“I understand that every church cannot hire a woman on staff, but I think every church should have a budget for how we will help train our women. And so it might be by sending them to conferences or doing things like that so that they can be supported and trained up. Because often we will kind of cringe at some of the curriculum that can be out there and we say, ‘Oh, why are the women studying this?’ But if we haven’t been trained, we can’t discern. And so one of the best things we can do for our women is help them get training in whatever way we can.” — Melissa Kruger
Date: April 2, 2019
Event: TGC 2019 National Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana
Listen to this episode of The Gospel Coalition Podcast.
- Tony Merida on the Vital Importance of Women in the Church’s Mission
- Jen Wilkin on How to Organize and Orchestrate a Bible Study
- How to Train and Mobilize Women in Your Church
- 3 Reasons to Hire Women to Do Ministry in the Local Church
Find more audio and video from the 2019 National Conference on the conference media page.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Betsy Childs Howard: Thank you for coming. As I said, my name is Betsy Howard. I’m an editor for the Gospel Coalition. I’m also a church planter’s wife. My husband and I have a small Anglican Church in Manhattan. So, I’m gonna let each of the panelists introduce themselves and tell what their involvement is in ministry, in their church or outside their church.
Melissa Kruger: Hi, my name is Melissa Kruger, and I do one job in the church and one job outside of my church. So I work in my church in women’s ministry. And I’ve done that now for about 10 years. And I also work for the Gospel Coalition and I help direct our women’s content for that. And so I’ve done that for about…well, I have done that job for about a year, but I’ve worked for TGC for a couple of years.
Taylor Turkington: And I’m Taylor Turkington. I already told you guys that I direct the Women’s Training Network for TGC and then I am a volunteer at my church. I don’t have a formal position there, but I’m on the sermon team. The sermon team at our church means that our pastor writes his sermons and then, usually on Thursday or Friday, he emails them out to his team of people, who give him feedback on illustrations or his work in the text or how to bring application home. And the other elders read it. And then I’m not an elder, but the elders read it. And then some women that can give insight, especially into illustrations about how they can be applying to women, give some comments as well. So, I help with that at our church.
Quina Aragon: Hey, everyone. I’m Quina Aragon. I live in Tampa, Florida with my husband who’s standing in the back. I just wanted to point him out. John and I help serve with the small group ministry at our church, Living Faith Bible Fellowship. So I lead a small group of women, my husband leads a small group of men, and then we kind of oversee what goes on with our small groups at our church. And other than that, I just…well, apparently I do children’s books now. So I have a children’s book out and I do spoken word poetry and some writing as well. It’s like it happened by accident. Apparently, I write children’s books.
Howard: So we’re gonna start by just explaining what we mean when we say “the ministry of women” in the church. So, Melissa, give us a definition of, just for this conversation, what that includes.
Kruger: Yeah. I think, if I hear women’s ministry in the local church, sometimes the image that pops to mind, and I’m not even meaning this to be negative, can be like a tea, a women’s tea. And, maybe there’s a little devotional thought or something like that. That can be this image we have of women’s ministry in the church. And so, what I like about what you said is the ministry of women in the church. And so just to clarify, what we don’t mean by that is women being pastors or elders or anything. But just that every woman, because she’s a part of the body of Christ, has a role to play in the church’s work and the gospel going forth in all the world. And so that’s the good news. So it might be that a woman’s on the finance committee or that a woman is, you know, on the missions team, or whatever she might be doing, but the work she’s doing to serve the church and to serve the world by serving the church is the ministry of women. So, hopefully, there will be tons of different ways women are doing that. That’s how I like to think of it.
Turkington: Yeah, I think you said that well, Melissa. I mean, as complementarians, that your pastor will probably be able to articulate that they believe that one office or two offices are reserved for men only and roles that may go along with those. But then, everything else is open to women, designing and strategizing and communicating. And then all believers, men and women, are all commanded to disciple and encourage and instruct and exhort. And so thinking through, “How do we all do those things?” that’s the ministry of women in the church.
Howard: And included within that as what you might call women’s ministry. Some churches have a specific focus on ministry to women, but it’s broader than that. So if we need to encourage that, that means something can discourage it. What sorts of things discourage the ministry of women in their churches?
