Tuesday, February 21, 2012

a question for you: what does a woman's model of evangelism look like?

It seems I'm not alone. A few women agreed with an odd little statement I made last week:

I’m not sure where my mental image of “evangelism” comes from. I know one thing, though: it doesn’t look like me. It’s masculine and argumentative, maybe because much that’s written about evangelism is by men.
To which Bec said:

I think the point about masculine, argumentative evangelism is excellent. Something for me to think through further. I reckon there might even be a post in it too - what does a woman's model of evangelism look like in practice? - if you're up for it! And how do we do better at training younger women to think like this rather than the masculine model.
They're excellent questions, but I have no idea how to answer them. Can you help me?.

  1. What do you think a "woman's model of evangelism" might look like in practice?

  2. How could we do better at training younger women to think like this rather than the masculine model?

To leave a comment click here.


Maddison Snook said...

I haven't thought about this a lot, but what springs to mind when reading this was that women's evangelism looks like cultivating friendships, letting people into our lives, and being honest and open. I don't mean telling everyone everything, or not being guarded, but in regards to our faith I think that making room for non-Christian women in our lives, and looking for opportunities to talk about it and be open about what we believe is highly important.

But like I said, I haven't thought a lot about this before.

This would be an excellent topic for one of the big group meetings at church!

Maddison =)

BG said...

GREAT QUESTION! One straight after my own heart and passion!
When we think about women’s evangelism, we are not only thinking about what the evangelist feels comfortable or confident with, but what methods of evangelism work for the women we are reaching. I think we miss some great opportunities when we leave the evangelism to the men!
Men love to argue and debate, women tend to like to keep the peace. I find when my friends ask me apologetic style questions, they are usually either curious about my answers, or have real emotional baggage behind the question. They are not interested in a fight! So that really changes how you answer.
I think women like to see Christianity works itself out in the lives of other women, to “prove” its worthwhileness. Many women in my playgroup commented that it was seeing the servant-hearted way the ladies at morning tea served, or how deliberate and caring the Christian Mums were in their parenting, that made them want to find out more about what we all believed.
But I think the big, big, big difference that I've found in terms of the way that women's evangelism works is that it is highly relational. Rather than being about someone up the front speaking, it’s about doing life together, talking and reading the Bible, ideally one-to-one. And rather than teaching facts about a religion, you are introducing them to a person, Jesus.
In terms of training, there are a few different ways we can do it. You can bring along-side you a younger Christian friend as you share and build these kinds of relationships. This style of tag-team/modelling works really well in something like a Playgroup or Uni Ministry. But that can be tricky when most of your Non-Christian contacts do not overlap with your Christian friends.
At my old church, I was involved in a women’s training group which focused on training women in Christian ministry with a particular focus on evangelism. We would get together once a month to pray together for our friends, and to grow in our evangelistic efforts. We did lots of training on bring up Jesus in conversation, and on apologetics and I think that was helpful. But some of the best things were just modelling how it works by talk about our own experiences, and assisting the girls when it was helpful. One week a girl would come with a question a friend had asked that she needed help to answer. Another week a girl had a friend wanting to read the Bible with her and she wanted some advice of how to do that. We all grew and learnt and made mistakes together and it was one of the most valuable things I’ve done.
Of course, in all this, there is a spectrum. There will always be women who like to argue and there will always be relational guys 
Sorry it’s such a long answer Jean, I am pretty passionate about this stuff in case you can’t tell!

Jean said...

Thanks, Maddi and B - very helful! And B, don't apologise: feel free to ramble some more. I'd love to hear more about your experiences training women in evangelism. Maybe you could write up something about it and post it on my blog or yours (or both!).

Natalie Stephens said...

I have been thinking about this heaps lately and have taken on the phrase - 'from cabbage to Christ' meaning as women we just freely talk about any topic naturally including our faith in Jesus. And it doesn't have to be all of the gospel in one go, but 'gospel bites'. I just had a friend here this morning and we chatted about recipes, spirituality, carpet cleaning, guardian angels, praying and grief. I think that's the woman's way!

Jean said...

"From cabbage to Christ" - oooh, I like that! Can I steal that for my heading if I write something about this?

Thanks, Natalie. If any more thoughts occur - you are more experienced in this than me - please pass them on.

Tamie said...

I assume when we say 'women's evangelism', we mean western or Australian women? I just ask because many other cultures in the world are a lot more direct and debate is more common and natural to both men and women..

