Who is Shepherding Your Women’s Ministry?

By Angie Brown –

This post originally appeared on The Gospel Coalition Canada.

In many churches, the women’s ministry can seem to run like a well-managed resort. Special events feature a warm welcome, excellent cuisine, choice of activities, and even a small gift to take home!

There are very capable and creative women in leadership hosting Bible studies, mom’s groups, and retreats. Yet there is a troubling trend that has emerged in many local churches. Very often women’s ministries exist on their own islands, detached from the involvement of the shepherds of the church.

While taking an island vacation with your women’s ministry may sound fun at first, a commitment to living on that island can eventually be problematic.

Decisions are made in isolation for the island while not considering implications to the mainland. The people with the most charisma, not necessarily the most qualifications, rise to positions of influence. Existing as an independent island community can limit the available resources, skills, and protection from predators.

Is your women’s ministry operating like an independent island community?

In the evangelical church today, there seems to be an unfortunate disconnect between pastor / elder teams and the intentional discipleship of women. How did women’s ministry become its own entity?

Could it be that women’s ministries have become comfortable operating independently from church leadership?

Could it be that the shepherds of the church have rarely been invited to offer oversight, share wisdom, or provide theological knowledge?

By practically operating outside of pastor/elder involvement, women’s ministries may be limiting themselves and missing out on the richness of Christ’s plan for His church.

One way to begin building bridges is to prayerfully invite church leadership to invest in the older women in the congregation. Here are four benefits of inviting shepherds to oversee the discipleship of women by identifying and equipping older women.

Benefit #1: Scripture is Applied

The book of Titus is written to the leadership of the church to oversee the discipleship of its members. Titus was left in Crete to “set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city” (Titus 1:5). Women’s ministries can be encouraged that the pastors and elders of a local church are ultimately responsible for the discipleship of their entire congregation.

One of the clearest explanations in Scripture on ministry to women is for the older to disciple the younger. Paul exhorts Titus to oversee that older women are “teaching what is good so that they may encourage the young women” (Titus 2:3b-4a).

The first benefit of shepherds investing in older women is that Scripture would be faithfully applied. It is a biblical mandate for pastors and elders to identify and equip older women for the crucial task of teaching younger women. Women’s ministries can prayerfully seek ways to invite their shepherds to fulfill this mandate together.

Benefit #2: Sound Doctrine is Upheld

A second benefit of elders equipping older women to make disciples is that sound doctrine would be upheld. According to Titus 2:1, it is the responsibility of elders to oversee that the Bible is the standard for all that is accomplished in ministry to women.

Women must learn and embrace sound theology so that it permeates everything they do. It is imperative that women’s ministries continually invite pastors and elders to help older women understand the Bible and sound doctrine, so they will be better equipped to teach the next generation.

Benefit #3: Ministry is Multiplied

A third benefit of shepherds equipping older women is that the effectiveness of the entire church body would be multiplied. Ministry and discipleship efforts could be greatly enhanced if elders equipped older women to train and encourage younger women.

In addition, many women have personal and delicate situations that could best be addressed by a spiritually mature woman with more life experience. There are numerous scenarios of younger women in various degrees of crisis in which a trained older woman could support and assist.

Benefit #4: Christ is Glorified

The fourth and most important benefit of implementing principles of women’s discipleship from Titus 2 is that Jesus Christ would be exalted. Ultimately, Titus 2 is given so that the church would know how to grow in godliness to bring Christ glory and display His gospel to the world.

The instructions for discipleship in Titus are given, “that the word of God may not be reviled” and to “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour” (Titus 2:5b10b). When the Bible is embraced and applied, it can be a powerful witness to the world.

Is your women’s ministry operating outside of the involvement of the church leadership God has appointed? It is never too late to start building bridges that will connect the island of women’s discipleship to the main land of the local church.

Please prayerfully consider the rich benefits of embracing Christ’s design for His church and invite your pastors and elders to invest in the older women. In doing so, Scripture will be applied, sound doctrine will be upheld, ministry will be multiplied, and Christ will be glorified.