Turkington: Yeah, I think that women can be discouraged in ministry when they don’t hear about other women doing ministry, when it’s never talked about that women do different sorts of things in the church, when they don’t hear examples of women, or even just being able to praise God for things that God is doing through women. Now that can be really encouraging. It’s the lack of that can be discouraging. I think another thing is that it’s helpful when leaders in the church, the shepherds, the pastors, and elders are strategizing for all the disciples in the church, the men and the women. So looking for women leaders in the church, what does it look like to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, including the women in the church and the different kinds of women? Some women are gifted in children’s ministry and in cooking and hospitality, and other women are gifted in strategy and communication and design and even the envision for things that need to be done, our mercy ministry. There’s lots of different things that women can be gifted in, and it’s beautiful when the elders are able to do that and it can be discouraging when they don’t.
I think the final thing that can be discouraging that I was thinking of was that, when women don’t know the boundaries that the pastors would like to put on the roles of women in the church, when it’s kind of fuzzy about what the church believes about women and what offices and what roles are allowed for women, “Is it okay for a woman to do that or not?” At one church I attended, women never passed out the bulletins. It was always men. But we never talked about why. And it was like, “Can women hand out a bulletin?” Like it’s discouraging, but no one talks about this, you know. But I don’t think there was actually a conviction that women couldn’t. We just never talked about it. And so it was that that can be discouraging. It’s healthy for us to talk about what we believe about men and women, and then be affirming of yes, like, “Women can do this and women can do this.” And to think outside the box, not outside of our beliefs but outside of the box that it might not be something that we’ve done before. If there’s no conviction that women can’t do that, then, okay, let’s think about women doing that.
Howard: Anyone else have something to add that discourages?
Aragon: I think that’s good. I think it sounds like a clear articulation of what your church believes. Because, like you said, there can just be assumptions that are made if I haven’t wrestled through all of those passages and I’m just attending, or I’ve become a member now, but I don’t hear exactly what I’m able to do or even encouraged to do and then representation. Seeing other women, not just because they’re women and we want to have women faces doing these things, but because, like you said, scripture calls us to do these things. Yeah.
Kruger: The one other thing I’ll say just because I’ve been formally in the church, on a staff doing this, I will say sometimes women can discourage other women from doing ministry in the local church. If I say because I’m hired, I’m supposed to do everything, and this is what we as women sometimes can do. We are everyone’s savior, so I’m here to make everything better and you just seeing me to be in charge of everything. I think sometimes that can discourage the ministry of women because we are a body. So if I try to take everything on and don’t allow other women to flourish in their gifting, it’s actually selfish, you know, and it’s…and I’m going to get burnout mad at everyone at my church at some point if I do that. But it can discourage because I’m not training up someone behind me to take over. I really do say I should be able to get hit by a bus and the ministry at my church just keep on going. Like that is my goal, is that it would just keep on going and keep on flourishing without me there. So sometimes it’s just allowing space for people to grow and come up, and maybe it’s not perfect, and that’s okay, maybe, you know, in allowing that. So I think sometimes we as women can…and I will also say our own insecurities can discourage our ministry. So just being confident that the spirit is within us and Christ has called us to share the good news with others and to go forth and do it.
Howard: I forgot to say we are gonna take some questions after we finish the panel. So please, be thinking if you have anything to add or anything to ask us about after we finish. I grew up in a really large church, and now my husband’s a pastor of a very small church, which has made me keenly aware of the differences in a mega church that might have multiple women on its staff training up other women versus a small church that may have one staff person. So, what are some of the difference…? Quina, talk about the difference of large versus small and how that might look.
Aragon: Yeah. So I didn’t…I haven’t had an experience as a member of a large church, but I have been a part of small churches. So I think with small churches there’s an opportunity, there’s pros and cons. There’s opportunity for the pastor or the leaders to really connect on a deeper level, perhaps with their members, including their women, and being able to then identify the giftings and the burdens and the strong suits of these women, and be able to hopefully point them in that direction. On the other hand, there can also be a lack of infrastructure, and so a lack of capacity of everybody’s wearing multiple hats, which can lead to some burnout. Don’t ask me why, I know. But yeah, that can kind of happen. And women also can still, I think, slip through the cracks, even in a small church, going somewhat unnoticed and not really knowing, again, if that articulation isn’t there, if that representation isn’t there.
So it’s still possible even in a small church. So I don’t want to say it as like the ideal situation. I think in a large church you might have a bit more of professionalized ministries. You might have a women’s ministry that is established and you have the leaders and the teachers and the admin people and everybody kinda knows their role. So, a part of that really is attractive to me because it’s sometimes the grass is greener on the other side. But, again, I think, even in that context, there can be women who slip through the cracks just simply by virtue of it being a large space where people can just kind of come and then leave as soon as service is over and not really get stopped.
