As a woman who runs an online ministry page, I am often asked what I think about women’s
ministries. This broad topic comes with many facets we could discuss at length. I will try to sum
up my thoughts in one sentence and then break down what I mean. So, my assessment of
women’s ministries is this: I believe they can be great resources for women in their local church
body if these ministries are biblical. I mention that big qualifier because what I have noticed is
that in our current church culture that appears to be satisfied with surface-level teaching, some
types of popular women’s ministries would not qualify as biblical or even healthy. This does not
mean we should lose all hope for these ministries and abandon ship. Rather, it means we women
need to get our hands dirty and start reforming them for the glory of God and for the edification
of our sisters in Christ.
Are These Types of Ministries Biblical?
Some people may believe that splitting up men and women is never mentioned in Scripture, so
we should not be having these separate men’s and women’s ministries. I respectfully disagree
based on what we see in texts like Titus 2, which implies a setting where older women train up
younger women and older men train up younger men. Undoubtedly, women will be more
comfortable talking about their lives and their struggles when men are not present, and the same
goes with the men. These settings will vary in the local church since the text does not speak to
those specifics. However, I do believe we have a biblical basis for having these distinct
gatherings to minster to men and women, specifically regarding their God-given roles and how
they can grow in those roles as they grow in their knowledge of God and His Word.
These distinct gender-based gatherings tend to go wrong when they drift from being biblical
ministries and begin to represent a more secular mindset. I have listed below the two biggest
issues I have seen where this drift begins to occur. These indicators, or red flags, as I will call
them, are important for women to be able to recognize, but the recognition of them is not the end
goal. The end goal is to lovingly confront the leaders and assist in the transformation of these
ministries in an attempt to be more helpful to our women and more glorifying to our God.
Red Flag #1: Surface-level Teaching/No Scripture
Based on what I have seen in churches I have attended and from direct messages I receive
through my ministry from women all over the nation, I can easily argue that the biggest
challenge we see in women’s ministries today is a lack of sound Bible study. We see this in a
combination of “weekly Bible studies” that either rarely look at the Bible or, when they do look
at the Bible, contain shallow teaching that does not require deep thinking nor any contextual
knowledge of passages being studied. Women’s gatherings can easily become nothing more than
table-talk sessions, where women spend time talking about their week or trading recipes or DIY
ideas and close out the meeting with borderline gossiping disguised as prayer requests. We often
justify these types of weekly meetings by giving them the name “fellowship.” I am not saying
these types of discussions are bad; some can be good, but they are not Bible study. Women need
theology just as much as men, and our gatherings must reflect this need. Paul Washer sums up
this problem well:
“Men get together and have a conference on the trinity or justification. Women get together and
the only thing they teach them is ‘if the world gives you lemons, learn how to turn it into lemonade’. Women don’t need that; they need theology.” *
A surface-level teaching of the text will not equip us to contend for the faith once and for all
delivered to the saints (Jude 3). The Church is under attack by false teaching from every corner,
and women are often the target of these attacks. They don’t need us to tell them, “You’re a
daughter of the King.” They know that because Instagram tells them all the time. Let’s go
deeper. Pithy sayings will not sanctify. Women need a deep knowledge of the text. They need to
know how to see Jesus in every passage. They need more than Ruth and Esther and Proverbs 31.
We can give them the whole counsel of God and show them how to study it. Let’s warn them of
the dangers of jumping straight to application without first doing the hard work of
comprehension and hermeneutics. Women are usually the ones at home training up their children
in the admonition of the Lord. If we want the next generation to have sound doctrine and know
how to defend the faith, then we must start by teaching it to their moms.
Red Flag #2: Promotion of False Teachers
Some curriculum used in these women’s ministry settings can be quite disturbing, proving why
the person in charge of picking curriculum for these weekly women’s Bible studies must be
sound in the faith and know how to handle the word of God rightly. Just as 1 Chronicles 12:32
describes that King David’s army included men “who understand the times,” our women’s
ministries need to be led by women who understand the times. Undeniably, false teachers abound
within the Church. We need women leading these ministries who are aware of these teachings,
who can recognize false teachers, and who have the courage to warn their women about them.
