While Women’s Ministry in the Local Churchmakes some good points, it falls short in specificity. In some cases, a lack of specificity makes the book more broadly applicable, but in this instance the vagueness made its theology questionable.
I’m on the women’s committee at my church and the committee decided to read this book as part of an effort to clearly define the vision and goals of the ministry. For that purpose, Women’s Ministry in the Local Church had several helpful observations such as:
- Women’s ministry should not be consumer-oriented, but should seek to equip women as disciples for their own spiritual growth, and for their ministries in their families, church, communities, and the world.
- Women’s ministry should focus on core values of gospel, truth, sound doctrine, discipleship, and covenant.
- “The number of women involved in Bible studies and special events does not necessarily measure the fruit of the ministry” but rather, the measure should be whether we have equipped women to minister in their communities with compassion not only for their own social group but for those who are different, in need, marginalized, and hurting.
- Perhaps women’s ministry Biblestudies could be aligned to a sermon series or Sunday School classes and small groups, so that women have a chance to dig deeper in same way the rest of the church is learning.
Mixed in with the helpful ideas, however, were some concepts that I found problematic. Specifically, the authors of the book failed to define terms that can be interpreted in vastly different ways, some of which I find theologically questionable.
- Throughout the book, the author’s refer vaguely to “biblical womanhood”– that “the main task of women’s ministry” is to train women in biblical womanhood, that all Biblestudies and women’s ministry events should focus on biblical womanhood, that many churches are filled with women who who only understand “feminism” (also undefined – do they mean all of us who enjoy our right to vote, or women who work outside the home, or women who think it’s good when a woman is a CEO or Senator, or women who hate men, or what?). By not defining the term “biblical womanhood,” the authors leave this open to interpretation that could veer dangerously to extra-biblical patriarchy, legalism, glorification of housekeeping and parenting over the gospel and our calling as Christians, etc. Scripture is clear that men and women are different in some ways, but so many people use these sorts of terms to add layers of additional requirements and guilt to women’s shoulders. I hope the authors did not intend that, but since they never defined terms but left things in shadowy and vaguely ominous language, I was left wondering.
- The book’s authors suggest that “some churches” say women can do everything non-ordained men can do in the church. But then they don’t define which of those things women can’t do. Without clear description, I wasn’t sure what the authors meant.
- There was a weird focus on “spiritual mothers” at the end of the book. Titus 2 makes clear that older women should teach the younger (and spiritual mentoring is very important) but the book seemed to imply that certain types of women should be in some sort of spiritual authority over the other women, as though they would replace your own mother or other clearly defined authority figures in your life, and that seemed kind of weird.
To sum up, while I found some helpful thoughts in Women’s Ministry in the Local Church, I thought the book suffered from lack of specificity and clarity, so I’m not sure I’d recommend it.
As a somewhat related aside, I just finished reading Susan Hunt’s Your Home a Place of Grace with the women’s Biblestudy I’m a part of, and I have to say I didn’t really get much out of the book itself, except for the parts I was able to discuss with the group (I had to take several weeks off while on bed rest so I missed out).
The study, on the other hand, is a really great group of women, and any time you’re reading the Bible with people who are open and honest and seeking God, that’s a wonderful thing. The book itself was not bad, it just didn’t resonate with me. It did have some good points and themes, which is why I got a lot out of the group discussions, but overall I think there are so many far superior books on family and parenting and covenant community that I really wouldn’t recommend you read this one unless you happen to have a Biblestudy reading it with you. Maybe I am just not a Susan Hunt fan.
If you loved this book, let me know what I missed!
And getting back to Women’s Ministry in the Local Church, there must be better resources for reformed views of women’s ministry out there, right? If you know of any, please pass along your recommendations!
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