I get asked all the time about what aspects of ministry can be improved in Reformed denominations in America (e.g., PCA, ARP, EPC, OPC). While there are many answers to that question, there is one that stands out: more Reformed churches need to include staff positions for women’s ministry. While the public preaching of the Word, done by ordained ministers, will always be the core ministry of any church, there are many other critical ministries that should not be ignored. And women’s ministry is one of them.
Paul explicitly gives the command that certain women in the church are to “teach what is good, and so train the young women” (Titus 2:3-4). Although a formal staff position is not necessary to carry out this command, churches with the resources to do so ought to give it serious consideration. Churches have staff positions for children, youth, music, and more. And there is nothing in appropriate about this. But, I would argue women’s ministry, based on Paul’s on exhortation, should be a high priority.
For this reason, I am pleased that this installment of the Where Are They Now? alumni series highlights Alyson Averitt (class of 2005), who is serving Christ in women’s ministry at Providence PCA in Dallas, TX. We at RTS Charlotte hope to send out many more women like Alyson into women’s ministry.
1. What are you currently doing?
I am the Women’s Ministry Coordinator for Providence Presbyterian Church, a PCA church in Dallas, Texas. In that role, I am blessed to be able to teach Bible study, meet with women, and participate in the overall ministry of the church.
2. Why did you originally come to RTS Charlotte?
I came to RTS-Charlotte because of its deep commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture, to being biblically balanced in its doctrine, to being winsomely Reformed, and to fostering in students a deep love for the Lord.
3. Is there one thing that you learned at RTS that has come back to you as you have ministered to others? A phrase, encouragement or advice?
Definitely—it’s hard to narrow them down! When teaching and reading the Bible, I am always recalling Dr. Cara’s phrase, “Be balanced as the Bible is balanced!” It can be such a temptation in teaching to harp on a pet-peeve or take a new and exciting spin on something. But, it has been such a help to me to remember that we are called to simply be balanced in our teaching—balanced as the Bible is balanced.
An encouragement to me that I have shared with others many times is a quote that Dr. Kelly shared in his “Theology of the Puritans” class. He quoted Samuel Rutherford’s “Come all crosses, welcome, welcome so I may get my heart full of my Lord Jesus,” as he encouraged us and spoke of his own experience of the nearness of Christ in the midst of dark trials. It had such an impact on me. That phrase has brought me great hope in the midst of many a trial or ministry struggle and has encouraged me to press on so that I may get my heart full of my Lord Jesus.
4. What do you enjoy most about your current ministry?
I love the simple privilege of sharing the Word of God, both through teaching and meeting with women, and watching the Lord work. It is truly awe-inspiring and faith-bolstering to get to see up-close the way that God’s Word changes lives, encourages people, and gives hope.
5. What has been a struggle in your ministry?
Experiencing that the Lord, and the Lord alone, controls the effectiveness of His Word in each situation has been a surprising struggle. I was prepared mentally to speak truth and to trust the Lord with the outcome, but I was not prepared emotionally for how heart-breaking it is when people that you love do not respond to the Word. I think I had the expectation going into ministry that if people simply see the truth, they will love it, long for it, and be changed by it. Sometimes that is true, and sometimes it’s not. When it is not, it is very painful. It has caused me to struggle honestly and deeply with my own inadequacies as a teacher and encourager. But it has also reminded me again and again that the Lord is in control in every situation and that I must trust Him. That struggle has drawn me nearer to the Lord as I learn to trust His heart even in times when I don’t understand His ways.
6. If you could give any encouragement to a current student in seminary, what would it be?
It is so easy to become numb to the blessing of seminary while you are in the midst of it. It can be tempting to think of it as a hoop to jump through or a box to check in order to be able to do ministry. But, it is such an extraordinary time of preparation! Due to life circumstances and the varied pressures and responsibilities of your future ministry, you will likely never again have this kind of time to really delve into the Scriptures and chase down all of your questions. Spend time with those gracious RTS professors and glean all you can from them. Take the time to really think through the implications of what you are learning and ask questions, questions and more questions. Purpose to use what you are learning to truly grow in the Lord by being constant in prayer as you learn. Standing on the other side, I so often long to go back and pursue more deeply all of the blessings that were available to me during that time. Squeeze every last drop out of each opportunity—you will truly reap the fruit of your seminary efforts in your future ministry.
Hermonta Godwin says
A concern that I have with the way most women’s ministries and their leaders run them is the way that Titus 2 is interpreted. Titus 2 doesnt simply say that women should train women, but instead is more specific in saying that older women should train women in how to be godly women (with an emphasis on how they are to interact with their husbands). Normally it seems that the passage is interpreted in a way that has the women’s ministry leader as being, in various ways, a parallel pastor for/to the women where the women go to learn general doctrine (justification, atonement etc.) How do you understand and teach your students to understand that passage?
