If they cannot read, they cannot read the Bible

Every woman should have access to the basic life skills of reading and writing.


The ability to read and write is vital, bringing access to a world of knowledge and information crucial to escape the cycle of poverty. These are basic life skills that every woman should have access to. Yet many women around the world remain illiterate. They are denied the opportunity to learn, develop, and have autonomy because they are unable to read or write.

This handicap affects women much more than men. Nearly two-thirds of the world’s 757 million illiterate adults are women. (UIS Fact Sheet, September 2015, No. 32)

Gender Disparity

  • Recent reports indicate that in some countries male youth have an up to 20% higher literacy rate than that of females.
  • Young women between the ages of 15 and 24 are making the strongest gains in literacy, but still lag behind young men. (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO] 2013)

Trapped in poverty

Illiteracy is strongly linked to low social status, poverty, and poor health. Illiteracy traps women in a cycle of poverty with limited options for economic improvement. This in turn limits educational and training opportunities for their children, sentencing them to chronic destitution and few opportunities for a better life.

Cultural restrictions and discrimination

In some cultures and across the developing world, girls are kept at home or are withdrawn from school to work in the field and at home, while boys are sent to school.

Stunted spiritual growth

Illiterate women are unable to read the word of God for themselves. This is a barrier that cripples their spiritual growth and the spiritual nurture and training of their children.


  • Access training for teaching literacy where possible.
  • Advocate for equal education.
  • Compile literacy materials in the relevant language.
  • Consult with local training organisations which may be able to offer advice and assistance.
  • Check if there are other literacy programmes in your area.
  • Create a budget for operating this ministry, and investigate funding sources which may be able to cover the cost for running any courses you deliver.
  • Decide on the level and category of courses you will provide. What is most needed? What are your resources best suited for?
  • Decide on how you will advertise the seminars/courses.
  • Decide how you will recruit and place the students.
  • Decide on evaluation methods.
  • Decide where the classes will be held, and ensure the environment is welcoming.
  • Decide date, time and duration of each class, and include this in your advertising.
  • Develop a plan for registration and recordkeeping.
  • Promote literacy awareness in your church.
  • Engage the support of church members who may be able to help with this ministry.
  • Partner with local advocacy groups who may be able to provide expertise and support.
  • Provide child care facilities during the class/seminar sessions.
  • Recruit tutors.
  • Review sessions, and evaluate the program during its course and at the end.
  • Use your church as a literacy center, if feasible.
  • Work in collaboration with the church pastor and other departments of the church.

Possible programs

The literacy program may include:

  • Basic literacy classes
  • Computer literacy
  • General Educational Development (GED) tutoring
  • Life skills classes
  • Second language training program


  1. Is a tool for evangelism, providing an ideal climate for conversion and church planting.
  2. Opens the pages of the Bible and other Christian literature to both non-Christians and new converts.
  3. Is a door into nations and people groups where other types of mission activities are unwelcome.
  4. Provides a rewarding activity for local Christians who are eager to help elevate their own people to experience a better life.
  5. Expresses compassion, demonstrating that Christians reflect the nature of the good Samaritan.