Monday, July 13, 2015

Women's Ministry in the Local Church: Part 1- Intro & FAQ

Steam has been building in the blogosphere surrounding the topic of women's ministry and women's roles in the church for some time. With The Gospel Coalition's announcement last week about the coming launch of a promising new book called "Word-Filled Women's Ministry: Loving and Serving the Church", some perennial questions and challenges have again been raised about the validity of women's ministry and Bible study. Aimee Bird has taken up the topic over at The Mortification of Spin. In the comment threads of  the TGC website and on their Facebook page, these same questions and concerns have renewed my own passion on the topic, compelling me to write a series of posts.

As a member of a healthy Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) church and member of my Presbytery's Women's Ministry Council, I have been greatly encouraged over the years by a rich heritage of teaching on women's ministry. In fact, it seems that the PCA may be one of the only denominations with a Biblical model for women's ministry taught from the denominational level to the presbyteries, and within the local churches. It is my hope and expectation that all of the PCA women involved with TGC will be imparting this same rich heritage to others in TGC who come from backgrounds without any or with only weaker frameworks for women's ministry.

From my experience, many Baptists migrate to the PCA and have never been previously exposed to this Biblical model for women's ministry. Once they lay hold of the foundational teaching, so many say that they grow by leaps and bounds in their effectiveness in all the various places they live and serve. In addition, many of our own denominational church plants are undergirded by the Acts29 Network and their ministry philosophy that intentionally avoids female specific models of ministry. Thus, the educational curve can sometimes be fairly dramatic, but I've been fortunate to serve in a very active presbytery with a vibrant legacy of teaching on the PCA's Philosophy for Women's Ministry in the Church that has been passed down from generation to generation.

That said, I plan to write a series of articles addressing this issue and some of the typical questions that are being raised. In this post, I'd like to share some of the foundational basis for vital women's ministry in the local church to get the ball rolling.

Beginning with a vision for women's ministry, I've gleaned this from our denomination's website:
 "Women’s Ministry is important for every church to encourage and equip women for service to the church and for woman to woman discipleship." 
So, here we see that Women's Ministry falls under the leadership of the local church and that the purpose is for equipping and discipleship. The more mature women in the church help to equip the younger women and provide distinctively feminine/female discipleship - this is the Titus 2 Model
Dr. Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt have both authored numerous books that lay out the Biblical foundations for why women's ministry is important. Our denomination offers these books and a few others as part of a Core Curriculum, which is written for the specific purpose of teaching a biblical philosophy of womanhood and some of the corporate implications of that philosophy. These corporate implications give definition and focus to a women’s ministry in a local church. One implication is that woman’s helper design equips us to cultivate community and to be channels of compassion in our homes, in our churches, and with our neighbors.
The book that has been most helpful for me and many others is called: "Women's Ministry in the Local Church". I highly recommend this book for every church! Here are a few of the FAQs that I've quoted or paraphrased from the book, which I've found to be helpful:
What is the purpose of Women's Ministry?
"The purpose of the Women's Ministry is that every woman know Christ personally and be committed to extending His Kingdom in her life, home, church, community and throughout the world."
Why does your church need a women's ministry?
1. Because through it we have the opportunity to address helpfully the issue of the nature of manhood and womanhood, an issue that is very much at the heart of the cultural transition we find ourselves in right now.

2. To have a deliberate, intentional ministry to women in the church because the Bible teaches so much on the distinctives of manhood and womanhood.

3. Because when biblical manhood and womanhood are denied, altered, or unpracticed, that results in disasters in marriages, families, and churches.

4. Because the denial or the twisting of the Bible's clear teaching on manhood and womanhood is one of the central ways that biblical authority is undermined in our times.

5. Because we ought to have an intentional, deliberate approach to female discipleship.
(The above was adapted from: "Women's Ministry in the Local Church" by J. Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt, pg. 37-41.)
Why is discipleship that is distinctively feminine (#5 above) important to every local church?
Behind and underneath the church's approach to distinctly feminine discipleship is the fundamental issue of biblical authority. If we can change or deny what the Bible says about female and male relationships to fit the current feminist culture, then we can make the Bible say whatever we want it to say. Rather than being uncomfortable addressing biblical womanhood in the context of our local churches, we should "let the lion loose, let God be God, and let His Word speak and rule in our lives."
(paraphrased from: "Women's Ministry in the Local Church" by J. Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt, pg. 42.)
These are just a few elements to whet your appetite. The entire curriculum mentioned above is geared to address these topics. In addition, the PCA's training conferences are hands-down the most edifying and God-glorifying examples of distinctively female ministry in action (all provided under the male headship of PCA leadership):
The main/national training conference is held in February in Atlanta. And in 2016, there will also be regional offerings!

In some of my next posts, I will delve into the overlapping concepts of women, ministry, vocation, calling, and reformed view of the priesthood of all believers.

Series on Women's Ministry in the Local Church ‪#‎fwiw‬

1. Women's Ministry in the Local Church: Intro & FAQ
2. Women's "Ministry"?


Lauren said...


Thank you for this. I am also on the board in my local PCA Church and we are reading "Women's Ministry in the Local Church" and "Spiritual Mothering" as a team.

I'd encourage women to look at the series of videos created by the Women's Ministry team and available on the website you referenced.


twiga92 said...

This is one of the things that makes me long to go to a PCA church. Our church does not have a solid women's ministry and it doesn't seem to be much of a priority either. While I do not hold to infant baptism, I seem to be very theologically close to PCA theology and would probably feel quite at home at a PCA church. And I love Susan Hunt & Ligon Duncan's book on women's ministry in the local church! Looking forward to more of your blog posts on this subject.

Deb W . said...

Thank you to both of you for stopping by! I completely agree that "Women's Ministry in the Local Church" is such a great resource.
I also came across this article online which is sort of a mini-version of the teaching and very helpful:

I hope more folks - especially younger women in the church - will seek this teaching out, instead of dismissing it because they have not studied yet.
God bless!