Simone has been asking some questions about women's ministry, in response to this post by Jenny about our narrow definitions of "godly womanhood". I've been thinking about this a lot, as I now have shared responsibility for the women's ministry at our church. I thought I might post my answers, beginning with Simone's first question:
Is it possible for a woman to be ministered to entirely in mixed settings and to thrive in her faith? Is it okay for her not to attend the formal women's ministries that are available to her?
Yes; and yes, it's okay, or the Bible would command her to attend. (Although you'd hope it's not fear - or an ineptly run program - keeping her away!)
A formal women's ministry is not necessary (although it can be helpful!) or the Bible would command it.
An informal women's ministry - that is, women encouraging one another in their faith, and older women teaching, training and setting an example to younger women: well, Titus 2:3-5 makes it pretty clear that Paul gives the responsibility of teaching and training younger women to older women (rather than to male overseers like Titus); and in any mixed group of Christians you'd hope that mutual encouragement between women was happening naturally and organically.
So, no, it's not necessary for it to be formal; but, yes, there should be some ministry of "women to women" in any healthy church.
This will include "women's issues" (hence the lists in Titus 2:3-5) - in fact, I'd think both informal and formal women's ministry would rightly include issues particularly relevant to women - but hopefully not just "women's issues", not an "exclusive" version of them (e.g. for mums only), and certainly not an unbiblically legalistic version of them (e.g. patchwork and particular sleep routines).
In Titus 2 it's the gospel that drives all our behaviour, teaching and training, whatever group we belong to. So gospel, gospel, and more gospel: that's what I'd hope to see in women's teaching and women's encouragement.
If women's ministry doesn't major on the gospel and the Bible, but instead on some legalistic version of what womanhood looks like, or just on the mums and married amongst us, no wonder if many women feel discouraged and alienated by it.
But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Let’s have women encouraging women with the gospel and God’s word, whether formally or informally doesn’t really matter.
Please add your thoughts to the comments.
image is by jhall at flickr