Shepherds & Sisters Interview: Adam Brown

The following was originally posted by Angie Brown on Discerning Daughters (November 30, 2016).

adam-brownAdam Brown is the senior pastor of Southshore Bible Church in Barrie, ON. His passion is to open the Word of God with people to reveal Jesus Christ as the centre and focus of all Scripture and history so that we can be transformed from one degree of glory to another. Adam has a PhD in Christian Theology and writes regularly at “Beholding the Glory of the Lord.”

 

1) What would be some of the benefits of having pastors/elders intentionally investing in and equipping older women to disciple younger women? (Titus 2:1, 3-5)

Adam: The first and most obvious benefit is the implementation of Scripture with regard to God’s vision for His Church. Christ is the Head of the Church and, as Head, He has instructed us clearly – by His Holy Spirit through the apostles in the Word of God – how He desires us to behave in the Household of God (1 Timothy 3:14-15). When we submit to the instructions of Jesus, we safeguard the Word of God so that it is not reviled (Titus 2:5). We also position ourselves for optimum benefit and growth, for Christ’s instructions are not arbitrary.

Secondly, qualified older women have greater credibility, and thus greater capacity, than male pastors/elders to disciple younger women. Their life experience enables them to meet the needs of younger women in a way that is simply not possible for any man. At the same time, it is important that the shepherds of the church are actively participating in the discipleship of all the men, women, and children under their care. In this context, they do this by ensuring that the ministry of the older women to the younger women accords with sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). The discipleship of younger women must also fit into the broader vision for discipleship in the church as a whole as decided and overseen by the elders.

Third, an older woman can be in the home of a younger woman even when there is no one else at home. This enables discipleship to occur in the intimacy and reality of life. A male elder ought not to put himself in that position, which necessarily separates him from the real context necessary for effective discipleship of younger women.

Fourth, one of the blind spots in many complementarian churches is a segregation or diminution of women in important ministry roles within the local church. Women’s ministry teams are often isolated and self-sustaining and they are equally often ignored by the intentional ministry of church leadership. In both cases, gifted women are often undervalued and/or underutilized. Implementing Titus 2:3–5 restores the rightful place of gifted women to minister to the Body of Christ with prominence according to the grace given to each of them (Romans 12:3–8).

Fifth, and perhaps most importantly, elders multiply their efforts by equipping older women to be disciple makers (this is in keeping with the spirit of 2 Timothy 2:2).

 2) What are some of the ways your leadership is discipling older women? Can you recommend some resources you have found to be helpful?

Adam: Our plan for women’s discipleship begins with an intentional two year investment in the older women. In the first year, we are devoted to the elder-led discipleship of older women so that they might begin to intentionally disciple younger women the following year. In year one we encourage the older women to begin to cultivate real and significant relationships with the younger women by spending time in one another’s homes, staying in constant contact with one another, and extending hospitality to one another’s families. In this sense, discipleship begins organically.

Our curriculum for year one includes (1) a four week study on biblical womanhood; (2) a Bible Study of the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus) with an emphasis on the many exhortations to women; (3) a course on foundational Christian doctrine; and (4) a practical course on how to read the Bible, pray, and make disciples. We have also hosted monthly gatherings called Titus 2 Time, which gives the older women an opportunity to share the ways in which God has shaped them through the joys and trials of life with the women in the church.

As part of this first year, we ask the older women to read Courtney Reissig’s The Accidental Feminist; Kimm Crandall’s Christ in the Chaos; Wayne Grudem’s Christian Beliefsand Carolyn Mahaney’s Feminine Appeal. We have also recommended Owen Strachan’s and Gavin Peacock’s The Grand Designand Mary Kassian’s The Feminist Mistake.

