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Women's Ministry in the Local Church

Women's Ministry in the Local Church

by Ligon Duncan, Susan Hunt
Women's Ministry in the Local Church

Women's Ministry in the Local Church

by Ligon Duncan, Susan Hunt


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Susan Hunt and Ligon Duncan walk through the Scriptures to help readers better understand what it means to have an effective, biblical women's ministry in the church. The benefits of women's ministries are great: training and discipling, evangelizing, and reaching out to the poor and needy. This book, written by seasoned ministry leaders, provides many proven tools to help start a women's ministry in your church.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781433518232
Publisher: Crossway
Publication date: 01/17/2006
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 176
File size: 553 KB

About the Author

Ligon Duncan (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is  chancellor, CEO, and John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. He previously served as the senior minister of the historic First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi, for seventeen years. He is a cofounder of Together for the Gospel, a senior fellow of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and was the president of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals from 2004–2012. Duncan has edited, written, or contributed to numerous books. He and his wife, Anne, have two children and live in Jackson, Mississippi.

Susan Hunt is the widow of pastor Gene Hunt, a mother, a grandmother, and the former director of women’s ministries for the Presbyterian Church in America. Hunt has written over 20 books, including Spiritual Mothering.

Read an Excerpt


The Story

* * *

The source and origin of the Church is the free love of God.... In the whole world there is nothing enduring but the Church.... Her happiness must be considered in consisting principally in this, that she has reserved for her an everlasting state in heaven....


The subject of this book is not women; it is the Church of the Lord Jesus. Though the focus of the book is one specific area of the church's ministry, a biblical understanding of the church acknowledges that no part stands alone. A women's ministry is one component of the total life and work of a local church.

The authors of this book have had separate journeys to a shared commitment to women's ministry in the local church, but for both of us this commitment is one part of a larger commitment to and love for the household of God. As Dr. Edmund Clowney wrote, "If we lack interest in the church we lack what for Jesus was a consuming passion. Jesus loved the Church and gave himself for it (Eph. 5: 25)."


I was born and reared during a time of tremendous cultural and ecclesiastical transition in the United States relating to the whole complex of issues surrounding manhood and womanhood and male-female role relationships in the home and church. But I was also reared in a Christian family with a godly father and mother who lived out, in the home, church, and community, with no fanfare whatsoever, a beautiful biblical pattern of manhood and womanhood. I have also had and continue to enjoy the privilege of Christian fellowship and mutual ministry with numerous godly, gifted, consecrated, complementarian Christian women. These women have shown me what biblical women's ministry in the local church looks like in action. Thus my own appreciation of the importance of women's ministry in the local church flows out of biblical conviction, is reinforced by church experience, and is heightened by the fact that gender issues are the wedge of a worldview megashift in our own times.

The 1960s brought a cultural revolt against the traditional roles of men and women in our society that spilled over into many mainline churches. One consequence was that these churches abandoned fidelity to the clear biblical teaching requiring godly qualified men to serve as the shepherds-teachers- leaders of the local church. My father was not a pastor, but he was an elder (an eighth-generation elder, to be exact!) in our local church-a part of one of those wavering mainline denominations. He loved his church but wanted to be a part of a denomination with a high view of Scripture and an unwavering commitment to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. One of the obvious ways our denomination had demonstrated its low view of Scripture was the issue of women's ordination to the teaching and ruling office of the church. As a teenage boy in the 1970s, I watched my father, at great personal cost and with many tears, leave the denomination of his youth and young manhood and become a founding father of a family of churches committed to standing with the Bible and against cultural capitulation on gender issues, among many others.

In those days, one of the things that was frequently alleged against the many Christians and churches that comprised this new denomination (the Presbyterian Church in America) was that we were "anti-women," that we oppressed women and did not value them or allow them to use their gifts. This accusation never got the slightest traction with me because I had personally experienced just the opposite. I was reared in the company of godly, smart, educated, theologically sound women who had devoted their lives to the work of the church, who were unreservedly and gladly committed to the Bible's teaching on male-female role relationships, and who were deeply appreciated and respected by the male spiritual leadership of the local church. And I have been surrounded by and delighted in such esteemed sisters in the Lord all my life.

My grandmother was the only one of her many siblings to graduate from college. She put herself through on a basketball scholarship in the midst of a war and depression. She was intelligent and hard-working and devoted herself to the Southern Baptist churches of East Tennessee where she lived. Whether it was choir, Sunday school, Training Union, or VBS, Audrey Mae Ledford was ably serving the Lord and his people. She had not the slightest desire to preach or hold the office of pastor and would have told any woman who did that she was "plumb crazy." She lived out Titus 2: 3-5 and spiritually mentored generations of women in Tennessee and Florida.

