Is your church firmly committed to biblical equality? Hurray! If your congregation is looking to take the next step in affirming and valuing the gifts of both women and men, consider these tips:
Examine Your Programs and Leadership
- Analyze your Sunday services. Are women regularly serving communion? Are they praying and reading Scripture during your services? Are the lyrics of your music gender inclusive? Are guest preachers and teachers often women? Are your pew Bibles gender accurate translations, such as the NRSV, TNIV, and NIV 2011?
- Examine your leadership. Are women serving as elders and deacons? Are they making financial decisions and represented on all church boards? Are women on ministry staff? Do these women have accurate job titles? If a woman on your staff is leading ministry, does her job title mirror the titles of the men on your staff in similar positions? If she is a ministry leader or a pastor, call her that. And, if women are underrepresented in particular areas of leadership, be prayerful and intentional about making changes, and listen to the Holy Spirit’s leading. This isn’t simply a numbers game—the goal is not to appoint women just to have women leading, but to recognize that our biases may at times prevent us from seeing godly and gifted women in our midst whom the Lord is calling to leadership positions.
- Review your sermons over the last few years. Have you preached on the biblical basis for women’s equality? Are godly women examples from the Bible and throughout the history of the church utilized often? Do your sermons avoid jokes that play on gender stereotypes? Do you address domestic violence and abuse from the pulpit?
- Evaluate your curriculum. Does your church library provide resources on gender equality, such as those available through CBE? And if so, does your congregation know they are available?
- Does your premarital counseling curriculum address abuse and domestic violence?
- Listen to the women in your congregation. Do they feel heard? Do they feel respected? Do they feel free and encouraged to use their gifts? Are their ideas considered as seriously as men’s ideas? Compile a group of women who are invested in the church. Meet with them regularly and listen to them. Make sure they are free to speak openly and honestly.
- Evaluate the outside ministries your church supports financially. Are they supportive of women? When representatives from these ministries or guest preachers come to your congregation, do they know that you expect them to use gender accurate Bible translations?
Examine Your Youth Group
- Regularly review Bible studies and curriculum that you are using with your youth. Christian resources for teenagers are often steeped in gender stereotypes!
- Be intentional and careful when separating guys and girls. There may be certain times when splitting the girls and guys will benefit the youth more than staying in mixed-gendered groups. However, monitor the messages implied when separating girls from guys. Are the boys taught about leadership while the girls are taught about relationships? Are the guys explicitly or implicitly taught more than the girls about discovering their leadership gifts? This is more common that we might realize, even in egalitarian churches. Make space for both girls and guys to practice leading and serving in a variety of ways.
- Examine the overall messages boys and girls are receiving about gender. Are the guys, as well as the girls, encouraged to dress modestly? Is your youth group a safe place for girls, as well as guys, to admit struggles regarding lust, sex, and pornography? Teach your young people how to think critically about the gender messages they are receiving from culture— both from Christian culture and from popular media.
Examine Your Mission Statement and Website
- Review your church documents, especially your statement of faith. Do they use gender accurate language to discuss humanity? If your church belongs to a denomination that is egalitarian but does not use gender accurate language in its foundational documents, bring this to the attention of the denominational leaders.
- Analyze your church website. If someone were to visit your website today, would they know your church believes in biblical equality? Does it provide resources on gender and a link to CBE? Does your mission statement reflect your church’s desire to recognize and utilize women’s full leadership abilities?
- Partner with CBE. Is your church a part of CBE’s egalitarian church directory? Is it a member of CBE? Providing the CBE church member seal on your website sends a clear message to visitors that both women and men are fully valued in your congregation.
Examine Your Culture
- Host a support group for those recovering from pornography addictions. Preach from the pulpit and teach in classes the dangers of pornography and how it dehumanizes women.
- Provide materials on recognizing and responding to domestic abuse. Place resources that define abusive behavior and provide phone numbers for crisis intervention groups in women’s bathrooms. Compile lists of websites, hotlines, counselors and therapists, and women’s safe houses to use as referrals to those in your congregation.
- Partner with groups in your area that are responding to issues of gender injustice, such as women’s shelters and ministries working to end sexual trafficking. Bring people from your congregation to volunteer at shelters and learn more about these problems. Host film nights at your church to view documentaries on injustices that women face.
Examine Your Hearts
Working to make our churches open to the gifts and service of women is a process. Be graceful. Be open to listening and to changing. Be humble. Strive to make your church an environment where individuals are free from fear and able to ask questions and engage in respectful, honest dialogue. And above all, pray intentionally and regularly — both individually and corporately — as part of your staff’s weekly activities.