Aimee Byrd’s No Little Women brings a lot of engaging questions for pastors, laymen, men and women about how “women’s ministries” should be thought of in the church. These questions also plumb similar issues for those doing collegiate ministry. Though Aimee was first drawn to this topic by her concern for the quality of some of the teaching material being used in women’s ministries, she carefully and convincingly goes on to ask great questions about what is a “ministry,” should there be separate women’s ministries, and what is the best model for men and women to do ministry together under a canopy of complementary theology.
According to Aimee the real ministry of the church is the Ministry of Word and sacrament which is conducted by the officers of the church. These are the means by which Christ ministers to His church. If we call everything we do ministry, we weaken the meaning of Ministry. For her, everyone, both men and women, must foremost be nurtured and encouraged through the preaching of the Word and the sacraments of the church.
Another great topic she explores is the term “necessary allies” to describe women. Using the work of John McKinley for her departure, Aimee argues that “necessary ally” is a better translation of ezer than helper for the woman in Gen. 2:18. Rather than send women off to another part of the church in a “separate but equal” track, Aimee fleshes out commonsense ways that women as necessary allies make for a stronger church. Turning to the work of John McKinley again, she lists seven ways women are allies within the church. A few examples are: giving wise instruction and counsel; responding to God as examples of faithfulness; and as cobelligerents against evil enemies. This does not mean that men and women should not have time to be in their own groups, rather it means we should not see separate groups as the normal means of how Ministry should be.
But it is not just being necessary allies that is important, Aimee also points out that women need to be competent allies as well. That means having good training in theology, education, general knowledge, and resources. It also means that they should be given the chance to be competent allies working alongside the men in the church. Women can be much more than bakers and nursery leaders. They can be great teachers, writers, and counselors within the church as well.
So, how does No Little Women, relate to collegiate M/ministry? Let’s think about a few questions.
First, fifty-seven percent of students in the U.S. are female. How are we going to reach them, equip them, and disciple them, when most of the staff in collegiate ministries (dare I use the word) are male?
Second, if a church or parachurch does have female staff, are they running a separate “women’s ministry” style model, or are they also allowing female staff to help plan, prepare, and promote the work of the whole ministry in a collaborative way?
Third, are female staff being given the same amount of time and resources to equip them to be better leaders, thinkers, and theologians for the whole ministry?
Fourth, are the female staff being given opportunities to utilize their gifts for God’s glory?
I hope that if you are struggling with the right mix of male and female staff, or even if you have never even thought about these issues, you will pick up a copy of No Little Women, read it, and talk about the questions it raises with your leadership team. I am sure everyone, male and female, will find it engaging.
I had the privilege to interview Aimee for the No Campus Left Podcast. When the podcast is released I will link to it here.