My ministry setting is hostile to female leaders

Your Question:

“How can I best serve in a ministry setting that is hostile to female leaders?”

The Issues:

There are biblical standards for male and female roles in leadership, but that doesn’t mean that women should be discounted.

Scripture Foundation:

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.”  Galatians 3: 26-29

Short Answer:

The issue of women in leadership is passionately addressed by those on both sides of the issue. Each “side” (for or against) quotes scriptures as a foundation for their belief. Both sides of the issue agree that both Jesus and Paul affirmed the value of women. Everyone who has honestly studied the scriptures sees that both Jesus and Paul bring a different view of women than did the original Jewish culture. The conflict and disagreements heat up when the question is asked about how high in the leadership structure a female can serve.


Some people interpret Paul’s writings as limiting a female from ever teaching or holding authority over men, yet both Paul and Jesus placed females in positions of teaching: The resurrected Jesus appeared first to women, and He encouraged the Samaritan woman to go back and tell (teach) others what she encountered at the well; Paul sent his letters with women to be read (taught) to men.  The disagreements regarding women in ministry seem to be based on interpretation of the scriptures. Since people will always interpret or misinterpret scripture based on their own “leanings” or beliefs, there will always be differences. God continues to permit the differences.


There are churches, blessed by God, in which women are not permitted to rise to levels of leadership over men. There are churches that permit women to lead and teach men, and those churches are also blessed by God. Could it be that God permits variety? There is significant variety in churches regarding issues such as baptism, ceremony, tithing, communion and the expression of spiritual gifts. It seems that the concept of “unity” has always been a challenge. Jesus Himself prayed that we would all be “one” in His “Priestly Prayer” (John 17). It has been interpreted as “one” refers to the foundational beliefs, and not the secondary views. It was a German Lutheran theologian of the early seventeenth century, Rupertus Meldenius who proclaimed, “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.” This statement soon became the theme of the Reformation. Church leaders like Augustine and Thomas Campbell quoted it and used it as a foundation for church principles. Could it be that we must hold that basic principle of unity in our minds as we navigate through the theological and doctrinal “waters” of ministry?  The “essential” beliefs include:


1) There is one God, who is eternal, and who created the world,

2) God desires our obedience and love

3) The Bible is God’s Word, it is His message to us regarding how to live,

4) We sin when we break God’s standards set forth in the Bible

5) The triune God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) incarnated as Jesus, the second member of the trinity

6) Jesus was born to a virgin to fulfill the scriptures,

7) Jesus lived a sinless life and died as a substitution for the punishment for our sin, thus serving as our Savior,

8) Jesus’ death provides forgiveness to whoever believes that He was/is the Son of God and the Messiah who takes away the sin of the world,

9) Jesus resurrected on the third day, as the scriptures foretold, to give us hope of eternal life,

10) Jesus left us with the “Great Commission” to spread the Gospel message to the whole world,

11) Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to empower us and to teach us “all that Jesus taught,”

12) Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus will be saved,

13) Jesus is coming back again to claim His Church.


We are always searching for a place (church or ministry organization) to fellowship and serve. In our search, we must determine how the church or organization views the “essentials.” Once we find a church that protects the “essentials,” we then deal with the ”non-essentials.” The list of “non-essentials” is long. It includes the view of women in ministry.


God lets us choose where we fellowship. He challenges us to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). This doesn’t mean that there are various ways to be saved, there is only one way according to Acts 4:12 “This Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation exists in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  To “work out” your salvation is how you live after you are saved. Paul writes that challenge as he exhorts the Phillipi believers to live together in unity. Since God permits variety in His Church, and since we are given some freedom to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling,” it appears that God will lead you to serve in a church or organization that suits your individual beliefs.


If you find that a church views women in leadership differently than you do, you have three choices:


1) Fight them and try to change the way they think,

2) Serve faithfully in the area given to you.

3) Find another place to serve that is more comfortable with you.


If you choose to “fight,” you may find yourself spending more energy on the “battle” than on the actual work of the ministry. If you choose to leave in search for the “perfect church,” you may find yourself wandering for a long time.  It might be easier for you to “stay in your lane” and to do what you are able to do there. 


If the church or organization devalues women or belittles them, then it would be best for you to find another place to serve. It is also very possible that you can have an impact on their perspective while remaining there. If your service is kind, respectful, and yet not weak, they may see that strong women are a value to a growing church.


Let God guide you as you “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” For more help in understanding the setting of the children’s ministry, click on the APPENDIX link below.

Visit other articles in the “Understanding Your Ministry Setting APPENDIX”

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