Can women teach men?

Dear Renea,

I was asked this question: “My friend wants to be a female youth pastor. Is that biblical?” How would you respond? Some churches, when a female is in charge, would call them a Youth Director while men would be called Youth Pastor. What would be the difference between the two besides the title? Does this come down to our culture’s definition of a man or the biblical definition of a man? Our culture says you are a man when you can drive (16), or when you can vote & join the military (18), or when you can drink (21), or just when you can pay your own bills. There’s no clear distinction. But there wasn’t an issue of adolesence in the Bible. You were a child then a young man who became responsible to God’s law. I would appreciate any help you can offer with this. If a woman leads the youth ministry are there limitations to her that are different than if a man lead the youth ministry?

Dear B,

Thanks for writing. It seems to me, based upon your short discussion of our culture’s lack of a rite of passage into adulthood, that you espouse the position that women should not teach men, at least in the church, or in doctrinal matters. So from your position, let’s think about how we must navigate where we draw that line. I would suggest that since in our culture becoming an adult is more of a years-long coming of age process than a one-time rite of passage at a particular age, that teenage boys and young men are in an in-between place where they need male authority figures in their lives so that they can learn how to be men. And as long as those male figures are not lacking, the teens’ opportunity to learn how to be men is not threatened by also having a woman in a leadership position.

A female Youth Pastor (or Director—I think you’re right that a change in title is only a way to try and appease nervousness about calling a woman a pastor and has very little to do with any actual differences in any day-to-day responsibilities) is still under the authority of the male Head Pastor. And if this is respected and communicated by words and actions to the students, the youth group’s young men and women will have an invaluable picture of what many believe the Scriptures intend for male and female roles and relationships within the church.

I hope that’s helpful. If you’re interested in a useful and respectful overview of the four basic views Christians hold on the issue of women in the church, check out Bonnidell and Robert Clouse’s Women in Ministry. You and your friend may wish to read it together since it’s quite possible your friend’s friend is coming from a different position on the matter; and if she is, understanding her position will help your friend have edifying and constructive conversation about it.

God bless.

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2 Responses to Can women teach men?

  1. Ginger says:

    Agreed. Touchy topic. We dance around it. In our ministry we determined balance was key. We had a male “Student Development Leader” and a female “Student Development Leader.” We alternated teaching weekends and on certain occasions would have all the guys outside with the male leader and all the girls inside with me. I have no plans to pursue becoming a Pastor – although it’s available in the denomination at that particular church. My heart and my passion are to speak to to young women – although I am content and charged by communicating the gospel whenever the opportunity is given.

    I feel like you handled the answer confidently and succinctly. Well done.

    • reneamac says:

      Thanks friend. 🙂 The best book I’ve read on the topic is William Webb’s Slaves, Women & Homosexuals. It’s a book on hermeneutics that suggests God’s constant and underlying “trajectory of redemption” should always be our guide. This helps us better determine which passages are universal and which are culturally bound with a solid hermeneutic as opposed to an arbitrary one.

      It was fun to answer this in a sort of out-of-body way because I do not hold the view that women should not teach men. I don’t have a theological issue with women as head pastors either; however, because of our gender-specific curses, I also take no issue with tipping the scales ever so slightly toward a, to use Webb’s phrase, “soft patriarchy.” For if we have the trajectory of redemption tip the scales, then perhaps we will one day find ourselves in a position to further embrace the curse-free life of Christ.

      Love to you, friend!

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