Recently, a women’s coach at the college down the road approached me about providing a bible study for her players. Several of her girls were struggling with off the field issues, and she felt like I might be able to provide some support. I agreed to help.
To be honest, I had rubbed shoulders with her players on several occasions–on campus, at sporting events, etc. In fact, I spent the past four years ministering as an FCA huddle leader to their male counterparts. While I was doing devotions, bible studies, and building relationships with the men’s team, I knew the ladies deserved the same attention. But I never pursued them. Something about ministering to a women’s team made me uneasy. Thank God that he prompted the coach to ask me.
Here are few brief ways the Lord is using this ministry opportunity to shift my understanding of women’s ministry.
Women need to hear from men, too.
In general, women’s ministry is done by women. It’s certainly a very good and biblical thing for older women to teach younger women. In fact, I’ve recently realized the way our church has hamstrung Titus 2 relationships by not training our women to teach God’s Word to one another (which we are remedying this fall!). However, women also need to hear from their brothers and fathers in the faith.
Think about it. Women enter their workplaces and campuses, they go on social media, they interact with pop culture, and it is a constant bombardment of words from men. And many, many, many of those words are disparaging, discouraging, demeaning, and destructive.
To kick off the season this year, I did a devotion for the team based on Genesis 1. In seven minutes, all I wanted to drive home was that each of those young ladies had value–not because they were star athletes, not because they got good grades, not because they were so-and-so’s girlfriend–but because they were made in the image of God. Sure, a woman could have easily told them the same thing. But as I looked into their eyes, I couldn’t help but tear up as I wondered: when was the last time they heard a man speak to them like this?
Women deserve to feel safe.
One of my biggest concerns was whether the ladies would feel comfortable in a discussion-oriented bible study led by a man. What I realized was that I was the one who had to overcome my discomforts. Week by week, we met on their turf, in the athletic offices, and I was outnumbered at least 7 to 1. They were frank and honest from the start, I trust, partly due to the fact that they felt safe among their teammates.
There are limitations to the appropriate ways I can minister to women. Back at my alma mater, I went into the locker room at homecoming and did a devotional for the guys. Obviously, that’s not happening. Moreover, I’m intentional to make sure that interactions with these ladies always happens in public places. I want them to know for sure that there is at least one man in their life who thinks they deserve to feel safe–whose only motive is the love of Christ.
Let us guard our churches for the sake of our women. I can’t speak for ladies, but I imagine abuse in the church–especially from a pastor–is the most devastating of all. When it happens, they lose the one safe place the Lord Jesus died to guarantee.
I’m more and more thankful for spaces where I am on my back foot feeling outnumbered and uncomfortable. In those times I get a little taste of what it must feel like to be a woman in male dominated spaces, or a black person in white dominated spaces, or a foreigner who has come to America. I pray the Lord uses these times to build empathy in me.
Ministering to women is a privilege.
When ladies welcome a man into their space, they are extending hospitality to a stranger. I don’t ever want to take that for granted. I don’t ever want to forget that in even a small group of women there are those who have suffered abuse–whether sexual or verbal or emotional or otherwise–at the hands of men. It takes courage for them to trust me.
The Lord Jesus was more than willing to minister to women, and I consider it an honor to follow in his footsteps declaring what he has accomplished on the cross. As disciples of Christ, we need to recognize the privilege it is to serve the future queens of the New Creation. We have entered into a ministry of reconciliation between brothers and sisters through Jesus. Men, let us never betray their trust.
If there are any women out there who can give me advice about the things that you and your friends need to hear from the Christian brothers and spiritual fathers in your lives, please share with me!
(photo credit: FCA)