Turkington: Talking about large and small churches, yeah. And I think my experience has been in some maybe medium size and then larger churches. I was on staff at a church that was, you know, 1200 to 1500. And then those places, I think there’s also the intentionality, but because you don’t…not everybody knows everybody usually. And so as we think about the ministry of women, there has to be intentionality in asking different women who had different spheres of women, that they are working with, that they’re following, that they’re shepherding within the church, to be asking them, “Who are the leaders? Or, what do you see that your women need? Or, how can we encourage and further equip the women in your sphere or in your Bible study or the women that are in your age group that you know?” And sometimes that means there’s a woman who’s a director of women’s ministry who’s being able to do that. But oftentimes we desperately still need the pastors to be engaging intentionally, and they know different women, and having those conversations to find out where are the gifts that aren’t necessarily being used yet to be able to draw them out.
Howard: Well, and along those lines, how can pastors and church leaders identify women with leadership potential? Quina, what advice do you have for that?
Aragon: Yeah, I think when I look at scripture, and y’all correct me if I’m wrong, but, when I see scripture, I think of what makes a leader in the Kingdom of God. And it’s pretty much the same between men and women. And leadership in the Kingdom is fundamentally service. Jesus says this multiple times in his teachings as well. I mean, he literally washes their feet and he says, “Yeah, you call me teacher, but, I’m one here serving you.” And so I think what we can be looking for in women is pretty similar to what we can be looking for in men, not just simply gifting, but women who are present, who are eager, who are kinda leaning in, ready to hear the words of God, who are, I want to say, if I could say like this, easily encouraged. Like, you don’t have to be in an incredibly skilled order for me to be able to receive the word of God and be challenged by it and encouraged and shaped by it.
So looking for women in that sense who are faithful, available, teachable, and women who aren’t waiting until this sort of a position is open for them or a particular position or a role is open for them until they serve. They’re eager to serve, if the chairs need to be moved or in whatever way that I can serve. So seeing that sort of eagerness, I think, is a clear indication. I think too, when I think of like what church leadership can do, the word shepherding does come to mind. A part of shepherding is being able to pull a sister aside and say, “Hey, sister, so and so, I’ve noticed that you really have a heart for this and that, or I see your giftings in this and that. I wanna encourage you in that and let’s think through some ways that you could be serving here.” And pointing her to perhaps ministries or ideas that you’re wanting to develop at your church.
I know that sounds probably simple and obvious, but, as a woman, I’ve experienced that where my pastor has pulled me aside and said, “Hey, I see this is where you’re gifted. I want to encourage you in that.” And for some reason when he said it, it was like, “Oh, maybe the Lord’s gift to me.” Okay. Maybe I should say… For some, you know… So I can’t understate how important that is for…especially male leadership. If you’re in a complementarian church with male leadership, doing that is extremely valuable and helpful.
Howard: And then anybody can answer this. What sorts of things do you see as valuable in terms of training people, training women who you think have leadership qualities? What have you seen that’s been helpful?
Kruger: One thing I’ve enjoyed is that, in our church, the courses that we teach, like on how to teach the Bible and how to do these things, they’re open to men and women. So implicit the assumption underlying that is that, “Oh, women, you’re going to be teaching too,” and, “Oh, we want to train both men and women to do this.” And so it’s just nice that it’s open to both and so it’s available. The second thing I would say that I’m really appreciative that my church has done is give a budget for women. I do understand that every church cannot hire a woman on staff, but I do think every church should have a budget for how we will help train our women. And so it might be by sending them to conferences or doing things like that so that they can be supported and trained up. Because often we will kind of cringe at some of the curriculum that can be out there and we say, “Oh, why are the women studying this?” But if we haven’t been trained, we can’t discern. And so one of the best things we can do for our women is help them get training in whatever way we can. And sometimes that just requires a budget and it doesn’t even have to be a lot. A lot of women will just feel so encouraged by you saying, “Hey, we wanna pay for your registration at TGCW20.” And they’ll find ways to get there on the other way, but just something that says, “We think you need the training,” speaks encouragement to a woman who’s trying to do that.
Howard: Yeah, because most churches rightly would take someone who’s an elder candidate and make sure that they’ve got theological knowledge and that they believe what the church believes. We need that for women as well. It could be formalized informal, so that we’re well equipped, to have that discernment and to teach if teaching is what we’re doing.
Aragon: They could also come to the Women’s Training Network.
Howard: They could come to the Women’s Training Network.
Kruger: We’re shamelessly plugging TGCW20 and the women’s network.
Aragon: We are. Sorry.
Howard: So, if your church leadership does not see this as something that’s important, identifying women, helping them serve in the local church, what would you do in those situations if it’s not a high priority? Taylor?
