What’s a Girl to Do? (or The Role of the Younger Woman in the Church)

May 29, 2012

Five years ago Jared and I were attending a potential new members class at Crossway Community Church in Bristol, WI. The leadership team had made its way through the church doctrinal statement and had opened up the floor for some questions. An elderly woman inquired about care groups and whether or not the church offered care groups for senior citizens. The main teaching pastor, Mike Bullmore, answered her question in his typical humble and pastoral fashion. I don’t recall his exact words but the gist was that care groups were intended to be a cross-section of the larger church, incorporating people of all different backgrounds, life situations and ages and inviting them to fellowship around one commonality–the redemptive work of Jesus on our behalf. He also added that this was a natural environment where older believers could train the younger. Well, that elderly lady–probably mid to late seventies–was visibly shocked by that response. And all she could muster for a reply was: “Well, it has been my experience that the younger women don’t seem to want our advice.” Now there also happened to be a younger woman sitting nearby. She turned toward the older woman and humbly offered: “Oh, please don’t deprive us of your wisdom. We need you older women in our care groups.”

That particular experience is what first caused me to consider older women/younger women interactions within the church. Fast forward one year and Jared and I are happily attending and becoming involved at this church. We’ve both been able to serve in a variety of capacities–greeting team, worship team, and kids’ classes. We’re becoming more and more plugged in and are finally able to join a care group where we will have the opportunity to glean from more seasoned believers.

Two years later and I am serving on a Ladies’ Ministry team. I’m asked to facilitate a table for our bi-monthly women’s meetings and an older woman is assigned to be my helper. Twice I am assigned to facilitate a table where the main teaching pastors’ wife (and sometimes speaker) also happens to be assigned. I will never forget how that wonderful woman, Beverly Bullmore, called and left the most encouraging message on my voice mail after one meeting. She encouraged me in specific ways. This is the first experience that I recall (there have almost certainly been others where I did not consider what was happening) where an older woman has intentionally come alongside me and encouraged me in my walk with God and in my faithfulness at home. After that first interaction, she made it a point to seek me out occasionally and check in with me. And every interaction I have ever had with that godly woman has been an encouraging one. I would walk away from those interactions with a renewed desire to devote myself to godliness, to loving and serving my family wholeheartedly and in general to live of life worthy of God’s calling. Our interactions were few, but everyone of them was inspirational. Slowly, I was beginning to consider what an older woman could do for a younger woman’s faith and practice.

In the Fall of 2010, we had been at the church for 3 ½ years when we very suddenly had to leave the area to move back to Detroit where our house renters had lost their jobs and consequently were moving out of state. We were unable to find renters and could not afford both the mortgage and our current rent, so we needed to move. Our care group dispensed with its normal weekly meeting in order to send us off with prayer and thanksgiving. There again I was surprised by the encouragement that an older woman can offer a younger. A dear lady with college-aged children prayed a very special prayer for me–that an older woman in our Detroit area church would take an interest in me and be an encouragement to me in my faith and in my roles of wife and mother. What a special, special prayer. And what a godly, godly vision.

Early 2012, my current pastor’s wife began to plan a day devoted to encouraging these types of inter-generational relationships within the church. I was assigned the topic of the role of the younger woman. I had almost four months to prepare. Excited as I was I sat right down and outlined my talk and began to read here and there about the Titus 2 mentoring model. I did not find much information out there about the role of the mentee. Most of the stuff I encountered spoke to the counselor or the mentor. So, I read broadly but not with much depth. But during the days of taking care of my children and keeping up my home, my subconscious was at work. During my spare moments my thoughts would inevitably go back to this subject. And so, these next several blog posts are the fruit of those four months I spent in preparation for my talk on the role of the younger woman in the church.

As I considered my part in the body of Christ, I kept returning to this verse from Ephesians 4:

“He (Christ, the head) makes the whole body fit together perfectly, As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” (v 16)

As a class of young women, we have some common roles or “special work” in the body of Christ, and when we are fulfilling those roles we are encouraging the health of the entire body. The way we as young women live our lives has a direct effect on the health of the church at large. What a sobering reality!

Now, we each have specific earthly roles that God has given, but I’ve identified three general roles for all young women in the church. These are:
1) to be teachable so we can receive instruction.
2) to be growing in godliness.  And
3) to be seeking out the encouragement or mentorship of older women in the church.

My next post will consider that first role–being teachable. Doing this study has been the source of much, much grace in my life. I hope that the few of you who read this will also receive much grace.

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