Gender, Women, and Ministry

This is Part 6 in a six-part series on [cf]’s emphases and distinctives. See Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

We recognize that historically, Christian ministries have debated the issue of women in Christian leadership, and that this is an issue important to both men and women. We therefore wanted to present our case in brief below, so that people know what we believe and what questions to ask us.

Theology: We support women and men in ministry and leadership at all levels, as do InterVarsity and the InterVarsity Chaplains. We believe that women and men differ, but that the Bible does not supply gender roles.

Biblical basis: From creation, the God who speaks invested women with His image and called them to bear it (Gen.1:26 – 28). Israel recognized God’s call on women to be formal leaders in the community, notably to speak and proclaim His word (Ex.15:20; Judg.4:4; 2 Ki.24:14; Isa.8:3; Pr.1:8). Israel looked ahead to the messianic day when God would invest women with the Spirit of God as much as men to speak forth the word of God as God intended from creation (Joel 2:28 – 29). Jesus inaugurated that new creation, honoring women as witnesses of his incarnation, life, death, and resurrection, even at times commissioning the women to bear a word of life to the male disciples (Luke 24:1 – 12, John 20:11 – 18), with women as his very first witnesses to his incarnation and resurrection, even when the legal testimony of women was not considered independently valid in courts. True to Israel’s prophetic hope, he poured out his Spirit on women (thus, Simon Peter quoted Joel 2:28 – 29 in Acts 2:17 – 18), making them apostles (Rom.16:7), deacons (Rom.16:1 – 2), and leaders in the church; and the early church carried on this tradition.

The name Jesus gave us for the Triune God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Mt.28:19)–and we know that Jesus perfectly reveals God to us, so we do not change or avoid using these terms. We also recognize that God is not gendered in the same way that humans are gendered: He is neither exclusively male nor exclusively female. Consistent with investing women with His image, God employs feminine imagery to describe Himself. God’s wisdom is spoken of as a desirable woman (Pr.8), and is manifested as an actual, godly wife (Pr.31), thus demonstrating that God is happy to portray himself as female in relation to us (he is the desirable wife, we the amorous husband, through the wisdom motif), even though the opposite literary imagery occurs more frequently (he is the husband, we the wife; he is the father, we the children). God is spoken of as having pains in childbirth (Isa.42:14), having a womb (Job 38:29), being a nursing mother (Isa.49:15), and serving as a midwife (Ps.22:9 – 10, Ps.71:6, Isa.66:9). Jesus spoke of his own ministry with the parable of a woman seeking her lost coin (Lk.15:8 – 10). God also used for himself imagery of female animals nurturing their young: a mother eagle (Dt.32:11), bear (Hos.13:8), and hen (Lk.13:34).

Men’s roles and masculine characteristics of God can and should be addressed in this way, but we do not think that this is one of our distinctives at this time.

Practice: Women and men have much to teach each other, on topics related to gender and beyond. Though most of HRCF ministries are co-ed, we engage in and affirm places for gender-specific ministry – with equal opportunities and support for men and for women, as we are able. We affirm women in all levels of leadership in HRCF.

Women's ministry logo parody from InterVarsity's 2100 productions

Women’s ministry logo parody from InterVarsity’s 2100 productions

Men's ministry logo parody from InterVarsity's 2100 productions

Men’s ministry logo parody from InterVarsity’s 2100 productions

Sometimes we Christians are a bit funny about gender and ministry. So laugh with us and these parodies of women’s and men’s ministry logos. If you like the graphics, check out 2100 Productions or their Facebook page.  


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Student Leadership

Jacob’s probably leading a game of mafia in this picture…but it sure looks important.

This is Part 5 in a six-part series on [cf]’s emphases and distinctives. See Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 4.

Theology: We believe that student leadership on campus is important because Jesus develops people by giving them actual responsibilities to serve, lead, and teach others. The student years are an excellent time to participate in advancing God’s kingdom now and develop those leadership skills for the future. Leadership provides students with the much-needed training to continue in Jesus’ mission to the world long after graduation. Many HRCF alumni (and more broadly, alumni of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship) have already publicly expressed gratitude for the experiences and training they received while students.

Biblical basis: Jesus said, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…’ (Mt.28:19 – 20) When Jesus said this, he was telling his disciples to teach others what he taught them, as they called others to also become disciples of Jesus. We believe that this responsibility falls not simply on pastors or professional campus ministers, but on all Jesus’ disciples, including students (cf. 2 Cor.3:1 – 3; 1 Th.1:6 – 8; 1 Tim.4:12).

Practice: Learning to shepherd others is a great journey. We train student leaders to lead in all aspects of the life of the fellowship.

Student leaders, especially bible study leaders, are trained to appreciate the cultural, historical, literary, and theological background to the passages we cover and the principles we follow. In a small group Bible study, student leaders come prepared to guide other students if they get stuck in the passage.  The focus is on accurately grasping the biblical text and the overall biblical story, and then responding with actions appropriate to the passage.

We also train students to be evangelists: to know and to articulate the reasons for their belief, tell the story of their faith journey, and witness relationally and intellectually. We train students to acknowledge and articulate how faith informs their lives.

Students lead worship, and we work to train student worship team leaders who will remind others of the spiritual importance of worship, the cultural aspects of music and the attentiveness necessary to work with a variety of song and worship-leading styles.

We train exec team members to care for the whole fellowship and to develop student leaders within the fellowship. Exec members also are trained to develop and articulate the vision of CF, to be strategic, choose content, and develop relationships within and outside of the fellowship. Student leaders grow in skills and character qualities. They work to understand and articulate their faith. They become better listeners than they were before. They grow in empathy, compassion, and patience. In short, they become better leaders, thinkers, speakers, friends, and better disciples of Jesus. Just as when the twelve disciples helped Jesus feed the five thousand (Mt.14:17 – 21), their baskets are fuller than when they started.