The Danger in Women's Ministries

Every now and then I get a disturbing email from a pastor or concerned woman about the women’s ministry in their church. The scenario is usually about a group of well-intentioned women studying a popular book that is marketed for women’s ministry groups, and it is full of bad doctrine. But the author is extremely likable, she has done many good deeds in the name of the Lord, and frankly, the women in the group are now invested. They are offended that someone is questioning what they think has been an edifying study. So you can see how I usually get this email after significant damage has already been done.
Or has it? I mean, why quibble over words when these women are thriving by studying a book that many other good churches are using? I will tell you why, because the truth of God’s Word is important and women are very influential in both God’s household and their own. 
There seems to be a pattern going on from the beginning of time. We read in Gen. 3:1, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.” And what is the very next line after being given this information?
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say…”
In his malevolent shrewdness, Satan went for the woman. He went after Adam’s gift from God, his bride. That is indeed a clever way to get to Adam. And it isn’t surprising that Satan is after Christ’s bride, his church, with the same distortion of God’s Word. 
Are there any sections of Scripture that make you uncomfortable to read and especially to discuss with others? There’s one particular Scripture that gets to me, and it should be troubling to any pastor or elder in God’s church, any husband who wants to love and care for his family, and every single woman who professes the name of Christ. I’m talking about 2 Tim 3:6-7:
For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
This is a jarring warning. It is in the larger context of Paul warning Timothy about false teachers infecting the church. They have an appearance of godliness, but discernment shows that they are rebellious against the true the power of godliness (v.1-5) in the Spirit. This accusation about how they target weak women is something I have been studying and want to write a lot more about. But for now I will say that these are women with some time on their hands. Yet they have no theological fitness. One translation uses the word gullible. They do not have good discernment because they seem to have a proclivity to learn all kinds of so-called enlightening things, but not the knowledge of the truth. 
I can’t help but notice how these false teachers, we could say messengers of Satan, creep into households all stealth-like and target specific women. The language makes me think of a certain snake…
You would think that every church would want to have a strong women’s ministry. After all, women often make up more than half of the church. And we want our women to be active members of the church body. But with all of the initiatives for churches to have a thriving women’s ministry, this verse in 2 Timothy is still extremely pertinent. Why are there still so many gullible women? Have we made any progress in equipping our women to discern truth from error in what they are reading? Do the women in your church actually have the skills to lead a Bible study? How come I talk to so many women who are under good preaching and have all the best intentions, yet they fall prey to the latest book marketed to them that is full of poor theology?
There are several ways to look at this, but I think that we first need to look at the idea of “women’s ministry” in the first place. I’m afraid that in the church’s good intentions to minister to every member, we have swung the pendulum too far over to “every member ministry.” In doing this, we have lost focus of the actual ministry itself.
This needs to be treated in a format longer than a blog post, but I thought I would throw out a few points for discussion in a series of posts. Here are some questions I hope to address in some upcoming posts:
How does the church minister to every member?
Is every member a minister? 
What is it that women should be teaching other women?
What Happens When Women Teach Bad Theology? Why is this so destructive? How do they react when they are challenged?
Should the church have women’s ministries? 
And before I ask any more questions, I will end with how I respond to these emails that make me so sad. I sure wish that women (and men) in leadership would have enough discernment to recognize bad theology. Many don’t. And we can all be sharpened. This is an opportunity for an elder to step in and teach these skills. Instead of just saying “This book is dangerous because of A, B, & C, so therefore you must stop reading it,” step in and read it with them. Find out what is so appealing about this book and get to know the women studying it. Come prepared for discussion with good questions and Scripture so that these women will walk away with some tools for discernment. Teach them how to look for what this author is saying about God, about man, and about God’s Word. We need resurgence in teaching people how to read a book.

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Excellent introduction to the

Excellent introduction to the topic of looking at discernment and Women's Ministries. I've been studying a lot of these same questions for years and look forward to your input. 

