Women’s Ministry in CGs -- Part 1
At the recent session of Centralised Leading of Bible Studies (CLOBS), our sister and ministry worker Carrie Chong shared with CG leaders how we can better minister to the women in our CGs.
In GBC, we treasure the diversity among God’s people, and so our care groups (CGs) are not only intergenerational ones, but also comprise both genders. In our CGs, how can we better care for the women in our community? Why is it important that we do so? Adapted from the sharing by our sister and ministry worker Carrie Chong during the recent session of Centralised Leading of Bible Studies (CLOBS), this first part of a two-part article examines what the Bible says about the role of women in ministry.
Male and female in the image of God
Gender is a sacred and important part of our personhood. From Genesis 1:26-27 we learn that at creation both men and women were created to reflect God's image. Human beings are given specific genders, and made male and female equally in God’s image. Whereas men and women are designed differently, they have equal value and dignity before God. Together, the gendered nature of our personhood helps reflect to the world what God Himself is like. This was part of God’s design for our gender, and He called it very good.
Unbiblical extremes of ignoring or idolising gender
However, the design of Genesis 1 can be jarring with how we see the topic of gender play out in everyday life. Often in the church, we can fall into two extremes: the first is to ignore our gender altogether by assuming that there are no differences between males and females. When we assume that both genders are identical, we neglect an important part of our personhood, and can also lose precious ministry opportunities to address and work through important struggles and challenges faced by either gender. If we adopt this mindset, we could also come across as insensitive and tone-deaf to the other gender. If we assume the church has no differences, we end up ignoring the needs of at least half the population of our church.
The second extreme is to idolise gender. Modern culture does this by calling us to build our identity around our gender. This extreme pushes us to think about the genders as hostile towards one another or to view each other with distrust. Both radical feminism and male chauvinism in the culture make idols out of our respective genders.
Genesis 1:26-27 challenges both extremes. We are reminded that gender is given by God and both men and women have been made equally but designed uniquely to image our Creator God. So we cannot ignore gender. But to the latter, it challenges our idolatry but reminding us that our genders don’t serve us, but bring glory to God.
Scripture describes women's ministry
In the Bible, we see how Jesus’ apostles instruct church leaders to care for the spiritual growth of women in the congregation, and how to think about women’s ministry through discipleship. In Titus, the apostle Paul writes to Titus, a young pastor, to encourage him to continue teaching sound doctrine to the congregation. In Titus 2:1, Paul instructs him to have the older women engage in woman-to-woman discipleship to help each other cultivate spiritual fruit. The health of the church is reflected in having mature women in the faith helping younger women grow both in God’s word and God’s ways. We should continue to pray that God raise up women who will be able and willing to disciple others.
Women played important roles in the NT
The New Testament also gives us other examples of how women were actively seen and involved in the early church. Contrary to the rest of society which looked down on and excluded women, they were always recognised and appreciated in the church. Phoebe was a deacon and a patron (giving financially, materially and administratively) who enabled gospel ministry (Rom 16:1-2). Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, were involved in privately instructing the talented public speaker Apollos, helping him get his doctrine and theology right (Acts 18:26). The widows, often overlooked in society, were described as showing hospitality in the church, serving and washing others’ saints' feet, and caring for the afflicted (1 Tim 5:10). Wives and mothers like Timothy's grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice were credited for raising the future young pastor to know the Scriptures (2 Tim 1:5, 3:14-15). The apostle Paul himself was also cared for by Rufus’ mother (Rom 16:13) in his ministry.
These examples help us see how important it is for the church to have women present and involved in ministry, and how the body is strengthened through their gifting and service. When men and women work together in the church to love and build up the body, it grows and also testifies to the world about God’s design for life.
Look out for Part 2 of the article on what can we do to better care for the women in our CGs at GBC.