My experiences with Christian women in church and campus ministries

A friend of mine sent me some horror stories from his time dealing with single Christian women during seminary, and I thought I would write something about the horror stories from my experiences with single Christian women in campus ministries during my BS and MS programs, and in several evangelical churches that I attended in my 20s.

The biggest problem I’ve had with unmarried Christian women in college and in church is that it is impossible to impress them by being a competent, effective Christian man. Every skill and ability that seems to me to be useful and effective for the kingdom (or for marriage) seems to cut no ice with them. I had women in my youth group, in IVCF and in Campus Crusade have told me that being an engineer is bad, being chaste is bad, not drinking is bad, talking too much about apologetics is bad, and especially trying to get them to learn apologetics – that was really, really bad. They hated that. And forget trying to talk to them about abortion and homosexuality. They were very proud to be non-judgmental. It was a badge of honor, saying “I don’t judge” as if they were saying “I am good person”.

Everything that you might think makes sense for a man to be skilled at from a marriage point of view is viewed as creepy and weird by these church/campus-club unmarried Christian women, in my experience. I am a colored guy, so I always put their messed up standards down to the fact that I was colored and therefore was not allowed to talk to them, period. I was also surprised to see how little the command to “love your neighbor” was implemented by the unmarried Christian women. Here I was, struggling through a tough engineering program, and obviously coming from an unchurched background, yet these woman never had a supportive word for me. My interests in theology and apologetics and moral issues and politics were viewed by them with suspicion.

In retrospect, I would say the biggest argument against God’s existence I ever faced was the complete disconnect between what these women professed and how they treated others.

There was one exception. When I was a teen, I had an older college student mentor me and she helped me pick up my grades – especially in English. She eventually fell away from her faith (she was a cradle Catholic). But other than her, I basically was in my mid-30s before I met a Christian woman who had any respect for me because of the things that I could do as a Christian. And that was after over a decade of donations, organizing, training, mentoring, apologetics, etc. By that time, I had my BS and MS and a boatload of savings, and yet up till then, no unmarried Christian woman had ever given me the time of day. I was sort of stuck looking to white Christian women for validation, because most colored girls are liberal. But what I found is that they had no standard in their worldview that I could be graded against favorably, other than physical appearance.

That was the scariest thing for me, to find out that there was no worldview there that distinguished between William Lane Craig and Jim Wallis, for example. There was just the outward appearance – that was the sole criterion that unmarried Christian women were using to decide whether a man had value or not. And their agenda for men was never a mentoring/discipling agenda. It was the standard secular boyfriend agenda. And very often, they chose standard secular boyfriends for that agenda. I later found out that they found men with definite moral positions and definite apologetics ability intimidating. Any man with fixed, entrenched positions – either about truth or moral issues – frightened them.

Even now, I find this such a weird thing, because in my own life, I act as a mentor to younger Christians regardless of their appearance or other such criteria. Mentoring other Christians is what Christians ought to be doing! I mentor about a dozen promising young Christians (women and men) in different countries. On a given night, you’ll find me reading something they asked me to read, sending them links to evidence to help them argue, proof-reading their essays, buying them books, hearing about their school assignments, picking their elective courses, or ordering them not to take the summer off and to work instead, etc. Right now, I have two of my experienced pro-life friends helping one of them take over a pro-life club at a university. Another of my friends who does Internet consulting is helping another friend start his web site. And so on, with me or my friends mentoring other Christians just for the sake of honoring that command to love others upward. It doesn’t even matter how great the person is right now, because we mentor Christians at all levels of ability. No one is left out, and no oneis turned down.

But this idea that other Christians have value simply because they are Christians was NOWHERE to be found among unmarried Christian women when I was in university and in my 20s. It’s totally foreign to them that Christianity imposes those mentoring/discipling obligations on them, regardless of appearances. They are feelings-driven, not obligation-driven. They are concerned with their own agenda, and not looking to God to see what he wants them to do for their fellow Christians.

