by Rachel Cain
It isn’t groundbreaking to state that women should be involved in the care of other women in the local church, yet they are so often excluded. Help[H]er: A Churchwide Response for Women in Crisis by Bernie Lawrence and Ann Maree Goudzwaard is a concise, poignant, and practical guide to including women in one-another care ministries in churches.
Using stories from several different perspectives, including women who receive care, “shepherdesses,” pastors, and elders, proves to be a key tool in communicating the necessity of including women in ministry for other women. One shepherdess writes about a woman who had been enduring a difficult marriage and the depth of comfort she felt from the shepherdess assigned to her case. A woman confronting her past abuse was able to talk through sensitive issues with a shepherdess rather than face to face with her male pastor. It’s these, and countless other stories that offer a beautiful picture of inviting mature women into discipleship and ministry for other women in crisis in the local church.
After reading a book like Help[H]er, it seems difficult to understand why churches wouldn’t want to include women in these ministry leadership positions. Of course, the hesitation comes when considering the distinct, biblical position of a pastor or elder. Would the Bible allow for women’s leadership in this type of ministry?
A complementarian point of view would enthusiastically support the particular giftedness of women and their importance in the church. The Bible is very clear that women are to be included in ministry, even as leaders, in spite of drawing strict boundaries on women being ordained as pastors and elders. Thankfully, this allows for great flexibility in churches seeking to set up robust women’s ministries. Remaining under the headship of elders allows for a hedge of protection around any ministry a woman is involved in.
The Bible offers a robust picture of women’s ministry to other women, especially in Titus 2. There is a special kind of connection between older women who have endured the trials of living a Christian life with a woman who is in the midst of the struggle. The Lord ordained this kind of relationship, knowing that women can offer a unique kind of love, compassion, and wisdom for other women. In many cases, it would be inappropriate for a male church leader to provide this same kind of care. Understanding the biblical limitations for women’s leadership roles is surely important, just as including women in biblically ordained ministry is important.
For pastors, ministry leaders, and elders, Help[H]er can offer a practical picture of the benefits of utilizing women’s particular giftings in ministry. This picture of ministry in a local church puts the words of Scripture into action, clearly stirred by a love for the Lord and his people.
As a young woman pursuing membership at the church in which these authors lead and minister, I feel safe and cared for. To know that if I enter into a crisis I will be welcomed with understanding and wisdom brings great comfort. Many would be blessed by churches that follow this example.