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Preaching That Speaks to Women

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Christianity Today 2004 Book Award Winner


"Alice Mathews breaks new ground. . . . This book opens the eyes of men and women preachers alike, and it will begin to revolutionize how preachers view listeners in their pews."--Jennie Martone, Journal of the Evangelical Homiletics Society

In most twenty-first century congregations, women outnumber men. Unfortunately, masculine anecdotes still dominate many sermons and many church leaders don't understand the differences in the ways women and men listen, learn, and perceive ideas of leadership and power. The result is that many women feel detached from the messages conveyed from the pulpit. 

How can a pastor effectively minister to both men and women? Preaching That Speaks to Women invites preachers to consider how gender affects the way sermons are understood and calls them to preaching that relates to the entire congregation.

Drawing on her many years of speaking to women, men, and preachers, Alice Mathews explores both the myths and the realities of women as listeners. She considers the ways women think about themselves, make ethical decisions, handle stress, learn, and view leadership and power and applies the results to the task of preaching. Mathews urges preachers to be mindful of language and advocates the use of anecdotes that do not ignore women or merely typecast women in narrowly defined roles.

Preaching That Speaks to Women is an important guide for seminary students preparing for ministry and pastors who want to reach the entire congregation.


"Those of us who have worked closely with Haddon Robinson over the years have often heard him describe the difference between amateur and professional or skilled speakers in this way: An amateur speaker usually leads off with the question 'What should I talk about?' The skilled speaker starts with the question 'Who is my audience?' Before you can decide on a topic, you need to know whether you are being asked to talk to a group of teens, a group of business people, or a group of senior citizens. In such groups, the differences in interests, attitudes, and even vocabularies are somewhat self-evident.

Less self-evident are the possible differences in interests, attitudes, and even vocabularies between a group of men, a group of women, and a mixed audience. Consequently, the tendency in preaching is to think that where gender is concerned, one size fits all. Unfortunately, failure to recognize powerful social differences between women and men can result in failure to communicate truth at a level that reaches people's lives."


"Few things could set a preacher up for failure quicker than to preach to only half of a congregation. Alice Mathews has written a helpful, informed guide to preaching that addresses both female and male listeners effectively."-John Ortberg, author of If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat

"What a book! Anyone who stands in the pulpit to preach God's truth needs to read this book. I found it both enlightening and convicting. Thank you, Alice."-Edward G. Dobson, senior pastor, Calvary Church, Grand Rapids, MI

"Alice Mathews has not only written a lucid and irenic summary of gender research but has also insightfully explored how this research bears on the task of preaching to all God's people. I hope that the audience of this book will not be limited to men wanting to address women more effectively, for the volume is relevant to anyone called to a pulpit ministry. It brings home how different life experiences lead hearers to receive different messages from the same sermon, and it helps preachers to consider ways to build up in Christ all those in their care. It is high time Mathews's words were heeded."-Marguerite Shuster, professor of preaching, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Don't be misled by the title of this outstanding book. It's not just for preachers or lecturers or teachers. It's strongly recommended for all readers, women as well as men, who are looking for an irenic work that demythologizes common beliefs concerning 'the second sex.' It's really a sparkling course on how to make human communication more effective."-Vernon Grounds, chancellor, Denver Seminary

"If Alice is right, some of us need to do some urgent, thoughtful work on the gap that exists between what we think we are communicating and what many women in our congregations are actually hearing."-Martin Dehaan, RBC Ministries

"Preaching That Speaks to Women is a must read for any preacher serious about impacting 'all' of a congregation. Mathews not only does a masterful job of describing the key differences in the ways men and women listen and make application from Scripture but also gives very practical ways to bridge the gaps. Get this book--if you're serious about reaching and impacting 60 percent of congregants who fill the pews each week."-Rodney Cooper, Hansen Professor of Discipleship and Leadership, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

"From her own deep well of faith, generosity, and experience, Alice Mathews draws up an overflowing bucket of wisdom for preachers. Preaching That Speaks to Women is so good, it should be a required text in all preaching courses."-Leanne Van Dyk, Western Seminary

The Author

  1. Alice P. Mathews

    Alice P. Mathews

    Alice P. Mathews (Ph.D., Iliff School of Theology and University of Denver) is Lois W. Bennett Distinguished Associate Professor of Educational Ministries and Women's Ministries at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Previously, Alice served as a missionary...

    Continue reading about Alice P. Mathews


Christianity Today 2004 Book Award Winner

"Drawing on her many years of speaking to women, men, and preachers, Alice Mathews explores the differences in the ways women and men listen."--Ecumenism

"A highly accessible book."--Modern Reformation

"Alice Mathews breaks new ground. . . . Preaching That Speaks to Women will appeal to a variety of communicators. Its format is clear and concise and moves the reader logically from point to point. . . . [The author] brings life to this topic in a new and fresh way. Alice Mathews not only makes this an informative and enjoyable book to read, but writes in a way by which both male and female pastors can truly benefit. With a better understanding of who the women in the pews are, pastors will be enabled to address women's needs from behind the pulpit. This book opens the eyes of men and women preachers alike, and it will begin to revolutionize how preachers view listeners in their pews."--Jennie Martone, Journal of the Evangelical Homiletics Society

"A comprehensive study. . . . Each chapter concludes with an excellent summary of the important points, which would be of benefit to the busy preacher who may not have time to digest the whole book. . . . A worthwhile read."--Carolyn Lacey, Evangelicals Now

"An unexpected delight. . . . There is a wealth of information and insight gleaned from a variety of research, along with a careful presentation of general principles for what can and cannot be said about men and women, based on social science and physical evidence. This in itself makes the book useful and interesting, quite apart from the attempt to relate these findings to preaching. The questions posed at the end of each chapter are open-ended and unloaded, allowing readers genuinely to explore their own responses to the issues raised."--Wendy Baskett, Epworth Review

"Mathews's work has many strengths. . . . The result is a thoughtful work with broad application. . . . She challenges pastors to examine, and change if necessary, their basic assumptions about the women they preach to each week. Her goal is to help pastors preach in such way that women can hear God's truth plainly and convincingly and incorporate it into their lives. The book goes a long way toward reaching that goal." --Tracy Hartman, Perspectives in Religious Studies

"Alice Mathews has written an honest book to help male preachers 'step virtually into the skin of a woman to listen as she listens, to hear what she hears, and to think as she might think.' . . . The outcome is an honest, irenic, and provocative challenge to male presumptions and ignorance. . . . Some of us male preachers have much to learn about women listeners, and this book is a valuable tool to deepen our understanding and practice."--Michael J. Quicke, Review and Expositor

"Each chapter provides insights to help preachers better enable their listeners to fulfill [the Great Commandment]. . . . The final chapter explores common blunders that inhibit communication between male preachers and female listeners. If preachers read nothing more than this final chapter, much damage to women listeners' dignity could be avoided, and much edification of women's spirits could be provided. Each chapter includes a section on explicit application to preaching and concludes with a concise summary of important points and probing questions for discussion. These features make the book ideal for discussion and reading groups or as a supplemental text for a homiletics course. Perhaps the best and most surprising feature of this work is that it provides perspectives that I believe would enhance the preacher's ability to communicate with both men and women. . . . Finally, here is a book that will explain the difficult things I've wanted to explain after numerous services but did not have the heart to do so. . . . Refreshing, balanced, and imminently practical."--Holly Zehr, Stone-Campbell Journal

"Delves into psychology, epistemology, and more, to give the reader a vision that breaks stereotypes and empowers an entire congregation."--Worship Leader