I was always the same Wintery Knight back them as I am today, just at an earlier stage of development, and yet no unmarried Christian women in the church or in a campus Christian ministry gave me so much as an affirming glance while I was working out my plans. In fact, church women often stood in the way of things I tried to do, like bring in professors to speak at IVCF or show William Lane Craig debates at Campus Crusade. Focusing on evidential issues was deemed “too divisive”. It was prayer walks, hymn sings and testimonies by postmodern relativists every week. I learned not to count on unmarried Christian women for support of any kind for the things I was trying to do. No matter how good the things I wanted to do were, they always had a reason why I shouldn’t be allowed to do them.

I am always surprised when I meet a woman and she wants me to read the Bible, or read a book, or do anything like that. (That actually happened to me again last week!) I’ve had a handful of women do that to me in my whole life. Unmarried Christian women are, in my experience, running a very secular playbook, making decisions about how to treat others from their feelings. And then if you question them about it, they attribute their feelings to the work of the Holy Spirit. You don’t really see how bad it is until you hear them tell you that God told them to move in with the atheist guy, etc. It’s striking to me how far the Holy-Spirit-wrapping of their feelings goes, and yet they don’t see a problem with it. I think the answer to this problem is that we really need to help women to think through their worldview and think about how to act on Christian convictions with other people, and men in particular, and men who are committed to building the Kingdom effectively and intelligently above all others.

25 thoughts on “My experiences with Christian women in church and campus ministries”

  1. I’m probably the opposite of you, Wintery Knight: I’m a wishy-washy liberal. I’ve thought Christian women would like the opposite of me: the confident manly men who know what they believe and why, and aren’t afraid to tell people what they think. After reading your post, I wonder what characteristics they look for in a man (not that we can generalize).

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  2. WK,
    I think one of your biggest missteps was to get involved with Cru and think that you were going to find a lot of people who were very serious about theology and their faith. My experience was that most there were the opposite and it starts from the top down in that organization.

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  3. As a former liberal minded person, it still pains me to say that maybe women are the “weaker vessel” in some ways. The traits that make women more apt to raising children and taking the lead role in running the house might be inappropriate to lead in the church or instructing other men. Obviously there are exceptions to this, there are certainly some women who are much better leaders and teachers than some men; I personally know a few. However, by and large it’s just not the case. I, and I think the Bible, affirm women’s equality in value and in salvation, but we were designed for different roles.

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    1. “But we were designed for different roles.”
      The bible affirms that as well, the feminization of not only the church, but of Western society as well proves Paul’s point.

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  4. Just out of curiosity, have any married Christian women been supportive of your ministries? Like pastor’s wives or elderly, wise Christian women, etc? I have met some Christian women, of a certain age, who were pretty much truth warriors. Usually they are married to very strong Christian men, of course. And they aren’t younger than 60 either.

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    1. Yes, married Christian women are completely different. They are supportive of me and affirming of me, and some even help with story tips or with vetting women I am courting or with reference letters to women I am courting.

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  5. When I was in my late 20′s, I was involved in our church’s single ministry. I went through some very frustrating experiences in the dating scene, as the courtship movement was in full swing. What I found was that the courtship model was as confusing as dating and inevitably caught me in a web of legalism. I was treated negatively by both guys and girls who did not approve of my failure to follow “the rules” concerning male-female interaction. I finally had my fill and withdrew from the class due to my guilt and frustration. Only a few years later, I discovered that I labored under the yoke of false piety. The bottom line is that finding one’s life partner is hard at times, even in the realm of Christian family.