In the second year, we plan to encourage the older women to further cultivate the relationships that have been developing in year one with the younger women. We ask them to be intentional about meeting together in the homes of the younger women, so that they might speak to them about real life issues, biblical perspective, and the wisdom of experience. It is our hope that the older and younger women will begin to read the Bible and pray together, discuss some of the books and curriculum from year one, and enjoy one another’s company as they walk together in Christ. During this second and subsequent years, the older women will meet with some of the elders for support and further training.

3) Many women in the church would like to be equipped by their pastors/elders in addition to Sunday morning preaching. What steps might women take in order to respectfully invite this type of intentional discipleship?

Adam: Every local church and every elders’ team has a different dynamic. Likewise, all pastors come with different personalities, different strengths, and different weaknesses. In light of this, it is important to begin with prayer and discernment so that any request might be appropriately received by the leadership.

Having said this, a woman who desires a greater investment by her shepherds has clear biblical support. Therefore, I recommend that such a woman should approach her elders with an open Bible, a submissive spirit, and a gentle demonstration of her hunger for discipleship. With an open Bible (Titus 2:3–5 is a good place to start), she can simply ask if the elders might pray and discuss the possibility that they could intentionally begin to disciple her and other older women for the task of the discipleship of younger women (a younger woman would use this same approach, except she would ask the elders to disciple older women who could then disciple her).

Most pastors and elders will gladly consider ways to invest in the keen men and women in their church. So long as the inquiring woman does not rebuke or deride the elders for not yet making such an investment, I would be surprised if the woman should meet too much resistance.

Shepherds & Sisters Interview: Jenn Martin

The following was originally posted by Angie Brown on Discerning Daughters (November 28, 2016).

jenn-martinJenn Martin is a speaker, women’s ministry consultant and gospel-centered life coach. She currently serves as the Director of FEB Central Women’s Ministry and through her personal ministry Live Simple, Declutter with Purpose. Her heart’s desire is to experience, reflect and express the hope of Jesus through time spent in his Word, in prayer and in belonging to the body. Jenn leads intimate leadership retreats and loves to see women using their giftedness while intentionally investing in others. You can connect with Jenn here.

 (1) In your experience and study, how have women in the church been impacted by feminist thinking?

Jenn: I am persuaded that the answer to the three questions: does feminist thinking affect the church, should women engage in discipleship relationships with other women to affect their spiritual growth, and is there benefit to pastoral leadership investing in a women’s ministry leader is…yes, yes and yes; but even greater is the need for discernment and wisdom among women in the church.

Over the years, the feminist movement has strived to show that women have the ability to learn and do all that man can do. The women’s rights agenda has been persuasive to a point that our current Prime Minister finds it of value to deem himself a feminist.

Today we live in an age where information can be found at the click of a button or the swipe of a screen catering to limited knowledge, independent thinking and opinion laced in tolerance often with agenda.  This information age is where ambition and accomplishment may be observed and acknowledged, but where soul-fatigue and a lack of discernment runs rampant.

Feminist thinking that works to increase equality roots back to Genesis 2 where Adam and Eve took action in an attempt to make themselves ‘better than’ or ‘independent from’ God.

The fall of God’s creation was because man chose what they felt was best or in their right, even though they were deceivingly influenced and persuaded by evil thinking and self-sufficiency by the serpent. Adam and Eve choose themselves over God. They choose their own rights rather than God’s design. God’s way was rejected because they listened to the created rather than the Creator. All the while, man and woman were designed and created in God’s image with gender distinct roles, but because of a desire to think independently sin separated them from this ideal.

(2) Why do you think gender-specific discipleship is an essential aspect of spiritual growth?

