Should You Teach a Mixed Bible Study?
Should A Woman Teach a Mixed Adult Bible Study? Over the last few years, I have heard many different variations of the question about whether a woman should teach adult men and women in Bible study:
- Should a woman teach a mixed adult Bible study – a Sunday school class, Bible study, or small group?
- Is it okay as long as she co-teaches with her husband?
- Is it okay as long as she does it under the authority of her pastor and her husband?
- If she has the spiritual gift of teaching, why can’t a woman teach a class of men and women?
I think these are great questions when I hear them because it usually indicates that the woman desires to line up under the authority of Scripture, and she is just wrestling with how to apply the Bible faithfully to her life. So, before I take a stab at answering the above questions, let’s briefly see what the Bible has to say on the subject.
What Does the Bible Say?
Wouldn’t it be great if we could find an exhaustive list in Scripture of every possible teaching situation and a note about whether or not women should teach in those situations? You know something like: preaching in church – no; teaching children – yes; teaching a women’s Bible study – yes; etc. Unfortunately, you cannot find such a list anywhere in Scripture. However, the Bible gives us several principles to guide us in this discussion.
- In Titus 2:3-5, older women are encouraged and commanded to teach and train younger women. So, we do know that women should teach other women in church.
- In 1 Timothy 2:12, women are commanded not to teach or have authority over a man in the church. We know that Paul is referring specifically to the church because in 1 Tim. 3:15 he tells Timothy that he is writing the letter so that Timothy would know how people should conduct themselves in the “household of God.” So, this passage gives women two boundaries in the church – they are not to teach men or exercise authority over men in the church.
I have heard several people appeal to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 statement on the church (article 6) as warrant for why is it okay for women to teach a mixed Sunday school class. The article says, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture” (http://www.sbc.net/bfm/bfm2000.asp). Since only the office of pastor is mentioned as being restricted to men, some people have reasoned that women can do anything else in the church. What must be kept in mind is that the BF&M 2000 is not an exhaustive guide—it is a minimal statement upon which Baptist churches can agree. Because of the principle found in 1 Tim. 2:12, women should not serve as pastors because a pastor teaches men and exercises authority over men. However, that does not mean that women can serve in any other capacity in the church.
Applying the Principles
Keeping all of this in mind, let’s look at the specific questions I mentioned above:
1. Should a woman teach a mixed adult Bible study – a Sunday school class, Bible study, or small group? The answer to this question is “no” because a woman teaching in any of these settings in the church would be teaching men, and that is prohibited by 1 Tim. 2:12.
2. Is it okay as long as she co-teaches with her husband? Again, I would have to answer “no” to this question because even if she co-teaches with her husband, she is still teaching men even if it is only part of the time.
3. Is it okay as long as she does it under the authority of her pastor and her husband? If something is prohibited by Scripture, then a pastor or husband does not have the right to override the commandment or prohibition. Scripture, not any human authority, must be the final word.
4. If she has the spiritual gift of teaching, why can’t a woman teach a class of men and women? It is true that in the spiritual gifts lists found in Scripture, no gift is ever restricted by gender. However, just because a person has a certain spiritual gift, that does not mean that she can exercise it any way she would like. Women are given the gift of teaching to teach other women and children for the building up of the body of Christ. I am distressed when I hear women say that it is a “waste” of her gift if she is only allowed to teach women and children—women and children are a worthy investment!
What is at Stake?
Both men and women are created in God’s image. Just because God has given some distinctions in roles for men and women, that does not mean women are any less valued or any less important in His plan. God chose to make men and women different and chose to give distinctions in roles, specifically as it pertains to the church and the home, in order to teach important truths about His relationship to humanity. When we do things God’s way in regards to the way the church operates and in regards to the marriage relationship, a lost world should be able to see a picture of the gospel.
Christians must be committed to correctly handling that whole of Scripture; we cannot shy away from those passages that are difficult or uncomfortable. In our day and age, any passage that relates to gender roles is a hot button issue. While I understand that the position that I have outlined above is not popular, even among some Baptist churches, I do believe it is the biblical position.
Candi Finch serves as Assistant Professor of Theology in Women’s Studies at Southwestern and is nearing the end of her PhD studying systematic theology. She loves used book stores, getting to teach young women, and eating any food she doesn’t have to cook herself! Her secret ambition in life is to compete on Survivor or The Amazing Race. Connect with Candi on Facebook!