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  6. WK, I wonder if one thing you are running into is…well, I don’t want to say BAD parenting, but most Christian parents aren’t looking to the Bible in raising their daughters, but what the world expects. If we are honest, we’ll admit this is easy to do, especially for parents fearing that their child will end up impoverished due to the inability to get a job. So the daughters are pushed towards college, no matter what inclination toward marriage the daughter shows, even if it is very strong. I could tell you quite a few stories of this type, a few of which have ended very sadly. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with women going to college, of course, but that college and a career is the primary focus given to young women seems to fall into the “not bright” category. Again, I can understand, in a way—my parents did the same, with Mom saying, “I don’t want you to end up poor or afraid to leave an abusive husband because you can’t get a job”, though Dad was more sympathetic—but IMO parents neglect to look at this Biblically and remind/teach their daughters what God expects and desires of them. Even if the woman *wants* to marry, support her husband, and raise a family with him, her parents may well be pushing against that, and this is one thing you’re very likely to be running into, Christian family or no. (Please note I do not agree with this method of raising children, I’m simply attempting to explain this particular wall you’ve run into.)
    So far as the apologetics and so forth, if you’re dealing with a lot of cradle Christians, you’ll get what you’re already getting. In most churches (as you know!) there is not a big emphasis on the reasons to believe. Frankly, I find a lot of this intimidating myself—but before you write a woman off for being intimidated, do try and find out if she is willing (and better yet, eager) to learn and be discipled in such things. They may shy about at first, but eventually come around as they realize the need to learn such things after a lifetime of being told it did not matter. It’s all very foreign to many believers, as foreign as drug culture is to you and I.
    Funny…For all of our culture’s trumpeting its belief in women’s “equality”, cultivating women’s minds is not our strong point.

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  7. That was really well said and a bit heartbreaking to read. These are tough times we’re living in and I think women have really been targeted, by the media, by the world, by the enemy. Christian men are more needed then ever these days and I really empathize, because it’s an uphill struggle.

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  8. Personally, I’ve just given up. What are the odds I’m going to find what I’m looking for in a woman? Compound that by me meeting her expectations and things aren’t looking good. Further, the divorce rate for practicing Christians is, what, 25%? One day, I’ll actually make a list and run the numbers, but by a back-of-the-envelope estimate, I’d be better off trying to make a living at the craps table.

    What’s the point?

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    1. If you go that route, make sure you have a good ministry going, because chastity is wonderful for that. It’s a good idea also to have female friends who can act as support for you. I have a good friend in another country who is a great support for me, and you need that. You need a woman’s influence, even if it does not lead to marriage.

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    2. Actually, the divorce rate for practicing Christians is far lower than most think. We’ve heard the 50% divorce stat for so long that we think it’s true, but among practicing Christians who attend church regularly, the rate is about 38%. That’s still far too high, which I attribute mainly to feminized churches and social acceptance of divorce, but it isn’t quite the dismal picture many think it is. For those who are protestant or conservative, the numbers are even lower. Couples who attend church together, pray together, or have similar doctrinal views are even less likely to divorce.

      There are still a good number of Christian couples out there who are having good and lasting marriages. There are still good Christian women worth marrying. They aren’t as common as they used to be, however. Care should be taken to vet prospective spouses. But it isn’t entirely hopeless yet.

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      1. Just to add to your excellent comment, Lindsay. I have heard that the divorce rate by Christian couples who read and study the Bible daily and pray together daily is less than 1%. (Needless to say, these are not cultural “Christians.”) It’s gotta be really hard to divorce when both husband and wife are consistently searching God’s Word to disciple after Jesus and to see what God desires, versus what they feel like they desire.
        I think that there is one place where you can generally find strong Christian women who are often young: your local crisis pregnancy center or the sidewalk in front of your local abortion mill. While not everyone who opposes abortion is a Christian, every Christian should oppose abortion, and every Christian woman who is willing to stand firm for the Truth about Life cannot be far from the One who is the Substance and Author of both. (John 14:6)
        These are strong and courageous young women who, while they might not score perfectly on WK’s apologetics test, will easily pick this type of material up once it is presented to them. After all, if they can handle the myriad of (mostly) insane justifications provided by the pro-abort, and also know a fair amount about human biology, then they can surely handle the Kalam Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God.

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  9. I am always surprised when I meet a woman and she wants me to read the Bible, or read a book, or do anything like that. (That actually happened to me again last week!) I’ve had a handful of women do that to me in my whole life. Unmarried Christian women are, in my experience, running a very secular playbook, making decisions about how to treat others from their feelings.

    I shared this with our oldest daughter, who will be 20 next week. She is the serious and most earnest of all our young adult daughters and she (at such a tender age) has begun to set herself mentally for the reality that she may not ever meet a good Christian man* to marry. She’s young enough that we are not particularly worried, but still.

