Question & Answer Forum: Women and the Assembly

In what ways do we express the equality of assembly sisters?

Men who minister God’s Word in assembly gatherings generally affirm (rather condescendingly) that headship does not mean that women are inferior to men. Scripture states, “There is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). Perhaps we need to be as clear in this teaching as we are in headship teaching. As to our standing before God, all national (“Jew nor Greek”), occupational (“bond nor free”), and gender (“male nor female”) distinctions ended at conversion. Whether a woman (or man) is Irish or Indian, surgeon or short-order cook, must not affect her (or his) treatment in the assembly.

In addition, the statement, “the head of the woman is the man” (1Cor 11:3) does not mean that the woman is to serve the man or that the man is to act independent of the woman. The responsibility of headship implies consideration (Eph 5:23b). The head knows the weaknesses and strengths of each member of its body. As the head acts accordingly in consideration of each member, so ought men to act in consideration of women. The head leads, but leads considerately.

In the assembly, the sisters are not workers to be managed, but equals to be respected. The qualification given to husbands can well apply to this area also: “showing honor to the woman as unto the weaker vessel” (1Pet 3:7). When assembly leaders plan activities, the input of women is valuable. When will a series of gospel meetings best suit the school calendar of those children who need to be saved? Perhaps their fathers know this information, but why not ask the relevant sisters directly? When an assembly grows comfortable with a sister’s handling the assembly meals, teaching children, cleaning the building, or carrying some other responsibility, consideration of that sister may mean giving her a break or involving others to assist or replace her. Because many of the assembly brethren have business responsibilities during the day, most of the help in special summer programs for children will depend on sisters. If we expect their help, should they also be involved in the scheduling and planning for these programs? Are all the sisters in the assembly as welcome to be involved in assembly activities as the sisters in the elders’ families and inner circle of friends?

Assembly men, whether they are elders or not, never intend to slight the sisters, but perhaps this question (submitted by a sister) will encourage greater sensitivity to the concerns of women in the assembly.

D. Oliver

Is there a way to address the spiritual needs of sisters engaged in responsibilities with their children or the children of others?

The responsibilities that sisters have in an assembly may mean they will miss some of the ministry, which is the case for sisters handling food preparation for conferences or special meetings. Sisters who are teaching children in a Sunday School class are constantly giving out spiritual truth in their class. They have a heightened need for spiritual input, not only in their private readings, but also in assembly ministry meetings. In addition, mothers caring for their children either at home during meetings or in a nursery at the hall miss this spiritual food. The assembly’s guides are responsible for the food of “all the flock” (Acts 20:28), including these special needs.

If ministry is valuable enough to take the time of most in the assembly, it is of sufficient value to record for the others who are unable to be present and hear it. Those unable to be present at the end of the Breaking of Bread or in ministry meetings or Bible Readings would profit spiritually from recordings of that ministry. If the ministry is not worth the effort to record it and reproduce the recordings, it is not worth the time to give it. If one brother or sister had the responsibility of recording, producing electronic copies, and distributing those copies of all the ministry given in the assembly, all could profit. The work of the Spirit through gifts in the assembly is for “the common good” (1Cor 12:7 ESV), meaning the Lord intends that all share in its benefits.

For the nursery, a wireless headset (that will not disturb a sister’s head covering or hair) will save a sister from having to choose between keeping her child awake or hearing the ministry herself.

D. Oliver

How can an assembly better utilize sisters’ areas of expertise?

The assembly is to function like a body (1Cor 12:12-27). Each member has a function that contributes to the good of the whole. The brain learns the function of each in order to maximize the effectiveness of the body. Effective overseers know the capabilities of each believer in the assembly, whether male or female.

In keeping with their God-assigned role (Gen 2:20, 21), sisters are generally more in tune than men are to colors, comfort, appearance, and design. The inside of halls that have looked the same for years could have a modest upgrade with the involvement of the sisters. Sisters’ suggestions might improve the look of the landscaping and outside of the buildings, too. Sunday School classrooms might generate more student enthusiasm if a sister’s touch decorated the walls. Seating might be more comfortable if the choice of seats were delegated to sisters. Sisters who have considerable practice in generating meal menus might save money and add appeal to meals the assembly serves if planning the menu were their sole responsibility. Sisters sometimes manage the finances in their home. They can help keep financial records in the assembly.

Sisters can better communicate with other sisters and therefore be of great assistance to the overseers. Some more delicate matters can be entrusted to sisters, while still under the leadership of the overseers. Mature sisters have the biblical responsibility to “teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands” (Titus 2:3-5). Wise elders will find ways to support them in doing this.

A body doesn’t assign most of the responsibilities to a few. Distributing responsibilities to as many members as possible keeps capable members from atrophy and enables each member to concentrate on doing what it does best. That’s also how a biblical assembly functions!

D. Oliver