Understanding the Relationship Between Pulpit Ministry and Women’s Ministry

I find it interesting to talk to different folks about the relationship between the weekly pulpit ministry and the place of formal women-to-women teaching ministry. Even among complementarian churches, the range of opinion is really quite surprising. As I look around the church it appears to me that at the very least there are six categories of how the relationship between the two ministries is defined. I have numbered them here for no other reason than to make them easy to reference.

Here’s a list of the varying opinions that I see:

  1. The preaching of the word by called and equipped men is sufficient for women too, therefore while organic women-to-women relationships are important in the church, a more formal women-to-women teaching ministry in the church is not.
  2. The preaching of the word by called and equipped men is sufficient for women too, therefore the women-to-women ministry in the church is focused on application and domestic excellence, and theological training is of less importance.
  3. The preaching of the word by called and equipped men is sufficient for women too, yet out of the strong pulpit ministry emerges a necessary women-to-women teaching ministry, it echos the theology of the pulpit, and requires that women also be trained theologically for the teaching task.
  4. The preaching of the word by called and equipped men on Sundays is vital to women, but it is an entirely different context than women-to-women teaching ministry, therefore the two teaching ministries should not be connected or compared or contrasted but left alone as individual expressions of teaching gifts.
  5. The preaching of the word by called and equipped men IS NOT entirely sufficient for women, it is weakened by a lack of female perspective, therefore formal women-to-women teaching ministry is a necessary supplement to the preaching, and to do this well women must be trained theologically for these teaching roles.
  6. The preaching of the word by called and equipped men IS NOT entirely sufficient for women, therefore to reach women, women are needed to preach to the church at least on occasion.

What other categories have I missed? And where would you fit in your understanding of the categories? I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments to this post.

16 thoughts on “Understanding the Relationship Between Pulpit Ministry and Women’s Ministry

  1. Your categories seem to focus on the effect – is it sufficient or not sufficient – and this specifically related only to gender. What if we look at it from the perspective of the call and the effect on the entire body? Some are called and gifted to preach and teach – men and women – and the body will not reach it’s fullest expression if all the gifts are not engaged as fully as possible? And so I suggest 7. The body will be built up sufficiently only when each one uses his or her gift.

  2. I don’t believe I have ever held to category 6, and when I was younger I think I thought more along the lines of category 4 and 5. However, there was a time in my Christian walk where I (and my husband) espoused the first one and to a lesser extent the second, pretty vehemently because those were the views I/we was/were imbibing. It made me weak and it affected our entire household. We are now pretty firmly in the number 3 category. And as to be expected, this has elevated Christ in the home. We still think organic discipleship relationships between women are important, but we no longer believe that this is the ONLY way woman-to-woman teaching should happen.

    I feel ashamed to say this, but there was a time when we really believed that it was on the level of sin to have a formal women’s ministry.

    Thank you so much for writing, I think it’s important to discuss these issues with grace and respect. If you don’t mind, I would love to take this post as a jumping off point and write a few articles of my own.

  3. That’s very helpful Luma. Thanks for sharing about your own path and development on this topic. Have you noticed other models that I’ve seemed to miss?

  4. Yes, the question here is of relationship, how do these two ministries work together especially under and within a plurality of male leaders? How do they harmonize? What do they cover?

  5. Tony, here is an area you may have missed:

    1. Titus 2 relationships are to be organic. There is no formal women’s ministry model called for in Scripture (unlike the role of elders and deacons) hence we should not have a women’s ministry. In some Reformed corners this come as a sort of extension of the regulative principle of worship.

    I’ll have to think through the other categories. I will say, however, that those that would subscribe to what I mention above would probably eschew the label “complementarian,” opting for “patriarchy” as a more biblical model. I could be wrong, let me know what you think. I’m open to correction on this….

  6. Why do we continually forget Deborah? She was called by God, and entrusted to minister to His Chosen People… male and female.

    The category missed here is simply this….. The preaching of the Word by called and equipped born again Christians who have been taught and are led by the Holy Spirit is the only preaching that is necessary.

  7. Three please! But my church leans two, which then just becomes banal studies on Proverbs 31 and a competitive set of rules of what a godly woman looks like (as if that is gender specific). I end up not participating in most activities. Meh.

  8. Very interesting list, Tony, and a good summary of some of the different perspectives. I’ve seen well-meaning folks encounter unexpected tension when they start cooperating with another person or group under the complementarian umbrella, only to discover that they differ with their new ministry partners on the points you’ve outlined. Which is a good reason to talk through things ahead of time! Not to mention a good reason to humbly listen to those with whom we disagree. :-)

    I think that “the relationship between the weekly pulpit ministry and formal women-to-women teaching ministry” isn’t the only area in which there are strong differences among folks who identify as complementarian. There’s much ground for fruitful discussion here!

  9. I completely agree, Sarah, this topic only begins getting at larger topics. I’ve been emailed by 4 people asking me if this is the topic of my next book project. No, I’d like to keep my head firmly connected to my body I say. But of course this is a topic worthy of much more discussion. Surprisingly there has not been a lot written on the topic, at least not on teaching roles at least. Perhaps this will be Mrs Goelitz’s first book?

  10. Hi Tony,

    My husband recommended that we add a seventh category, given that 6 is the number of imperfection….;)

    The preaching of the word by called and equipped men is sufficient for women; because the gift of teaching is confined to men, the only teaching that should occur between women involves the practical outworkings of loving husband and children.

  11. Beyond that possible additional category, I wonder whether it might not be appropriate to separate the method of teaching, from the content. IOW, picture an X / Y axis where one axis is the different approaches to equipping/teaching, and the other is the content e.g. systematic theology vs. “practical living”. That might better depict the diverse perspectives. But just a thought.

  12. Yes, now that’s a very insightful suggestion Rachael. If I choose to develop this further in the future I may depict it in this way because the authority and content are related but distinct. Thank you! Tony

  13. Haha! Well to be honest Rachael I think this would only be a subset of #2, not a new category. But thanks for the suggestion!

  14. Well now, wouldn’t want to start with anything simple or easy, would I? :-)

  15. Point 3 is what I line up with, and I believe where my church lines up as well.

    First of all, I believe Scripture is clear that men are called to hold the office of preacher, and that preaching is vital to the faith of the congregation—so yes, I believe it is sufficient.

    Yet out of solid biblical preaching I believe and hope that women (and men) ought to be inspired toward further study of the Word, and crave for more teaching. In fact, I think that it’s difficult to have a proper conversation about “women’s ministry” without discussing “men’s ministry” alongside it.

    Personally I have seen this in my wife. As our preacher faithfully delivers the Word, and as I as her husband continue to get excited and increase my study and attention to Scripture, my wife in turn gets invigorated for theological insight. It’s so wonderful to see, and it’s encouraging to me as my excitement waxes and wanes.

  16. I am in the process of re-examining my convictions in this area in God’s Word and I wondered if you know which Scriptures are given as support for the different perspectives?

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