Popular speaker and author Jen Hatmaker’s recent interview with Jonathan Merritt affirming same-sex relationships led Lifeway to stop carrying her books. The uproar surrounding both this interview and Lifeway’s decision kicked off a helpful conversation in the blogosphere about, among other things, the way in which conference events have served to outsource women’s ministry from the local church.
Jesus Creed-reading women, I’d love to hear from you. Have your congregational leaders recognized and affirmed your gifts – or simply thanked you for your help with the church to-do list?
Women’s ministries in many local churches often tilt toward social events with an inspirational tagline: Christmas teas, Mother’s Day brunches, spa-themed retreats. There well may be a women’s Bible study or two serving as a backbone for these ministries, but often, these studies serve up pre-packaged materials from recognized brand-name speakers like Beth Moore, Lysa Terkurst, or Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It is telling that the women I’ve met who are leading parachurch, community-based study groups like Bible Study Fellowship or Community Bible Study migrate to these groups because they’ve found there isn’t a ready place for them to teach, lead, or study in greater depth in their local churches.
Aimee Byrd tackled the topic in this thoughtful post. And Sharon Hodde Miller offered some practical suggestions about how local church leaders might reclaim some of what they’ve ceded to conferences, video-led pre-packaged Bible studies, and parachurch ministries.
Miller’s first point toward strengthening ministry to and by women in the local church seems obvious: Leaders should affirm the gifts of women. Yet in most of the congregations I’ve attended over the last four decades, I’ve learned most leaders tended to affirm women who served in nursery, ran VBS, or taught third-graders, whether these women were actually gifted to do so or not. My leaders rarely noticed the gifts God gave me to offer to my brothers and sisters in Christ, but they did praise my willingness to get in the trenches and do the nitty-gritty of wiping up spills in the nursery or cutting out 100 lion silhouettes for a craft at our church’s VBS. [Read more]