Word-Filled Women’s Ministry: Loving and Serving the Church is the first book out of the growing publishing partnership between The Gospel Coalition and Crossway. In the area of “women’s initiatives” Gloria Furman and Kathleen Nielson are working as editors to curate books written by women for the church—books by women but not always about women. This book particularly aims to encourage vibrant Word-filled women’s ministry that will help grow and strengthen the whole body of God’s people.
Word-Filled Women’s Ministry provides a framework and a vision for ministry among women based on God’s Word. It’s a vision that impacts not only women but the entire church. But it’s a vision expressed personally, in the voices of women in the thick of it. I (Emily) found the book to reflect many of my own experiences with women’s ministry.
Reading this book felt like sitting at a table with women from all walks, cultures, and stages of life and gleaning from their wisdom and insight. It’s a must-read for all who desire to consider women’s ministries within a biblical framework.
My pastor and TGC Council member George Robertson and I read this book together. He thinks Word-Filled Women’s Ministry is “simple genius,” and summarizes its strategic focus on ministry through the Word this way:
If you study the Bible, it does everything we want. Through the Bible, God guides us in finding our true identity, liberates us from cultural standards of approval and the confusion and false teachings of our day, brings generations of women together, and helps train future leaders to love the Word and pass on this love and skill to the next generation. Lastly, the Word prepares us for eternity.
This collection of essays crystalizes and ungirds this ministry reality.
Word at the Center
Word-Filled Women’s Ministry is laid out in four sections:
- The Heart of Women’s Ministry
- Contexts for Women’s Ministry
- Issues in Women’s Ministry
- The End of Women’s Ministry
“Word-filled women,” the most important theme of the book, is masterfully described by Nielson in chapter 1, “The Word at the Center: Hearing God Speak.” She works from Isaiah 55 to point to God’s Word as the necessary focus of our ministries, laying the foundation for the book’s vision of women’s ministry that “is grounded in God’s Word, grows in the context of God’s people, and aims for the glory of Christ” (13). The commitment to encouraging the growth of women in studying and sharing the Word has been a key component of The Gospel Coalition’s women’s initiatives, and this commitment shines through every chapter of the book.
Each contributor communicates a clear grounding in Scripture, with the truths of the gospel determining priorities of ministry, no matter what the shape and size. It’s clear that “Word-filled ministry” for these women means ministry that aims far—all the way to the Day of the Lord. Whether the subject is Bible study, training, hospitality, or mentoring, the questions asked and answers found begin with the Lord Jesus who accomplished our salvation at the cross, and who is coming again in glory.
Women Serving Churches
Nielson and Furman have wisely included as contributors a wide spectrum of women serving God in local congregations. These women share biblical wisdom and personal experience in leading Bible studies, training new leaders, and helping women discover their place in the church. Through their words they paint a picture of what evangelism looks like in the church and community, and they provide a larger picture of how women’s ministry is taking place globally. They stress the importance and acknowledge the challenges of building intergenerational relationships. They compassionately address sexual wholeness in an increasingly depraved world. They are concerned that women find a place to belong and serve as part of the body of Christ.
Of course, even with this variety of essential topics, one can easily think of further needed discussions in relation to specific issues—discussions of singleness, for example, or of connecting professional callings to the local church, or of further issues relating to sexuality, and so on. Perhaps a second volume will be necessary!
As George and I contemplated how we could apply the book’s teachings in our church, we concluded that there isn’t a single aspect of women’s ministry that doesn’t strengthen our church as a whole. As women grow strong in the Lord, relationships and friendships and families become stronger. Word-filled women are able to serve in a myriad of ways with the gospel in their hearts and on their tongues. Children’s ministry hugely benefits from women who love the Lord and intentionally disciple children and youth.
Women Working in the Word
We love the concept of regional ministry training courses as explained in chapter 3 (“The Word Passed On”), written by Carrie Sandom, director of women’s ministries for The Proclamation Trust in the UK. Sandom offers a glimpse of the way her ministry has combined training courses in discipleship and biblical exposition with practical service in a local church, under the leadership of experienced Bible teachers. The regional training courses being developed through TGC’s women’s initiatives will have a similar shape, bringing Word-filled training for women into local church contexts, under the leadership of pastors.
Whenever we bring teaching leaders and small group leaders together for training in our church, there’s always joy in seeing God at work throughout our whole congregation. Coming together helps us gain a larger vision of what God is doing in and through our congregation, and how we are part of a larger body of believers. Sandom’s chapter reinforces our commitment to training in general—and in particular to offering women in leadership the opportunity for seminary training through a partnership with a nearby seminary. Our church helped make a course of seminary study possible for me. We desire as a church to continue that role of helping provide training for others.
Love and Discipleship
In thinking through chapter 7, “Older and Younger: Taking Titus Seriously,” George noted the importance of older women deputizing their peers to join them in mentoring younger women. With intergenerational relationships there are large numbers of young women desiring to be mentored—and sadly, equally large numbers of older women who feel inadequate and ill-equipped to undertake such Titus 2 discipleship. We need to clearly define these roles and expectations and take the pressure off both sets of women so that we can equip them, as Susan Hunt says, for “the high calling of living and giving the legacy of redeemed womanhood.”
As we considered the “Gifts and Giftedness” (ch. 9) of our women, George and I were motivated to leverage further their gifts of mercy to reach out to our downtown community and make a difference through education, medicine, exercise classes, and provision of the basic necessities of food, clothing, and shelter to those long trapped in the cycle of poverty. The love of Christ motivates us through his Word to love and serve those in our own community, meeting their needs while speaking and teaching the Word of life.
What a privilege to consider with my pastor the many opportunities for women’s ministry in our church! We enthusiastically recommend Word-Filled Women’s Ministry to anyone thinking about ministry among women—male and female, church staff and lay people, elders and their wives. Furman and Nielson have given us a thoughtful and insightful work that will greatly benefit anyone who wants to see God’s church strengthened and God’s kingdom advanced.