The role of women in today's society is in many ways different than in the days of the early church. And yet, while her role may have changed in the world, the role of the modem woman in the church is the same as that of her sister who lived many centuries ago. This can cause confusion, bitterness, and even anger in the hearts of many women, particularly those between their teens and early thirties. Why these particular women? Because these are the ones who have been most affected by the sweeping strokes that have changed our society.
The traditional role of the woman is to keep the home and nourish her husband and children, surely a praise was worthy occupation in any age. But women are no longer marrying at the very young ages they did centuries ago. Many women are electing to establish themselves in a career. Many couples are electing to wait several years before starting a family. And, with modern helps, housework has been made much less tiresome and time-consuming. This means that the traditional methods of serving the Lord (keeping your household in order, raising your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, caring for your husband) are not always possible.
Add to this the very real differences in the ways young men and young women are trained in many congregations to perform the work of the church, and you can see the confusion that many young women face about their role in the overall pattern. Boys are trained from earliest youth to preach, to teach, and to lead songs and prayers. This is as it should be; a strong congregation needs its young men ready and able to assume their responsibilities when the proper time comes. A congregation that is so farsighted is to be commended and held up as an example for all. But, while these young men are being trained for public service, the young women are often as not put into classes teaching them how to take care of their home and family. While these classes are useful, and I have learned a great deal from them, this practice can leave women with the idea that they cannot serve the Lord adequately until they marry and have babies. If they don't marry until their late twenties or after, they may waste an enormous amount of time and precious energy "sitting on the sidelines" watching the men do all the work. This, in turn, may lead a young woman to feel relegated to "second place" in the church. (Indeed, I know of some who feel they are in "last place.") Such is simply not the case! There is a great need in the church that our young women, both single and married, can fill. Let me give you just a few examples of work you can do – doubtless you can think of many more.
(1) Today, more than ever, the church needs enthusiasm. Rejoice that you have the privilege to worship the Lord, and let others know of your joy. Sing with energy, participate in the classes, listen – really listen – to the sermons. Be involved. If the preacher makes plain a difficult passage for you, if the public prayer was inspiring to you, if the class left you with much to think about, if the song leader did a fine job today – let them know about it, and let them know how much you appreciate their efforts. Don't just sit on the pew; be an active member of your congregation. You will be surprised at the difference you can make.
(2) And now, while you're off that pew, get over and greet the visitors. Don't just shake their hands and walk away. Get to know them! Invite them back to the next service. Invite them home for lunch. Some of my warmest memories of congregations I have visited were the ones in which the members were friendly enough to invite me home for lunch. Don't be concerned that the food isn't grand enough, the house is a mess, the place is too small. Throw everything under the bed, open another can of beans, dnd relax. The visitor will remember your warmth and friendliness long after the meal is forgotten.
(3) Next take stock of your talents, and determine what work the local congregation needs to have done. What, you can't do anything special? Well, can you type? You would be surprised at how many preachers (or preachers' wives) are cooped up in the office one or two mornings a week typing the bulletin, letters to visitors, and sermon and class notes when they could be out doing home Bible studies, working on their sermons, studying, or many of the thousands of other things a preacher must do each week. Quite frankly, most preachers I know belong to the hunt-and-peck school of typing. What for you is an easy hour of typing is a morning of drudgery for them. Do you do bookkeeping at work? Why not volunteer to do that? Are you artistic? Make up some charts for Bible class. Can you drive? Many older members of the congregation appreciate rides to church, especially at night or in bad weather. (For that matter, rides to the grocery store, shopping malls, and places like that are often helpful and greatly appreciated.) Can you cook? Prepare meals for some ill mother; she'll be forever grateful. Use your imagination! You'll be surprised at what you can find to do. One college student I know, when a gospel meeting was approaching for her congregation, prepared a flyer advertising that meeting and (after obtaining permission from the elders and campus authorities) printed and passed out 500 copies on her college campus. You can do the same at a local grocery store or shopping mall (be sure to obtain permission first). The Lord doesn't require some great work from us. It's the small things that count.
(4) While it is a good work to help those in the church, remember those in the world also. Look about you! Who needs help? In these days of career women, many of the institutions that relied heavily on housewives are begging for volunteers. Your local hospital, retirement home, home for battered women, crisis center, and many other charitable organizations are being forced to cut back on services simply because of a lack of volunteers. This will give you many exciting opportunities to show people in the world God's love for them. Don't overlook this valuable chance to teach others, by example and by word!
These are but a few examples of the countless ways in which we can serve the Lord. Sisters, please don't sit idly by and think that one can only serve the Lord in public worship services, and that men have the only responsibilities and duties. That just isn't so! We all, men and women, brothers and sisters, have a duty, an obligation, and truly, a privilege to do all that we can to further the cause of the Lord. Hundreds of opportunities are all around us, if we would but open our eyes. Perhaps the role of women is not as visible as the role that God chooses for men, but it is an important one from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Eph. 4:16).
March 1, 1984