The role of women in church leadership varies from church to church. Some believe that men and women were created equal but different and that a woman's role in the church should be more supportive. Others believe that anyone who feels called to the ministry or seminary should be able to lead others in worship no matter their gender. Regardless of what you or your church thinks, there are always opportunities for women to get involved at church.
A Brief History of Women in Christian Leadership
Having women in leadership positions has been controversial until recent years, and it still is in some circles. However, early texts show that women had key roles in spreading the religion as it was forming. Mary Magdalene, Susannah, and Joanna were three of Jesus' earliest supporters, and Mary Magdalene was reportedly the first person to see his resurrection. In early Christianity, after the death of Jesus, women were apostles, and some of the most important people to help the religion survive since it was illegal in the Roman empire. Meetings took place in homes instead of Churches, and that was the domain of women at the time. Many of these women who took the lead in early Christianity were the people who helped spread the word about Jesus and helped the religion survive this difficult time.
It was not until a few hundred years later that we see the first texts written excluding women officially from church leadership. The main thing these texts stated was that widows, often benefactors of the church at the time, were not to preach or teach to anyone because church officials thought it could cause controversy. They were only to stay home and pray all day. The common view for a long time was that women should be subservient to their husbands and should not be involved in church leadership.
When Christians started having convents in the middle ages, there were more opportunities than ever for women to devote themselves to the church in leadership roles. Around the same time, some powerful female European royalty converted to Christianity, providing a different type of leadership to Christian communities.
Nowadays, there are many women who find roles in church leadership. Many Christian denominations allow women to get ordained. Even in those that don't officially allow it, certain churches may choose to ordain women as a statement, though the church may not officially recognize their ordination.
Differing Views of Women in the Church
Women in church leadership is a big discussion. Some churches don't allow it, while others are happy to have women in leadership roles. Looking for an experience that is one way or the other? This list from the Pew Research Foundation shows which denominations allow it and which don't.
The Biblical View
Many Christians still follow what they consider to be the biblical view of women in the church. This means that they believe God created men and women equal but different. They believe that men should be leaders in the church, and women should be in supportive roles. Some, but not all, who follow these biblical beliefs also believe that men should be leaders at home and in society at large, and women should not. Those who follow these beliefs think that men and women should be complementary to each other. Men take the lead, and women support by being a good wife and taking care of house and home as defined in the Bible. That's why many call this view the complementarian view.
These views are based on the biblical analysis. God created man first. Eve caused Adam's deception, and there are many instances in the New Testament stating women should be subservient to men.
The Egalitarian View
Those who hold this view believe that men and women can be equal in the church and that there is even biblical evidence to support this. People who are egalitarian often also believe in equal roles in marriage and society as well. The passages in the Bible supporting their views include Galatians 3:28, in which Paul wrote: “There is no…male nor female, for you are all one in Christ.” Additionally, Genesis states that men and women were created equal by god.
Further to the left on the egalitarian view is the feminist view. Those who hold this belief go so far as to outright challenge passages in the Bible that talk about the traditional roles of women. They also tend to hold more socially liberal views that some Christians do not share.
Which One is Right?
The truth is that no one can answer the question of which of these views is right for you. Only you can decide that for yourself. There are churches out there that support people of either belief. If you're not sure, do your research, read the biblical passages on the topic, talk to different members of church leadership, and talk to other Christians whose opinions you respect. Then, find a church that matches your beliefs about whether or not women can be a part of church leadership and ministry.
Why Egalitarian Churches Want Women in Ministry
Those with egalitarian beliefs think that Jesus taught equally to both men and women in public and in private. There is biblical and historic evidence to support this. During the time of Jesus, women were generally considered property, and were second class citizens. However, Jesus spoke directly and warmly to women in public, which may not have been the norm of the day.
Unlike those who hold a biblical view of men and women, they believe that god cursed neither man nor woman at the fall of man when the serpent tempted Adam and Eve. They believe it was the serpent who was cursed. Finally, others point out that most modern Christians do not follow every single point of the bible, so why should this point be any different? They believe that as long as one is following the teachings of Christ, their gender shouldn't matter.
Egalitarians also believe that times have changed. Some think that women's exclusion from the church was more social than religious, at first at least. That is why it didn't officially appear until a few hundred years after Christ's death. Old habits die hard and they believe that the church must change with the times. The ways we practice Christianity are different now. We use social media and websites to share our religion and information about our gatherings. We may even use apps on our smartphones to help us with Bible study! We eat shellfish and wear mixed materials. Egalitarian churches think we should update other Christian views as well, like this one.
Opportunities for Women in Traditional Churches
So, what do you do if you want to be more involved at church but you have more traditional biblical views about women in church leadership? There are always opportunities to serve even if you don't become part of the ministry. Here are some ideas.
The youngest in a church congregation can't often sit through a full service. They may get fussy and disrupt everything. Many churches have childcare available for this reason. Those who care for the children are sometimes volunteers and sometimes paid. It just depends on the church. Women are usually the ones to fill this role. This is a great service to offer your church and helps facilitate a smooth worship session for all.
Many churches have educational programs that are separate from church services. They always need teachers and classroom helpers. Through this role, you can help to educate the kids in your church about Jesus and Christian values. If you feel you have a gift for teaching or supporting a teacher, this could be a great role for you.
Adult Education & Mentorship
Do you know a Christian who is just getting started on their journey at church? Or perhaps someone who was gone for a while and is now coming back? You can act as a mentor to them, helping them to study the Bible and educating them about religion can really help them stick on the right path. Sometimes it's helpful to just have a friend in the church to keep someone coming back.
Churches always need volunteers, especially at special events. Sign up to support in whatever way is needed. It may be hanging decorations, cleaning up after a party or greeting church members at the door. Whatever the need, you'll be doing a great service by helping out.
There are many different types of church events that require food. There are bake sales, potlucks and more. Put your culinary skills to good use and make something yummy for everyone to enjoy. A grumbling stomach isn't conducive to Bible study or worship.
Many churches praise the Lord through song. They may have a band or choir that anyone can join. Everyone loves the music at church services and it's fun to be a part of it. If you've a good ear or simply a desire to try hard, join the choir and sing praises.
Ask Your Church Leaders
If you're not sure how to get involved at church, ask your church's leaders how you can help. They may tell you the best thing you can do is support your family at home by modeling a Christian lifestyle for them. They may have other ideas for what you can do at the church. Either way, they will know where your talents can best serve.
Whether or not you believe that men and women should be equal in church leadership, there is always a way to be involved. If you find yourself unhappy with your particular church's treatment of women, it might be worth it to research others in your area that are more in line with your views. There is no right answer to the question of women in church leadership. The main thing to consider is what you personally believe, and to follow your own religious path.