May a woman teach English to a man in the context of a church ministry?

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Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
There is at least one illiterate man in the church in Cape Town that I attend. Recently, our Bible study group dialogued with a female missionary who proposed her training and materials as a way to equip some in the congregation to teach English as a second language. The language-learning material includes some Gospel truths such as Bible verses and the 'Roman Road' is presented on in the inside back cover.

I can see four possible problems with women being teachers of English in the context of the church. Are any of these valid?

1. A woman would be teaching a man as part of a recognized ministry of the church.
2. A woman would be teaching a man spiritual matters because they are included in the course material.
3. A woman could be spending one-on-one time with a man.
4. This is Africa. Would an African man accept the teaching of a woman? (TimV chime in here!)

By the way, I wholeheartedly support the notion of teaching people to read, so they can feed upon God's Word. I just think that if there are scriptural guidelines for such a ministry, we need to follow these too. At the very least, I think this should be conducted under diaconal oversight.

Thoughts?
 

Montanablue

Puritan Board Doctor
I see absolutely no problem with a woman teaching a man English - or any other other non-biblical subject - even in the context of a church. I'm unsure how one would interpret Scripture to mean this. I've attended several churches where teaching or classes were offered (to both members and non-members) as a means of fellowship and ministry. For instance, cooking, woodworking, sewing, etc. I think its a nice way for members to share their talents to help others within their church body and to reach out to the community. As you noted, teaching English is especially valuable. Not only does it enable individuals to attend an English speaking church in a place where it might be hard to find worship in their own language, but it also enables them to survive in an English speaking country - I don't know about SA, but in the US, we're pretty unforgiving of people who don't speak our language. Learning English is a must for surviving in this country!

Having said that, I can see some potential issues with your situation.

1. A woman would be teaching a man as part of a recognized ministry of the church
Again, I don't see a problem with this, as long as she's not teaching him the Bible.

2. A woman would be teaching a man spiritual matters because they are included in the course material.
This does get a little muddy. On one hand, I don't think anyone would say that a woman should never witness to a man or tell him about Christianity. (At least, I hope not!) However, since it is being done in a church context, I can understand how it might get confusing. Will she actually be "preaching" or "teaching" to him, or will it be more of a discussion? I often have spiritual and theological discussions with males (on PB, in fact!) and I think this is very different than the type of "teaching" that Paul speaks about. If your church still finds the notion of her sharing Christ with him worrying, than one possible solution is to have a deacon or elder - or another willing male member of the church participate in the lessons, and particularly help out with the biblical parts of the lesson. This would be much better than not teaching him at all.

3. A woman could be spending one-on-one time with a man.
This only seems a problem if they are alone in a secluded venue - which is an easy problem to fix. A coffee shop or other public area could be used as a lesson space. Or, if the church did have a male member of the congregation assist, the problem is also easy dealt with.

4. This is Africa. Would an African man accept the teaching of a woman?
I can't speak to this at all, but it seems like something you would definitely want to consider.

I just realized that I've typed quite a bit! I hope I haven't come off as heavy handed, but as someone who used to teach ESL through her church, I'm quite passionate about this subject. Its a wonderful way to show Christ's love to a fellow human being, and I would really hate to see a church decide not to do this because they were worried about the propriety of a female teacher. If that is something they are concerned with, I think there are plenty of ways to deal with the concerns without giving up the classes altogether.
 

Knoxienne

Puritan Board Graduate
I agree with Kathleen that it wouldn't be good for them to be alone together -but that's with any situation unless they're married or relatives. That doesn't mean anyone would try anything - just that we're not to give an appearance of evil or leave any room for temptation.

By the time I was in college, I studied quite a few languages, including Italian and had gotten efficient enough at it to tutor an older gentleman whose wife my mom was friends with. He and his wife were planning a trip and he just needed some basic skills for communication in the language. He just came to our house a couple of nights a week and my mom was there, so it was no big deal. It was a lot of fun and I made some pocket change.

As long as we're not instructing men in scripture (as in a course or a lecture, etc) I don't see a problem with teaching another skill or subject - with others in the house (or the church building)

BTW, I don't consider regular conversations with men about the Lord (and sharing our point of view and knowledge) teaching scripture - just so no one misunderstands. :)
 

Timothy William

Puritan Board Junior
I wouldn't have a problem with a woman teaching a man in such circumstances. Even if, as part of the course, they were using the Bible or other religious works as material, I don't think that a woman teaching a man to read the Bible implies her having spiritual authority over him, so I wouldn't have a problem with it.
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
4. This is Africa. Would an African man accept the teaching of a woman? (TimV chime in here!)
There are reams one could write on this subject, but since one practical point has already been made, SOME of what we in the West call rape is allowed under Bantu culture. I remember writing a guy up for leaving a bruise on a woman of mixed ancestry when she complained, and the Bantu all became very disappointed in me, even some who'd really liked me.

In general, though, with Bantu it's a question of respect for qualification and status. A woman nurse for instance is accorded the same respect as a male nurse. So women teaching men isn't a problem. Even within their culture women very often take leadership roles.

As to the point, there are many variables, so perhaps we can get specific by asking about the world view of the woman missionary under consideration. How does she feel about women teaching men Christianity? After all, her beliefs are going to influence how she teaches.
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
I made a mistake in my original post. I meant to say, "teach how to read", not "teach ESL". It makes little difference on the issue, but I just wanted to correct what I wrote.
 

OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
As long as she is teaching English concepts and not Biblical concepts, I see no problem. Perhaps she could have a male oversight. I don't see how "being alone" with a male would be a problem either since this would be impractical (expect for those who need more instruction on a one to one bases). Teaching a group of men would be more practical at least time wise.
 
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