“How can I serve others in this church?” is a great question for a woman to ask. We were thinking a bit about this on Sunday, but don’t think I quite hit the nail on the head. So, let me have another go!
In many ways, it’s a bit like asking, “how long is a piece of a string?!”. There are as many ways to serve others as there are days in the week, or hours in the day. But here’s a helpful principle to remember: as you seek to minister to another woman, aim to reinforce the public ministry of the word, rather than replace it.
What do I mean? Well, as an example, there are two ways a well-intentioned woman can regularly meet another woman for coffee:
i) the meeting for coffee can encourage the weaker Christian to come to church twice next Sunday and join the prayer meeting that week. The older Christian meets with the aim of training the younger Christian to access the public ministry of the word. She does this because she’s convinced that she’s not the ultimate “mother” of this woman, but the church as a whole is (Gal 4:26). That coffee has served to reinforce the ministry of the word.
ii) But the same meeting for coffee can undermine the church. How so? If the weaker Christian enjoys the coffee, feels “encouraged”, prays with you, but will then say she’s too busy to come to prayer meeting, or only comes sporadically on Sundays. That meeting hasn’t reinforced, but replaced the ministry of the word. It was well-intentioned. But if it gives the idea that the church is optional in a relationship with Jesus, it’s creating a customized Christianity. It would be good to ask (gently!): “Why do you have time for me, but not for them?”.
So, practically, here are some suggestions:
– maybe a woman is struggling to follow the sermons on Sunday. Well, meet with them to go over the sermon. Read the passage with them again. Ask what they understood. Encourage them to ask Chris or I questions about things they don’t understand. That way you’ve reinforced not replaced.
– maybe a mum is feeling too busy to be there on Sunday, so cook them a meal expressly to free up the time to come along, or help with child-care on the Saturday, so that their Sunday is clearer. That’s ministry that reinforces rather than replaces the ministry of the word.
– arrange to have them round regularly for a meal before prayer meeting, or meet them straight after the afternoon service, to encourage their participation in the service. Include them in your family, and with others. You’ve reinforced not replaced.
This is what Lydia did for Paul in Acts 16:15. She reinforced his ministry in Philippi by opening her home to him and the church. Likewise, in Phil 4:3, Paul mentions Euodia and Syntyche and says: “these women… have labored side by side with me in the gospel”. This is women’s ministry in sync with the ministry of the word.
So, how can a woman serve in the church? In all kinds of ways! But a good guiding principle would be to pray: “Lord, use me to reinforce the ministry of the Word rather than replace it”. An army of women reinforcing the ministry of the word like that is a precious thing in a church.