By: Dr. Deb Waterbury
Very recently I was speaking with a pastor who had come to me for counsel on how to bring his dying church back to life. I was somewhat taken aback by his remark at the very beginning of our conversation: “Deb, I value all you have to tell me, but let’s just cut to the chase. I need someone to help me figure out what to do with all of the angry, bitter women in my church!”
I was taken aback for a number of reasons, but mostly I was sad that he had missed the point, as have so many other pastors when it comes to “dealing with” the women in their churches. This pastor, as so many others, knew there was a problem, and he knew that in part he had to figure out how to deal with the unhappy women in his flock. But what he failed to understand was that his church was suffering, not in addition to the problem he saw in his female members, but in part because of the problem he saw in his female members.
You see, Paul very aptly referred to women as “managers of the house” in Titus 2, but this extends beyond the home. God created women with unique abilities to manage the house, His house, and there is nothing less productive than discontent and unhappy managers. What so many pastors are failing to see is the absolute necessity of addressing the needs of their managers, the ones in the church who organize and efficiently keep the church family in running order—the women.
Simply put, pastors need to minister to their managers. If they don’t, the managers will become discontent and lonely, both of which will lead to anger and eventual all-out defection. Truly, a lot of this is a gender issue: men and women speak different languages. We relate differently and work differently, but there are a few very basic ways that all pastors can better serve the women in their churches—the managers of God’s house—so that the local church will flourish instead of fade.
#1. Listen to us.
When a woman comes to you, she wants to talk to you, but she also yearns to be listened to by you. Nothing will hurt the women in your church more than to feel that they are burdensome and that your time is too valuable to waste on them.
Women are extraordinarily relational, and in that, we thrive on communication. Much of that communication is successful when we see you making eye contact when we talk, giving us a few minutes of that eye contact, and then talking to us. Don’t throw a book at us or refer us to another woman without first listening to what we are saying and then responding to us. You don’t have to spend an inordinate amount of time in uncomfortable conversation. Simple eye contact and attention are worth hours and hours in your office.
#2. Value us.
As I stated earlier, women are uniquely gifted by God to multi-task, to manage things, and these traits make us invaluable to the operation of any church. However, when a woman is relegated to nursery duty or child care, simply because she is a woman, valuable and timeless service is lost. That is not to say that child care and nursery duty are unimportant. These little ones are precious, and it is a privilege to care for them. Many are called to that—men and women alike. My point is that many are not.
When a pastor makes it clear that the women in his church are needed to cook and care for the children exclusively, he has devalued the prayer warriors and teachers and ministers in his flock who happen to also be women. The bible very clearly states that gifts are given to all in like manner and that we all have a role to play in the family. My contention is that if God uniquely designed women to manage the house, then a pastor is leading poorly who doesn’t utilize that particular gifting.
Pastors, value us as fellow heirs with Christ, and inasmuch as this is true, value us within our particular gifts. I promise you, we aren’t trying to usurp. We are trying to serve and to be valued within that service.
#3. Accommodate us.
There is absolutely no getting around the fact that men are different than women. We speak “women speak,” if you will, and men speak “men speak.” I hear and understand better from a woman, just as my husband will hear and understand better from a man. Consequently, denying women’s bible study or women’s functions, such as retreats and conferences, is a detriment to the spiritual growth of the women in your church. These are not meant to be replacements to Sunday morning where we hear directly from our pastors (as I’ve heard many pastors lament), but they are meant to enrich and edify us on a feminine level.
Furthermore, do not relegate us to studies of “women’s issues” or “motherhood issues,” though both have their places. The fact is that women can and should learn doctrine and Scripture throughout the week. Additionally, it is often advantageous for us to hear it from a woman. Too many pastors have determined that women must only hear women speak on women’s topics and that only men can speak on doctrinal or Scriptural ones. What a disservice they do to the women in their congregations, and this sort of disservice does not go unnoticed.
#4. Appreciate and acknowledge us.
I wish I had a nickel for every woman who has come to me in dejection, simply because she feels her pastor doesn’t appreciate her. Again, because women are relational, we need words. We need to hear you tell us you appreciate and notice what we do in the church as we manage. I would venture to say that the men in your church need that too, but all too often I hear pastors acknowledge the work of the elders and male leaders in the church, yet say very little about the female leaders and workers there.
When a woman who is managing and working in your church doesn’t hear you tell her that she is appreciated, she may think, “It doesn’t matter what I do anyway. He’s not going to notice, and he doesn’t care.” No happy manager says that, but there is an easy solution.
You are the pastor, and as such, you must lead with compassion and caring for all of your congregation. If you want your managers to remain loyal and engaged, acknowledge them. Appreciate them. It will go a long way.
#5. Utilize us.
Women aren’t problems to be solved or issues to be contended with. We are uniquely gifted to further the Kingdom-building work in our local churches. We can see solutions to problems that the men in your church may not. We can relate on an emotional level and help in ways that, quite frankly, men simply cannot do. If you aren’t utilizing the women in your church in an active and obvious manner, you are not only risking their discontentment, you are missing the boat on great counsel and talent.
Utilize us. We have so much to offer, so much wisdom to give, so many points of view that you may not have even considered. God created us not as less than, but as different. Those differences might just be the key to the success of your church and the more important spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Are you ministering to your managers? The answer could mean the difference between a healthy and happy church and one that’s simply not.