I would concur with you Hermonta. The older women Paul had in view would have already raised their children and were to pass their skills and wisdom onto young women; that would be very edifying to the church. Paul’s aim is entirely domestic and does not require a masters level seminary degree or merit financial support from the church. The NT foresees the future of the church where the ministry of the word is carried out by men who are pastors (= elders) who have gifts such as teaching and exhortation (Eph 4:7ff; 1 Tim 3:2; 2 Tim 2:20-26; Jas 3:1; 5:14; 1 Pet 4:10; 5:1ff).
Michael Kruger says
Thanks, Dante. Appreciate your comments, and those of Hermonta. But, I would have to disagree. Your position is tantamount to saying that women are restricted from teaching women about anything other than how to love their husbands/children. But, you are adding a restriction on women that the Scriptures do not contain. The Scriptures only prohibit women from teaching men (1 Tim 2:12), not other women. Moreover, the Titus 2 passage does not say that women can ONLY teach women about their husbands/children. Paul highlights this as a primary area of teaching, but there is no reason to think he would prohibit women from teaching women on other topics. You have to read that into the passage.
Also, no one is suggesting that women on staff at a church should take the place of the elders/pastors. The primary ministry of the word always lies with ordained ministers. But, at the same time, churches have many people teach the Word who are not ordained ministers. For example, children’s directors often teach the Word to children. Are they in danger of replacing the role of the pastor?
Perhaps your concern (and Hermonta’s) has to do with cases where you have seen staff positions for women abused or misused. But, misuse of something does not constitute a reason for banning it entirely. We need to be careful to not go further than the Scripture goes.
Hermonta Godwin says
The question is not whether or not I am attempting to be more narrow than Scripture, but instead is your position attempting to burden Titus 2 with more than it can carry? If you are going to support establishing a new ministry position, then we need to be clear on what the expected functions are to be.
My concern is not that when a woman is ministering to another woman that they dont wind up talking about some general theological issue (justification) but instead what one is expecting or not expecting in such a role.
If Paul is telling us that the list of primary functions of a woman to woman ministry is that list, then why does it need to be an official ministry with heads etc. It seems that such would only make sense if one is expecting/requiring a much broader scope.
Or put another way, it seems that Paul is saying that if the goals of that list are accomplished, then the ministry has done its duty before God.
Michael Kruger says
I would only be burdening Titus 2 with more than it could carry if I was claiming that the text mandated a female staff position. Of course, I have claimed no such thing, and the passage does not require it. I simply point out that Paul has a category for women’s ministry when he highlights the need for women to minister to other women (in this instance, about loving husbands/children). And, given that category, churches with sufficient means ought to consider hiring such a position. They are not required to do so–any more than they are required to hire music, youth, and children’s positions–but it should be something they consider.
Thanks for responding Dr. Kruger. I think your thinking on the use of this passage is like that of Lutherans and evangelicals who deny the regulative principle. They say that if Scripture does not forbid a particular thing in worship, then it is permissible. I do not accept such reasoning because the picture of the ministry of the word throughout the NT is always and only men or more precisely, men who are ordained to the office of pastor/elder. When Paul, for instance, speaks of the gift of teaching in Rom 12, we are to read that (canonically) along with 1 Cor 12 where he mentions teachers. In other words, it is not right that Chris or Christine Christian teach in the church; it is restricted to those whom Paul calls a man of God (1 Tim 6; 2 Tim 3). Paul only mentions older women (which I think the culture would have considered to be 50 years old and up) teaching younger women things of a domestic nature because that is all he approves of. Women having a theological conversation with one another – or a man for that matter – is another thing which we do see in Acts 18:26.
Michael Kruger says
Thanks, Dante. But, I think you are confused on this issue. For one, we are not discussing the elements of worship, so the regulative principle is not in play here. Second, there is no indication in Scripture that only ordained people can teach the Bible. Yes, only ordained men can preach in an official capacity, but there is nothing to prohibit lay individuals teaching in the church. Do only ordained ministers teach Sunday school at your church? Do ministers teach all home bible studies? Do ministers teach all children’s classes? Third, church’s have historically hired other church staff beyond ordained ministers. According to your principles, it seems you would be against this practice since such positions are not explicitly prescribed? Does your church have a youth director? Music director? Children’s director? Are you against all such positions? To be consistent you would have to oppose all of these.
