This past weekend I had the amazing opportunity to talk to a WMU member of a rather large church in our county association. She described to me the many different ways her WMU chapter had attempted to reach out to the young women of their church, and while every attempt was centered around building a relationship, they still were not seeing results. How can they be doing outreach right and still not see results?
As she continued to discuss their problem with me, I realized the reason they weren’t seeing results was because the young women they were trying to reach already have preconceived misconceptions about WMU. I’m a college student, but I recognized that the other college aged girls and high school girls in my church also have similar misconceptions about the WMU. I’d like to take a moment to discuss these misconceptions to help show women my age what WMU really is and to help current WMU members have a better understanding of how to reach young women.
Misconception No. 1: WMU is just for old women in the church.
Okay, I can understand why you would think this. One, if you’ve ever seen a WMU member your church, she probably does have gray hair and wrinkles. In the past, WMU meetings were mainly for older women and the younger women equivalent to WMU was Baptist Women. But what people don’t realize is, Baptist Women is WMU. And when the center of family life in our society shifted from the church to other things, it was Baptist Women that was hurt the most.
Back to my point, WMU has something to offer for every age group. Their purpose is to help the church with domestic and foreign missions and the church. Specifically for college aged women, they offer a program called MyMission. This program is designed to not only help college age girls grow in their relationship with Christ, but to get them involved in missions and leading missions.
Not to mention, there are several WMU programs for children that need leaders. Young adults can volunteer to serve as a leader of Mission Friends (for Preschool), RAs (for boys grades 1-6), GA’s (for girls grades 1-6), or CA’s (for both boys and girls grades 1-6) as well as several programs designed to reach middle and high school students. As a leader of a WMU program, you partner with the WMU. This is only another reason to become a WMU member!
And there is no age limit on the mission opportunities a local WMU chapter participates in. Every opportunity is designed to carryout the Great Commission to the church, the community, and in some cases, the world.
Misconception No. 2: WMU is just another Bible Study
Several churches have pushed for small group Bible studies to meet outside of traditional church activities/meetings – which is amazing! Small group Bible studies are a great way to fellowship with other believers, hold each other accountable, and help each other grow in individual personal relationships with Christ. There is a huge need for small groups and I highly support a push for them.
However, the monthly WMU meeting your church has is not a Bible Study. WMU members do not meet to discuss Bible passages, they meet to discuss missions. A typical monthly meeting includes praying for IMB and NAMB missionaries, discussing upcoming mission opportunities for the church, and an emphasis on a WMU sponsored ministry or organization and how they can be prayed for or helped out. Occasionally, an opportunity arises for a IMB or NAMB missionary to share their experience serving in a different part of North America or different part of the world.
There isn’t a typical Bible verse to study. And while small groups have a more personal, inward focus, WMU has an outward focus. It’s all about carrying out missions and reaching people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
How to Address the Misconceptions
Just like every outreach opportunity, it starts with building relationships. However, instead of inviting young women to luncheons, WMU members are going to have to individually invest in the life of a young woman. Your relationship probably won’t be centered around missions at first (in fact, it probably shouldn’t be, but starting that relationship is key.
These relationships need to be used to interest and invite these young ladies to help with missions efforts such as collecting school supplies for a local school or filling a care package for a missionary family. These are things younger women can do, and they may if they are interested.
These relationships also need to be used to to gain information about young women and that information needs to be used to adapt WMU programs for these young ladies. The WMU at many churches across my county have their monthly meetings on a Tuesday morning. For the young ladies who can make it, they aren’t interested. But there are also a number of millennial aged women and even middle aged women who don’t come to these meetings because they can’t. High school and college aged girls are in class. Middle aged women have jobs. Use these relationships to find out when these young women are available and adapt WMU meeting times to a time when these young women can participate.
It would also be advisable to use a church service to explain to the congregation what WMU is. I spoke with a woman from another church in my county who told me her church doesn’t even have a WMU. She explained that their church dropped WMU nearly thirty years ago. All of the missions efforts they make are led by a Sunday School class or are a church-wide effort, which helps with domestic missions, but not foreign.
Because WMU offers a program for all age groups and for both men and women, informing the church about WMU is a good way to help the WMU’s mission. Foreign and domestic missions are supposed to be a church-wide effort. WMU is just a tool to help churches with missions.
If you want to change a person’s mind, you have to change their thoughts. Taking measures to address these misconceptions is the first step to getting young women involved in WMU. WMU is the only auxiliary unit of the SBC, the largest protestant group in the world. It is designed to help the local church carry out the Great Commission, which is Jesus’s final charge to his disciples.