Jenn: Today, women within the church are sensitive to the things of God. They are willing to immerse themselves in Bible study, small group, and be challenged in conversation and thinking. But too many women are quick to look to outside sources often guised as Christian authors offering advice to life and leadership as their source of reference and truth leaving many women quick to quote popular Bible study authors but unable to quote the biblical source. Many are easily influenced by other people’s experience of God in the name of the latest Christian blog, media post, inspiring thought or quote, where emotions are stirred and experience is heightened, but as a result, leaving many women inwardly wondering why their time with God doesn’t measure up, sustain their day, or satisfy the longings buried deep within their hearts. Many women long to be changed, long to have purpose and understand their calling, are hungering and thirsting but few are hungering and thirsting wholeheartedly after biblical truth and as a result are left living unsatisfied, temporarily distracted or deceivingly fulfilled. Mixed in with a woman’s own pressures to preform, compare and do; women are left with a weary perspective of a God who expects far too much and ultimately does not satisfy. These are women living unsatisfied within the church where they can become their own worst enemy—weak, distracted and undiscerned—having no clue of how God longs to see them live or lead others within the body of Christ.

Yes, women need to be taught, women need to be led and women need to be cautioned where caution is due. Just like Paul needed to warn Timothy that there will be many weak-willed women who will be susceptible to, influenced and captured by spiritual things often not seen in scripture, but feeling very spiritual. “For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning, never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:6-7).

Paul said it, we’re living it!

Women are full of passion and purpose and long to know truth, but too many women have settled for scripture as a supplement to fuel their spiritual lives rather than scripture as the source that should shape their biblical conviction and devotion. Few are willing to do the hard work involved in seeking what scripture teaches and discover biblical wisdom. While many are battling the distraction of the day, lured by their own thinking or popular opinion, vulnerable to portions of the truth all aimed to satisfy and distort the unity of the church.

Wisdom and discernment needs to be encouraged and taught.

Women need to be open and willing to receive instruction and discernment.

 (3) What would be some of the benefits of having pastors/elders intentionally investing in and equipping older women to disciple younger women? (Titus 2:1, 3-5)

Jenn: Pastoral authority is vital to affect biblical change in the area of ministry to women. Pastoral leadership can lead, guide and direct women in leadership positions to recognize what they have been resourced with and who they have been entrusted to.

Passing on the principles seen in Acts 20 and 1 Peter 5, although written to the elder, to be good stewards of their ministry efforts is a vital lesson. Genesis 3:15 tells us that women battle with control. Teaching women to understand stewardship rather than ownership would be of tremendous influence. Helping women to stop looking for their identity horizontally and rather vertically points them to Jesus, challenging them to understand that they are qualified and equipped to live out God’s calling on their lives (2 Thessalonians 1:10-11). Acts 20:28 encourages leaders to pay attention to themselves and pay attention to those entrusted to their care. Staying close to Jesus through the Word and in prayer is foundational to a woman’s leadership and needs to be taught.

Time and time again, while working with women in leadership roles it becomes apparent that their number one battle is devotion to these things! Pastoral leadership can help women not “lord over those” they have been positioned to lead and encourage (1 Peter 5), but rather to lead by example and help define what that should look like, specifically for women. Helping women understand the principles seen in Genesis 3:15 is also foundational to helping women understand the bigger battle they face, both for man and woman.

Act 2:42 calls us to live devoted to God’s Word, to prayer and to one another. Women function carrying many roles. Leadership can help simplify a women’s pursuit of spiritual growth by teaching foundational principles like these that matter.

  • Pastoral leadership can direct women to approach God’s Word accurately, for the purpose of personal growth and for the opportunity of leading Bible study or intentional workshops for women.
  • Pastoral leadership can teach women to look to the prayers of God’s Word in effort to pray biblically and teach others to pray. When understood, our devotion and need for fellowship is freeing for women who often tend to, even within the church, protect themselves, shy away from others for fear of being hurt, and choose to live in isolation and have forgotten or never experience oneness within the body.
  • Pastoral leadership can train up the woman in leadership by teaching biblical concepts like understanding spiritual gifts, calling, identity, or the power of the Holy Spirit available to us.
  • Pastoral leadership can model and teach effective accountability and leadership in an effort to help women not feel the need to lead alone, lead volunteers, and develop effective communication. Women will also benefit by understanding the overall direction and vision of the church and be encouraged to fall under its authority and intent. Then, women’s ministry efforts can complement and align. There is nothing more dangerous than an autonomous women’s ministry within the church.

