Does your church need a women’s ministry?

May 12, 2015

Navigating what ministries to begin and which to forgo can be a daunting task for church leaders. The topic of whether or not to pursue a women’s ministry in the local church is often on the top of the list.

For Daniel Montgomery, lead pastor of Sojourn Church in Lousiville, Ky., the answer was clear: He would provide a women’s ministry but wouldn’t lead it. This model has worked well for their local congregation, and I’ve asked the co-leader of their women’s ministry, Amanda Edmondson, and Montgomery to give us a peek into why their ministry has been fruitful.

Did you establish a women's ministry as you established the church or was it developed after? If so, why? If not, what provoked you to begin a women's ministry?

Daniel Montgomery: I think women’s ministry, like men’s ministry, has been semi-provisional at time, addressing specific concerns and issues. We now have a more formal women’s ministry in order to:

  1. To embed a theological vision for life in ministry for women.
  2. For the purpose of creating and maintaining sisterhood among the women in our church.
  3. To empower women to do ministry in the church.

We want to intentionally meet women who want deeper theological reflection where they are. It won’t just happen. Women’s ministry also allows us to directly address the challenges of cultivating friendships across generations—whether someone is mentoring or being poured into. In addition, if you look at any renewal movement in history, women were at the helm. We want to empower and free women to do that kind of ministry.

Daniel, why did you feel it was important to have a woman lead the ministry?

Montgomery: The fact that we even ask this question shows how oppressive our churches can be toward women. There are several reasons to have a woman lead:

  1. Women need to lead women (Titus 2) with conviction and creativity.
  2. It’s hard for me to imagine raising up women in leadership without women leading women.

I believe reform and renewal will only take place in the church when women can fearlessly lead as women—with all their feminine beauty and power that God has specifically designed for them to use in various roles throughout the church.

What is your role in the women’s ministry?

Montgomery: I am there as an advocate and advisor for women’s ministry.

Amanda, what were your first thoughts when you were approached about leading this ministry?

Amanda Edmondson: I have a strong passion for women to know the Lord and to teach them how to know the Lord and make him known. Before I was on staff at Sojourn Community Church, I was leading a Bible study with another woman that took place in our houses. So when I was approached about Sojourn, I was excited for the opportunity but unsure of what it would look like for a multi-site church. I was also excited to be co-leading with a wiser, like-minded woman in our church.

What do you do day-to-day?

Edmondson: I have two roles at Sojourn. The majority of my time goes to being Daniel’s executive assistant. About 30 percent (some weeks more or less) go to women’s ministry. No day is ever the same in ministry. From July to April, a lot of focus and energy goes into our Women’s Leadership School, aside from that I am meeting with and discipling women, working with ministry leaders on raising up women and coaching women from other churches on how to lead or start a women’s ministry.

What are the goals of the women's ministry?

Edmondson: To equip women to know the Lord and lead with strength, using their gifts and talents in order to serve in the church, reach the world and make disciples.

Some would say that women's ministry is detrimental to the church because it could become separated from the mission of the church. How have you established boundaries or a general framework for protecting your ministry from straying away from the mission of the church?

Edmondson: Women’s ministry shouldn’t be a separate entity of the church but rather a ministry that supports the church as a whole. With the majority of seats in churches today being filled by women, there needs to be an opportunity for women to learn from women (Titus 2). I have two suggestions for boundaries:

  1. Use your women’s ministry as a place where women can get equipped. It should be a place where women are learning to lead—specifically—as women, then being released to serve the church along side everyone. The church’s vision isn’t lost when the ministry isn’t siloed.
  2. Make sure men are involved. In our church, Elders and church leadership take an interest in women’s ministry and care what we are taught. They teach on it from the pulpit and partner with us to equip women to lead.

What does a healthy women's ministry look like?

Montgomery: It’s not pulling women out of and away from participating in the church as a whole, but equipping women and training them in godliness to serve the church.

How might a church determine when it's time to evaluate a ministry’s effectiveness?

