Whatever you believe about women holding leadership roles in the church, all women in ministry have needs that are easy to overlook. This was a point Kristen Padilla emphasized in a recent interview on the Stetzer ChurchLeaders Podcast.
“Women are discipling women in the church,” said Padilla. “Whether we like it or not, they’re writing books, they’re speaking at conferences, they’re on podcasts, they’re writing hymns, they are discipling the women in your church.” The question is, has your church equipped them for these tasks?
Women in Ministry: What Do They Need From Churches?
Kristen Padilla has an M.Div. from Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, and serves as Beeson’s marketing and communications director. In early 2021, she launched The Center for Women in Ministry at Beeson, and she is also the author of “Now That I’m Called: A Guide for Women Discerning a Call to Ministry.”
Some might assume that a discussion on the topic of women in ministry will be about supporting women as pastors. However, the Center for Women in Ministry serves students who are complementarian and egalitarian, and Padilla was clear that, whatever a church’s position on women in leadership, there is more that all churches can do to support the women in their midst.
One area Padilla drew attention to was the need to be proactive about supporting women in ministry. “If I had not had [supportive parents],” she said. “I don’t know that I would have pursued any kind of formal ministry leadership role.”
Churches can start by clarifying their vision for how to support women. “I would encourage churches to really wrestle with, write down, articulate a theological vision for both ministers and ministry and women—and make it clear,” said Padilla. “I think a lot of churches that I’ve encountered just haven’t done that…when the church does not communicate clearly what it believes, it can actually be hurtful for women.”
One of the most significant areas Padilla highlighted for churches to be aware of was that it is common for people to expect that men serving in ministry will have theological training, but they often do not expect the same of women. “Why is it,” she asked, “that when the men leave the room and we have women and children, we all of a sudden are not caring, so to speak, who’s teaching them or what kind of training they have?”
Regarding her own journey, Padilla said, “If I was going to be in ministry, I felt a very strong conviction that I needed to be theologically trained…I need to be an astute teacher. I need to do the same training that men are doing in preparation for ministry.”
She pointed out that neglecting to equip women to serve in their churches will have consequences whether or not church leaders see doing so as important. Said Padilla, “If women are being discipled or receiving teaching that is not according to God’s Word, it’s affecting their marriages, their homes, their workplaces. So we can’t just sit back and think, ‘Well, as long as we keep women out of this position or from doing X, we’re biblical.’”