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« How to Deal with Toxic Words [Excerpt by Craig Groeschel] | Main | Barabbas vs. Jesus [Excerpt by Samuel Wells] »

April 04, 2012


I do feel like the Church stereotypes, but that probably just reflects our nature as human beings. At my last church, the pastor talked to me about doing either singles ministry or women's ministry, neither of which interests me even though I am a single female. Interesting that's all he had to offer and not a teaching pastor position or head of Christian Ed. I did eventually become an elder, but 2.5 years in a couple of people started working behind the scenes to get women elders out. This was based on their reading of scripture, but I question the motives since it was done in a deceptive manner.

Pat, thanks so much for contributing. You're right to point out that no one group has a monopoly on stereotyping!

Your point about your pastor's limited suggestions reminds me of something my fiancée once asked me: "How should I [a woman] serve if I don't like child care, cooking, or performing music?" (We actually received an answer from Lysa TerKeurst about mixing passion with pure service: http://zndr.vn/HNokNY. But that's a tangent.) Back to your point - I know women and men who have seen gaps in their church's service, so decided to make a 'go' of creating & leading a new project. A guy I work with began a drama department, for example. But I also know people for whom this was a very frustrating process.

I'm sorry to hear about your negative experience in the eldership matter. While open conflict is never fun, at least it's easier to deal with than deception and manipulation! Bummer. :-\

Thanks for sharing your experience and considerable insight, Pat. Peace,

Hey Adam,

Dianna from twitter here.

My views on gender stereotyping in the church are complex and massive (you'll find a lot of posts about it on my blog, linked), but I can cite a few of them in a short comment here. As a woman in the church, I've been told that 1. I can't be a minister (or even study theology if my intent was to become a minister), 2. That I have a duty to the Church body to have children so I can raise more Christians (being a 26yo female who has no intent on having children, this is particularly insulting), 3. I've been told, time and again, that I am - because I am a woman - intrinsically more emotional, and more caring and more nurturing than my male counterparts, which ignores who I am as an individual (not that I'm not caring, but I care not because I'm a woman, but because I'm a Christian).

The biggest stereotype I've encountered in the church is the idea that, because I'm a woman, I will contribute to the life of the church by being a wife and a mother, which ignores the individual gifts that God has given me in terms of writing, passion about public policy, and my complete lack of desire to procreate. Women in the church are quite frequently defined by their relationship to others, whereas men get to be defined as themselves (though, if you go to a church like Mark Driscoll's, you get the blunt "Manly Man" stereotype). These stereotypes are insidious because it is assumed that they're "biblically based" and reflective of "the order of how God wants things to be," which is not supported by actual Biblical precedent. Feinberg is right on in that gender stereotypes are one of the few remaining acceptable, and even endorsed!, stereotypes that the church allows.

(Also: Why call her Margaret throughout this blog post and not Feinberg, as AP Style would dictate?)

Thank you for contributing Dianna, it's clear you've put a lot of thought into this here and on your blog [http://diannaeanderson.net]. One of my favorite parts from your comment is "I care not because I'm a woman, but because I'm a Christian."

I'm sorry to hear about your negative experience. From my perspective, your comment here fits some of the church communities I've visited: "Women in the church are quite frequently defined by their relationship to others, whereas men get to be defined as themselves." This makes me sad. It's like a "man and wife" mentality instead of a "man and woman" mentality; and as Pat commented above, sometimes the church doesn't know what to *do* with single people besides point them to marriage.

Do you have any suggestions (book recommendations, posts you've written?) for women and men who are frustrated about these situations but don't know how to change things?

Thanks so much for sharing Dianna,

(PS Why call her Margaret and not Feinberg? On this blog I've tried to refer to Zondervan authors by first name because we have a relationship with them. Also as a tone consideration. I'm aiming for this publisher's blog to be both personal and professional, so if the name issue is a distraction I will keep this in mind. Thanks!)

Thanks for your response, Adam! It feels good to be listened to.

Honestly, I've discovered a great community online of female bloggers who willingly challenging a lot of the stereotypes and gender roles surrounding women - people like Rachel Held Evans, Sarah Bessey, Elizabeth Esther, and Alise Write, as well as male authors like Ed Cyzewski and Matthew Paul Turner. Books like Amy Frykholm's "See Me Naked" are also good resources.

The first and foremost thing that women in the church need to realize is that they CAN question things, and that they are not alone in questioning the idea that their role is "wife and mother." And then, we need to not be afraid to tell our stories, to help people around us see that we are more than just "a woman," but human beings that are made in God's image as well - like Feinberg says.

Thanks again for being willing to listen. That action alone is incredibly helpful.


Also, on the Feinberg/Margaret thing, I wasn't aware if it was an attempt at a casual tone or if it was an unconscious choice. I'm glad to hear it was the former. I brought it up because I very often see female authors referred to casually by first name, while male authors get the more formal (and more correct) last name treatment. It's just one of those subtle things. :)

Thanks Dianna! You and your thoughts are welcome here.

This is a very interesting discussion. I lived in America for 20 years of my life and then moved to the United Kingdom. I noticed this "gender stereotyping issue" was much more prevalent in the USA than here. Even the church culture is different. That being said...

I disagree with the stereotype viewing women as simply "child-caring mothers and/or housewives." While there is much joy to be had from parenting (so I've heard), it doesn't mean it's the only thing a woman can do. Women, just like men, have varying sets of skills and abilities pleasures and hobbies- and these need not all relate to "household" work.

However, I feel that a false dichotomy is often created in response to gender stereotyping. A dichotomy between "only woman's work" or "anything a man can do"

Not every woman is highly skilled at childcare or household tasks (cooking, cleaning, sewing, even socializing and hosting). And the church should not expect women to all excel at these jobs. I myself am quite timid socially, and honestly not even certain I ever want children! Although I've been told once you have your own it's "different" (and perhaps it is?)

On another note~ the opposite of "requiring women to only do "women" activities" is NOT "allow women to do anything." The opposite of children's teacher or nursery work is not preaching. Just because a woman does not excel at doing stereotypical woman's work does not mean she should be allowed to do any work.

Scripture clearly informs that men are to be pastors and elders (regarding deacons there is some discrepancy). This shouldn't insult women- because it is in no way declaring that women are "incapable" of theological studies, public-speaking, teaching bible, or even writing and delivering a sermon! In fact, a particular woman might do exceedingly well at any of these... but ability does not equal calling.

I myself am much more intellectually-minded and would so much prefer to be "discussing theology with the guys" than talking about "housework and gossip" with the ladies (which is certainly my own stereotype in itself). However, that doesn't mean that to remedy the situation I should convince my church to allow me to preach. There are other ways I can hone my abilities-

I have studied and developed teaching aids and presentation handouts to help people study topics (particularly the tabernacle). I have had conversations with individuals (men and women) discussing topics in the bible. I have been given opportunity to teach adults English while incorporating biblical teaching. I have been given opportunity to organize church archive files and the church library (two things I greatly enjoy). There are ways I can use my skills and do what I love without preaching.

Also- I am concerned that much of the "fight" against churches to allow women to preach could be inherently self-concerned? Why does a particular woman absolutely need to feel allowed to preach if she could do other things with her abilities and skills? Is it attention-seeking, it it for recognition? Why does a woman need to feel she is allowed to preach before she feels her gifts have been utilized to their fullest extent?

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