No Little Women

I started the book with the highest of expectations. Subtitled “Equipping all women in the household of God,” No Little Women by Aimee Byrd addressed a topic I care deeply about. Like Byrd, I am frustrated by the lack of depth in many books, curriculums, and events targeting women. Why do women’s retreats nearly always focus on women’s issues? Why are there more Christian books available to women than ever before while less and less of substance is said? And how come church leadership expects so little competence from women in areas of theology and doctrine?  These are the types of questions that nettle me, and in Aimee Byrd I found a kindred spirit – at least in terms of mutual frustration and a desire for something better.

This book brought up points I had never considered, presented options that seemed viable, and made a strong case for the importance of women learning and teaching well. As a whole, No Little Women motivated me to be more intentional in my own study and in creating resources for women that are solidly biblical and undiluted. However, the book also made claims I disagreed with, went on tangents that smelled of rants, and left me with at least as many questions as I started with. My assessment in a nutshell: definitely a mixed bag.

A Few Hesitations

Many of my hesitations with this book are not related to the actual content. I felt that the book bogged down in the middle and that chapters didn’t lead to clear conclusions. Additionally, the author writes to both women and church leaders, making it easy to focus on what other people should be doing rather than seeing our own responsibility. For example, it was easy for me to latch on to the instructions to church leaders and think that if only they would follow her advice and give better guidance and credibility to women’s ministries, then women would be better equipped. I suspect leaders could likewise conclude that if only the women in their congregations cared about theology or paid attention during sermons, then women would be better equipped.

In one chapter, she writes, “I would rather read from someone who has clear doctrinal distinctives that are different from mine but who is still seeking unity based on a serious reading of God’s Word.”1 She prefers this over writers who are vague and indirect on all matters of doctrine in order to market their book to the largest possible audience. I want to agree with her on this point, although I confess I found her own doctrinal statements jarring as I went through the book. For example, she declares that prophecy has ceased2, that women should teach men in para-church events (though not through the office of an ordained leader)3, and that we cannot recognize the Holy Spirit’s leading except in retrospect.4 I am also unsure what to think of Byrd’s very high view of the ordained office in the church, a view which permeates much of the book.5

What I Appreciated

All hesitations aside, I am glad I read No Little Women. Byrd has a genuine concern that women be equipped to handle the Word of God well and not be led astray by false teaching. She offers concrete suggestions for pastors on how to encourage and build up the women of their congregations and specific advice for women on how to discern truth from error and grow in knowledge. As a woman who enjoys learning and desires to think deeply, I identify with much of what she shares. “We … have some wonderful resources for learning more about our roles as wives and mothers, as well as about topics such as homemaking and feminism. But there is more to a woman than women’s issues, and we shouldn’t limit ourselves to those identities.”6 Statements like this receive my hearty amen.

Christian women have been targeted with huge quantities of books and resources, and I share Byrd’s concern that many of these at least dilute the truth if they don’t distort or even destroy it. I appreciate her bravery in pointing out serious theological errors in very popular women’s books.

Who Should Read this Book

This book definitely bears a needed message for the church today, and many would benefit from reading it. Pastors and church leaders would do well to heed Byrd’s message to them. Women shouldn’t be left to themselves; leaders need to be shepherding their whole flock. Women who lead studies or Sunday school, read a lot, or simply want to be discerning will also appreciate the insights shared in this book. Unfortunately, women who aren’t serious about their faith or who are easily swept away by the popularity or charisma of well-known Christian authors and speakers will probably find this book either dull or offensive. Although it would be wonderful if this book was written to persuade these types of women, that’s not the intended audience. I wouldn’t hand this book to a friend who I think is treading shaky theological ground. However, what this book does, it does well – giving practical advice to both men and women who are concerned about all women being equipped to rightly handle truth and stand alongside the men of the church as allies.

“No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God” Available on Amazon

Heather Heather Lehman maintains that one can love both the country and the city; she is living proof. She loves hiking in the mountains, exploring cities, browsing international grocery stores, tutoring immigrants in English, and tending plants. After growing up on a produce farm and spending a few years in New York City, she’s made her home with her groom who currently lives in a university town in Indiana. She feels strongly about welcoming immigrants, living responsibly, and communicating Christ.

