This week I reposted a blog post that I wrote in 2019 about the importance of letting women have a voice in churches. The article got more attention than expected and I was reminded that in the article I hinted at further articles on the topic.
I said this… “There are so many gifted women in the pew who could do so much but they 1) haven’t been asked, 2) have been taught that they must always be silent (I might write a whole post on this one soon!) or 3) they don’t think that they can contribute anything worthwhile.“
I’d like to take each of those 3 points and write a short blog series about them. Here goes…
One of the big reasons that women don’t speak in church much is simply because they’re not asked. On one level, it really is that simple. Sure there are other reason, two of which will follow in the next two weeks, but generally speaking I think that we hear women’s voices less in complementarian churches because we don’t ask them to speak.
This goes beyond Sunday services too. It’s easy to ask a women to do a Bible reading or to pray in a service. But is that the full extent to which they can serve the body of Christ? I don’t think it is. The list of what women can do, in my complementarian view, is far bigger than the list of what I think they shouldn’t. Realistically, at lest in my own experience, the church has more women in it than it does men. Therefore, if we’re not equipping and listen to the voices of women we’re not equipping or listening to (potentially) a majority of our church membership.
But by giving women a voice in the church I’m not just talking about their involvement in Sunday services, that’s the easy part. It’s too easy to think that by involving women in service that we’re giving them a voice. It’s easy to include a female voice and give yourself a pat on the back, but it’s not enough.
How can we let women speak in our churches?
Listen to their input and their feedback
One of the great sources of encouragement and growth over my last 8 or so years of ministry has been sermon input and feedback. I’ve been involved in groups where I’ve brought my thoughts on a passage and ideas for a sermon and listened to input before I’ve preached, and gotten feedback afterwards. Listen to women before and after a sermon can help make sure that you’re applying the passage effectively to the whole church. It also means that you’re illustrations are hitting everyone and not just those who are like you in the church. This is good practice, not only for listening to women, because others will pick up on things in the passage that you might have missed. A fresh pair of eyes is always helpful. By doing this you’re also equipping people to know how to understand and faithfully communicate God’s Word.
The Lord enables all of His people (both men and women), through the Holy Spirit, to understand His Word. So let’s make a conscious effort to listen to both the input and feedback of everyone and become better communicators of God’s Word.
Ask them how they want to serve, and let them
Too often I think the discussion around the role of women in the church, in complementarian churches, is done negatively. “Women can’t do this or that” for example. But the list of what women should do is much longer than that of what they shouldn’t. Don’t just assume that women should lead creche, ask what their gifts are and help them use them for the upbuilding of the church. There are so many gifted women in the church who should be encouraged to serve. Sadly, you may be woking against years of them being told that they need to sit silently, but more on that next week.
Women should be encouraged to serve in so many areas of church life;
- Writing Bible studies
- Training others
- Discipling others
- Pastoral care
- Singing and band
- Tech and other practical services
Ask women how they believe the Lord has gifted them and actively give them opportunities to serve in those ways.
Train them to serve and to enable others
The church needs people who are trained in how to handle the Bible faithfully and well. The church needs people who are theologically sound and who know their stuff. All it takes is investment. Pastors shouldn’t only focus their time on men who might become elders and preach. We should spend our time training and equipping every saint to serve. Seminaries and theology degrees are not reserved only for men. Seminars and workshops aren’t only ‘faithful’ or ‘sound’ if they’re run by men. We should invest just as much time in training women to serve the church and enable others and we should men.
The list could continue of how churches can let women speak, but a blog post must end somewhere. Stay tuned for next week’s instalment of this series.