My mother was a university professor, as well as a lifelong church music director. She started school at the age of three, finished college while still a teenager, did graduate study at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and postgraduate work at Northwestern in Chicago, and directed church choirs in Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina. After joining the faculty at Furman University, she threw the Athletic Department into a tizzy by flunking half of the baseball team in what they thought was a "crip course" in Music Appreciation. Only my dad's secret intervention in grade curving on their behalf saved the day. Mom was a tough and respected prof-demanding academically and outstanding professionally.

Mother thinks theologically and deeply, writes beautifully, is a gifted public speaker, works harder than anyone I know, and has poured her whole life into the service of Christ and His people. I have had the enormous privilege of fellowship with some of the brightest theological minds in the English- speaking world over the last thirty years (often in my family's home around the dinner table), and Mother is every bit their intellectual peer. Yet she has never aspired to the eldership, nor resented male spiritual leadership. Indeed, she has gloried in it and delighted to support the ministry of a godly succession of pastors and elders in our home church, all the while joyfully embracing the biblical teaching on male-female role relationships. None of the women whom I have known over the years who have aspired to the teaching office of the church, and who are often offended by what they perceive as the church's lack of recognition of their gifts and sense of calling, are her superior-academically, intellectually, or otherwise. But Mother has always disdained recognition. She has always been about service, not status. And she has been a spiritual mother to generations of women within and without her local church.

My wife, Anne, holds two advanced degrees, and before we married she spent more than a decade on the church staffs of two large and vital, capital- city, downtown, evangelical churches. She grew up in a mainline egalitarian church and professed faith in college. She learned her theology on her own at first. Nobody spoon-fed it to her. She embraced com-plementarianism on purpose. Nobody forced it on her, and she didn't just assume it. Having taught elementary school, and having worked in Christian education in her home church, Anne went on to study with David Wells and a host of his stellar colleagues at Gordon-Conwell Seminary in Massachusetts. Then after years of faithful service in the field of Christian education, and having pursued doctoral course work at Trinity in Chicago, she completed a second Master's degree (in Marriage and Family Therapy) at Reformed Theological Seminary.

Anne worked in Christian Education, youth, singles, missions, and women's ministry. Everything she did, she did well. Once she was given the option of writing her own title and job description, and she chose the title Adult Christian Education Coordinator instead of a more encompassing title, out of the conviction that the role of facilitating the Christian Education of the whole church, men and women, was the role for a pastor or elder, and she wanted it clearly understood that she would be working in support of the leadership and work of a pastor and the elders. The men didn't force this on her. She expected it of them! Anne's life and ministry has had a profound impact on men and women in four local congregations over the course of more than two decades. And she has poured herself into the discipleship of women in the church.

Then there is my friend and colleague Donna Dobbs, Director of Christian Education in the congregation I serve. I have the joy of working with Donna (and our faithful Director of Women's Ministry, Liz Griffin) in facilitating the discipleship of our women in the church. Donna is as solid as the day is long theologically and firmly complementarian, delights in the leadership of our elders, and is enthusiastic about the educational ministry of the church and committed to cultivating a women's ministry in the local church that complements and supports the work of the pastors, elders, and deacons, that nurtures and equips our women for growth and service, and that promotes a comprehensive biblical view of manhood and womanhood.

What have I learned from these gifted and godly women (and I wish I could tell you more about them, and others)? Well, first, I have seen the impact of their ministry to women multiplied in the women they have discipled as those women take up the torch of service and women's ministry in the local church and of Christian marriage and motherhood in the home. Second, I have seen in them the glorious results of pastors who invested in them, so that they were better equipped to invest in the women they discipled. For instance, I think of the way Gordon K. Reed and Paul Settle, two pastors of my home church (both of them widely respected evangelical leaders), invested in my mother, equipping her to better disciple other women in our church and in the wider Christian community. I reflect on how Glen Knecht and Mark Ross, truly extraordinary ministers, under and with whom my wife worked in Columbia, South Carolina, poured their wisdom, experience, and love for God and his people into Anne as she served with them. She was already wise, and they were God's instruments to make her even wiser, and how that investment has paid off in the lives of countless women and families! Third, I have seen in them a real, tangible, and practical love for the whole church. Their commitment is to a women's ministry that serves the interests of the whole body and results in blessing for the whole congregation. In other words, their approach to women's ministry is not consumer-oriented ("we deserve a ministry that focuses on us"), but kingdom-oriented ("how can we invest in women in a way that equips them as disciples, for their own spiritual maturation, for the good of the marriages and families of the church, for the betterment of the total ministry of the church, and for their life in the world?").

So, in a sense the reason I am coauthoring this book is because of godly women like Audrey Mae Ledford, Shirley Ledford Duncan, Anne Harley Duncan, Donna Dobbs, Liz Griffin, Susan Hunt, and more. I am the beneficiary of their spiritual maturity and service in the church, but as a shepherd I am also responsible for preparing women in the church like them for service in the church. I want to help encourage and equip women in the local church, and to help those women invest themselves in mentoring a new generation of women to serve in the church. But what this encouragement aims for our Christian women to do, and to what ends, is a vitally important (and disputed) matter today because of widespread confusion, even in evangelical churches.