Furthermore, pastoral leadership may be the only voice that aims to protect a woman who has stepped up in a leadership role, unlike many of her peers, but still feels the need to ‘do it all’. Wise leadership will show women the need to establish boundaries, to learn to say no to areas they don’t need to do, to keep margin in their lives, to prioritize their marriage and family and stay the course.

There are numerous opportunities and reasons for women to gather together. And, while so many women, of all ages, may be lost in hurry, family commitments and outside responsibilities, many women live in pursuit of truth and wisdom, longing to be a part of change and willing to invest themselves in good. Well led women in ministry can help value women within the church by cultivating environments where women can gather together to learn, be free to ask questions, where they feel safe enough to be heard, but where truth will be shared, biblical wisdom will be taught and biblical convictions will be developed because the source of challenge will be saturated in scripture, influenced by pastoral leadership that is willing to lead and truth willing to be heard and applied.

With God’s grace may we be open to biblical wisdom, the leadership of those in authority over us and the willingness to give up our right to any of it!

Shepherds & Sisters Interview: Paul Carter

The following was originally posted by Angie Brown on Discerning Daughters (November 25, 2016).

paul-carterPaul Carter serves as the lead pastor of First Baptist Church Orillia in Ontario. He frequently blogs on issues of Christian faith and living at Adfontes, where he also writes an online devotional tool called “The RMM RoundUp” based on Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s Bible reading plan. He is the co-founder of the Covenant Life Renewal Association (CLRA), which seeks biblical and spiritual revival in Canadian Baptist Churches. Paul is an original Council member for TGC Canada and also sits on the executive committee.

1) What would be some of the benefits of having pastors/elders intentionally investing in and equipping older women to disciple younger women? (Titus 2:1, 3-5)

They do it better. We have trained an entire cadre of ladies to disciple other ladies and they do it really well! My mother was one of the 18 women who took our in house training program last ministry year and she has been doing a phenomenal job mentoring younger women! She has them into her home, has them over for dinner, teaches them how to cook, goes to their graduations and events and just generally takes them under her wing. A pastor can not and likely should not try and mentor young women directly. Training older women is safer, smarter and more effective.

2) What are some of the ways your leadership is discipling older women? Can you recommend some resources you have found to be helpful?

We built our own program which we call ‘T2′. I’ve attached the course outline. To be truthful, we found that most of the resources available were a bit formulaic. They talked a lot about being a woman but not a lot about being A CHRISTIAN. We sometimes make the mistake of thinking that being a woman Christian is entirely different than being a man Christian. Obviously there are some unique aspects and concerns, but there is also an enormous amount of overlap. A lot of women’s ministry curriculum covers the same well worn ground: Proverbs 31, Titus 2, Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3 – all of that is wonderful but it tends to put the emphasis on WOMAN instead of CHRISTIAN. We wanted to include that content but also to go beyond it so we built our own.

 3) Many women in the church would like to be equipped by their pastors/elders in addition to Sunday morning preaching. What steps might women take in order to respectfully invite this type of intentional discipleship?

They should respectfully invite it; simple as that. At the risk of sounding stereotypical, women often over estimate the need for subtlety when dealing with men. Men appreciate polite directness. Tell your leaders that you desire this sort of program. Tell them why. Tell them when. If necessary, provide directions to the place of meeting. That should do it. To be honest, a lot of male led churches are afraid of getting involved in Women’s Ministry. A lot of Women’s Ministry programs operate with a level of independence that no other program is given for the simple reason that the men are afraid of ruffling feathers or inviting trouble. If the women make it clear that they would like some instruction in this area, the leaders will respond. Don’t wait for them to come to you. They generally won’t.