Montgomery: For us, it goes back to our vision and asking questions like: Is it supporting the overall vision? Are they reaching people? Building them up? Making disciples?

How might you encourage a church to start a women's ministry?

Edmondson: Most churches we speak to have a group structure where both men and women are gathering together throughout the week to discuss sermons. As most churches have moved away from having individualized ministries for both men and women, they are discovering there’s still a need for men and women to gather separately. I always encourage pastors and leaders to listen to the men and women of their churches. What are they hungry for? What do they need to learn about the Lord in this season? Is there a need for the men and women to meet separately?

As we mentioned earlier, we see a great value and need for women to be under the teaching of women in order to learn what it looks like to lead as a woman. If we want a woman to lead as a woman, then women need to see women leading biblically in the church and in the community where they live and work.  

Depending on the size of the church, start with what you have the capacity to do. Provide a space for women to be empowered and taught by women, to gather and fellowship together, and to be free to go deep and grow together. This is going to look different for each church, depending on their need and availability.

Montgomery: Like Amanda said, start with what you have. We are a church that does a lot from art and mercy, so we are always looking for opportunities for women to lead in worship, arts, mercy, and children. If a woman has a gift of teaching, ask how you can we nurture that woman? For example, we noticed that one of our ministries was male-dominated and neglecting the equipping of women to lead, so we’ve taken measures to address it, though it’s not without it’s challenges.

Another suggestion would be to take time to figure out how you can cultivate the ministry, mission and leadership of women in your church, instead of just adding a women’s ministry. We don’t want to merely create a massive silo of women’s events; we want to reach women with the gospel, build them up as the church, and release them in the world to make disciples.

What are some of the things your Women’s Ministry does throughout the year?

Edmonson: Women’s Leadership School: This is a seven-month leadership program that trains women to serve and lead within the context of the local church, the places we live, and work. We believe that the local church has a responsibility to train and equip women to lead with strength wherever the Lord has placed them.

The training is divided into two semesters and covers a variety of topics, such as God’s glory, Bible study, theology, discipleship, leadership, biblical womanhood, and evangelism. Each woman who participates in the Women’s Leadership School is receiving discipleship from their group leader and is using what they’ve learned to disciple another woman within Sojourn.

One-Day Conferences: Women gather from all four of our campuses to worship and learn together.

Women’s Gift Exchange: This event is held at each campus during the Advent season and is an opportunity for women to connect with one another and exchange gifts while participating in a time of worship and teaching.

How do you encourage participation in the women’s ministry?

Edmondson: Most times, it’s from a one-on-one conversation with a woman during the week or on a Sunday. We communicate from the stage/pulpit on Sundays about Women’s Ministry and events and through our Community Groups that meet throughout the week. It’s not hard to encourage women to participate when they are hungry to learn and desire to gather with other woman. As we communicate and share, we are always communicating the bigger vision of why we provide these opportunities for women.

How has Daniel supported the ministry and encouraged your gifts?

Edmondson: Within my first month at Sojourn, he told me to lead out of freedom and not fear. He has to frequently remind me of this, but it has greatly affected the way I lead. Being given the freedom to lead, using my talents and gifts, takes a huge weight off of me. I know I don’t have to fit within a cookie-cutter mold, but I am free to do ministry the way the Lord has uniquely gifted me. He has also been a great advocate and advisor for women—he listens and gives counsel to help us all move forward.  


If you’d like to read more about women’s ministry, you might want to check out these books: Women’s Ministry in the Local Church by J. Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt and the forthcoming book from The Gospel Coalition by multiple contributors, Word-Filled Women’s Ministry.

Trillia Newbell

Trillia Newbell is the author of several books including A Great Cloud of Witnesses, Sacred Endurance, If God Is For Us, Fear and Faith,and the children’s books, Creative God, Colorful Us and  God’s Very Good Idea. When she isn’t writing, she’s encouraging and supporting other writers as an Acquisitions Editor at Moody … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24