A couple of weeks ago, Beth Moore wrote an honest reflection of her time in ministry as a woman, explaining the various ways men—sometimes overtly, sometimes unknowingly—devalue the ministry of women in their midst. I’m thankful for her willingness to share, and I’ve been chewing on her article since then. I hope it will lead to helpful and needed conversations.
A day after the article posted, a friend asked me, “Have you had similar experiences in ministry?” I immediately responded, “Absolutely.” I’m sure most women in ministry have felt the discomfort Moore mentions of being an “elephant in the room with a skirt on.” And most of us have experienced more overt expressions of dismissal or devaluing of our labors. It’s a difficult topic for most women in ministry to discuss because often the individuals involved are known to others. My husband has lovingly listened on difficult days and heard me when I haven’t felt the freedom to talk with anyone else.
At the same time (and as Moore mentions as well), I’ve also enjoyed the pleasure of working side-by-side with men as co-heirs in the gospel. These men have done small but significant things that have spurred me on in ministry and allowed me to experience the blessing of working together as sisters and brothers in our shared kingdom efforts. I know some men may have read Moore’s article and wondered, What can I do to encourage my sisters? While this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are four ways my brothers have supported me and loved me well as we serve together.
1. Ask Questions
One of the simplest ways men have encouraged me is to ask questions about ministry endeavors. They’ve been interested in the work I’m doing (and I hope I’ve shown the same interest in the work they’re doing). They’ve faithfully asked: How’s your Bible study going this year? Who’s in your church small group? Are you helping with vacation Bible school? Where do you enjoy serving in the church? How’s the registration going for the retreat? Which Sunday school class are you attending? What are you learning?
Asking questions provides opportunities to hear what the Lord is doing among his body. It demonstrates an expectation that everyone is serving in some way and communicates—just by showing interest—that everyone’s labors matter. One easy way to care for women in your small group or under your care as a pastor or elder is to ask questions (and follow-up questions) about their service in the church or community.
2. Provide Encouragement
It’s vital for us all to hear words of encouragement. Paul instructed the Thessalonians to “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thess. 5:11). Women often serve in areas less seen or noticed by others but essential for the life of the church. Offering words of thanks, support, and encouragement helps women know their efforts are seen, especially by those in leadership positions.
Just last week a pastor I respect took the time to approach me and offer words of encouragement about my writing. His words to “please keep writing” spurred me on in my efforts to write this post this morning. A few words offered in support can produce years of faithful ministry. Perhaps today, consider a few women you can spur on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).
3. Seek Input
On a regular basis my male colleagues at TGC email asking for my advice on an article, ministry idea, or content for an upcoming conference. I seek the same input from each of them. Our mutual respect for one another’s ministry gifts and perspectives allows us to work together as a team. Even though we live all over the country and only see one another a few times a year, laboring with them is a joy.
Brothers show value for the ministry of their sisters by seeking their advice and input. While certain men may serve in leadership roles that women don’t, it doesn’t mean we operate in separate ministry spheres. A woman might not preach or lead a Sunday morning worship service, but she can be sought out for her perspective on sermon illustrations or ways to improve the worship service. She might not serve as an elder, but she can offer wisdom and advice on how elders can shepherd the women in their care. Just as it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone in Eden, we need men and women laboring together in kingdom efforts. As men and women serve together on committees, in small groups, or on staff teams this type of collaboration can flourish.
4. Prayerfully Support
One of the ways men value the ministry of women is through their faithful prayers. When events are happening in the church, knowing that both men and women are participating through prayer encourages everyone involved. Taking the time to pray for one another unifies the church and shows value to every member of the body.
A few years ago, as I was preparing to go to a church for a women’s retreat, the pastor emailed me directly, letting me know they’d all been praying for the event. His time in prayer and his time communicating with me demonstrated how much he valued the event and the ministry of the women in his church. Spending time on our knees in prayers for both men and women’s events communicates love, appreciation, and value to each ministry and member serving in various ways.
Work as One Body
I’m thankful for the many men who have encouraged, supported, and valued me as a sister in Christ as we’ve served together. My hope is that we work together as one body, valuing each part as vital, knowing that we are unified in Christ in a beautiful way:
But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Cor. 12:24-27)
Whatever our service, whatever our role, the Father has good works prepared in advance for those who love him. Men and women are both vital in the work of the church. May we serve together, rightly reflecting the beauty of our differences while working together toward one unified goal: glorifying God in all things.