Turkington: Yeah, I think the first thing I would probably say if I’m having a coffee date with this gal and she tells me that, as I say, “Have you gone and talked to your pastor about it? Have you asked him?” Because it sounds like that perhaps they perceive that they don’t value women and women leaders and want to equip them. But, it might be that it’d be really helpful for him to have a conversation about it for you to humbly and lovingly bring it up as, maybe as an idea like, “I think it would be helpful if we think through some women leaders in the church who could get some more training from you to be able to serve better.” And if you’re nervous, take another woman with you and go with and talk to him. That’s probably the first thing I would say.
And then if they say, “We have done that and, you know, and it didn’t go well, or we don’t really know what’s going to happen,” then I would say, “Okay, obey your Bible. Do what the scripture say for you to do,” which means disciple the women that you meet, share the gospel with the women in your neighborhood. Bring up the children around you in the word of God. Instruct, admonish, encourage, exhort, do the work of the ministry. You don’t need a leadership position. I don’t think your pastor is gonna be upset that you’re sharing the gospel with the people around you or even that you might start a Bible study in your home and you invite five or six women that you meet. I think they’ll probably be thankful for that. He might even love it if you asked him, like, “Have you told them the book that you’re going to do and be like, do you like this book? Have you heard of it?” And maybe he doesn’t care. But, you know, just…I would say go and do what God has called you to do, and it’s okay if you don’t have any sort of recognition in your church.
Howard: And there may be times that you may have that perception that the church doesn’t care about this. That may be because the church is doing other things and just doesn’t have the bandwidth or the money or something, but there are things that you can do even without a budget or without a title, as Taylor said.
Kruger: It really is amazing when you just ask the question. I think that’s happened to me. Our elders at our vision banquet said, “Oh, we’re getting ready to meet to formulate our 10-year plan.” And so at my next lunch with my pastor…I have the benefit of I regularly have a scheduled meeting…. I just said, “How are women going to be involved in that 10-year plan?” Meaning, in the decision making for the 10-year plan. And so now in May, on the first Sunday of May after church, we’re going to have a meeting with our women’s leadership team and our elders so that the elders can hear from the women and just get ideas. We won’t be the ones making the final decision, but it’s just good to make these decisions as brothers and sisters, chatting. I did that not because I care about having a voice, but I care because it’s not good for man to be alone. We need each other. I need my brothers, I need their perspective, but I also knew they need the perspective of women. So I’m doing it for the church, not so that my particular voice is heard, if that makes sense. Yeah.
Howard: So I’d love to spend a few minutes talking about times or places where we’ve seen this done really well to hold up as a model. So I’d like for each of us share one, I can go first. This is not something I’ve personally witnessed, but, know of, that in Anacostia Church in Washington, D.C. where Thabiti Anyabwile is the pastor, he takes very seriously the Titus 2 to command for older women to teach younger women. But he doesn’t just say, “You need to do this.”
He sees a responsibility for the pastors and the elders of their church to train the older women so that they’ll be well equipped to train the younger women. So something like every two months there’s a group of older women in his church that read a book. They meet with the pastors and elders and discuss the book together. So that’s not the pastor having to train every woman in the church, but there’s sort of a strategy for we want women to teach other women, therefore we’re going to equip our older women for that. And I was really encouraged when I heard about that a pastor and a group of elders would consider it worth their time. And honestly, in our society, older women are sometimes undervalued. Sometimes younger women are seen as [inaudible]. So I really appreciate that investment in the older women of their church.
Kruger: One thing we do every semester, our pastor has a kinda a leadership night. We’re trying to find a better night for it because then when we feel like, “Oh, I have to be a leader in the church or I can’t come.” It’s a night for women were our pastor will do different topics and he will train just women. And it changes the dynamic. We could have done the topics in Sunday school, but sometimes women, when men are in the room, will just be quiet and they won’t ask the question they have. So it’s a helpful thing. So our pastor, like we’ve done topics on evangelism and he just taught, it was at someone’s home in the living room, taught on evangelism. We’ve done discernment. We’ve done just different times like that, but it really means a lot for the women to see their pastor training them.
And it just says, “You won’t matter. You all should be doing these things. We want you to be doing all these things.” And I think it helps the women. It makes them feel like they can, you know, on Sunday morning it’s probably not appropriate during the sermon. He’d be like, “Can you explain that passage of Joshua a little differently? I didn’t catch it.” But in this instance, it gives them that time when they can raise their hand and say, “Hey, I have this friend. What would be a good way to share the gospel with her?” And they can ask their… It gives them the interaction. So it’s really helpful.
