By Ericka Andersen, Crosswalk.com
Women are of great significance in the story of Jesus. It’s no accident that Mary Magdalene was the first to see a resurrected Savior. Nor is it just a coincidence that Jesus had close female friends, like Mary and Martha.
He demonstrated His great mercy and love in the stories of the Samaritan woman and the woman who had been bleeding for many years. God also empowered the stories of women like Ruth, Deborah, and Rahab, giving each of them a place in Scripture.
Women and the Church
Jesus presents a clear message to His followers: women have a place in His story. A primary place where the story of Christianity unfolds today is in the local church.
While we are all members of the global body of believers known as the Church, the local church is a specific outbreak of that larger entity. Women have a special and important place within these community groups.
Because churches have historically been more male-focused, it’s important to illuminate the particular reasons women have vital roles to play too.
It’s not that churches intentionally neglect women, but when head pastors and leadership teams are mainly male-centered, there may be a gap to fill.
Christian women are now leaving the local church at higher rates than ever before, so now is the time to identify why and demonstrate to them that they are needed and valued.
While doing research for my upcoming book, Reason to Return: Why Women Need the Church and the Church Needs Women, I discovered that women are leaving for a variety of reasons, including busyness, disillusionment, past church hurt, loss of faith, and even just frustration with finding the right community for them.
As I dug into the statistics, it became clear that many women have felt unheard and that some misunderstand the point of the local church altogether. That’s why we must remind them of the crucial reasons that the local church should be an integral part of their lives.
Here are a few reasons why women need the local church:
1. It is the foundation of spiritual wellness. We often assess our physical and mental health, but how often do we prioritize our spiritual health? And yet, this is a vital component of holistic health for both women and men.
Sometimes, women think they can’t fit “one more thing” into their schedule. However, when they shift things around to ensure that participation in the faith community of the local church is a priority, the rest of life will fall into place around it.
2. It generates necessary vulnerability. COVID-19 gave people an excuse to watch church online or opt-out altogether. It disconnected us even further from those who might provide spiritual care, prayer, and encouragement.
Embodied community has a powerful effect on us, and we are not going to be cared for well if we aren’t showing up in this way. Presence also generates vulnerability, which is so important for emotional health and the ability to process what we’re going through.
3. It is a place to process, grieve, and question. Some women attended churches in the past that silenced their questions or delivered pat answers to their grief or doubt.
It’s so important for women to find a church space where they can be honest and authentic in their faith walk. This leads to further knowledge of God and the opportunity to be discipled by more experienced believers, which is one of the most important aspects of the local church.
4. It is an opportunity to model faith practices for our children. One of the most important parts of regular church attendance is the ability to model consistent faith practices for our children.
Going to church isn’t everything, but it’s one foundational way to show commitment and cultivate foundational patterns of security for when hard times come.
Children who attend church regularly fare better in mental health and are also more likely to choose Christianity as their lifelong religion as teenagers.
5. It shapes us into better humans. Women who attend church services are more likely to donate money, volunteer, and help others in a variety of ways.
Church reminds us of the needs of our fellow humans and, in turn, generates systems of tangible love and generosity. Going to church is one way to ensure that you are attuned to the needs of the community so that you can proactively show the love of Jesus to those around you.
Women and the Body of Christ
There are many more reasons beyond these why the local church is beneficial to women. And we are called to this community as members of “one body” (Romans 12:5). If any Christian is absent from the local church, the body will not work at its greatest capacity in society.
God calls us together to be led and discipled, to gather and encourage. Women are half the human race and just as important to the body as men.
God bestowed on women the greatest privilege (beyond salvation) of being able to give birth, mother, and nurture the next generation.
The Church would be far worse without the unique contributions and perspectives of women. In turn, women will sorely lack the wisdom, resources, and community that God provides within the context of the local church if they are not there.
Ericka Andersen is the author of Reason to Return: Why Women Need the Church and the Church Needs Women, available for preorder now.
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Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/myshkovsky
Ericka Andersen is the author of Reason to Return: Why Women Need the Church and the Church Needs Women.