Pastor and Christian Leadership Resources

8 Ways Women Can Lead in the Church

  • Michelle Lazurek Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
8 Ways Women Can Lead in the Church

During a recent conversation with the superintendent of our district, he asked me a question I had never been asked before: “Is there anything that is keeping you from not living in God’s design for your life?”

It didn’t take much time for me to think of a response: “I feel held back from being able to lead effectively within my congregation.” The words stung when they spewed forth, as they were words I hadn’t voiced to many people, let alone a leader in the district where my husband is a pastor.

It can be hard for women to find appropriate places to use their leadership gifts within the congregation. While I’m well aware of the words Paul speaks to Timothy, “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent" (1 Timothy 2:11-12), I also believe that women can use the gifts of leadership they have been given and still honor the meaning behind Paul’s words.

Here are eight ways the church can offer additional places for women to lead while still preserving the biblical idea of submission.

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1. Serving Communion

1. Serving Communion

When the elders serve communion, why not encourage their wives to stand with them? One of the greatest privileges of being a pastor’s wife has been to stand alongside my husband, hold the communion cup, and watch with a smiling face as one congregation member after another dipped their bread in the cup and delighted in partaking in the symbol of Jesus’ broken body and blood. When women help serve communion, it demonstrates the unification of all the elders and their wives serving the church. In this way, the women remain in submission to their husbands’ leadership while still being able to lead the congregation.

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2. Attending Elder Board Meetings

2. Attending Elder Board Meetings

In one of our former churches, my husband and I served on the elder board, attending monthly meetings together. Elders had the final vote on most major church decisions, but I abstained from voting in the meetings. However, I did offer input on every subject. When my husband and I would discuss issues at home, I also offered my opinion and advice on how to handle the situation in the best way possible. This allowed me to make my voice heard without violating current church policies.

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3. Guest Speaking

3. Guest Speaking

This can be tricky because Paul clearly says not to allow a woman to preach or teach over a man’s authority. But isn’t it true that all guest preachers (including men) are subject to correction from the elder board? Why can’t a woman be held to the same standard? If a woman wants to preach about the topics she is most knowledgeable about (a sermon from Mary’s perspective at the tomb, the woman at the well, a Mother’s Day message, etc.), she will be subject to correction from the elders if any theological errors or agendas are pushed from the pulpit.

If she is resistant to correction or guidance, she is not leading with a submissive heart and shouldn’t be allowed to use the gift unless she comes under the church’s leadership.

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4. Writing and Teaching a Curriculum

4. Writing and Teaching a Curriculum

As a writer, I lend my own voice to creating articles and other materials that will help edify the churches in which I serve. If you have the gift of teaching (whether that manifests as writing or speaking), ask your church to allow you (and other women with a similar gift) to create and teach a curriculum.

What better person to teach on a topic with passion and fervor than a woman who has written that material herself? She develops a passion for the Word (which, when spread, inspires others to get into the Word too) and your church gets the benefit of a well-written, tested curriculum.

If you are a bit uneasy about having a layperson teach their own material, require the writer to have a pastor or other scholar trained in Scriptural interpretation to proofread and fact check the material. We are all subject to error when interpreting Scripture.

This will empower women to use their gifts of teaching and provide a fresh perspective on current topics.

5. Church and Missions Announcements

If you are hesitant to allow women to teach, encourage them instead to make the morning announcements or give an update on the church’s financial support of missionaries.

Highlighting a missionary’s prayer requests or reminding members of upcoming church events allows those with a talent for speaking to use their gifts within the church setting without compromising the church’s beliefs on women in ministry.

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6. Mentoring and Discipleship

6. Mentoring and Discipleship

In all the churches I have ever attended, I have never seen a mentorship program executed well. Yet Titus 2:3-4 is clear: “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

Older women should invest their time and resources into building up the next generation of women for Christ. What a great way for a woman to utilize her leadership abilities in a way that honors God and the church. If you don’t have a mentorship program, start one.

Ask women who may be interested in either having a mentor or being a mentor. Pair them up based on commonalities and watch it grow from there.

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7. Leadership Training

7. Leadership Training

One of the ways my husband and I use our leadership gifts together is to train our leaders. We both write different parts of the leadership material and take turns teaching what we have written to our leaders. In this way, I can also edify the group by writing original material to provide a unique spin on leadership.

My husband incorporates material from other leaders within the church world whose perspectives are relevant to what we are teaching as well. This not only demonstrates how a healthy couple can lead together, but also allows us to use our gifts in a healthy way, mutually submitting to each other.

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8. Outreach

8. Outreach

It’s no secret that Jesus revealed himself to women in the Bible. His revelation is a sign of how much He valued women in a society that didn’t value them much at all. The woman at the well, Mary and Martha: all used their voices to give God glory.

Whether they proclaimed, “He told me everything I ever did,” or sat at His feet in worship, women had great worth in Jesus’s eyes. What better program to let them lead than an outreach program: an opportunity to proclaim Jesus so God can receive His glory.

Enlist the help of the women in your church to figure out some creative ways to proclaim the gospel within the community. Whether that means setting up a prayer table at a local community event or sending out a brochure letting people know the church is there for them, women can spearhead effective outreach programs that proclaim the same message the women in the bible came to understand, that Jesus is the risen Son of God.

Many churches have long held to stringent rules about a woman’s role in the church body. But if there are women in your congregation with the gift of leadership help them connect to programs or communities where they can use their gifts to effectively lead members of the congregation while still holding to the truth of Paul’s words as well.

Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre, award-winning author, speaker, writing coach, pastor's wife and mother. As a literary agent for Wordwise Media services, she is a sought-after workshop presenter at popular writers' conferences like She Speaks and Greater Philly Christian Writers conference. Please visit her website at michellelazurek.com.

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