by Dr. Joye Baker, adjunct professor and women’s advisor of educational ministries and leadership, Dallas Theological Seminary
“Why train women?” The better question is, “Why not train women?” My thoughts immediately go to the New Testament book of Titus. Paul writes this letter to Titus, a younger man Paul has discipled, instructing Titus to plant churches in every city on the island of Crete. (Titus 1:5) Paul emphasizes the importance of establishing leaders to serve in the church. First, he lists the qualifications of elders and deacons. (Titus 1:6-16) Then he turns to the importance of identifying spiritually mature men and women who will equip younger men and women to help carry out the various ministries of the local church.
In Titus 2:3-5, Paul focuses on the need to teach and to train women. From this we know that Paul believes that women are an integral part of God’s plan to impact the world with the gospel. And because of this, he recognizes that women need to be adequately equipped “so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” (Titus 2:5). In these final words, Paul answers our question. Women need to be trained so that their lives will honor God and further his plan in the world.
I began my journey as a Christ-follower at the age of 25, two years after I married my late husband. We joined a Bible-focused church, started our family, and hungered to grow spiritually. As a stay-at-home mom, I used my background as an elementary school teacher to serve in the children’s ministry. But at the same time my last child began school, God heightened my awareness of the needs of the women in the church. Like me, many of them wanted to grow spiritually, which led me to eventually start a women’s ministry in the church.
The next 20 years were filled with the blessings of seeing women deepen their relationship with God, discover their gifts, grow in confidence and step into leadership roles. This came through their participation in Bible studies, women’s events, mentoring relationships and service opportunities.
It became clear to me that women have great potential to contribute in significant ways to God’s mission to reach the world for Christ. And they want to be used by God to further his purposes. This has been his plan from the beginning, when it states in the creation account, “God blessed them [male and female]; and God said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over ... every living thing that moves on the earth.’” (Gen 1:28) Women are called to partner alongside men in leadership responsibilities. In order to be effective leaders, women need adequate training to fulfill God’s plan.
These truths led me to Dallas Seminary. At the time, I had been a widow for seven years, having tragically lost my husband in a car accident after 18 years of marriage. My years of serving in the local church planted a seed in my heart to dedicate my life to equip women and fulfill the Titus 2 mandate. As I sent my youngest son off to college, I began my master’s degree at DTS. I knew there was so much more I needed to learn in order to pursue a life of ministry.
The mission of Dallas Seminary is “to glorify God by equipping godly servant-leaders for the proclamation of His Word and the building up of the body of Christ worldwide.” DTS welcomes women as well as men because they understand that women need biblical and theological training as much as men do.
It was my intent to receive my MACE and return to ministry with women in the local church. But God had other plans for my life which involved additional training—a Doctor of Ministry degree. That equipped me to join the faculty at DTS with a focus on equipping women so they can adequately fulfill God’s purpose in each of their lives. My nine years of study at DTS prepared me to teach and train women. As I now complete 16 years teaching at the seminary, I have had the privilege of preparing women to serve around the world. Most would not have had the opportunities they have without the training they received in seminary.
Taking training to Russian women
My years of study also opened the opportunity for me to join an American team of seminary-trained women to travel to Moscow, Russia, twice a year for six years to train 21 selected Russian women in effective ways to minister to women. These women came in groups of three from seven regions in Russia. We used curriculum originally written by Biblical Education by Extension, one branch of which is now known as Entrust. Our sending organization was East-West Ministries.
This was a discipleship training in which the students made a commitment to return to their regions to establish regional training centers which would reproduce the training in the lives of more Russian women. When the regional training was completed, the students continued in groups of three and reproduced the training in local training centers. The multiplication process continued with the newly equipped women establishing city centers. Currently over 1,000 women, who live in more than 80 cities throughout Russia, have been trained. And the training is ongoing to this day. This training model is patterned after Jesus and his extended investment of time with 12 selected men who were then sent out to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world.
We receive reports regularly of how God is strategically using all these trained women to minister to the needs of growing numbers of Russian women. They are also able to serve alongside their pastors to reach their country with the love and hope of Christ. The training has enabled the Russian women to see women in their communities come to faith, grow in their faith and then be equipped to impact their families, neighbors and co-workers. The same training model has continued in other countries.
“Why train women?” The answer is clear: It is biblically mandated, it equips women to develop and use their God-given gifts, it impacts the lives of those touched by trained women and enhances God’s plan to reach the world for Christ. I am so grateful for the training I have received through the years. It has opened doors of ministry opportunities not only for me but has been multiplied in the lives of many women who now are equipped to be used by God around the world.