I agree that the prevalence of bad theology seems to creep into churches 
with weak women's ministries and with poor discernment. HOWEVER, I would also like to add that there is another equally poisonous trend which is on the other end of the discernment scale. 

What also concerns me greatly are some of the watch-bloggers, the self-anointed discernment gurus and heresy hunters who have the so-called spiritual gift of finding fault with just about every single preacher, author, and teacher. Often these are women who cause other women and families to leave the church completely, because of things that are non-essential, but with which they disagree. This type is perhaps even more dangerous because it is harder to detect their theological weaknesses and their arguments have the appearance of godliness.

I hope you would consider including this category as well :) Thanks.

Looking forward to more interaction on this topic!

I’ve led a women’s bible

I’ve led a women’s bible study for probably about 15 years now.  I always send the information about the Bible study to the secretary & the pastors for publication and approval. Never once, in 15 years has anyone ever questioned what I’ve taught or even asked on what book or commentary I’m basing my lessons. I’m not saying that to brag….far from it…it actually makes me wonder if anyone on staff ever cared enough to question what we were actually studying.  (I haven’t been at the same church that entire time either)

If truth be told Aimee, I think women are not valued in most evangelical, theologically sound churches.  (After all, we can’t be preachers or elders so what’s left – the nursery?!? That’s the impression I get anyway) I’m not a feminist – far from it, so my observations are not in an effort to fight for women’s rights, but this statement is evidenced in the fact that most women’s ministries or Bible studies are never questioned, the women leading are rarely, if ever, taught anything at all, and the elders truly have no idea what’s going on. 

I’ve actually never attended a church that had an “official” women’s ministry so maybe having it “official” would help keep the leaders of that group accountable but by the way you talk, maybe not?  The bottom line is this: as long as churches view “women’s ministries” as hosting a mother /daughter  tea, offering parenting tips, and crafting together, women will not grow spiritually.  Unfortunately, this is the expectation most churches have allowed to develop over time.  Maybe if the leaders took it more seriously, the ministry could flourish?  (Just speculating here)

You mentioned most men’s bible studies being led by elders – really?  I don’t know of ANY men’s bible studies offered at ANY church I’ve attended or even visited!  They are truly sparse!  In fact “men’s” retreats and event are usually grilling steak & shooting skeet which is not much better than that dreaded mother/daughter tea. 


Honestly, the bottom line is the church, even those with biblical, sound theology being preached each Sunday, is a Christian social club in some ways.  This is reflected in the shallowness or absence of Men’s & women’s ministries.   I think both could be good, (especially since women are only permitted teach other women and it’s the ONLY way to exercise this spiritual gift which I LOVE doing) but unfortunately its not valued nor is it a priority which breeds gullible men & women who don’t question anything.  (So dangerous!)


Thought-provoking piece,

Thought-provoking piece, Aimee! 'Why are there still so many gullible women'? Good question. Here are a few thoughts in response:

First, do they outnumber gullible men? I'm not sure. Maybe they do.

Regardless, the presence of gullible women suggests that, as you intimate, the church is not taking women's theological training seriously. I am skeptical of women's ministry - I see it has social purpose and there is no doubt much benefit in studying the roles given particularly to men/women in Scipture, but it seems to me that women's ministry often functions as a way of compartmentalizing women, as if the kinds of instruction and dialogue and discussion we women benefit from is always different from that aimed at men. Women's ministry suggests to me that being a Christian woman is in most ways different from being a Christian man. On the contrary, there is more overlap than there is distinctiveness, in my view.

Third, might it be fair to say that most men's Bible studies are led by an elder? Perhaps not all, but many or most. Maybe someone can correct me on that - But it seems to me that leaders of men's Bible study go through a more rigorous vetting process than do those of women's ministry. What does this say about how we value the female half of our congregation? You make a good point here.

So, finally, that leads us back to the beginning. We need theological training for *all* Christians. Sadly, I'm not sure many are convinced of this, however. After all, your point that women are influential is, I suspect, not taken seriously in many circles.

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