Thank you again for taking the time to write Dr. Kruger. I was intending to compare your approach to the denial of the regulative principle, not appealing to the regulative principle. (I see the regulative principle, which J Owen called the mystery wherein all Puritanism consists and which J Calvin said was his chief aim in the reformation of the church, as the only honest outworking of sola Scriptura. It is true that I aim to form my understanding of the ministry by the authority of sola Scriptura.) In both responses you used the terms ‘hire’ and ‘staff.’ A church is not to ‘hire’ as it is not a business. Hospitals, schools, hotels, they all have staffs, but churches only have elders and deacons (and only the former can be financially supported). There is no NT warrant for a music director (much less bands, orchestras or choirs). A children’s director is foreign to Scripture. A ‘pastor’ for teens is typically a young man who is not an elder of the church (one reason being because he is not considered qualified) yet ‘pastor’ and ‘elder’ are interchangeable in the NT. Scripture presents children and teens nurtured by their parents and under the elders as are their parents. The church is to be simple and humble, not emulating the busy-ness of the world and catering to peoples’ desires as corporations manufacturing products do. Less is often more when it comes to the ministry; it enables us to see what the church and faith is really about. As for women’s ministry, my thoughts are not driven by experience but by Titus 2 (which is in a letter about the grace of God transforming us amidst an ungodly culture; our renewed lives testify to the truth of the gospel.) What Paul envisions is the everyday life of women, not a formal ministry of the church. (This would also argue for churches being truly local, that is, living close to those you attend church with.)
Michael Kruger says
Once again, Dante, you are going beyond what Scripture says. You say, “Only [elders] can be financially supported” by a church. Where do you get this from Scripture? The Scripture provides no such restriction. Yes, Scripture makes it clear that vocational ministers should earn their living by the ministry 1 Cor 9; 1 Tim 5:18), but it does not say that the church is forbidden from supporting others. On your view, a church could not even hire a secretary or a janitor. You might respond by saying that you working off the principle that “unless the Scriptures expressly prescribes something it cannot be done.” But, this principle only applies to worship, and we are not discussing worship. Once again, we have to be careful that we not create rules that the Scripture does not contain.
Secretarial and janitorial tasks are to be done by deacons whom Scripture does not instruct the church to compensate financially. Only servants of the word are to make their living from the gospel and their responsibility in the word is not to be shared with men who are not elders. The only men we see opening the word of God in the NT are apostles, prophets, teachers (which are elders, 1 Tim 3:2; 5:17), and evangelists (who are also elders and have much overlap with pastors as seen by Paul calling Timothy an evangelist). Thanks for dialoging Dr. Kruger.
Hermonta Godwin says
I think at this point, I would attack the analogy/comparison with youth group/children’s church. Those positions are designed/expected to be a parallel mirror of the senior church. One is expecting to tra those groups in complete Christian world and life views. Now I think we could critique the wisdom of that, but if the women’s ministry is explicitly not that, how does having those things give justification for the women’s ministry?
Michael Kruger says
Thanks, Hermonta. But, I had difficulty following your comments ( think there were some typos in there). You said youth/children are supposed to “mirror the senior church”. I assume you mean “senior pastor”? If so, then why couldn’t women’s ministry do the same? You mentioned that these folks are “trained” in the Christian worldview (you said “tra” but I assume you mean “trained”). But, can we not train women’s ministry people in the Christian worldview?
Hermonta Godwin says
Remember above, Titus 2 does not give support to such, but instead gives support for particular issues. To establish/support a ministry with a broader focus one would need more than Titus 2 to do it. So my position is that even if you want to assume the children’s church and youth group model was proper (which is questionable), it wouldn’t help support the women’s ministry as you seem to envision it.
Now if you wish to argue that Titus 2 is a blank check, I would like to see how you get there.
Michael Kruger says
You are making the same mistake as Dante. You both assume that the church is forbidden from employing any other staff besides pastors/elders. But you basis for this claim is non-existent. The Bible never forbids such a thing. In order to make your case you have to argue that the church is only able to hire positions that the Bible expressly prescribes. But, this is also something that is not in the Bible.
In order to make my case, I don’t have to argue that Titus 2 is a “blank check,” as you say. All I have to argue is that women’s ministry was a legitimate category for Paul. I repeat what I said to Dante earlier:
“I would only be burdening Titus 2 with more than it could carry if I was claiming that the text mandated a female staff position. Of course, I have claimed no such thing, and the passage does not require it. I simply point out that Paul has a category for women’s ministry when he highlights the need for women to minister to other women (in this instance, about loving husbands/children). And, given that category, churches with sufficient means ought to consider hiring such a position. They are not required to do so–any more than they are required to hire music, youth, and children’s positions–but it should be something they consider.”
Michael Kruger says
Thanks, Dante. But, you have simply restated your position without interacting with my earlier comments.