The desire to talk about this issue was motivated by several things. For one, Melissa has served in a paid staff position (part-time) in women’s ministry for about a decade. And so, part of the discussion was her reflections on serving on a church staff and how that has shaped her thinking on this issue.
The second reason for discussing this topic is because of what is happening here at the Charlotte campus. I have been so excited to see more and more female students coming to RTS to pursue theological education. There is a vibrant community of women on campus led by our Community Life Coordinator, Mallie Taylor.
And these women are some of our best and brightest students. Every semester we give awards for the best student papers, and this past semester two out of the three winners were female students.
But, in the midst of this positive development, I know many of these women are wondering what comes next after graduation. There are a limited number of paid ministry opportunities for our female grads and this can raise questions about whether seminary for women is worth the time and cost.
And third, the topic of hiring women on church staffs was raised last year at the PCA General Assembly. The report of the ad-interim committee on women serving in the ministry of the church included this recommendation:
The committee encourages sessions in churches that have unordained staff positions to consider hiring qualified women, possibly even before qualified men. The church staff will of necessity have primarily ordained men, and women will never be ordained. Thus, the committee encourages preferring women for non-ordained staff positions.
Part of the committee’s rationale for this recommendation was because women “are increasingly turning to para-church ministries” instead of the church. While para-church ministries have their place, the church needs these women and thus the committee was looking for ways to address this issue.
A Few Caveats
Before diving into the issue more fully, a couple of caveats might be order. First, the encouragement to hire more women staff is offered in full recognition of the fact that most churches are struggling financially and already feel understaffed.
Indeed, staffing issues for churches are complex, multi-dimensional, and vary from church to church. My only point here is that churches ought to at least have a category for hiring women on staff as finances and circumstances allow.
Second, it is important to acknowledge that the core ministry of the church is, and ought to be, the preaching of the word, the administration of the sacraments, and the shepherding of the flock. Therefore hiring an ordained pastor (or pastors) will always be priority one. This proposal is not designed to change that.
What I am arguing for here is that, as a church grows, hiring additional pastors should not be the only option considered. There are other types of paid staff that bless the ministry of the church, including ministry roles filled by women. Hopefully this post will at least put that option on some folks’ radar screens.
OK, so here are five reasons to consider hiring women on staff.
#1: Having Women on Staff Fits with Complementarianism
The first reason to consider hiring female staff is because of the complementarian manner in which God made men and women. Now, this may sound like a surprising place to begin. In the minds of some, complementarianism could be seen as a reason not to hire women on staff.
But, complementarianism provides a rich reason for including women on staff teams because it affirms that men and women are not the same. They are not, as our culture insists, merely interchangeable in every way. Men and women bring different perspectives and different gifts.
And those different perspectives and gifts complement each other and make both men and women essential to the ministry of the church. Our goal is familial in nature—brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons—all serving together in their kingdom labors.
#2: Having Women on Staff Enriches the Ministries of the Church
Building on the prior point, women contribute to and enrich so many different ministries in the church. Examples include: missions, counseling, evangelism, discipleship, women’s ministry, mercy ministry, youth ministry, children’s ministry, administration, college ministry, and more.
And for each of these ministries, women bring a wonderful set of gifts, abilities, and perspectives. Members of the church, both male and female, have much to learn from their sisters in each of these areas.
In particular, female staff member have the opportunity to dive deeper in the lives of the women involved in these various ministries–encouraging them, mentoring them, caring for them. From those relationships, she’ll be able to help the staff team be better aware of ways to involve women and use their gifts in the church.
#3: Having Women on Staff Can Provide Insight into the Issues Women members are Facing
Not surprisingly, female staff are able to function in spaces to which the pastor may not always have easy access. She may be present at women’s events, coffee conversations, dinner discussions, and other gatherings that allow her to get the pulse of how the women in the church are doing.
Thus, she can naturally observe their strengths and weaknesses, sin patterns and struggles, and even learn more about the kind of ministry they are doing. She can pass along these insights to the pastors and elders which can allow them to better shepherd and care for the women of their flock.
#4: Having Women on Staff Can Help Pastors Evaluate Women’s Books and Curriculum
The fact of the matter is that the average female church member reads more than the average male church member. Not surprisingly, then, many of the bestsellers in the Christian world are books written by women.
But, it is also true that many pastors aren’t aware of which books their women are reading. Nor are they able to keep up with the influential women Bible teachers out there and the curriculum they produce.
Having a woman on staff who is theologically mature and wise can be a great asset. She can keep the pastors informed of what women are reading—both the good and the bad. This allows the pastor to encourage helpful books and curriculum as well as caution people against materials that are problematic.
#5: Having Women on Staff Can Help with Complex Shepherding Cases
There are a number of sin struggles that men have which they prefer to talk about in the presence of other men. Likewise, there are a number of issues that women struggle with that they’d prefer to discuss with other women—or at least with another woman present and/or involved.
Such issues might involve things like miscarriages, abortions, abuse, eating disorders, sexual sins, and more.
To be clear, this is not to suggest that such issues are handled in their totality by women on staff. No, these issues rightly belong under the purview of the elders and pastors, as all congregational struggles do.
I am simply suggesting that in particularly sensitive situations, having a female staff member available can be an asset to the elders as they navigate these complex issues.
In sum, the church would benefit greatly from hiring more women on staff. Churches are not required to do this, of course. And some churches are not financially able to do so even if they wanted to. But, it is an option that churches should keep on the table as they make staffing decisions.
Simply put, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen 2:18). Men and women need each other and benefit from doing ministry alongside each other.