Turkington: Yeah, I think I’ve seen it done in a healthy manner at my church right now. My pastor is just intentional about including women in the different ministries of the church, that we have women who lead in organization of the Sunday services. There are some women in leadership positions for like where the chairs go, and when communion gets brought out, and how to organize those things. And we have women who give thoughts and input into the music and music ministry and the songs, and women who give input into the different…the educational Sunday school teaching things that they might not lead it, but there are women who are involved in speaking into ideas for all those things. And like I said, in the sermons that he sends out his sermons to a group of men and women, and some women even comment on his use of Hebrew. And whether or not I think that he followed the biblical theological theme from that text well to Christ. And, did he fully explain this doctrine here, and I think he should have. And he has categories for different kinds of women and he’s not intimidated by different kinds of women. Can I say that? Yeah.
And that there is beauty in that, in that he leads me, but I still might… And he leads these other women who all might have gifts that are a little different than his. Yeah. He really wants to hear their thoughts and insights, and it’s really kind, and shepherds me well to see him do that. I think sometimes there are…I’ve heard men say things like, “I just don’t have a category for a woman like X.” It’s like, well, women are really different and have different…like giftings and different seasons of life and have different insights that can be really helpful. There’s a video that I was just talking to Betsy about that TGC has on their YouTube, that’s by Tony Merida, and it’s called the “Vital Ministry of Women in the Church’s Mission.” It’s really short. It’s just a few minutes, but it’s great. And it just recently came out on TGC’s YouTube channel. So if you google it, “Tony Merida, the Vital Ministry of Women in the Church’s Mission.” And he just talks about different things that women do in the church. And I just think he said it really well.
Woman: Can you say it one more time? The vital what?
Turkington: The vital… Let me make sure I’m saying it right so you don’t…
Woman: You got it right.
Turkington: Okay. The vital ministry of women… Tony Merida on the vital importance…I’m sorry, the vital importance of women in the church’s mission, vital importance.
Kruger: And on that, I think one good example we have is the Apostle Paul. Yeah, When he’s writing his letters at the end of Romans, a lot of those women he named… Yeah, I mean a lot of names. Sometimes I can’t recognize the names, whether they’re male or female. But my husband told me that a lot of these names, they’re women. And so what Paul was doing, he’s seeing them. And I think that some of what you’re saying, when you see the different women and the different things you’re doing, and he’s writing this letter and he’s remembering to say their names and to say, “Hey, you know, thank her for the church that’s in her home,” and things like that. But it’s just so important for, I think, women to be seen. Sorry, Quina.
Aragon: No, that’s good. That actually just reminded me of… I’ve been really challenged by this passage at the end of Luke 23, that Black Sabbath in between, you know, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. It is in the day of preparation right before the Sabbath. It’s the women, Mary Magdalene and the women who followed Jesus from Galilee who go in their sadness and disappointment and they don’t cower away. They don’t go back to Galilee. They actually go and prepare spices and ointment. And they ended up getting the front row seat to the resurrection first because they were eager on that Sunday morning to get there and serve the very dead, supposedly Jesus, you know, supposedly dead Jesus who… They were still eager. So, I don’t know, I just love that, to see women seen in that way as serving even in difficulty. I think, Taylor, what you were saying about your pastor really reminds me of mine. And so, where a smaller church, maybe not as resourced as some other churches, but the intentionality behind having different women in various types of leadership at our church, being in the spaces of meetings and things like that, making sure their voices are heard. For me, I think I’m gifted with teaching.
So he’s been extremely open. Just having a posture of, “What can we do? What are we thinking?” Even with curriculum, just being very open and helpful, sent us to Simeon Trust, which is also like a workshop. Yeah, for training women who want to teach. And so, just being able to hear the words of encouragement, welcoming us into spaces where we can actually be heard, even from leadership has been very encouraging.
Howard: You know, we’ve talked about recognizing women with leadership potential, but I also want to encourage those, particularly pastors, to look at women that may seem like they have no leadership potential but can still minister. I’m thinking particularly of shut-ins or people maybe that can’t even make it to church, but can have a prayer ministry, can encourage missionaries. William Carey, famous missionary to India. He had a sister named Polly who was an invalid, couldn’t leave her bed for most of her life, I think didn’t have full use of her arms. And she wrote them letters and she prayed for him, and her ministry to him was vital, even though she was in…she had every excuse that you needed not to minister. So think about the women in your church and don’t write somebody off just because they’re probably not going to be up front teaching. God may have a special purpose for them.
Well, I’m going to turn over questions. So first, I want to see if anybody else up here had anything to add to what we said or additional insights. Well, we would love to hear your questions based on your ministry context. Please don’t be shy, and I’ll try to repeat the question for the recording, but just speak up.
