Pastors’ Forum: How do you equip women in your church for ministry?
Editor’s note: We asked a bunch of pastors about the practical processes and structures built in the life of their local churches that are specifically geared toward equipping women for ministry. We hope you’ll find some of their prescriptions useful and easily reproduced.
At Christ Covenant Church, we have the following avenues of growth for women:
1. For new attenders: We have a four to six week course built around a meal where the basics of biblical femininity are taught and testimonies are given as to how these truths flesh out in real life. We do this for non-Christians as well (members invite a friend) seeking to give biblical truth on womanhood in a more comfortable context. This offers a way in to the life of the community for new attenders or non-Christians.
2. A women’s weekly Bible study that combines teaching and prayer/fellowship. This includes a homework component as well as times of discussion for greater understanding and application in small groups. This offers opportunities for growth in the Scriptures and proper application.
3. A mentoring ministry where women in groups of 10-12 agree to gather together for one year to read a book on a theological/practical topic and walk it out over time meeting monthly for prayer and discussion. This offers the real possibility of developing relationships among women.
—Tom Mercer, Senior Pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Raleigh, North Carolina
You would think in a church as diverse as Redeemer Church of Dubai (with over 60 nationalities) that it would be impossible to equip such a diversity of women for the diverse ministries to which God has called them. But that’s just not the case! I think one of the key things the elders do to equip our women is to preach expositionally, modeling what it looks like to approach God’s authoritative and sufficient Word. We also have women’s classes led by other women to talk through various subjects. We’ve also held women’s training sessions that are focused on inductive Bible study. And we work hard to build a culture of discipleship in our church where men are meeting with men and women are meeting with women for the purpose of studying Scripture and praying in groups and in pairs.
—Dave Furman, Senior Pastor, Redeemer Church of Dubai
I was struck a couple of years ago by a friend’s observation that Paul charged Titus to train the older women to train the younger women. For too long I was waiting on the older women to get to this training on their own without fulfilling my part of the ministry. Last year we started meeting with a group of older women to teach and train them in the areas of Biblical theology, hermeneutics, leadership, Biblical counseling, and complementarianism. It has been a wonderful time and helped to empower our sisters to effectively lead the next generation. These monthly meetings taught by one of our pastors lead into a much larger Ladies Fellowship that is led by these sisters. This has also resulted in many more mentoring relationships between sisters in the church.
—Paul Martin, Pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario
This year my two associate pastors and I started an equipping meeting that we call “Shepherdess Training.” The three of us gather on Mondays at noon with 20-25 women who are church members. We spend about 45 minutes discussing assigned reading and then the women break up into small groups for another 45 minutes to practice inductive Bible study. The idea is to give the women 1) a vision for personal Word ministry to other women, 2) a broader theological knowledge base, and 3) skill in leading a simple inductive Bible study.
For those interested, their reading list includes John Frame’s brief systematic theology Salvation Belongs to the Lord, Colin Marshall and Tony Payne’s call to personal Word ministry The Trellis and the Vine, Vaughan Robert’s introduction to biblical theology God’s Big Picture, Glimpses of Grace by Gloria Furman, and for a vision of Word ministry in the local church they read Jonathan Leeman’s Reverberation.
—Jeramie Rinne, Senior Pastor of South Shore Baptist Church in Hingham, Massachusetts
We are intentional about our women being strong theologians who are engaged in the ministry of the Word to one another and seek to create a culture where it is normal and expected for our women to be strong in the Word. We pursue this by:
- Consistently offering robust Bible classes for women taught by women.
- Equipping and using our women to minister the Word to one another in counseling and mentoring.
- Specifically inviting women to attend seminary level classes in the church.
- Publicly thanking God for the passion that our women have to know God.
- Hosting and promoting women’s conferences where the Word is competently taught by women.
—Bob Johnson, Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Roseville, Michigan
Here’s my quick answer.
In addition to the normal activities of the church (preaching, sacraments), we use the Simeon Trust training program to help women in our congregation prepare to understand and teach God’s word more effectively. We also have a one-to-one Bible reading program where women in the church are paired up with each other to study the Bible and help each other grow in Christ. This helps the women who participate to build discipling relationships and become more proficient and using the Bible to do spiritual good for another woman.
—Mike McKinley, Senior Pastor of Sterling Park Baptist Church in Sterling, Virginia
At Immanuel Baptist Church our regular preaching ministry is our main vehicle for equipping the women of the Church. The preaching ministry of the Word has cultivated a culture of ‘every member ministry’ where many mature, godly women reach into the lives of other women through prayer, service, and Word-centered encouragement. In addition to this many of our Gospel Community Groups spend regular time where the women mutually build one another up and hold one another accountable. Our prayer meetings are also places where the women of the Church intercede for one another, the men of the Church, and those who have gone out among the nations. In addition to this we are blessed to have a skilled Women’s Ministry Director who serves the saints in the following way:
- By leading quarterly “Women’s Ministry Events” that focus on Biblical teaching and fellowship.
- Regular in-depth Bible studies that equip women with the Word.
- Leading a women’s ministry team that seeks to find ways to disciple the women of Immanuel.
- Counseling many of the women of Immanuel and equipping and encouraging others to do the same.
- Assisting the pastors in some marriage counseling situations.
In the coming year, we also hope to have her teach our Gospel Community Group leaders wives during our leadership equipping times. Finally, it has also been my joy to attend our “Women’s Ministry Events” annually. Each year I try to preach expositionally from a text that deals explicitly with the glory, the calling, and the roles of women in the Church.
—Ryan Fullerton, Senior Pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky
In Niddrie, we encourage a Titus 2 approach to ministry in the local church. Mature Christian ladies discipling younger women in the faith. We have a woman’s pastoral worker who leads Bible studies and groups for our women and reports to the elders monthly on the specific pastoral needs of our ladies.
We are currently training several young women for ministry with young people and as Female Gospel Workers for ministry in schemes across Scotland. They are trained theologically through our basic Discipleship Course and our Access to Theology Course at a local seminary.
At Niddrie, we have Elders and Deacons (all male) and a Ministry Team which deals with the on-the-ground ministry of the church and 20schemes. Of 6 Senior people, 3 are women who participate in the decision making process of the work.
We offer summer internships anywhere between 2-9 weeks in duration and have had multiple women through our programme. We also offer the position of Female Gospel Workers which can last up to 2 years and currently have three women in process to join us in the next 12 months. We take the training of women seriously at 20schemes and see them as having a vital role in our ministry.
—Mez McConnell, Senior Pastor of Niddrie Community Church in Edinburgh, United Kingdom
At High Pointe, we are seeking to develop a culture of discipleship in which it is natural for our members to develop same-gender relationships to read the Bible together and pray for and encourage one another. Such mutual encouragement may also occur in same-gender small groups. Recently, our biblical counselor developed on-going biblical counseling training to equip men and women to apply the gospel to one another in specific situations. And for the first time, we are offering a Sunday morning class for women to address issues of biblical womanhood. All this is supported by regular preaching application as to what such a culture might look like.
—Juan Sanchez, Senior Pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas
At La Plata Baptist, our women recently held an Inductive Bible Study training event. It was planned and led by one of our Women’s Small Group teachers. She systematically walked the women through how to observe, interpret, and apply God’s Word with others. The material was outstanding and the turnout for the event was tremendous. In fact, nearly every woman in our church came to the training.
The women of our church also lead an annual Christmas Tea. It is our best attended evangelistic event of the year. As we go forward, I see the need to get them more involved. God is giving us fruit through their faithful work.
—Garret Conner, Pastor of La Plata Baptist Church in La Plata, Maryland