As I sat with my women's ministry team rejoicing over a fruitful year of ministry, one of them asked a question we'd discussed many times before: "What about the men? Women are learning about their God-created design and purpose, but the men don't seem to be getting anything going."
If you're in a church with a vibrant men's and women's ministry, that's wonderful! What's more typical, however, is that ministry to women stands alone. Which leaves this question: How do we influence our pastors for the glory of Christ's church while still respecting and submitting to their leadership?
As I've served on staff for the past eighteen years, God has taught me much about navigating these waters. Here are five important things I've learned.
1. This is God's church, not mine.
While I've been at our church for thirty years and may think I know what our people need, I must continually remind myself this is God's church, and He is sovereign over all that concerns it. I admit that when something appears clear to me, I often wonder why it isn't as clear to others. But I've learned to take my concerns to God before anyone else.
2. God created us to complete, not compete with the men we serve alongside.
It's important to understand how feminism has affected not only our women but the men in our churches as well. Today's women are bolder and feel free to express their opinions, often in a way that undermines the leaders God has placed over us. The truth is that while God may have given us strong leadership skills, He hasn't changed His mind regarding who is to lead and make final decisions in the home and church. I've learned that leading by influence is far more effective than using a loud voice, manipulation, or intimidation.
3. Submission doesn't mean we have no voice or that we never speak up and share ideas.
Submission is an attitude of quiet trust that comes from believing God knows the needs better than we do and will work all things out in His time and for His glory. It is Christ's submission to the cross that both motivates and informs our submission (Phil. 2, 1 Peter 2). While we can appeal to our leaders when we see something that concerns us, in the end (unless we see blatant sin at work in a leader), we're to submit to the authority God has given them in the church.
4. Our leaders will listen and respond much more quickly when our encouragement outweighs our suggestions about how they could do ministry better.
It's easy to complain and grumble about what we think our leaders should or shouldn't be doing. But Hebrews 13 tells us that this will be of no advantage. Our pastors are entrusted with the weighty responsibility of caring for the souls of their church members. While that doesn't mean they don't fail at times (they are sinners just like us!), it does mean they need our encouragement far more than our critical spirits. Once our leaders learn to trust us and know we are for them, I've found they will gladly listen to any burdens God has laid on our hearts regarding ministry.
5. There is power in prayer.
For many years, I prayed God would help our leaders see the need to equip and train men as leaders, husbands, and fathers. Once in awhile, I would bring it up again when I sensed the Holy Spirit's nudge. But otherwise I encouraged our women to wait on God and to pray rather than to grumble against our leaders.
If God has entrusted you with ministry to women, rejoice and "work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ" (Col. 3:23).
You can be sure the men in your church are not only watching what is happening, but they're experiencing the good fruit of it in their homes and the church. And, in God's timing, they will want that for the men in your church, too.