Shepherds & Sisters Interview: Chris Adams

The following was originally posted by Angie Brown on Discerning Daughters (November 21, 2016).

chris-adamsChris Adams, Senior Lead Women’s Ministry Specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources, Nashville, Tennessee since 1994, has helped pioneer women’s ministry as we know it today. Prior to her employment at LifeWay Chris led women’s ministry at Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas. She is Executive Editor of Journey, a women’s devotional magazine, and compiled Women Reaching Women: Beginning and Building a Growing Women’s MinistryTransformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level, and Women Reaching Women in Crisis. Visit her blog at http://lifeway.com/womenreachingwomen.

(1) In your experience and study, how have women in the church been impacted by feminist thinking?

Chris: I do believe feminist thinking has impacted women in the church. We began to think we weren’t doing enough since we were encouraged to do it all and be it all. Motherhood wasn’t enough any more, neither was working outside the home. We needed more, needed to be more, needed to be everything to everyone, including ourselves.

Women do deserve equal pay for equal work as well as many other positive things that came out of this movement.  But now we have division between those mothers who chose to stay home and those who chose to work outside the home, women who marry and those who stay single. We look at each other and either we do not measure up to them (since we have been taught to make a name for ourselves) or we see ourselves as more important than another.

The passage in 1 Peter that encourages us to esteem others as better than ourselves, to submit to one another, to put others needs ahead of our own is not valued by many in the feminist culture. Often feminist thinking directed us to think only about what is best for US, what will make US happy, what WE want to do, not to defer to others in submission.

We do not need to fit a mold other than what God has designed each of us to fulfill. As we disciple women, we must point them to Christ to discover who they are and what their purpose is. We need to encourage women to be all He wants them to be, at the same time we must appreciate how God gives another woman a very different way of living out her purpose.  We must continually point women toward the truth in God’s Word especially when the current culture opposes truth.

(2) Why do you think gender-specific discipleship is an essential aspect of spiritual growth?

Chris: Titus 2:3-5 if very clear that older women are to teach younger women. That does not mean we cannot be discipled by the opposite sex, but women need women primarily to guide them to be women. A man cannot do this as effectively because he doesn’t fully understand women any better than women fully understand men.

Women (and men for that matter) tend to be more open with those of the same sex. It’s hard to discuss some issues in mixed groups. So because of the uniqueness and experiences of each sex that are unique to one sex or the other as well as the mandate for women to teach women, women and men need a discipleship group that is gender specific even if they are also in a mixed gender group.  Or if not a group, a gender specific discipleship and/or mentoring relationship.

(3) What would be some of the benefits of having pastors/elders intentionally investing in and equipping older women to disciple younger women? (Titus 2:1, 3-5)

Chris: First of all for what it says to those leaders who often do not feel valued or supported in ministry. It says to them, we need you, you are vital to this mandate to teach women and we care enough to help you do it better. It also speaks to the body as a whole, especially to the women, of the value of women leading and serving and may help raise up more to serve in and through the church. Making it obvious (keeping it before the church) how and where women can serve and lead will open many doors of ministry in the church.

Shepherds & Sisters Interview: Paul Martin

The following was originally posted by Angie Brown on Discerning Daughters (November 16, 2016).

paul_martinPaul Martin is the founder and senior pastor of Grace Fellowship Church, a church-planting church in Toronto. A graduate of The Master’s Seminary, his passion for God’s Word and gospel-centred leadership have led him to teach at local seminaries as well as oversee a long-standing mentoring program for future pastors. You can find Paul on Facebook, Twitter (@PastorPWMartin) or his blog (preacherthoughts.blogspot.ca) or via the website of Grace Fellowship Church, Toronto (gfcto.com).

1) What would be some of the benefits of having pastors/elders intentionally investing in and equipping older women to disciple younger women? (Titus 2:1, 3-5)

Paul: The greatest benefit is that those pastors would not be failing God. The Lord is the One who has called them to this work and they need to fulfill their ministry. Of course, shepherding the older women so that they can effectively train the younger women has all kinds of attendant blessings. First off, those older saints will grow in godliness. What is better for a church than godly old saints? Secondly, the older women will be giving the younger women a leg up in life as they coach them on how to do what looks so simple, things like loving their husbands and children. Finally, this kind of intentional training will help to create and and maintain a culture of discipleship in the church. And that is awesome.

