If you were asked to describe what you do without using your job title what would you say? I expect it would involve a lot of clarification especially if you do the job I used to do – social worker. A job title doesn’t give us the whole picture but it does incorporate significant information. However it is not just the name that matters but the fact that a job title comes with a job description and usually an employer (and often a salary).
In our churches we use various names to describe the roles we have: there is the congregation, the Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, elders, deacons, vicars, pastors, ministry trainees, youth workers, stewards, home group leaders, administrators, treasurers, musicians, evangelists and perhaps a women’s worker. In churches that have an egalitarian view of women’s ministry any of these roles can be filled by a woman but in churches that hold to the complementarian view what women are allowed to do varies considerably. The one role that no one disputes is that of an older woman teaching younger women as outlined in Titus 2:4 yet many complementarian churches do not have anyone in their congregation who has been given this role in a formal way.
I am not talking about a salaried position but a job title – it matters because the job title provides much more than just a name. If there is a woman in a church who is engaged in getting alongside younger women, encouraging them, reading the bible with them and generally discipling them, formal recognition of her role would help her in several ways. A formal job title brings with it a job description so she can become even clearer about her role, it will affirm her and encourage her in her ministry, it will help her be accountable to the leadership team who should also help to train her and support her. It explains her ministry to those around her and gives permission for her role. If a church was fortunate enough to have many women serving in this way there could be a team of women working together. The possibilities for evangelism could also explode but I am beginning to fantasize!
I speak to many younger women who long to have the support of an older Christian woman and I also speak to older women who do not feel able to get involved with the younger women for fear of offending them and being rejected because they do not feel they have the right to be involved. Many also feel ill equipped for the task. I think for this reason alone we need to formalise this ministry just as we do with Sunday school teachers. If your church has no formal women’s ministry or anyone equipped to do it then time needs to be set aside to teach the older women so that they can fulfil this role. There are many reasons to affirm women’s ministry in a more formal way, many of which were highlighted in a recent Gospel Coalition blog so I won’t add to them here but point you to the article
I have decided to be more pro-active about this issue because women’s ministry is an area in which we face opposition and ridicule. This week I am speaking at Lancaster University on ‘Is the bible sexist?’ Many people think it is. Sadly we are often complacent about women’s issues in our churches and deserve the criticism that our churches are sexist. I do not think we will win people over to the bible’s radical and counter cultural teaching about women unless they are transformed by an encounter with Christ but we can challenge their preconceptions by having a church family where women are valued as an integral part of the ministry team and to do that women who do ministry need to be acknowledged and given a name.
(This is the second in a series of articles (part three to follow shortly).