On the one hand, some church leaders are so afraid of women assuming unbiblical roles in the church that they fail to equip them for the roles to which they have been indisputably called in the home and church. On the other hand, in the name of not squandering women's gifts and abilities, Christian women are often encouraged to take up unbiblical roles in the life of the church, even in Bible-believing congregations. For women's ministry in the local church to do the job of discipleship biblically will require the avoidance of both these errors.

For these reasons and more, I treasure the opportunity to address this subject, especially with a colleague who is a respected author and veteran leader in women's ministry, as well as a faithful wife, mother, and grandmother. It is vital that we get this right, for the sake of the health and witness of the local church.


It has taken thirty years for the Lord to prepare me to write this book. My husband and I were in our early thirties when we became part of a new denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, which was committed to the inerrancy of God's Word. (For information on the doctrinal standards and ecclesiology of the Presbyterian Church in America, visit We left a church that ordained women to the eldership and became part of a church that held to male headship. It was the 1970s. We were swimming against the theological and cultural current, but we knew it was right.

My involvement with women's ministry initially grew out of my husband's concerns and not my own zeal. He was the pastor of a new church, and the people attending were from a variety of theological backgrounds. Gene quickly realized the need for the church to provide discipleship and ministry opportunities for women that were consistent with our theological standards, integrated with the total life of the church, and under the oversight of the elders. He decided that we needed a weekly women's Bible study, and he wanted me to teach it. I had little passion for this because my ministry zeal was for children, but I agreed with his concern. As I experienced the wisdom of his decision, my passion for women's ministry slowly grew.

When our denomination was formed, the women's ministry was placed as a department of the Christian Education and Publications Committee. Strong foundations and purposes for this ministry were put in place. Fourteen years later, in 1987, the Christian Education Committee made the decision to hire a staff person to give increased direction to women's ministry. It was a timely and strategic decision. I am extremely grateful for the priority the male leadership gave to women's ministry and for the privilege they gave me to serve as director of this ministry. I approached this task with questions:

• What does the Bible say about womanhood?

• I know what women are not to do in the church, but what are we to do?

• How can the whole range of women's gifts be utilized without compromising male headship?

I was surrounded by a committee of godly women who were also committed to discovering the answers to these questions. We served under the guidance and oversight of the Christian Education Committee, and this ecclesiastical context gave us the safety and security to explore these questions with integrity. From the beginning of our pilgrimage to understand biblical womanhood, there were some non-negotiables:

• The authority of God's Word.

• The theological standards of our denomination.

• The ecclesiastical structure of our denomination.

I find great joy in the fact that we did not have a grand vision and strategy- but then again maybe we had the grandest of visions and strategies because we resolutely believed that our chief end is to glorify God, and that includes our pursuit to understand what Scripture says about womanhood and woman's place in the church. The vision and strategy grew as we studied God's Word.

As we surveyed the church, culture, and available resources, several things emerged:

• There were books that discussed a woman's relationship with Christ, but we could not find a clearly defined and articulated apologetic for biblical womanhood. At the same time, the culture was front and center with an apologetic that was antithetical to biblical truth.

• There were books that explained the theology of male headship, but we could not find books that helped women understand their relationships and responsibilities in God's family.

• The majority of models and resources for women's ministry were parachurch (a separate organization from the church), auxiliary (ministries focused on special projects), or counseling (ministries focused on the needs of individual women). We could not find women's ministry models and resources that were church-integrated and corporate-focused.

We were shocked to realize the silence of the evangelical church on this topic. It was clear that culture, not the church, was setting the agenda for women. We studied, talked, prayed, and wrote. The result is a biblical apologetic for womanhood that is set forth in a series of books and Bible studies for women called Biblical Foundations for Womanhood (see Resources below).

But a persistent question keeps popping up in my own mind and is frequently asked by others: Why should a church have a women's ministry?


Excerpted from "Women's Ministry in the Local Church"
by .
Copyright © 2006 J. Ligon Duncan III and Susan Hunt.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"What sets this book apart is not only the authors' careful thought but their compelling personal examples. The result is a deeply biblical yet intensely practical guide that will greatly benefit not only women, but pastors as well."
—C. J. Mahaney, Senior Pastor, Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville

"In this day and age, we need more courageous visionaries who seek to release women in ministry while honoring the complementarian framework of God's Word. This is a helpful resource for all who wish to join in this pursuit."
—Mary A. Kassian, author, Growing Grateful

"Women's Ministry is a biblically rich reflection of the authors' very thesis-when men and women humbly and joyfully complement each other's God-given roles and gifts, spiritual grace flows for the nurture of His Church."
—Peter A. Lillback, President, Westminster Theological Seminary

"Finally, Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt have given the church a clear theological framework from which to build an effective women's ministry."
—Randy Stinson, Senior Vice President for Academic Administration and Provost, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

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