2) What are some of the ways your leadership is discipling older women? Can you recommend some resources you have found to be helpful?

Paul: I still feel we are learning our way here, but they are a few things we are doing or have done that I think of as helpful. First, we offered to meet with any women (in one large group setting) that had any willingness to at least explore the possibility of serving their sisters by leading  the ministry to women. At these monthly meetings, we planned aspects of the women’s ministry, trained our sisters in teaching, leadership, conflict resolution and things like how to effectively evaluate the ministry. I led this for one year, than my associate pastor did for the next year. 

We are also big believers in getting resources into the hands of people. So, we try to give away copies of great books (not necessarily “women’s books”) into the hands of our sisters and encourage what we call, Intentional Spiritual Friendships. 

Finally, I like to encourage as many women as I can to find a sister and just get together in some regular pattern to read a chapter of the Bible together and discuss it. We can talk “around” the truth so much that it is great to read the text and ask what it means!

3) Many women in the church would like to be equipped by their pastors/elders in addition to Sunday morning preaching. What steps might women take in order to respectfully invite this type of intentional discipleship?

Paul: They could have their pastor read this! Or, they could just ask their pastor for more training. It would take either a very fearful or arrogant pastor to turn down that request. I was a fearful pastor for many years. I thought if I had more than a twenty second conversation with a sister it would “look bad” or “lead to bad.” In my effort to protect them and me, I ended up distancing myself from half my sheep. It took a while, but I learned that I could have very meaningful friendships with sisters in the church that were not weird. This allowed for even greater interest on my part to help train those who were always dear to me, but not always shown it.

So, I would suggest that any sister desiring to request more training from her (potentially well-intentioned, yet fearful) pastor should start by praying for six months that God do something in her pastor’s heart to warm him to the idea. I say, six months, as I have never known myself to change very quickly in anything and, how else will this sister learn importunate prayer (Luke 18:1-8)? 

Shepherds & Sisters Inteview: Courtney Reissig

The following was originally posted by Angie Brown at Discerning Daughters  (November 10, 2016).

courtney-reissigCourtney Reissig is a wife, mother, and writer. She has written for numerous Christian publications including the Gospel Coalition, Christianity Today, and the Her.meneutics blog, and is also an assistant editor for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Courtney is the author of The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God’s Good Design and Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God. She also writes regularly at “In View of God’s Mercy”.

1) In your experience and study, how have women in the church been impacted by feminist thinking?

Courtney: I think the two primary ways women have been influenced by feminist thinking is 1) thinking that they define themselves and 2) thinking that they can have it all. Both of these ideas run contrary to God’s design for us as humans, which is that he defines us as the creator (our identity is found in him) and that only he can “have it all.” We have bought the lie that we are the captain of our own fate, which is not just restricted to feminist thinking, but very much a part of it.

2) Why do you think gender-specific discipleship is an essential aspect of spiritual growth?

Courtney: First, I think gender-specific discipleship is important because it’s biblical (Titus 2:3-5). God has given us commands for how a church is to function and one of those practical ministries he gives us is discipleship along gender lines. I also think it’s important because he has made us relational beings. We need relationships and community with other believers in order to grow and flourish. Within these structures we see godly older men and godly older women training and teaching the next generation from a unique perspective as male and female. This is important at the practical level (helping a mom think through her season of life) but also at the theological level (helping a mom see God’s good purposes in her life). We are drawn to people who are like us, which is good and bad, and in gender specific discipleship we see that we are not the first or the last to endure whatever it is that God has called us to.

