Teaching Women’s Ministry Classes
13 mins read

Teaching Women’s Ministry Classes

Get insights on how adults learn for your Christian women’s classes.

Allow me to geek out and share some of what I do professionally. In addition to being a pastor’s wife, for over 28 years, I have been a training facilitator for workplace learning. Here I will share some interesting facts about how adults learn. I think they will be very useful as you plan your next women’s ministry training class!

First, let me say the way most adult learning experiences take shape is all wrong. Unfortunately, we mimic those in church settings and that’s why we have boring Sunday school and ministry classes. It’s not due to any fault of our own; it’s just we were taught in ways that were designed for children. Those methods don’t necessarily work for us as adults.

First, let me ask you: Did you know some theories suggest experimental psychologists influenced traditional learning systems? 

It’s true!  

They assert that many of the same approaches used to train dogs and animals are used to teach children, too.

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It’s all rooted in an external rewards-based system. I think you know what I mean: a mouse goes through a maze and grabs the cheese (i.e., external reward).  Similarly, it’s like Pavlov’s dog experiment to reinforce behavior that is rewarded will continue. 

This is similar to when we are in school, and we learn so we can get praise or the “prize.” I’ll talk about the prize later. 

The behavioral sciences are about rewards and “gets.”

I’m going to discuss and challenge you to think about the “reward” concept as you’re leading a women’s ministry training or facilitating women’s ministry workshops. 

I’ll also give you tips to help you define and amplify the actual reward for your women’s ministry adult learners. 

What makes a good ministry class is a skilled facilitator: 1) who knows how to motivate adults to learn, 2) create a safe environment, and 3) knows how to balance facilitating the process with information delivery.

I am not going to teach you to write objectives or learning goals. You can find that information anywhere on the web. These links will help you get started: 

Setting Learning Outcomes

Writing Learning Objectives

Blooms Taxonomy Verbs

Note: I’ve hyperlinked some useful resources above.

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Think back to when you were in school…

For a person in the traditional educational system, their reward is what? You got it! It’s a good grade. They worked hard and applied themselves for the grade – not necessarily because they wanted to learn.

My problem is this same approach has found its way into adult learning systems in workplaces and in women’s ministry settings. 

Sadly, it clearly does not work well outside a college classroom. In fact, it’s incredibly problematic when we don’t understand what motivates the women in our events or women’s ministry classes.

After all, they are NOT getting a grade to take home to their parents. As a result, we have to find other ways (s) to motivate our women learners. 

To be clear, when I reference a facilitator, I’m thinking of a training facilitator. This could be a teacher or even a speaker in your women’s ministry setting.    

As a speaker and trainer, I work long and hard on my content, and I create it for adults who value knowledge and will be rewarded by the consumption of it. 

The reality of it is, however, that most people who come to women’s ministry classes or Sunday school classes may enter motivated to learn but grow bored by the delivery or disorganization of the class.

That’s not rewarding at all. 

A New Approach to Women’s Ministry Education Experiences

Consideration # 1: Don’t copy bad teaching pathologies in women’s ministry

To be an effective trainer, I’m sorry to tell you, but you need to unlearn some of the things you think are solid training practices.


Because those practices are primarily rooted in an education schema, not in adult learning theory. 

They won’t work with the adults coming to your women’s ministry events – even if they work with kindergartners.

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Take a more collaborative approach instead of standing in front of the women as a keynote speaker.

Don’t be the “sage on the stage”. Be the “guide who comes alongside” and learns with the women.

Training is a learning vehicle to bring about change. Whether it’s changing behavior, performance, or even changing the way one thinks.  It’s about helping people transform behaviors into desired actions/results.

Try not to be a “talking head” relying exclusively on lectures. Win over your learners.

Share learning outcomes with them so they know what to expect.

Then, craft activities with those outcomes in mind. Read my post on planning effective learning activities when working with groups or teaching women’s ministry classes.

“Learning for behaviorist is defined as changed observable behavior.”

