What does it mean to be a woman in ministry? Is it simply child-care or mentoring?
While there has been a stigma surrounding “women in ministry” in the Western Church for quite some time, there are real-life examples of women that shatter the narrow understanding portrayed in the conventionally accepted statement: “women’s ministry.”
In celebration of the incomprehensible ministry and work of women in God’s kingdom, Emily Simpson, the volunteer and outreach coordinator for local women’s abuse shelter Project Safe. and Miriam (name is changed for security reasons), a current IMB missionary on the field overseas, relate their understanding of the significant, complex and essential work of women in ministry.
Emily Simpson is a 25-year-old OBU family science major and communications minor student from Aurora, Colorado who works with the local Shawnee women’s abuse shelter, Project Safe. Simpson explained the wide scope of service included in the term “ministry” and encouraged all women followers of Christ to engage in ministry by applying their natural gifts and talents in furthering the kingdom of God.
Simpson said she would describe Project Safe as a ministry even though it is separate from a church.
“Project Safe is a ministry because we reach people in the darkest place in their life and we get to shed some light and hope into dark situations,” Simpson said.
This statement pries wide open the opportunities for women in ministry.
While women are more generally confined in teaching and mentoring in an established church, this doesn’t mean that ministry is restricted. By Simpson’s definition, ministry is any act of service that “sheds some light and hope into dark situations.” This definition expands the much more conservative tradition of focusing women’s ministry past just teaching and mentoring.
Simpson went further to describe the natural gifts that God has given women specifically in ministry of life in his kingdom.
“God created us [women] to be life-givers and we bring that into our work and our lives as a whole,” Simpson said.
While this definitely applies to homemaking and child-raising, Simpson expanded the beauty found in those worthwhile and blessed jobs to everything else that women can do to further God’s kingdom; whether that be technological expertise, medical care or a law career.
Miriam is an example of someone that brings and channels spiritually renewed life to every little thing she does in order to advance God’s kingdom. Miriam is from Bakersfield, CA and a graduate from Azusa Pacific and Baylor University with a math and computer science degree. She and her family moved overseas with the International Mission Board fifteen years ago and continues still to live as a light in a spiritually dark place. Miriam commented on why she has not felt like she is restricted in Christian ministry due to being a woman.
“[I haven’t felt this way] because God gives women a special ministry, especially mothers, to their own children and that is just as important of a ministry as sharing the gospel with native people; to raise my kids to know Jesus,” Miriam said.
“I also have a ministry at the same time to women here. [My experience] wasn’t limited, it was very full.”
Miriam went on to express the urgent need for women missionaries on the field due to their specialized and unique role of connecting with other women in lost places.
Miriam said women are uniquely equipped in “ministering to other women…especially in a Muslim setting, because men can’t really minister to women.”
This emphasizes not only the expanded scope of ministry available to every woman follower of Christ as Simpson did, but raises the urgency and need for women workers on the mission field. As followers of God, women are not excluded from the great commission, they are not allowed to be passive in making disciples because they are too valuable in talent and in nature.
Miriam commented, “God wants to use us, Christians, to minister to the people around us and that goes for both women and men that belong to Jesus, they are called to minister to the people around them wherever God places them, in Shawnee, Oklahoma or wherever around the world. We’re called to make disciples of the nations…it’s what we’re called to do.”
As we continue to celebrate Women’s History month at OBU, celebrate the extremity of your unique qualities, whether you are male, female, white, black, American or International and “shed some light and hope into dark situations.” Celebrate the fullness of your given talents and gifts by furthering God’s kingdom of light and life in your big actions and in your small moments.