Howard: So how do we encourage an older woman who’s used to a smaller role, not really comfortable being up front, but, you know, how pushy should a pastor be to somebody like that? What do you think? So she may be more comfortable serving in the kitchen or…
Man 2: More comfortable with women.
Howard: Okay. And so she might be uncomfortable with seeing another woman…
Aragon: I recently heard a very experienced older pastor speak about this, and I can pass on, is that he talked about how he met with those women one month and he presented the vision of complementarianism that would empower some of these other women doing other things that was healthy within the church and that their reaction was, “Why?” But then he came back another month and met with them again. And it was a process. And that as he was shepherding them in the text, in the scriptures, as he met with them, he had these evenings that were just for them, these older women. And then finally he said at his last meeting with them, he said, “And what about your granddaughters? What do they want when they think about their ministry in the church?” And he said that it was those conversations that eventually made them realize that their granddaughters wanted to serve in these other ways, and that he had taught them that the Bible allows that and blesses that. And it was through that shepherding that really changed their minds.
Howard: Yeah, and I think what Taylor said earlier about having clearly defined boundaries within your church can help with that. You know, to say those people, there are things that we don’t allow women to do, but there’s nothing in scripture that prohibits a woman reading scripture or whatever it is, could… I mean, it’s the Bible is our friend in this. What else? What other questions? Okay. So what’s the difference in a woman teaching and a man preaching, and is there a danger with women teaching that women might only learn from other women?
Woman: They don’t need Sunday [inaudible 00:32:08].
Howard: Yeah. So, really that’s kind of two different questions because that the second question is really good too. Do you get everything you need from your women’s Bible study? Let’s actually take that first. What would you say to a woman that said, “I do BSF. I don’t really need to go to anything on Sunday mornings.” And I love BSF. I’m not assuming this.
Kruger: Well, the church context in some ways that I grew up with had a little bit of people did get more of their meat from Bible studies and things like that. And that’s where I…you know, I think what I always love to say is everything outside of the church is additional, but the church is Christ’s bride. And so, I mean, I always point women to what you need is the church because it’s not what…you’re not getting at the church is not…you’re not just getting a sermon, you’re getting the body of Christ, you’re getting the sacraments. You shouldn’t be giving sacraments at your Bible study, just so you know. You need…the church is God’s means by which his people are to belong. It is what they are to belong to. And so we need the church and all of its fullness. I mean, the reality is your Bible study leader cannot bring church discipline on you, your church can. Your Bible study cannot provide the shepherding care that you need in your life, your church can. So some of that gets to a high view of the church, which is always… So the reality is your female Bible teacher may be a better teacher than your male pastor. I mean like that’s just a reality. I mean, certain people are just very gifted at teaching, but you will never just need your women’s Bible study. You have to have the church. That’s mine.
Turkington: Yeah, that’s great, Melissa. That’s some of the stuff I was thinking. The other thing I would just add is that it’s actually not about you. And so what you think you need is probably not a good rule that you’re living by, that rather you are called to be in the church, and you need their discipline. You need their leadership, even if you think it’s more boring than your women’s Bible study. And you are called to be there because you are called to serve in your body. So I think some of that has to do with our theology of the church, which both of you said very eloquently.
Aragon: And hopefully if there is a woman going to a women’s Bible study from the local church, that that is already being emphasized. So you guys, I would be saying that to my small group, you guys know this isn’t…we’re not having a church service right now. Like this is a small group. And those things can be articulated as well.
Howard: And the church needs us. It’s not just about what we need and whether we’re getting fed. We need to be ministering to one another. Men need the ministry of women in the church as well. So back to the question about teaching versus preaching. There’s not necessarily a sharp differentiation. I think we typically talk about women teaching because we wanna distinguish that they’re not doing it to the whole body of the church. They’re not preaching on a Sunday morning. That’s what a pastor, elder of a church would do. But there may not be a vast difference in what a woman does in a Bible study and what a preacher does on Sunday morning. But there’s a difference in the purpose. She should not be seeing that as the primary scripture of their week.
Turkington: Yeah. Both could be doing exposition. We would say that they’re both expositing a text, walking through a text and bringing it to application and calling them to believe and trust in Jesus Christ and obey what’s being said in the text. And that’s good. But the pastor elder who’s doing it on a Sunday morning is setting the doctrine of the church as he does it. And a woman who is teaching it, is teaching the Bible so that people can better understand the scriptures, right? There’s a distinction in what she’s doing.
Howard: Yeah. So the question is, “If you have women who are very gifted in your church but they are involved in outside parachurch ministries and therefore don’t actually do much within your church, how do you talk to them about that and ask them to use their gifts to disciple the women in your church? What would you say?”
