Christy married in her early twenties and began a family right away. Now she has eight children whom she home-schools. She pours her time and energy into nurturing her children and rearing them to serve the Lord. As her nest empties, she plans to put the same time and energy into nurturing her grandchildren. She considers this nurturing process to be her main ministry for the Lord.
Homemaking and nurturing are commendable ministries. Titus 2 tells us to teach young mothers to do this vital ministry. But it is not the only ministry Christian women can and should have.
When I was young, people expected women to stay at home and be “housewives.” Then women’s lib encouraged them to do “more important” things than raising children. They were told to assert their rights and start their own careers. In time, even Christian women were expected to work outside the home, even with young children at home. Now home-schooling has put many mothers back in the home, devoting more time than ever to rearing children.
Getting married, deciding how many children to have, and determining how to educate them are personal decisions which each woman or couple need to make in accordance with God’s will. For some women, nurturing their families may be the main ministry the Lord has for them for most of their adult lives. But most women can have significant ministries outside of their homes.
Some women never marry or marry later in life. Some women have empty nests in their early forties. Even women with children in the home can have significant ministries. My concern is that, in some Christian circles, we are not challenging women into significant ministries.
On a recent furlough I attended a mission’s conference at one of our Bible colleges. Speaking in a workshop to the student body, one church planter said something to this effect. “Don’t worry about discipling women and children. If you disciple men, you’ll get the women and children.”
I understand that this home missionary was emphasizing the importance of reaching men, potential leaders, in the church planting process. But he was speaking to a student body where slightly more than half were young women. Women aren’t allowed to disciple men. So what should they do? Go home? Why should women spend the time and money to go to Bible college if only men are allowed to have significant spiritual ministries?
The Bible clearly teaches that women are not supposed to be in authority over men. They need to work within the framework of authority which God designed. But within that framework, women need to seek out ways to have significant ministries. And we need to encourage them.
Sometimes we send mixed messages to our young women. If a young man steps forward, shows leadership ability, volunteers to teach, asks deep theological questions, plans for Bible college–we are ecstatic. If a young woman does the same thing, she may be greeted with guarded enthusiasm. Yes, there are ways we can use her, but it sure would be nice if she was a man. A certain amount of training to make her a better Sunday school teacher could be a good thing, especially if she finds a husband at Bible college. But she can leave the deep theological thinking and spiritual ministries for the men.
Sometimes we’re most comfortable with women when they stay at home with the kids. Ambitions make us nervous. We’re so concerned about what women can’t do Biblically, that we forget to challenge them towards things they can do. And when we do want to encourage them towards significant ministry, we don’t know where to begin.
Churches need women. In most churches, much of the less visible work is done by women. They teach children and women’s Bible studies; plan activities; cook, clean and decorate; direct programs; prepare music; order Sunday School materials and do countless other activities which flesh out the church program. Each of these activities performs a service, adds sparkle, or provides a spiritual ministry to the church. Beyond that they may start specialized ministries in their church, such as ministries to the deaf or elderly or mentally handicapped.
We need to encourage women to serve in our churches, but we also need to challenge women toward full-time ministry. Missions offers many opportunities for the single or married women to serve. Women can serve the Lord in medical ministries, ESL ministries, literature ministries, assistance in church planting, translation, and literacy classes. Christian publications need writers, artists, musicians, and editors. Christian schools need teachers. Opportunities abound for Christian women to have significant ministries.
Look around your church. Do you have young women or older women who could be challenged to serve the Lord in significant ministries? What are you doing to encourage those women to develop their skills and broaden their horizons? Are you widening their vision or dampening their spirits? Your encouragement might make the difference between working from a sense of duty and serving with enthusiasm.
Women today need to be challenged to ministry. Perhaps the Lord will use you to meet this need. It could be a significant new area of ministry for you!