I can often be a competitive and ambitious woman. I also try very hard to share my opinions with wisdom. I seek to lead with strength and try to employ God-given talents to love the Lord and His people. However, when it comes down to it, I often don’t fit the (wo)man made mold of biblical womanhood -- at all. In fact, I don’t want to fit into that mold. As a co-leader of the Women’s Ministry in a multisite church, I rarely fit into the expectations people have for my role both inside and outside my church.
When I first stepped into my current role, I did try to fit that mold. I came onto the church staff after being in Corporate America, leaving a place where I knew my responsibilities and led freely as I was created to. But as I came on staff at the church I felt crippled. I no longer knew how to lead or even act in meetings. I didn’t know how to be myself in this new context. So I began acting and contouring myself to fit in this little cookie cutter of biblical womanhood – quiet, never sharing my opinion, never objecting or speaking unless a pastor had first spoken to me. My first few weeks were hard and exhausting because I wasn’t being myself but rather someone else as I was learning my new culture and learning what I could do.
No one had told me to act that way. It was all self-inflicted judgments I had made. My fear got in the way those first few weeks. I feared that I was going to cross over this woman’s role line. I’ll never forget the first time my boss asked for my opinion in a meeting. I was caught off guard overly filtering every word that came out of my mouth. After that meeting as we debriefed, he said something to me that helped shaped how I view and lead women in the church.
He told me that he didn’t want me to fear crossing the line, but to live in freedom. I no longer had to be fearful of saying the wrong thing or saying too much but to work, live, and do ministry with freedom (knowing that if I crossed the line he would lovingly let me know).
As I talk with pastors and women leaders throughout the country this often comes up in the conversation. There’s a fear that if you equip women, if you train them in theology, if you empower them to lead then women will be crossing all the lines and squashing any male leaders that get in the way. This is a fear that seems to stem from how the evangelical church has reacted, over reacted and then reacted again to what some have called the loss of masculinity.
Freeing women to lead and providing them with the tools to know God should never squash a man’s masculinity; it should empower men all the more to lead with their God given masculinity. If you are teaching women the bible and sound doctrine and releasing them to serve you'll be freeing them to lead using their feminine beauty to support the church. If you're providing the right teaching for her she's not going to purposefully cross the line or mow any men over, but instead be able to serve alongside men because of her right understanding of scripture and how she fits into the church body and the kingdom.
Why do our women need to be taught by women?
As the evangelical church recovers from it’s supposed lack of masculinity debacle (I’m not saying this is true or not) and if the problem has been that we saw an increase in women leading and men not, then teach men to lead as men and the women to lead as women.
This question in itself is oppressive for women. It devalues their place in your churches. Women are hungry to know God and desire to be taught deep truths and rich doctrines. This is why at our church we started something four years ago called Women’s Leadership School. We want women to be provided the same opportunities to know God as we do for the men, teaching women how to study the bible, theology, and how to disciple other women. When we reflect on creation and how God created both male and female in his image (Genesis 1-2) we realize that both male and female have unique gifts and talents to serve the body; both genders give a glimpse into God’s attributes. Therefore, we have a responsibility to train men and women how to live in this biblical framework.
To question women leading a women’s ministry disregards what Paul writes in Titus 2:1-5,
“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”
If we want both men and women to respond in the freedom of Christ and to live using our gifts to His glory, we need a space in our churches where men are specifically taught by men, and women specifically taught by women (not exclusively by the same gender but alongside of the regular preaching of God's Word by the pastor) . If we continue in the pattern of not having solid sound teaching for women by women then women will either start leading as men or will go outside of the church. Neither of these is good.
There’s no mold for biblical manhood or womanhood and we must learn how to equip both men and women. It’s my hope and prayer that churches, leaders, pastors continue to talk about this. I hope to see change in how we view women leading . . . that women would lead not as men, but in the way God created with strength, beauty, and with particular gifts they’ve been given from God, that both men and women would co-labor together to serve the kingdom without the loss of individuality of our God-given personalities. Thankfully none of us are clones or robots so let’s stop looking at each as if we are and step into this conversation with care for both men and women in our churches.