Aragon: That’s a great question.
Turkington: That’s what I would say. I wrestled with that all the time because, some of the stuff that I’m doing now is not just with my local church. And so I’m always feeling that tension of, “Okay, but whom I actually investing in in my church?” And I hate having to like cancel meeting with so and so from my church. You know, to me that’s like the biggest…the bigger burden. So again, great question. I’m always wrestling with that as well but…
Howard: I think, start with prayer. But you know, I think before you’d make any kind of appeal, start praying about it for a while. And pray God’s blessing on the ministry they currently have. You know, that might help you come from a better point where you’re not accusing them, but you’re praying God’s blessing on their ministry, praying for him to prepare their hearts if they should lead that, to be involved in your church. And when you…if you do have the conversation, make it an appeal because there’s a great ministry that they’re needed for rather than any kind of accusation that they’re not doing enough. But just the people really respond well to, “I have a need and I think you could meet it. Would you pray about whether God will want you to next year or not lead that parachurch Bible study, but instead do it within our church?”
Kruger: That’s what I was going to say. I always ask questions. That’s the easier way for me to confront in some ways. I would say, “What could we do to get you to do that ministry here?” How can I convince you, “I really want you to do that at your church, would you please?” You know, I would ask first to see if they’ve just never even thought they could do it. Sometimes women go outside of the church so they feel like there’s no space for them inside the church. And so the reason you do see a lot of those places grow is because they felt needed and wanted. And so sometimes it’s just a matter of simply saying, “Could you finish up your term this year?” And then I would love to see our women doing that in our building. It would just be so exciting and it just makes them feel it’s a great ask, and then it’s not near as combative.
Howard: My grandmother was, for years, in a mainline church where there was not much meat. And she did BSF and grew tremendously as a Christian. But towards the end of her life, she really was sorry that the rest of the women in her church weren’t getting that. So she started a women’s Bible study in her church. And they used videos. My grandmother was not a teacher, but I think the Bible Studies…she’s since passed away, but the Bible study within their church is still going on.
….So that comment was that their pastors realized they needed something within the church because so many women were going outside for other Bible Studies.
….Yes? So that was a comment, just a different way to look at it. Sort of devil’s advocate that you could view that person as more of a missionary. You know, there are ministries outside the church that are valid. And I think a lot would probably depend on how well resourced your church was. If you’ve got a thriving group of women in your church, mentoring other women, please send others out into the community to lead Bible studies for people outside your church. But there may be a sense that you’d say, “We’ve got a vacuum in our church and we just really need you to, you know, tend to this household for a bit.” Yes, in the back.
Turkington: Yeah. I mean, I would say just to clarify, with the Women’s Training Network, the majority of women who come to our events are not Bible teachers, that Women’s Training Network is to help women use the scriptures. And I would say all women are called to use the scriptures because all women are called to disciple or to instruct. And that might be teaching the kids in the church, or it might be teaching their own kids. And maybe reaching out to their neighbors who…they walk to the mailbox with and saying, “Hey, how was your life?” And striking up a conversation, and eventually, they’ll talk about something that they’ve read in the scriptures that applies to what’s going on in their life. Because all of us are called to speak. The scriptures are never meant to just be about us, but to be also what come out of our mouths. So that’s just one area that I would think of is that, equipping women to speak in discipling sermon one to one, meeting that younger woman and it’s like, “Hey, let’s get to a Starbucks date and do you want to read through the book of Ephesians with me? We could read a chapter and talk about it.” Or that high schooler and just listening to what’s going in her life. There’s a lot of these things that I think we could see clearly in scriptures all of us are called to do, and encouraging and empowering women to do that is an important piece. And yes, we love Bible teachers, and we’ll equip them too, but those are parts of it. Do you have other things? What else can we equip them to do?
Kruger: I was just gonna say, we let the word of Christ dwell in us richly so that we can teach and admonish one another. I would…yeah. So my goal is that whatever training we’re doing for our gifting is that we’re letting God’s word dwell in us richly, and then it’s going come out for the purpose, which he sent it. But I will definitely say the time I have needed theology the most in my life is as a mother, because children ask theological questions. And so I say, I mean, I believe everyone in here is a theologian. It really is. Are we good ones? Are we not so good ones? But, my child fall…I remember one day I was, she was riding her bike. She falls off and she skins her knee and she comes up to me crying and she says…she knows because we’ve done the catechism that God knows all things and that God can do all his holy will. And so she says, “Why didn’t God stop me from falling?”
