By Megan Rawlings
As a young girl, I always wanted to be just like my mom. Whether it was cutting jeans into shorts, teasing my bangs, or thanking veterans in the grocery store, if she did it, so did I. One time, I saw Mom get eye level with a homeless man, hand him a sandwich, and say, “Jesus loves you.” That moment—the small act of telling a nameless person about the love of God—cemented the woman I wanted to be.
At the age of 3, “Jesus loves you” was my mantra. I wasn’t a prodigy of the Primary Department. I said it because I wanted to be like my mom.
When a father converts to Christianity, his household will follow suit 9 out of 10 times. But research also reveals the undeniable impact of mothers.
According to Barna, nearly 90 percent of teens say they go to their mothers with questions about the Christian faith, 88 percent quiz their moms about the Bible, and 98 percent say their moms are the ones who encourage them to go to church. It is not surprising, then, that the American church is predominantly made up of women.
“On any given Sunday,” says Pew Research, “there are 13,000,000 more adult women than men in America’s churches.” That means nearly 75 percent of church is made up of women.
So, hooray for Christian women! But there’s an unsettling aspect to all this.
The vast majority of women, like many Christians today, are biblically illiterate. Women need to spend more time studying the Bible. A sermon or two a week will not equip women for the challenge at hand.
While many churches supplement their education ministry with Bible studies specifically for women, these gatherings tend not to dive deeply into Bible teaching, but gravitate toward being engaging devotionals that serve up practical advice.
What can we do when 7 in 10 teenagers are leaving the church after graduation? If we are not able to understand, defend, and explain Scripture for those coming to us with questions, we cannot expect the church to grow or for young people to remain in the faith. We need to have answers for their questions so they will be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks them to give the reason for the hope they have (1 Peter 3:15).
This puzzling dilemma reminded me of something else my mama taught me: Don’t bring up a problem unless you are ready to offer a solution. So, here are three ways the church can help women develop in their biblical literacy.
1. Encourage Women to Study the Bible Daily
Beyond merely reading the Bible, women must actually study it until they are comfortable explaining it.
As an example, women’s ministries should choose a specific Bible book to focus on. But before diving in, they should consider the context of the book by asking these questions: “Who wrote it?” “To whom was it written?” and “Why was it written?” Knowing these things will lead to more accurate, effective learning.
Women should be taught to ask the three “whats”: (1) What does this passage say about God? (2) What does this passage say about people? (3) What does this passage ask of me?
Churches should encourage everyone to invest in a respected study Bible. The footnotes often provide great insights.
2. Encourage Women to Read Good Commentaries and Books on Apologetics
This idea is seldom popular with women. When I suggest reading commentaries and logical arguments in defense of the faith, I’m often told, “That’s not my thing.” I understand that. Nonetheless, research shows the more you study something, the more passionate you become about that topic. Getting started is difficult, but with enough encouragement, a number of women may make a habit of it and churches and families will be stronger for it.
3. Encourage Women to Find Accountability Partners or Groups
These groups will consist of women who pray with, study with, and encourage each other. I have been blessed over the years to have faithful Christians around me who have recommended resources and helped me to study. Finding such a partner or group can be tough and will take patience, but pray, and when God sees fit, he will send them to you. Until then, lean into God more than usual.
I know this sounds like a lot of time and work (because it is!), but if you truly believe in the gospel and have decided to make God the King of your heart, these steps are essential.
Women, we must study hard to fulfill our roles in the kingdom. The fate of our families and the church may depend on it.
Megan Rawlings is the founder and CEO of The Bold Movement. She is an Enneagram 3, pastor’s wife, and lover of the Scriptures.