Three Categories of Vision: Insights from Lifeway Research

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Three Categories of Vision: Insights from Lifeway Research

Written By Melodie Sun

Three Categories of Vision: Insights from Lifeway Research

The State of Ministry to Women report from Lifeway Research recently revealed that the top two areas where women’s ministry leaders felt they needed to develop most as leaders were recruiting leaders, and vision and direction.[1] If having a clear vision is one of the biggest driving forces of an organization, as many leaders say, then churches would do well to work with women’s ministry leaders to help develop vision for their ministries and to help cast that vision to engage and equip more women as leaders.

The scope of a vision’s objective can be classified into three broad categories: vision for oneself, vision for those within one’s sphere of influence, and vision for broader impact beyond those in one’s immediate circles. Each of these categories is relevant for women’s ministry, especially when it comes to engaging more women as women’s ministry leaders.

Obedience – A Vision for Oneself

In Lifeway’s study, it was found that the greatest factor for women’s ministry leaders choosing to lead the women’s ministry at their church was feeling called. For the vast majority, this is a calling from God, not man. In fact, whereas 77% reported calling as a factor, only 28% reported being asked to lead as a factor.[2] This does not necessarily mean that none of the rest were asked, but that even for those who were, the human ask was not a factor in their decision to step up as leaders. Instead, these women were obeying the Lord’s leading in their lives.

For those who count the cost of responding in obedience to the Lord’s calling to ministry leadership, the decision is usually not lightly made. It often involves sacrifice, especially as 83% of women’s ministry leaders serve as volunteers or unpaid staff members.[3] However, those who do respond are those who recognize that obedience to the Lord is worth it. Their vision and desire for personal obedience to the Lord is greater than their desire for personal comfort.

Though calling is not something that churches can produce, what churches can do is give people a vision for walking in obedience to the Lord, ask God to call the right women to leadership, and create opportunities for women to respond in obedience to the Lord’s calling.

Discipleship – A Vision for One’s Sphere of Influence

The second greatest factor for women’s ministry leaders choosing to lead was 55% of leaders saying that they saw a need. In contrast, only 15% chose to lead because nobody else would.[4] This means that out of all of those who saw a need, at least 73% chose to do so, not because the ministry was desperate for leaders, but because these leaders saw the value of women’s ministry—they had a vision for discipling other women and recognized women’s ministry as a setting where they could influence and speak into the lives of those women.

This reveals a second way that churches can engage more women as women’s ministry leaders: cast vision for discipling those in one’s sphere of influence and for the importance of women’s discipleship in the church.

Collaboration – A Vision for Broader Impact

No church ministry should function isolated from the rest of the church, especially a ministry whose target demographic covers half of the entire congregation. Unfortunately, this is often an area of struggle for women’s ministry, as only 15% of women’s ministry leaders have been trained by their pastor or other church staff member,[5] and only 5% plan together with the church staff.[6]

In an article about how pastors can better support women’s ministry leaders, J. D. Greear, and Lesley Hildreth explained, “pastors tend to think of support in terms of permission (You’ve got authority to execute this ministry), while most women in ministry think of support in terms of partnership (We’re laboring toward a shared vision, together).”[7] In other words, there is a desire from women’s ministry leaders to have more collaboration with the wider church body.

There are many ways churches can help increase collaboration, beginning with pastors not only giving women permission to lead but also training current and future leaders and visioning and planning together with them. Just as each part of the body fits together to build up the body, the vision for any ministry within a church must fit into the greater vision of the whole church, and when it does, the ministries benefit not only the individuals within those ministries but the greater body as well.

For churches that want to involve more women as women’s ministry leaders, consider casting vision on these three levels—for personal obedience to the Lord’s leading, for discipling those immediately around them, and for collaborating with the rest of the church to bring impact to the greater body of Christ and beyond. As women’s ministry leaders catch vision for what God can do in, through, and even beyond them, women’s ministries will not only thrive but also help fuel the greater vision of kingdom expansion.


[1] Lifeway Research, State of Ministry to Women: Leaders Report (October 2023), https://research.lifeway.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/State-of-Ministry-to-Women-Leaders-Report-for-Release.pdf, 58.

[2] Lifeway Research, State of Ministry to Women: Leaders Report, 54.

[3] Lifeway Research, State of Ministry to Women: Leaders Report, 5.

[4] Lifeway Research, State of Ministry to Women: Leaders Report, 54.

[5] Lifeway Research, State of Ministry to Women: Leaders Report, 55.

[6] Lifeway Research, State of Ministry to Women: Leaders Report, 6.

[7] J. D. Greear and Lesley Hildreth, “Co-Laborers: 3 Ways Pastors Can Support Women’s Ministry Leaders,” October 17, 2023, Lifeway Research, https://research.lifeway.com/2023/10/17/co-laborers-3-ways-pastors-can-support-womens-ministry-leaders/.

About the Author

Melodie Sun
English Ministry Director, Ark Baptist Church

Melodie Sun serves as the English Ministry Director at Ark Baptist Church in Milpitas, CA, a Chinese heritage church pastored by her father and also where she grew up. She has a Master of Theological Studies from Gateway Seminary and is currently pursuing a Master of Divinity. Her desire is to see the Chinese youth of America love Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Some of her hobbies include reading, trying to run her life on excel spreadsheets, and watching video reviews of premium Bibles.

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