Okay, now we have the theological discussion of the problem of evil and is God good? And it’s like 4:00 PM on an afternoon. I got to have an answer. And so, you know, I think what we’re trying to do, you know, the word goes in us and it comes out in all sorts of ways. And so I really believe the word equips us all because you know what? I can be doing whatever service I can be doing the finances for my church and be bitter and angry in my heart at all these people who can not get their receipts done right. And, you know, I can just whatever…you know, because the word of Christ is not dwelling in me richly.
So whatever service I’m doing is only gonna be really fruitful service if it’s loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, and kind. And that happens as I interact with Jesus and love him and that’s what goes out. So I really believe the word equips us for every type of service because it makes us love Jesus and it’s our love for Jesus that makes us love doing whatever we do, whether it’s sweeping or putting up chairs or whatever.
Aragon: I think too, I think at 1 Peter got talking about God’s varied grace, relating to the gifts he gives us to serve. So I don’t know some spaces are different than others, but I’m not thinking of gifts in terms of I can either teach, cook, or help with the kids, and thinking broader than that. I mean like, I have a friend that does hand lettering. I never thought about that stuff before, but like, she’s able to share the gospel in that way. And like Instagram’s… Like, there’s so much gifts that God has given us. I’d love to see more women in arts, God using them in church spaces and different things like that. Yeah. So when I think of like 1 Peter, God’s varied grace, us not having conversations like this around women and the ways that they can serve a very box-ish ways. That’s not a word, but, in ways that are very limited. But recognizing that the same with men and women, that, you know, you being able to do a tune up on a car, is that how you say, I don’t know. I’m not good with…but if you, you know, your ability with cars and things like…that can really be seen as a gift in a ministry as well, and an opportunity to make Christ known and even to disciple. So, I don’t know if that helped, but…
Howard: And many churches need to be more intentional about training women theologically. But also I think we need to think about each one of us and how we’re training other women by modeling and through our example. So if you host someone in your home and you say, “Oh, I’m sorry, it’s such a mess”, and it’s actually not a mess, and you know, everything’s perfect and you say, “Oh, I bought a dessert, I can’t believe it. I’m such a terrible person.” What you’re sort of telling them is you have to have a certain standard of hospitality or else you can’t host something. So I think being willing to do things imperfectly, like invite people into your home, even if it’s not a Martha Stewart level, that is a kind of modeling and a kind of training. And then also helping other people learn how to host and show hospitality.
So at my church, we have a meal with every community group, and I cook for that, and I’ve had to learn and how to cook for 10 or 15 people. And so now when other people host that like I give them my recipes because they don’t also don’t know how to cook for 15 people cheaply. You know, so just helping each other in other ministries, like hospitality, is a way of equipping others to serve. We have…one more question?
Howard: So if you could only choose one vehicle for equipping women in your church, what would you choose?
Aragon: Yes. It depends on the church, I think. Yeah.
Howard: Yeah, I think different churches need different things at different times and based on… Like, I think my choice would probably be one-on-one mentoring if you could have that for every person in your church, which requires you to have a lot of mentors. So a lot of churches wouldn’t able to handle that, but they might be able to do small groups like Quina is doing, you know.
Kruger: I would say no matter what and maybe, I mean, I think it does, it does definitely depend on the church. But, one thing I love, I really believe the primary means by which we get the word is through the preaching on Sunday. So what I would actually say is I would start a prayer ministry with women and praying for the ministry of the church. Because, we’ve watched that in our church, that is what fueled everything else. So we went before the Lord and we said, “If we just pray for every woman in our church over the course of the year, that’s what we do.” And so every single woman in our church is contacted at some point by someone on the team and we, over the course of the year, pray for every woman by name at one of these meetings, hopefully, with her prayer request. And women can also come for prayer, so that means once a month. It doesn’t require any Bible scholars, it doesn’t require anything, but we sit and we just beg the Lord for spiritual growth. And all the other has come from that. But it’s been other women doing it, not all the same women. So that’s my two cents.
Aragon: That’s really good. Yeah, I think I’m guilty of underemphasizing the importance of prayer and calling out to the Lord. I’m definitely guilty of that in a lot of ways. But, I think even just on a personal level, the most creative ways of serving or the most meaningful ways I’ve served others, even just one on one, have started with prayer and me asking God to help this sister in whatever way. And I do feel like God gives the idea to, “Oh, maybe I should do this for her, right, this for her.” So I think that’s…we can’t under-emphasize the importance of praying and asking God to help us see what would be best for the women at our church.
Check out the upcoming opportunities through TGC’s Women’s Training Network. Registration is now open for two-day intensives in Philadelphia and Sacramento.