Taylor Turkington begins the conversation by highlighting that both men and women in the church can have the gift of teaching the Bible, and because of this, it is important to equip them—just like all the saints should be equipped for the work of the ministry as described in Ephesians 4:12-14.
Jen Wilkin says that she notices churches have a lot of pathways for men to teach but not as many of those for women, often leading to an imbalance due to access to tools and resources. Wilkin wants to see churches develop a category of training specifically to equip women to teach the Bible with excellence and precision, understanding the weight of what they are teaching.
Wilkin and Turkington both agree that teaching the Bible comes with a certain weightiness and, as Wilkin argues, the cost for teaching the Bible incorrectly is high. Because of this, Turkington says the church should help both men and women excel at both their interpretation and also communication of God’s Word.
Wilkin says she believes women in the church want to get trained on teaching the Bible, they just don’t always know where to go. Wilkin suggests women need to see an example in the church of other women who are properly teaching the Scriptures. Ultimately, they need permission and tools to do so. Turkington agrees and adds that it is essential for women to see a model of what it looks like for a woman to teach the Bible.
For women who are wanting to grow in teaching the Bible, Wilkin recommends reading books that explore the metanarrative of the Bible, explaining the bigger story of the Scriptures. Wilkin also suggests delving into a systematic theology text and trusted commentary texts. Last, Wilkin recommends the yearly conference in Dallas, Texas, called Proclaim Truth that gives women leaders at all levels an opportunity to learn the mechanics of Bible teaching and studying the Scriptures in the local church.
Turkington ends by pointing women to The Gospel Coalition’s Women’s Training Network that seeks to train women to use the Scriptures for their own growth and for service in God’s kingdom. Turkington also recommends the Charles Simeon Trust organization that trains the next generation of Bible expositors.
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This episode was produced by Heather Calvillo and Steven Morales.
Jen Wilkin: Why train women to teach the Bible?
Taylor Turkington: Jen, I think that as we think about the church, God has gifted all his people. He’s gifted men, he’s gifted women. And when we look at women who have a gift of teaching, we want to equip them just like we equip all of the saints for the work of the ministry, right? That’s what we see in Ephesians, “Let’s equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” So, therefore, women who have been gifted to teach, let’s help them teach better. Let’s do it well.
Jen Wilkin: One of the things that I’ve noticed that can happen in churches is we have a lot of pathways for men to get the skills that they need to teach in rooms, but we don’t always have those for women as easily available. And so, sometimes there’s an imbalance between the rooms that are led by men and the rooms that are led by women just simply due to the access that they may have had.
And I really want to see churches develop a category for thinking about women teachers that is the way that we think about men teachers. You would never just throw someone up in front of a room, a guy, up in front of a room to teach without vetting to make sure he knew how to do the job, making sure that he understood the weight of what he was doing, all those things. I want to see not just the same kinds of access but also the same standard set for women to do this with the excellence that we ask of men.
Taylor Turkington: Because the bar for Bible teaching is high.
Jen Wilkin: Yes. And the cost for getting it wrong is big.
Taylor Turkington: It is. This is the Word of God we’re talking about. So, whether it is a man or a woman teaching it, we have to have those same high standards. Therefore, we need to help women excel in their Bible interpretation and in their communication.
Jen Wilkin: Well, I think women want it, too. I don’t think it’s question of, “Oh, no, no, I can just do this on my own.” I think they want it, but they’re not sure always how to get the training that they want. And I think they need permission a lot of times, they need permission. I think we forget how often there are women who’ve sat in a church and have not seen another woman handle the Scriptures well. And so, they can’t always even conceive of themselves taking on that role. So, they need some permission and they need some tools.
Taylor Turkington: Yeah. And I think the other…also speaking to the idea of not seeing other women doing it, they need some models. Like, what does it look like for a woman to teach the Bible? So, giving them examples of what it looks like to have healthy Bible teaching, and as a woman. Because sometimes it seems that they’ve seen these models of men doing it well, but they look at other women and they’re, like, “Well, maybe I should do it like this, maybe I should do it like that.” What does it look like for us to give them clear guidelines?
Jen Wilkin: Right. And to talk through things about, like, yes, if you’re teaching women the Bible in particular, and you’re a woman doing that, then there are some ways of exploring the texts that you might not do in another setting. But also then there are just ways that you explore the text no matter who is teaching whom.
And I think for women it’s good for them to find that balance, because too often we have pigeonholed women teachers into one particular category, a very female teaching. And like you and I, neither of us really has, like, a very feminine disposition in the way that we actually deliver our teaching. And there should be room for those kinds of voices in these all-female environments, but also a recognition that it is special to just have this single-gender learning environment. And there are, particularly, when it comes to application, you can ask women to be vulnerable on a level that you not necessarily can when you’re talking to a mixed crowd.
Taylor Turkington: Exactly. We want to help them understand and use the Scriptures well while at the same time giving them a clear understanding of what does it look like to do this to women…bringing the application home to their own audience. So, Jen, what kind of resources would you recommend for women who want to be trained to teach the Bible?
Jen Wilkin: Well, I think it’s good to…if you’re not at a place yet where you can go somewhere and get trained, which I highly recommend and I’m hoping you’re going to give some good recommendations on that, I would start by getting a good book that talks about the meta-narrative, like, what’s the big story of the Bible, and really get that under your skin.
I know it took me several years of teaching to realize that I needed that. Get yourself a decent and accessible systematic theology text that you can reference, and then get yourself a good set of commentaries or a way to find good commentaries. Like, you might have to ping someone who’s done this longer than you and say, “Where can I start?” And then read the footnotes on those commentaries, because once you find someone that you like, usually their footnotes will take you to other people who are going to help in your thinking, too.
And then, yeah, get some training if you can. Like, I really like…there’s, like, a lay level conference that happens in Dallas each year, it’s called Proclaim Truth. And it’s an opportunity for no matter what capacity you’re leading in the study, in your church, whether you’re doing something administrative, or you’re overseeing small groups, or you’re the teacher, there’s instruction and just practical help to help you, not just with the mechanics of teaching but also with the mechanics of doing a Bible study in the local church.
Taylor Turkington: Great. You know, those are great concepts that we want to be teaching, and they’re similar to things that we’re doing through the Women’s Training Network here at TGC. We’re bringing these regional events that really are helping women use the Scriptures well, and talking about how you do that in discipleship and leading a Bible study, or if you’re teaching exposition, and different levels of tracks that we provide for women who are coming in with different understandings of the Scripture, different experience, and wanting to have everyone have a place where they can fit.
So, Women’s Training Network, those events are two-day intensives. We’d love to invite them to that. Another organization that’s doing great work is the Simeon Trust, Charles Simeon Trust. They have events for women that are really helping women grasp the Scriptures and think about how to put it together to teach it.
Jen Wilkin: I get so excited talking about this. I think what might the church be like 5 years from now, 10 years from now if we were to raise up all of these women who are equipped to open and teach the Scriptures.
Taylor Turkington: Yes. May the Lord do that.