you to help out the church, saying no is usually not an option, even if you are walking like a penguin.
I did an informal survey to see what was going on with the younger women, like me, who were not active in the WMU group, whose average age for membership was about 55, which seemed old to me then, but now sounds like a spring chicken.
Mostly, the young women said it was a matter of time. Work. Housecleaning. Child-care issues. Exhaustion. Boring meetings. Okay, I understood, all except that child-care issue, which was going to change in about 4 weeks. This is what I came up with right before my water broke and my mission was to get to that hospital before the baby came.
· Provide child-care. Church members, including men, could rotate child-care responsibilities, offering a safe and free space so mamas can attend a WMU meeting.
· Offer mission activities that can be done without a lot of commitment and are relevant to younger folks. Diaper collection and distribution to nearby women in need was what we ended up doing, especially since I had tons of diaper coupons. We put stickers on the diaper boxes describing the children activities at our church and church contact information. No cell phones then. Landlines and clotheslines.
· Set a time that was convenient to the majority of younger women. We met once a month right before we had the Wednesday supper and prayer meeting. NO cooking. NO additional trip to the church. After work for some, not too late for others.
· Share responsibilities. Younger women may not have as much time as retired women do, but they certainly have talent, good ideas, and need for a strong support system of godly women who can encourage them. Don’t overwhelm any member with too much to do. But don’t leave them out either. Need a phone tree to remind members about meetings? Need a Facebook page about your church’s WMU? Twitter members prayer requests from missionaries? Ask a younger woman to head that up. Quick, easy and something that would take me two weeks to do now that my eye glasses are usually lost.
· Offer snacks. I know that sounds so simple. But let me tell you, you offer me free food that I don’t have to cook, buy, or clean up, I am there. Sometimes I make a food that represents a country/state where a missionary on our prayer guide serves. Have a tamale. Eat brochettes. Strukli brightens up any meeting. Sometimes I have had to buy International foods because, like singing in the choir, this former pastor’s wife never brought a dish to the pot-lucks that measured up. Or eaten up.
· Pray daily for the younger women in your church, their marriages, their children. You and I know it ain’t easy juggling all those responsibilities. Don’t judge. Just pray and love.
· Be creative. It doesn’t always have to be done the same old way. Give it up for change. The gospel, the message of Christ, the Great Commission remains constant, powerful, and solid. But we can be open to changing the way we share this story, support the missionaries, live out the walk of faith.
Our world is changing, but folks still need the evidence of God’s love. My husband was so happy when we decided to start a clothes distribution once every season. We collected those clothes year round. The parsonage was the storage place, we had a big garage with no driveway to get to it, and we had drop in times when members could come and organize stuff. We were far from perfect, but folks knew come winter, we’d help them keep warm. It gave our WMU group a sense of purpose year round, strengthening our fellowship, reminding us often that we were God’s hands and feet.
There is no easy answer on how to ignite younger members to join and participate in your church’s WMU. I advise you ask these women what they want and need in a WMU group, clearly explaining the purpose of a WMU group. Listen to them. Pray for wisdom.
My husband was very supportive of our church’s WMU. The support of the pastor is paramount to any strong WMU. David often mentioned missionaries in his prayers, out announcements in the newsletter and bulletin about state and church WMU events. I hope yours does too.