Women’s Ministry is vital to the growth of the kingdom and the health of the church.
Does your church encourage you to exercise your gifts? A lack of commitment to build and support women’s ministry results in stagnant and weakened churches. Here are three reasons why:
1. The Uniqueness of Women
I felt a rush of emotion pour through me, eventually eking out in tears dripping down my face. “My husband tells me I’m sinning because I don’t express more physical pleasure in our marriage bed. Am I sinning and how can I learn to enjoy this aspect of my marriage more?” I wish I could have leaned over, grabbed her hand and reassured her that she was in no way sinning.
Her physical problem reflected something deep inside her that needed healing. I wish I could have asked her questions to understand more fully the anguish of her soul. But this wasn’t a woman I knew. It was a woman who had posed her question to a group of women on Facebook several thousand strong. This young woman didn’t need information. She needs relationship with a godly woman.
Women face several issues unique to them. How sad that this woman didn’t seem to have a safe person in her church to whom she could pose this question. Instead she put it before thousands of supposed strangers. When there is no identifiable women’s ministry in our church, it becomes difficult to connect with honored women. Those proven faithful in their devotion to the Word, humble in their pursuit of Jesus and selfless in their service to women who are younger and eager to learn- or plagued with difficult questions and circumstances.
Women’s ministry identifies trusted female leaders and shepherds to other women. Would a young woman take this question to her male pastor? Would she bring it up in her couples’ small group?
When Women’s Ministry Becomes Peripheral Rather Than Pastoral
I suspect this young woman attends a church that either lacks a women’s ministry entirely or the head of women’s care flies solo apart from the community and care of the rest of the pastoral staff. Because she shoulders her ministry responsibilities alone, she doesn’t have the emotional bandwidth to address women on a personal level.
The ministry becomes stunted, focused only on broad spectrum needs. She does not sit at the table in which ministry ideas are shared, problems solved and an overall vision for discipleship contemplated among a team of pastors, directors and leaders. Her ministry is peripheral as are the needs of all of the women she represents.
2. Contemplating Complementarianism
Should a single isolated case like the one cited above warrant a drastic shift in a church budget? No, that would indeed be drastic. So let’s take this at a broader view.
If a church teaches the theology of complementarianism- women have separate but equal gifts than men, or the less stringent- same gifts but different expressions- then shouldn’t that result in a leadership/discipleship structure that reflects that theology? Shouldn’t the praxis of the church readily reflect a commitment for women to be equipped and exercise their unique gifts as fervently as the men? Or learn to employ them in their different female expressions?
If the gifts, or even their roles, are different, then the exercise and expression of the gifts ought to be also.
Sadly, too often the churches that teach complementarianism refuse to promote a robust women’s ministry. The volunteer woman leader doesn’t sit in the circle of pastoral visionaries who ponder the discipleship needs of the church. If a woman’s gifts are equal, then shouldn’t they be equally addressed and fervently equipped? The underlying message becomes, “Your gifts are different and less important. Church health and growth doesn’t depend on the women exercising their giftedness. They just add some nice touches now and then”.
Jesus & Women
In Luke 8, three women traveled with Jesus throughout His ministry and supported Him from their own means. I find this mention specifically tender because throughout the rest of this chapter, Jesus discourses on relationships. Jesus didn’t say to these women, “Go home to your looms ladies and finish your weaving. I’ll send Judas to collect the money in a couple of days. Building the Kingdom and sharing the Good News is man’s work”. Instead, He included them in HIs community of disciples. They listened to His teaching as He traveled from town to town, just like the men.
Later in Luke 10, we see Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet- a position solely reserved for men. Women did not sit at the feet of a rabbi in Jesus’ day. Martha, never one to hesitate expressing her opinion in the two mentions we have of her in Scripture, whined about it. Yet Jesus commended Mary for her choice.
Clearly, Martha joined Mary at Jesus’ feet some point during His visits, because in John 11, when she again presents herself giving Jesus a piece of her mind, Jesus counters her challenge by asserting that Martha understood a deep theological truth that the Twelve had yet to grasp. “Martha, I am the resurrection and the life.” The woman who had fiercely challenged Jesus moments ago becomes relegated to silence. Martha got Jesus’ point because she had been privy to His teaching.
3. The Biblical Mandate
Throughout the Book of Acts, Luke informs us of several prominent women who experienced conversion upon hearing Paul’s message. Lydia, Priscilla and Damaris are a few. Only one church mentions no women leaders: the Corinthian Church. This church became Paul’s problem child full of immorality and dissension. No wonder Paul exhorted Timothy to have women disciple women after the years of heartache and headaches caused by the church at Corinth!
How do we identify these women leaders/teachers in our individualistic culture today? She doesn’t have to preach from a pulpit to be found, but she does need to be previously discipled herself and recognized by those in pastoral leadership as a woman worthy of emulation and capable of instruction. And how does the pastoral leadership find such women? By having a female staff member who sits with them at the same table pointing her out.
As a women’s ministry leader in our church, I met with a young woman who asked for wisdom. She fosters children and began to feel a burden for other foster moms and families. She considered hosting a simulcast in her home. “I don’t want to lead anything, I don’t want people to feel like I’m saying I have all the answers”. This woman is a born leader, but she needed a point person to offer encouragement.
What began as an idea to encourage 8 women, a noble endeavor for sure, ended with a vision to reach every foster family throughout Phoenix and the surrounding cities with the gospel. A plan to invite them into a safe and supportive community that shared the call to foster. A one night gathering for a few to the dream of exposing thousands to Jesus and encouraging them long term. This is the power of women’s ministry.
Contemplating the Future
Sadly, our churches today are shrinking. The problems within them reflect the same brokenness as our world: sexual immorality, abuse, addiction, divorce, and despair. Women are seeking answers to their problems outside of the church walls rather than within the fellowship of their faith families. If a woman’s gifts are not encouraged to be expressed, then surely her struggles are not allowed to be!
Women are vital to the growth of the Kingdom and the health of the church. When the church preaches separate and unique giftedness in women, or even separate expressions of the same gifts, but doesn’t permit adequate praxis to nurture and develop those gifts, the church will continue to wither. I am grateful to be part of a church that affirms and values women and the unique gifts that we bring to the body.
Does your church value your unique gifts and disciple you to employ them more effectively?
How has women’s ministry impacted your life?
Erica Wiggenhorn is a Jesus follower, wife, mom, Bible teacher, author of Unexplainable Jesus study book and accompanying DVD teaching series. And yes, a complementarian 🙂 You can find her at ericawiggenhorn.com.