Training Women: A Priority for Pastors
Johnny Prime was really encouraged to hear the way the elders at Christ Church Haywards Heath were seeking to provide ministry training for women in the church. So he asked pastor Mark Ventham for some background and advice.
First of all Mark, why have you started this work?
Paul writes in Ephesians 4:12, that pastors are to equip those in Christ for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. Of course, Jesus’ people are made up of both men and women, so we have a responsibility to train women as well as men.
Titus 2:3 is even more explicit here. Paul commands Titus to teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children. Put simply, that is what we are trying to do: equip women for works of service in the church, at work and in their families.
What does this training program involve?
It is worth stating up front that these programs run alongside what is already happening for women in the church. They do not replace women’s Bible study groups that are also seeking to train and equip those who attend them.
But we have three separate training programmes for women.
For those who are already discipling and walking alongside other women, we run two courses, How People Change and Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands. The aim of these courses is to further develop pastoral skills in discipling other women, particularly those who are struggling.
We are about to start a new group for women over 50. The plan is to meet monthly with one of the elders to discuss the book, Women of the Word. The hope is to encourage these women to have the confidence to draw alongside and disciple the younger women in the church (Titus 2).
We also run a guided reading group for younger women (those in their 20s/30s) with one of the elders. This course lasts for 25 weeks and the content mirrors exactly what we do with the younger men. We meet monthly for just over two years and the sessions all follow the same format.
The first half an hour is given over to biblical theology, going through key texts starting in Genesis. Each month one of the group will prepare the set passage and give a short talk. This also has the benefit of training our younger women with Bible-handling skills. The rest of the group provides feedback.
The second half an hour covers Church History. We discuss two chapters of Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley, and this is led by the Elder. The first reason for studying church history is that we have discovered very few read church history unless they are made to! Secondly, knowing our history helps us make sense of our own times (how we got to where we are) for there is nothing new under the sun!
The third half an hour covers Systematic and ‘practical’ theology. The first two thirds of the course is given over to reading through Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, and discussing the central doctrines of the Bible. The last third of the course is given over to more practical discussions and set readings on areas like marriage, parenting, leadership and prayer.
What has been the response?
The groups we run for both the older and younger women have been received with much enthusiasm and it has been a delight and a real privilege to see the younger women grow in their Bible handling and knowledge. They are particularly good at applying it into their lives and service in the church.
How does training your women differ from training your men?
In many ways there are no huge differences. Applications are different to suit the context of men and women. The most obvious difference: the women do their reading and come prepared! As a result, they often benefit much more from the training!
Why is it important for a Pastor to be involved in the training of women in the local church?
Time pressures for Pastors often mean we only focus on training up the future leaders of the church, i.e. men. However, there are a number of huge benefits to the whole flock when women are trained as well.
Firstly, investing in women helps to strengthen marriages (Titus 2) for younger women are being taught how to be godly wives.
Secondly you are helping to influence and train the next generation. Mothers are often the very ones doing the lion’s share of instructing and teaching because they are the ones caring for the children! In our right desire to encourage men to lead their families, we can sometimes diminish the influence of godly mothers. Have you noticed the number of Christian leaders who speak of the huge influence their mothers had on them spiritually? (whilst also acknowledging their father’s leadership)
Thirdly, you are also equipping an army of women who can better pastor the other women in the church. That is not to suggest that we as Pastors should never get involved in a pastoral situation regarding women. Yet surely nine times out of ten an older, godly woman drawing alongside a struggling women is far better!
Finally, we are encouraging women to use their God-given gifts to serve the church. So why would you not be training up women?