    Many of the complaints you lodge are complaints she has lodged. She was blessed to inherit my husband’s more black and white, analytical approach to a lot of issues. And she is rare, even amongst our other young adult daughters.

    Young women are in much worse shape due to the coddling they receive and the utter lack of preparation for marriage as a vocation rather than something they are owed, but I suspect this is a generational rather than simply a gender problem.

    My generation (I’m 42) isn’t much better frankly. There is a whole generation of believers being raised to approach faith and relationships this way, and it’s been going on for the better part of 50 years, at least.

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  10. I had women in my youth group, in IVCF and in Campus Crusade have told me that being an engineer is bad, being chaste is bad, not drinking is bad

    WTF? You guys in the States are whacked. I never met girls like this when I was in Campus Crusade.

    I would say the biggest argument against God’s existence I ever faced was the complete disconnect between what these women professed and how they treated others.

    You are an extremely bright guy, with whom I almost always agree, so that I can hardly believe how much I disagree with you here. To me this sort of disconnect – popularly but often erroneously called “hypocrisy” – is a huge argument FOR the biblical claim that we are all broken sinners.

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    1. I think WK was getting at a reformulated “problem of evil” with his statement about the disconnect in behavior.

      “How can God exist when His supposed followers are all such hypocrites?”

      Alternatively, it’s a dig at the other arguments against God’s existence. If “WK’s Argument from Hypocrisy” is a terrible argument, how bad must all the others be?

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      1. I was using hyperbole! It’s more of an emotional objection, not a logical argument. And YES that’s exactly what I was implying about the other arguments against God’s existence – they suck.

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        1. “How can God exist when His supposed followers are all such hypocrites?”

          Right. I would rejoin that if the biblical God exists, of *course* his followers are going to be hypocrites!

          It’s more of an emotional objection, not a logical argument.

          Ha, ha! I certainly agree… :)

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    2. Just to add my two cents here, Samson, on the first point: I have had close Christian females in the social services fields tell me that they went into their professions to help people and that is one reason that they never would have considered engineering. (My obvious reply is always to go through the litany of objects designed by engineers without which they could not drive, brush the teeth, or even wipe their …)

      On the second point, I basically agree with you. Nevertheless, I would modify this statement, for separate purposes, as follows: “The biggest argument against Western nations being Christian is the complete disconnect between the behavior of Western Christians and the disciples in the Book of Acts, the Epistles, the early Church, and the persecuted Church, and that the number one reason for this disconnect is the radical feminization of Western Christianity.” So, yes, we ARE broken sinners – but mostly in search of cheap grace and not incurring even the minimal costs of discipleship.

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  11. WK:
    I’ve read your blog occasionally but not commented before. This post and its descriptions of contemporary unmarried Christian women is dead on correct. It was like this when I was in college in the late 1980s in the American Midwest, but not quite to this extent, though. The favorite saying of most of these women was ‘don’t judge’ and “you’re being judgmental”. Everything was feelings driven. Hurting someone else’s feelings was the worst sin one could commit. Church and Christian groups were for making people feel good, not for edification or learning or building up strong believers.
    Good piece.

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      1. Something else I’d point out too is that most Christian women’s attitudes and approaches to sex, relationships, marriage and divorce are virtually indistinguishable from those of nonChristians.
        I’d happily bet the farm that most of the Christian women you knew weren’t virgins. I would also wager most of those women were sexually active when you knew them or had been previously. I KNOW that most of the Christian women I knew from high school and college weren’t virgins at marriage.
        This is something most Christian men will have to accept, and it’s important they do so. Most Christian women aren’t virgins and don’t want to be virgins. Most will have sex with attractive men just like their secular sisters will.

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  12. Hi Wintery Knight,
    My name is Cauchy and I think you’re making a good job teaching apologetics. I read this post and since those “Christian” women did not allowed you to establish an apologetics club then did you establish one independently during your undergraduate and graduate years?
    Thank you for your time,
    Cauchy

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