After establishing an understanding of why a church may not offer a ministry to women, it is important to define what a women’s ministry is. What does women’s ministry look like in your brain? What is it you feel a church should offer? Are you looking for programs, Bible study, mentoring, discipleship relationships, a pre-made environment for evangelism? Is it a deal breaker when looking for a church if they don’t have what you are hoping for? Does your church not offer anything? Or does it just not offer what you think it should? Take a few minutes to think about what you really believe women’s ministry needs to be.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we sometimes treat our churches like a restaurant. We want a varied menu we can pick from and get frustrated if our cravings are not on the menu. Sometimes our frustrations over women’s ministry reflect a poor understanding of God’s design for the church. Because of that, I think it is important to consider these five factors while processing what a church should work to offer:
You are the church. Pastors and staff are equippers. The church is a living, moving organism called the body of Christ. It is made up of people. It is not an organization. It is not a building. It is not the programming offered by paid staff. Some churches have buildings and paid staff and programming, but that is not what makes up a church. The role of your staff is to equip and build up the body of Christ, so that they can do ‘ministry (Eph. 4:11-13). Many of the things we rely on a church staff to make happen for us, reflects a misunderstanding of our personal role in the body of Christ.
You do not need church staff to be your party planners. In fact, doing so serves as a great distraction to their greater calling. In a day and age where gyms, tea rooms, craft stores, studios and cooking schools offer group classes, parties and events, the church (you and your Christian girlfriends) can pick any event in your community to go to together and build relationships and connections. You can even invite your friends that do not love Jesus yet to experience the fellowship of women who do love him. At the same time, by bringing the church into the local business, you have the opportunity to fulfill Matthew 28:19-20…. “As you go…make disciples” (ISV).
You can get to know women in your church outside of a women’s event. If you’re an introvert like me, you may find it challenging to walk up and meet people, but it is worth it. Consider starting casual conversations before or after services. If you feel a connection, extend a coffee invitation and see where it goes. Mixed gender ministries in the church still offer a place to meet women. If you are fearful of environments that include men, then the next point would apply to you.
You can utilize parachurch ministries and open ministries of other churches to meet needs that cannot be met through your church. Perhaps you have a specialized need that your church does not have official support for, such as overcoming hurts from childhood sexual abuse. If there is an organization or another church in your area that offers support, take advantage of it. There should be no competition over body parts (people) in the kingdom.
Keeping those factors in mind, let’s look at what the Bible mandates for women’s ministry. You may be surprised that there is not much to reference, because the Scripture contains a very simple model. We also need to recognize when looking at these passages that our culture may not have a firm grasp on the intent of the passages because it was written to a different culture in a different time and place. But I want to point out the timeless truths regardless.
Titus 2 gives perhaps the most obvious biblical mandate for ministry to women. It is all wrapped around relational mentoring – life on life discipleship. Older women are to live a life worthy of example, so that they can teach younger women how to live. They were to teach the younger women how to love their husbands and children (a reminder that it isn’t always natural) and to be women of character in a way that would not hinder the effectiveness of the gospel in their culture.
1 Timothy 2:11-15
At first glance, in our typical English translations, this passage is perhaps one of the most limiting and even degrading to women in the church. Unfortunately, I also fear that is it one of the most widely misinterpreted. To see the beauty of what Paul was offering women, one must truly dive into this with some good hermeneutics. To do so well would require more than we have space for here and we will need to tackle it at a future date. But I think it is important that we see something really special here. For all of history (up to the point Paul was writing this letter to Timothy), women had never been invited into religious education. Women were only trained in matters of the home. There were temple and even national laws in some regions prohibiting the formal education of women. Paul is instructing Timothy to let women learn! Paul says that he doesn’t personally allow women to teach – but why would he? The women had never been taught? Why on earth would ever let someone teach that had never been taught. This is different than women praying or prophesying as Paul speaks about 1 Corinthians 11. Holy Spirit actions come from the spirit that resides equally in all believers, whereas teaching should come from one who has learned. Women here, are being given the opportunity to learn. At the point in history the passage was written, the ministry of teaching women had to be carried out by men. The point though, was not that women must learn from men but that all people must learn from people who have actually been taught themselves. This minor shift in belief would change the way most churches carry out this mandate.
In a nutshell, women are to be modeled to and mentored by older women who have godly, biblical experience about how to live in a way that the gospel will be effective in their culture, and women should have a place to be taught by those who have been educated. I’m challenged to find further mandates in Scripture for actual women’s ministry.
This certainly doesn’t mean that anything in addition is wrong. Churches with resources and particular visions for their community may choose to teach their women in huge environments with lots of frills and thrills. They may choose to form an entire Titus 2 based ministry around women who homeschool special needs children, and that’s great! But if your church simply has loving women who want to poor into younger women, they are equally living out that mandate.
So where does that leave you? You may be just as frustrated with your church at the end of this article as you were at the beginning, maybe more so. Hang in there! In Part 3 we will talk about what you can actually do about it. See you soon!