30 years ago when I was in Bible College, the issue of women in ministry was hotly debated. There seemed to be an endless list of restrictions on what women were allowed to do. A list that seemed ridiculous if applied to men. There were questions about who women were allowed to minister to, if single women had the same “freedoms” in ministry as married women, how far up the church leadership hierarchy women were allowed to hold a position and that old chestnut: who was the woman’s covering? A simple question like “Can a woman preach?” became a minefield of exegesis.
I really thought that these questions were resolved now. For the past 18 years I’ve lived in an urban environment where women ministering has not only been welcome, but expected. With the exception of a couple of church denominations that continue to limit the influence of women in their congregations, I was pleased to say that this issue had been relegated to the past. However, having just moved to a rural setting where churches are more conservative than in the City, I have seen that the one token woman who preaches on Mother’s Day and perhaps another Sunday each year or a female pastor who is primarily ministering to children and other women is common. Most churches only have male Ministers. This truly grieves me.
The way to remedy this unbalanced situation is twofold – women need to be given opportunity to speak into every area of church life as men remove the limits placed on women. Then, it takes bold women to step up to the challenge and minister to people – not only women and children. Of course, if a woman is called to children’s ministry, she should be free to do so, with no sense of inferiority. But, she should not be limited to working with children because of her gender.
The Bible bursts with accounts of bold women doing outrageous acts for God. Miriam joyfully leading God’s people in worship, Esther risking her life to bring her people’s plight to the King’s attention and Priscilla who lead a church are examples of women who took opportunities and risks in ministry. Women who are afraid to fail will find a reason why they shouldn’t try. Creating a church culture which includes a growth mindset will give women, and men, reasons to explore ministries that they may have otherwise overlooked.
In order to take opportunities, women need access to quality discipleship, based on biblical truth. Explicit teaching that challenges the attitudes placing limitations upon women is required. Teaching, preaching, worship leading and pastoral care all require skills and knowledge as well as a calling from God. Practical support so that women can have real life experience practicing these skills is needed. Empowering teaching that assumes women should be involved in every arena is vital to launching more women into Spirit-led leadership and ministry. Women who can be role models are essential to providing encouragement and discipleship for other women. Women who teach in Theological Colleges are to be championed – they are shaping a new generation of Church Leaders and can challenge men and women to consider the issues before they go on to lead congregations across the country. Anyone already in ministry – male or female – has insights and strategies to help women grow in leadership roles.
Let’s disciple women who aspire to ministry well in our churches so that they will be bold enough to take opportunities as they arise. Let’s create those opportunities, making way for women to step fully into their calling.