My experience in training (Aussie) women in evangelism is similar to much of what's already been said - women feel much more comfortable with the whole idea of 'evangelism' if is feels somewhat natural, conversational and relational. Part of that, I think, is drawing some distance between 'evangelism' and 'presenting a gospel presentation'.

Jean said...

Hi Tammie,

That's an interesting point about women from other cultures. I wasn't aware of that - thanks!

Although I must say that in my very small experience of women from other cultures in the West, it's still very relationally dependent. But they are definitely more open to talking about religious matters, comparing faiths, etc.


BG said...

Sure Jean, I would love to do somthing about that :)

mattnbec said...

Thanks for your thoughts so far, gang. These reflect my hunches too. My hunches are that evangelism for women is more friendship-based and linked to living life together and hospitality.

I think the point you make, BG, about that having an impact on our apologetics is really critical. I suspect this is one of the places that the idea Jean mentioned about the male/female approach really connects with this. The way we deal with the answer we offer will be important and the argument will be less important than the relational-ness of the gospel and the person of Jesus. Likewise, the point about our lives 'proving' the gospel is important, especially over time as people watch us deal with difficult situations etc.

I also agree it means we need to focus on evangelism-lifestyle training and conversations more and perhaps on courses less. I suspect it means we need to re-think our training so it's less task-oriented and programme focussed and more people and process focussed too.


Kath said...

Just a thought, but I think it's a fairly false dichotmy to divide argumentative evangelism into being for men and relational evangelism for women. I know many women who are up for the arguing, the confrontation and many wonderful men who are all about the friendship, the welcome into each others lives, the long term... It seems a bit harsh to put gender labels on different styles and personalities.

I'm not sure there is a specifically 'woman's' model of evangelism. Maybe just your way of doing it and my way of doing it and X's way of doing it.

I don't know whether things are different over there in Australia - whether men and women are more clearly defined in gender roles and happy in that. I'm pretty relational when it comes to evangelism, hate the arguements, love the friendships and chatting over a cup of tea, but so is my husband, I'd hate for him to think that he had to put that style to one side because he's a man and that's the woman's way of doing it.

I'm not sure you'd go to that extreme but hope you can see where I'm coming from! Sorry if that's a bit random commenting out of the blue, have lurked around your blog for a while and love reading what you write, always thoughtprovking and helpful :)

Jean said...

Thanks, Bec and Kath.

Kath, I think you're absolutely right - my thoughts exactly. These are generalisations, not set-in-concrete principles. (Are you from the UK? Because I think the gender roles are probably pretty similar here: not as conservative as in parts of America. This is a very secular society.)

I think you can probably say that women are generally more relational and men generally more task/ideas focussed. But clearly those are generalisation and will differ from person to person. Still, the generalisations mean something!

Also, you'd never want to say that evangelism should be anything less than both thoroughly relational, warm, loving, and related to life; and thoroughly "argumentative" - in the best sense of the word, as in knowing the gospel thoroughly, because able to explain and defend it, and knowing how to answer people's questions.

It may not just be a male/female issue but also an issue in how we think about evangelism: as doing the "gospel drop", or as something you do to people, or as something people with the "gift of the gab" excel at. So I like Bec's point about lifestyle training vs evangelism courses. I'm thoroughly grateful for the Two Ways to Live training course - it means I can now explain my faith clearly and simply - but I also like John Dickson's "The best kept secret of Christian mission", which talks about how we promote the gospel in all kinds of different ways like good deeds and "church-ing", not just through argument and presentation of the gospel. Both are vital.

And I really am rambling and need to go get my boys ready for the day...:) Thanks for the thoughts. Keep them coming!

Love Jean.

Emily Shannon said...

Thanks for some stimulating thoughts on the doing of evangelism by women.
As mentioned & in my experience, showing vulnerability can really help deepen relationships & conversation. A big part of this is talking about feelings - a common way women interact! How I feel as a stay at home mum, as a parent with a sick child, as a person struggling with contentment, as a loved child of God who is forgiven & has eternal hope, as a woman overwhelmed by Gods grace.
It's about penetrating conversations with gospel honesty about how feel in Christ. Asking God to further our understanding of His grace is the best place to start when training for this - it's only then can we 'feel' what that means for us, to then tell others about it!

Jean said...

"Asking God to further our understanding of His grace is the best place to start when training for this." Well put, Emily.