Last winter, more than 70 women ventured out on a chilly evening to attend a women’s leadership event. Our pastor led the discussion, and I left the evening thankful for a church that fully supports, trains, values, and encourages the ministry of women in their midst.
My church ordains male pastors, elders, and deacons. Yet women participate in every type of ministry: outreach, teaching other women, missions, mercy, administration, hospitality, budgeting, ministry to children, and evangelism. While we may not have ordained roles, we are highly valued within the areas we serve.
The more I’ve traveled to a variety of churches, the more I’ve realized that many women struggle to know how to use their gifts. Some wonder if their service has value or importance. These women embrace complementarian teaching, but are often unsure about what that means for their role in the church.
Their concerns have prompted me to write a few questions to help evaluate the overall health of women’s ministry in your church. The ministry of women within any congregation is vital for the strength of the entire body. If half of the church is unaware of how to use their gifts, or incorrectly believes that in-depth study of theological truth is only for men, then our churches will suffer. I write as a sister who loves the church and wants to see all her members flourish.
Do the women in your congregation have opportunities to use their spiritual gifts?
In many churches, much time is devoted to explaining the various roles of men and women. I agree with the need for this type of teaching and training. However, it’s also important to ask: Is just as much time devoted to helping women understand their spiritual gifts and encouraging them to use them within the church? Does your church provide women opportunities to grow their gifts by actively using them to serve in a wide array of ministries? Do women have avenues in which they can serve the body in the areas of finance, mercy, leadership, hospitality, counseling, evangelism, administration, and teaching?
Are the older women teaching the younger women?
Titus 2 provides instruction regarding the importance of sound doctrine within the church. One method Paul instructs Titus to employ is to encourage older godly women to teach the younger women. Women’s ministry within the early church flowed from the instruction and direction of male pastors. Paul understood the importance of women learning from other women as part of the overall health of the church. Are the godly older women in your midst training the younger women? Does your church provide teaching opportunities for women? Does your leadership have a plan to encourage female discipleship within the church?
Do you know of female authors and Bible study resources that are beneficial for your women’s groups?
One of the biggest influences on spiritual growth comes from the books we read. Who are the female authors you can recommend and promote within your congregation? At times, both men and women inadvertently use materials that teach doctrine contrary to the teaching of their church or denomination. Do you have a list of resources and Bible study materials for lay leaders? Are you aware and knowledgeable of the studies women are currently using in your church?
Do you know the spiritually influential women in your congregation? In what ways do you encourage them in their service?
Often the ministry of women within the church is unseen. Many women leaders faithfully pour out their lives teaching Bible studies, organizing retreats, sharing the gospel, providing wise counsel, praying for the church, and serving in humble acts of care. Taking the time to inquire about and encourage women in their service will be a blessing for them and for the entire congregation. As the writer of Hebrews exhorts, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds . . . let us encourage one another” (Heb. 10:24). The appreciative words of a pastor, elder, or deacon have the power to spur on much kingdom service.
Do you provide theological training specifically for women?
One of the blessings I’ve experienced is that our pastors take the time to specifically instruct and train our women in theological truths on a variety of topics. On multiple occasions, our pastor has told me that it is a delight for him to teach the women because of their thoughtful engagement with biblical issues, as well as their insightful questions. Personally, I can say that growing in my understanding of theology has affected and blessed every area of my life. Providing opportunities to train and teach women (or encouraging women in your midst to consider going to seminary) communicates that such knowledge is important for women, and provides the church with a solid base of female teachers.
Have you considered hiring a woman on staff?
It’s precisely because we acknowledge the differences between men and women that our churches should value having women on staff teams. Women have the ability to help provide perspective, insight, and expertise to help the church in a variety of ways. A woman on staff can devote her time to researching and developing theologically rich Bible studies, encouraging and supporting other female leaders, and helping the elders as they shepherd the women in their midst. Complementarian teaching actually lends itself towards inclusion on staff teams because we value and celebrate the distinctions that each gender offers.
I am thankful for the men I know who work with diligent efforts to build the church. I see their tireless effort and love poured out on a daily basis. Women are called to labor alongside them in this God-glorifying task. My hope is that we serve together in our various roles as one body, praying with a unified resolve:
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.