Sources Used

1Byrd, Aimee. No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God. Published by P&R Publishing. 2016. p. 235

2Ibid p. 182

3Ibid p. 156

4Ibid p. 236

5Ibid chapter 4

6Ibid p. 62

One thought on “No Little Women

  1. “I suspect leaders could likewise conclude that if only the women in their congregations cared about theology or paid attention during sermons, then women would be better equipped.” Why don’t women think deeply, study theology, or discuss current issues? While it might be true that that some women simply aren’t interested or are mentally lazy, perhaps there is a deeper reason behind it. Most women don’t think deeply or study theology because centuries of false teaching about women has made them believe they can’t and shouldn’t.

    I grew up in a conservative, Mennonite culture. These are the messages I received: “Women should never stand out and never draw attention to themselves. Women don’t have a voice. Women aren’t intelligent. If by some fluke they are, they shouldn’t want to use their brains or be so smart. No man will want to marry them if they can think as deeply as their husband. Women are not spiritual enough or discerning enough to know God and follow Him. Women’s purpose is to support men and produce children. If they don’t marry, they are missing out on God’s plan for women and should content themselves with being maids to busy moms or working in the Mennonite bulk food store. Men can do everything better and should do all the thinking for them.” This only scratches the surface.

    For a while, I taught junior high and high school students in our church schools, and every time someone asked me what grade level I taught and I told them, I got the strangest look or the reaction: “You mean you actually enjoy that?!” When I responded in the affirmative, the next words were “Oh, I could never do that! You must be sooo smart!” In teacher training classes for teachers of high school students, I was the only woman sitting in a roomful of men. At Bible school, I took classes on the book of Daniel and the types and shadows of the tabernacle and loved the theological and eschatological discussions. Few of the women spoke up in the class and complained it was sooo hard to understand. I spoke up. I talked to the teacher if I had questions. Most of the women thought I was odd (or else admired me saying, “I could never do that”) and the men joked about how much I enjoyed eschatology.

    One time, I made a comment on a sermon, mentioning a point I did not agree with because the speaker had totally disregarded one part of the text. His conclusions didn’t make sense if he included the part of the text he had left out. An utter, uncomfortable silence fell across the group. Someone said, “Well, he made it very clear and there can be no doubt he was right” and that was that. By speaking up, I had committed two unpardonable sins in their eyes: I had questioned the words of an ordained leader (who always spoke truth and was never to be questioned) and, on top of that, I was a woman questioning the words of a man. I am certain, after that sermon, there was lively, theological debate on the men’s side of the church as the topic was the Second Coming of Christ. Us women simply stating that we don’t agree because it didn’t seem to fit with truth? Horrifying!

    Over the centuries Christian women have often been taught that a godly woman is a wallflower—gentle, meek, and lifeless—a helper, a behind-the-scenes worker, good for fixing the meal at church or teaching the children, too weak and deceived to be wise in spiritual discernment, existing primarily to serve men. They haven’t been encouraged to think and learn and use their minds and intuition. They haven’t been taught to listen to the Spirit and walk with God. They aren’t expected to have deep, meaningful relationships with God, interested in truth and living out a theologically sound understanding of God in this world. Plainly speaking, for centuries, they didn’t matter at all in the church. Read what some of the church “fathers,” like Tertullian or Augustine, had to say about women, and you will be appalled. Once you read those, you realize how totally false teachings about women and their identity have become a very part of the fabric of some parts of Christianity. Look here if you want to read for yourself:

    The truth is that Jesus brought worth and value and equality to women and the relationships between genders and Paul reinforced those teachings. The early church revolutionized the lives of women. In later years, much of that was lost and false teaching–stemming from contemporary culture and the tragic results of the Fall–buried the truth. True Christianity lifts the curse upon women and restores relationships between the genders. If we wonder why women aren’t involved, perhaps we need to look at the messages women receive.


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