Forty-five percent of adults are unchurched in the United States. Historically, the majority of those who are unchurched have been men. Today, that gender gap has decreased. According to Barna Group, the “gap has narrowed from 20 points to just 8 points in the last ten years.” Additionally, they found that the majority (85%) of American unchurched women are actually de-churched, meaning that they once regularly attended and participated in the life of a local church. The top two reasons given by women for not attending church—competing priorities and busyness—will come as no surprise. What may be surprising is the third reason women reported as contributing to their disengagement from the church—a lack of emotional engagement and support. Nearly half of women respondents (43%) “said they do not feel any emotional support at all from church” (emphasis added). When almost half the women who are still in church say they feel no emotional support from church, something is deeply wrong.
Research shows that when communities esteem both males and females and invest in their potential equally, these communities are more likely to enjoy flourishing.1 Both secular and Christian humanitarians increasingly acknowledge the influence of faith leaders in promoting the dignity and agency of females.2 Recognizing that pastors and lay leaders need to be supported and equipped as they work to create a culture that promotes the flourishing of women as equals, CBE has developed this resource to help churches and organizations evaluate the landscape of their church identity and take steps to identify practices which may be inhibiting their church from being a reflection of God’s vision for men and women serving and leading together and thus help them advance the gospel.
Here are a few recommendations on how to effectively use this evaluation tool:
- During this evaluation process, active engagement with the course materials and meaningful discussions with fellow members of your church or organization will yield the greatest benefits. Therefore, to make the most of this journey, we encourage you to document your discoveries, thoughts, and reflections as you progress.
We provide a dedicated workbook for this purpose which you are welcome to utilize. Simply save a copy of the workbook and make it your own personal resource throughout the course.
- This tool was designed to be engaged over a period of weeks or months, though you may choose to undertake the project over a long weekend. (Please note that “Unit 2: History and Healing” section may take longer if there are significant issues to address.)
- We recommend asking each evaluation participant to answer the questions separately before you begin group conversation, to ensure that responses are independent of influence. Additionally, answers may be more honest if participation is anonymous (except for noting the respondent’s sex in order to observe patterns).
- Leaders at all levels should answer these questions, but women and men in the congregation who are not in leadership should also be invited to answer the questions as they pertain to their experience in the church.
- Collect and compare the different answers and observe: Are men’s answers different than women’s? Is leadership’s perception true to the stated experience of congregants?
This tool will not offer a quantitative measure of how egalitarian your church is, but instead is intended as a starting point for conversation and an impetus for growth.
No church projects a perfect reflection of God’s vision for biblical equality for women and men. The process of dismantling systems that support dominance can feel overwhelming at times. However, CBE is here to support you. We have a variety of resources available to help churches dive deeper into the issues covered by the evaluation, including both academic and non-academic articles on theological and practical matters as well as tools to help bolster marriages, address and prevent intimate partner violence, interpret the Bible, engage in the ministry of reconciliation, and more. We also publish a list of egalitarian counselors and spiritual directors to support the healing of individuals.
Working toward women’s equality isn’t easy, yet we believe God calls us to this work. We are praying God will bring light and life to your community through this process. Please contact us if there are other ways we can support your church as you step forward in this journey.
1 Ana Revenga, Sudhir Shelly, “Empowering Women Is Smart Economics,” International Monetary Fund, Finance & Development, March 2012, Vol. 49, No. 1, https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2012/03/pdf/revenga.pdf.
2 Mimi Haddad, “Theology and Human Flourishing,” Mutuality (blog), June 15, 2020, https://www.cbeinternational.org/resource/article/mutualityblog-magazine/theology-and-human-flourishing.
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