 B. F Skinner, 1971

Understand what learners want.

During a training encounter, again, adult learners crave the knowledge to be better and to do better.  Your job is to provide information that helps them be better versions of themselves. The key is making sure they know how and why what you are teaching will do that.

So often, we throw out information without sharing why and how it is beneficial. Tell them expressly. Don’t leave that to change.

Write this point down in your notes: “I must make sure my learners know how the information will help them be better and what it will help them be better at.”

Take away: Your job as a women’s ministry teacher or facilitator of learning is to create good content to help the learners be excellent, and then you must tell them about it and how it will make them rock stars. Tell them overtly. Don’t trust them to connect the dots themselves.

A good idea is to create a pre-training learning experience. You use your Christian ministry website or social media to ask women what they already know about the topic.

Further, you can explore what they want to learn about it. This one step can go a long way toward building a connection with them before you even have the first class.

Respect their time.

Look, if there is one thing adults hate, it’s time-wasters.  

Removing barriers to learning.

Common barriers to learning are:

  • Bad slideshows with too much data or boring design.
  • Uncomfortable rooms – too cold, too dark, etc.
  • Feeling unseen or uncared for by the facilitator and other women in the room.
  • Not considering their existing knowledge or past memories on the topic.
  • An overall bad impression of the event (i.e., it’s unorganized, technology doesn’t work, etc.). 

Your women’s ministry class should be a pleasure, a well-organized experience for them. Teaching women’s ministry classes means you’re prepared and ready when the class starts.

The slide show has lots of white space. The room is comfortable. Each woman was greeted when she entered – all of these contribute to a great learning experience.

As for existing knowledge, ask yourself: How can women relate this subject to their lives? Better yet, how can I structure this so they can relate it to what they already know? 

For example, if you’re teaching about prayer during a women’s Bible study.

Ask plenty of questions about how they learned about prayer.

How they witnessed prayer as a child.

The misperceptions they used to have about prayer. Inquire about who they admire as a prayer warrior.

More about past knowledge 

How can you create an activity in which the women share what they currently know about a subject? Let’s continue to use prayer as an example.

Maybe you can do a small group discussion on prayer so the women can exchange ideas and then share them later with the large group. 

Maybe you can hang chart paper or use a whiteboard and ask the ladies to do a “brain dump” on everything that comes to their minds about prayer. Limit it to 1 – 2 minutes. 

Another idea could be a reflection activity. Ask the women to think about a time when they had trouble praying or learned about prayer.

What you’re doing is asking the women to think critically about prayer. They will build mental models around it so they can fully emerge into the content and be more likely to remember or retain it. 

Help them learn with their hearts.

Create ways the women can emotionally connect to the content.

You can ask them how they “felt” about the various scenarios in the above examples. This is the affective domain I discuss in planning women’s ministry activities. Click to read it. 

Women and people, in general, can forget what you say but will never forget how you make them feel. 

Figure out how to garner good feelings around the content you want the women to learn during the ministry event. 

I’ve been in the market or somewhere and often notice someone who looks familiar.  I usually can’t remember their name (because I’m terrible with names), but I often feel a “fondness” or gladness about those people who gave me a “good feeling” at some point in time.

Give the women a good feeling about the content you are teaching them in your women’s ministry class. 

The easiest way to accomplish this is to link the content you’re teaching to core values women have.

We all want to be good Christians.

We want to be effective human beings.

We want God to use us.

We want to be examples of Christ’s love and power.

We want to be like Jesus.

Finally, take another approach to Christian teaching and training

Don’t teach the way you were taught in school. This may not engage the women in positive and immersive ways.

Secondly, the women come because they want to get something from the experience. They want to be better.

A great way to help them be better is, of course, to do your due diligence and gather good information.

Make them care about the content – show them how it will help them in their endeavor to be stronger, powerful Christian women.

After that, you have to make it easy for them to learn, connect to what they know, remove barriers, and help them feel good about the overall learning experience. 

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Best practices for teaching a women's ministry class or Sunday school class.

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