But what should women do in the church? -- By: Wayne Grudem

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 01:2 (Nov 1995)
Article: But what should women do in the church?
Author: Wayne Grudem


But what should women do in the church?

Wayne Grudem

Okay, I agree with you that only men should be pastors and elders. But what about other activities in the church? What exactly do you think a woman should and should not do, according to the Bible?”

This is probably the most frequent question I hear when I speak on manhood and womanhood in the church. Sometimes people say, “Just where do you draw the line? Can women teach adult Sunday School classes? What about serving communion, or chairing a committee? We want to follow Scripture, but there aren’t any verses that talk about these specific things.”

I think in most cases men and women who ask these questions genuinely want to encourage more opportunities for women in the overall ministry of the church. They sense that many evangelical churches have been too “traditional” and too restrictive on ministries available to women. These people want to question “the way we have always done things” in the light of Scripture. But they also do not want to encourage anything that is contrary to Scripture.

In this article I will try to answer those questions, partly in the hope of encouraging churches to examine their traditions to see if there are more areas of ministry which they could open to women as well as men. On the other hand, I also want to explain why I think that certain kinds of activities are restricted to men.

For the purposes of this article, I will assume that my readers are in agreement that Scripture teaches some restriction on the roles women may fill in the church. Generally these restrictions fall in three areas: (1) governing authority, (2) Bible teaching, and (3) public recognition or visibility.

In fact, almost all the questions of application pertain to at least one of these areas. This is because Paul says, “I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men” (1 Tim. 2:12), and the other passages which speak of restrictions on women’s roles in the church also deal with questions of governing and teaching (1 Cor. 14:33–35; 1 Tim. 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9; Matt. 10:2–4; etc.). I have included area (3), public recognition or visibility, because some activities in the church are very visible but may not include governing or teaching authority, yet people easily confuse these issues in their minds. If we keep this issue distinct, it helps us think more clearly about specific applications.

What follows here are three lists of activities.

In List 1, I proceed from areas of greate...

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