When leaders of these surface-level gatherings ask women to read books or curriculum by
teachers like Jen Hatmaker, Glennon Doyle, Beth Moore, Steven Furtick, or Rachel Hollis, they
are inevitably implying that sound doctrine doesn’t actually matter. They may justify the use of
these resources like this: “Everything this teacher says isn’t right, but what they say in this
curriculum is biblical.” Leaders who use this justification may not understand that their
undiscerning women who may be new to the faith or not as familiar with false teaching, could
assume that the teacher promoted in the curriculum is a good teacher. Women will likely begin
to follow that teacher on social media or maybe even buy more of his or her books. Over time,
women may begin to align with that teacher’s thinking and be unable or unwilling to see the
errors. Reasonably, false teaching is often described as a drop of poison in food that is so subtle
that you can’t detect it; yet, it will still kill you.
Using curriculum by known false teachers is dangerous and must be avoided. Scripture never
tells us to support these teachers just because some of what they say is right. In fact, we are told
the opposite. We can see that these teachers will disguise themselves as angels of light (2
Corinthians 11:14). They will secretly bring in destructive heresies (2 Peter 2:2). They will be
wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). The Bible clearly says that these false teachers will
fit in with the church because they will arise out of the church. And the Bible is also clear in
telling us how to deal with them. We are not to use their resources or give them a platform. We
are told to beware of them (Matthew 7:15). To be on guard against them (Matthew 16:11). To
have no fellowship with them, but rather expose them (Ephesians 5:11). To not welcome them,
because if we do, we share in their wicked work (2 John 1:10–11). The curriculum and resources
utilized in these settings must be from faithful teachers of the Word. Otherwise, we risk being
like the Church of Pergamum, whom Christ rebuked for holding to the teaching of Balaam and
the Nicolaitans. Or like the Church in Thyatira, whom Christ rebuked for their tolerance of the
false teachings of Jezebel (Revelation 2). Biblically sound ministries must hold to the
trustworthy Word as taught, which means they must not include resources by those who
contradict sound doctrine.
What Should Women’s Ministry Look Like?
In addition to avoiding the red flags mentioned above, we can look for several factors when
discerning if a women’s ministry is healthy.
We can identify the structure of the ministry: Is one woman in charge of the entire ministry of
the church or does she have a team where multiple voices are heard? Does church leadership
have oversight in each study by approving the materials and resources used? How were the
leaders of the women’s ministry selected, and do they meet the qualifications in Titus 2: being
reverent in behavior, having the ability to teach what is good, and not being a slanderer?
We can recognize the mission and function of the ministry. The leaders should promote personal
discipleship and accountability among the women. They should also encourage the older women
within the group to disciple the younger ones, helping them to grow more Christ-like in their
roles as women. These relationships will also require a consistent pattern of prayer and
confession of sins.
These suggestions can help serve as a gauge of the health of our women’s ministry.
What If I Notice These Red Flags in My Church?
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, recognition of these two drifts from true
discipleship is only part of the battle. The other is what we do once we have recognized the
problem. I encourage every woman in the local church body to kindly address the leaders who
have allowed these drifts. Oftentimes, women may be unaware of some of these issues. Once we
educate them on the issues or the teacher they are promoting, we may very well see them change
the curriculum. Let’s not be afraid to have these conversations. Just like watching our loved ones
live in sin is not loving at all, neither is watching our sisters in Christ promote shallow or false
I would also lovingly encourage us to research the issues and present a clear case. It does no
good to go to a leader who is teaching from a Steven Furtick resource and tell her he is a false
teacher but then not be able to explain the reason for it and give examples of his false teaching.
Let’s be prepared and well researched. But most of all, let’s be gracious with one another. We’re
on the same team, and we are all working toward the same goal of growing in grace and
knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). We all have different gifts, and
they are meant for the building up of the body. If we are particularly gifted in discernment and
are a modern-day example of those “men who understand the times,” we should use that gifting
for the benefit of these women’s ministries. Let’s get involved and serve on these committees if
possible. Women’s ministry is worth fighting for. If our local church does not have one, let’s
start one! When the older women teach sound doctrine to the younger women, the entire local
body will be blessed.
*Paul Washer, Plenary Q&A Session, 2019 G3 Conference, February 17, 2019, 1:00:16,