Liz Cox is Minister for Woman and Community at St Giles’ Derby.
Someone told me: “There’s really no point in training women for ministry – they just leave when they get married and have babies.”
“There’s really no point in training women for ministry – they just leave when they get married and have babies.” I really heard this… from a woman… at a 9:38 conference. I think I was too shocked to say anything. I just stood with my mind racing and my mouth open, wondering how to answer. Where to start…? Well, first we need a bit of context. That shocking statement was made during a conversation about where 9:38 ministry trainees would go after finishing their traineeship. If men seemed gifted for ministry you could encourage them to do further training: enrol in Bible College, perhaps. “But,” my friend wondered, “what can we do with the women?” I was a bit puzzled and answered quickly (no surprises there) “The same thing!” And back came the answer – no point training for ministry – married and babies. She could have rolled it back further and said that a woman shouldn’t become a 9:38 trainee in the first place.
So, why train women for ministry? I think there are at least 6 very good reasons!
1. I believe in “every member ministry”
Every Christian has ministry to do encouraging other Christians and proclaiming Christ to the world. Even if a woman isn’t in full time employment in a ministry job, she still has ministry to do. Jesus values all our unpaid service and ministry, even if our culture doesn’t. Why not be trained to get better at it?
2. The Church needs women to be ministers
No matter what a church’s view of ministry roles for women is, there are roles for women. Since men and women are complementary, it’s even more important that women are in ministry. Without them, the church misses out; the body is incomplete. ‘The eye cannot say to the hand “I don’t need you!”’. When women are in Godly leadership and exercise their gifts the whole church benefits. 9:38 and beyond trains and raises up women for these roles.
3. We need women to be models
Women who are employed to devote all or part of their time to ministry are models of how women use their gifts. A wise church, college or organisation puts women in the staff team to hear their voice in decision making, to work with other women and to reach out to women in their community. That’s just for starters. We need to see how this works.
4. Raising a family is ministry
“Getting married and having children” is ministry, too! Loving a spouse and raising the next generation to love and serve Jesus is fundamental one to one ministry and a great use of a woman’s training and experience. Who says a mother doesn’t need to know the Bible? As my great-grandfather (born in 1854) said to those who suggested he should only have his sons educated: “If you don’t have educated mothers where will you get your educated sons?”
5. Some women won’t get married. Some won’t have children. Some won’t leave paid employment.
Some women will stay in paid employment and full time ministry all their lives. Even if 9:38 training and beyond was only for full-time employment, there will be many women who will serve the Church in this way. Conversely, not all trained men will be pastors, either. To discourage women from future training seems quite narrow-minded to me.
6. Training is for life, not just for …
Whatever training and experience you have now will be used by God in the future – just seek to serve Him alone wherever He takes you!
None of us knows what the future holds, but our great God does. If He is giving you an opportunity to serve Him full time or to continue to train and minister full time, take it! Most people in the world don’t have that privilege: they have to work to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow. Whatever training and experience you have now will be used by God in the future – just seek to serve Him alone wherever He takes you!
I’ve worked for more than 14 years in St Giles’ Church. We’ve had trainees with us for all those years and half of them were women: all are in ministry now in many different ways. Come join us and see how it works!