One of the most exciting things about 20schemes for me is this: whilst many churches in the UK are still debating the role of women in ministry, we not only have several women in key roles on our team here at Niddrie Community Church, but we’re also strategically and actively training the next generation of women’s workers. Now that is truly exciting!
I realise that I touched on this a couple weeks ago but, taking my cue from Scripture and using repetition to stress the weight of the point, I’m going to forge ahead. Sadly, many women in churches across the UK struggle with the everyday issues of life without support. If this is true broadly, it’s especially true among the poor. There are also many women in congregations who are spiritually mature yet aren’t given the opportunity to develop or use the gifts God has given them. Simply put, going on the tea/coffee rota alone just doesn’t cut it as a serious ministry opportunity (although it is a necessary and important task).
Women’s ministry is so much more than the role of the pastoral visitor or someone who runs the women’s meeting on a Tuesday afternoon. Again, these are important, but they are not the be all and end all when it comes to the kind of comprehensive women’s ministry needed in our churches and communities.
This post is not just for those in full-time vocational ministry either. We have a desperate need for good, godly, mature women in our congregations from all walks of life—including married women, single women, divorcees, and widows. Women of all stripes need to be speaking biblical truth and wisdom into one another’s lives in a variety of contexts.
Tragically, far too often what passes for ministry among women is events driven and rarely discipleship focused. We entertain our women well and teach them well but the whole thing is clinical, schedule-driven, and detached. It’s involvement without serious cost to self. But real discipleship is time consuming, invasive, and costly.
Many women fear speaking the hard truth in love for fear of causing offence. We need women with a passion for Jesus, a firm grip of solid biblical theology and doctrine, and who know how to speak fearlessly and boldly into the mess of modern-day women’s lives.
I want to share a few ways we train women here at 20schemes in the hope that this might be helpful as you think about training and raising up women in your context, whatever that may be.
The Role of Women Within 20schemes
Indigenous interns play an integral role in our churches in Scotland’s schemes. As local converts, they understand scheme dynamics and serve as living testimonies of how God saves sinners. It’s a powerful apologetic to see somebody you know being transformed by the gospel.
Schemes are tight, close-knit communities. There are many families who’ve lived in Niddrie for over a century! Therefore, indigenous Christians don’t have to work to open doors because they are already part of the community. What they lack is the theological and biblical knowledge that we can easily teach them.
20schemes training takes a three-pronged approach to personal and spiritual development:
1. Biblical Knowledge
2. Christian Character
3. Practical Experience
20schemes indigenous interns spend a minimum of one year, and a maximum of two, training with us. They take part in every aspect of church and community life. They are mentored, supported, challenged, and assessed. We take the time to prepare them for the next stage of either full-time work or vocational ministry. We want to encourage spiritual growth in community and afford them opportunities to develop their gifts.
For those who go on to pursue further ministry, our training becomes much more focused. We train these women specifically in all aspects of women’s ministry. They can then apply for a ‘female gospel worker’ role with us. This training is more intense, focused, and contextualised. Women need to be properly prepared to deal with the realities they will face from a solid, biblical perspective.
Female Gospel Workers
As I’ve already stated, this is an integral role to the church-planting strategy—mature women who are willing to commit to move into schemes long-term as part of a team. New believers need to know God’s design for them. They need to know what a biblical woman looks like and how God expects her to think, behave, and act. When mentoring new believers, we want to have good Bible study, accountability, and lots of prayer. We need to spend time with new believers. We need to model maturity and teach them what godly living looks like in all aspects of life.
In Christian circles, we’re used to set formats of once-a-week Bible study and prayer, but that’s simply not enough (I want to say ‘in the schemes’ but, in truth, I’m not convinced that only meeting once a week in any context actually enables anyone to get beyond the surface things in life). If the new believer has to leave behind close friendships that are almost as tight as family bonds—friends who are in each other’s houses daily, texting constantly, doing life together—then in schemes we have to offer something more intimate, more involved, and more connected to everyday life than a once-a-week mentoring session. Authentic community is key.
When a woman comes on as a female gospel worker, we’ll help her develop intentional relationships in the community, lead Bible studies, engage in one-to-one relationships, train the next potential indigenous interns, develop needed programmes, and take part in existing community projects as she serves and witnesses within her community. 20schemes provides training, mentoring, and support along the way so that there will be someone to answer the, What do I do when? questions.
Is this approach to women’s ministry important? I believe it’s a necessity in every congregation and setting. In schemes, because the need is multifaceted and complex, it can be all too easy for Christians to avoid the spiritual and focus on the physical. Yet most of the women living in our poorest communities are suffering without the hope of the gospel. They haven’t heard the good news that can set them free from the burden of their sin.
Women in the schemes need more than women ‘parachuting in’ to be another worker in their life, perpetuating dependency. They need women who will do life with them every day. It’s scary, it’s sacrificial, it’s heart breaking, it’s hard—it’s committed, it’s glorious, it’s funny, it’s amazing, it’s joyous, and it’s worth it!
The harvest is great and the workers are few.
Support the work of our indigenous interns and help take the gospel to the women of Scotland’s schemes.