On this LIVE edition Tony Marino and Pastors +Brian Whiteside, +Michael Duncan, and +Jeff Klick discuss “Discipleship: Why Women Leave the Church.” We team God’s Word with our latest book, “The Discipling Church.” Guest Panelists: +J.R. Miller (Dr. Joe Miller), +jason velotta, +Michelle Hollomon, and +Shawn Savage (Shawn & Caroline Savage).

Post-Show Notes

This is one of our best shows to date and following are a few thoughts that I wrote down while listening to all of our great panelists.

  1. Most of our discussion focused on how to respond to the Barna research that women are leaving the church.  Jeff and I both pointed out that we need to be wary of how we use these statistics as often they are misused or abused (see HERE for more on statistics).
  2. Regardless of how one views these stats, we need to remember the importance of treating each person as an individual NOT as a statistic.  Nothing bugs me more than pastors who get up on Sunday and preach a sermon in response to the latest survey.  Leaders… we are not preaching to surveys, we are preaching to people.  Our relationship with the congregation should feed our message, not a response to some meaningless statistic.  Preach to your people about your people.  And if you don’t know your congregation well enough to preach a message directly to them, you should not be preaching.
  3. Some women leave the church because they are not valued as leaders.  Church, we need to change. In the past, our congregations have been shaped more by the American culture of bias against women rather then by the revelation of God’s Word and the leading of His Spirit who has empowered women to lead.
  4. Women get burned out because too much of their perceived value is in how much stuff they can do for the church. As American society has changed, women have, for better or for worse, taken on more responsibilities outside the home. No longer do women “need” church as an outlet for their talents. So until the church learns to value women for who they are as human beings over what they can do, we will continue to lose them to the World.
  5. Women’s giftings are not fully valued, and often pastors expect them to do HIS ministry and not theirs.  
  6. Women are already empowered by the Spirit to do amazing things!  So women don’t need to be “allowed” or “empowered” by men.  What women need is recognition for what God is already doing in them and then they must be supported in their efforts to fulfill their calling. (NOTE: this is also why many men have left the church because they are marginalized simply because they do not have a “pastoral” gifting.)
  7. The church, as it is structured, values ministry more than the ministers.  I have seen it first hand where pastors run-over and burn-out people simply because he wants his “vision” to succeed.  True, eventually many great program are created, but often it is only at the expense of women, and men, who were brused, battered, and beaten along the way. Until we change the culture that says, “Wow, look how big that ministry is.” and become a church that says, “Wow, look how many great ministers there are.” we will continue to drive women away form church.
  8. Women are leaving the church because it is becoming less about a living-community and more about promoting pastors.  I know I wont make any friends here, but the entire movement to build “video venues” is an impersonal and dehumanizing effort to focus on building big churches rather than more relational churches.  Yes, video venues are successful because we live in a culture that is okay with looking at a TV screen, but the church is built for relationship with people; not pixels.
  9. The Living Word of Jesus Christ is the center of community, not the “Pastor” or his sermon. As long as the sermon is the focus of church, we will lose women.

Okay, I know I have stepped on some toes, but I welcome your push-back and input on anything you feel needs clarification.

Dr. Joe Miller (aka JR) is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. In addition, he is a church planter and coach for emerging leaders. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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