3) What would be some of the benefits of having pastors/elders intentionally investing in and equipping older women to disciple younger women? (Titus 2:1, 3-5)

Courtney: I read somewhere that pastors should care about this ministry because women are part of the flock they are called to shepherd. I liked that explanation. If a pastor cares about the souls of his people, then caring about ministry among women is one of those ministries he should care about. The church suffers if the women’s ministry is not equipped. When women are encouraged to study the Bible, love one another, and live out their faith together the entire church benefits. These are women who are working in the community, raising children in the church, loving husbands who are also members, and serving alongside other members. They are vital, so a pastor is served by investing in this ministry. He is also served because he learns the perspective of women as he is invested. This is helpful to his preaching. He is preaching to men and women, so knowing how the women are growing together helps him apply the scriptures better to their lives. The entire church is served when older women invest in younger women, so a pastor has a primary responsibility to invest in this ministry. Women are encouraged, which changes how they serve. Women feel useful, which changes how they feel towards the local church. Pastoral counseling is not the sole burden of the pastor when older women serve younger women in this way.

Shepherds & Sisters Interview: Thabiti Anyabwile

The following was posted by Angie Brown on Discerning Daughters (November 8, 2016).

thabiti-anyabwileThabiti Anyabwile serves as a pastor at Anacostia River Church in Washington, DC, and is the author of numerous books. He serves as a council member of the Gospel Coalition, is a lead writer for 9Marks Ministries, and regularly blogs at The Front Porch and  Pure Church. Thabiti also wrote an excellent article on this topic, “The Most Neglected Part of the Pastor’s Job Description”. He and his wife Kristie also gave their wisdom in a four-part podcast series on this topic of Shepherding Women.

1) What would be some of the benefits of having pastors/elders intentionally investing in and equipping older women to disciple younger women? (Titus 2:1, 3-5) 

Thabiti: The benefits are too numerous to number really. But, first off, there’s the joy of obeying the Lord’s instruction in Titus 2. That joy gets compounded by the joy of getting to know the older women of the church in a spiritual way. We learn about their lives and they teach us a great deal. So there’s an exchange. As a consequence, older women feel shepherded, they have a sense of belonging, make healthy contributions to the church, and they’re no longer the “block” of members that some pastors fear will make ministry difficult. Then there are the benefits to the congregation and ministry at large. When we invest in the older women we have a multiplied force of disciple makers with younger women. The gender-specific discipleship needs of women are more effectively met. The younger women have a greater sense of belonging, of being intentionally helped, of working through their pursuit of Christ as women, and the wisdom of older saints applied to their lives. And it doesn’t stop there. If we take Titus 2 seriously, then marriages and homes will in time be strengthened, children will be evangelized and discipled, youthful conflict from gossip, etc. is limited, the pastors’ counseling docket is kept under control as the older women teach younger women, and the word of God is honored and protected by our lives. We could go on, but the benefits are legion.

2) What are some of the ways your leadership is discipling older women? Can you recommend some resources you have found to be helpful?

Thabiti: Our approach is simple. All the pastors (5) meet monthly with a group of older women (about 12 or so). We pray together and we discuss three books each meeting—a book for their own devotion to Christ, a work of theology, and a work on practical ministry. Currently we’re reading Gloria Furman’s Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full (devotion), Wayne and Elliott Grudem’s Christian Beliefs(theology), and Gloria Furman and Kathleen Nielson’s Word-Filled Women’s Ministry (practical ministry). We take a chapter per month in each book.

We also use this time to hear how the women themselves are doing and to hear from them about the pastoral needs they’re encountering among younger women. Some of the women lead small groups, others meet one-on-one with younger women, and some are sought out for periodic counsel. We sometimes discuss how those various aspects of ministry are going or give them counsel on particular situations they encounter. This monthly meeting is easily one of the most rewarding couple of hours I experience as a pastor. 

3) Many women in the church would like to be equipped by their pastors/elders in addition to Sunday morning preaching. What steps might women take in order to respectfully invite this type of intentional discipleship?

Thabiti: Perhaps the first thing to do is commit to consistently and specifically encouraging their pastors for their current ministry. Most pastors swim in a sea of negativity. So even good suggestions for “something else to do” can feel like a weight or be received as a criticism or condemnation. It’s important that we establish in our churches a spirit of mutual encouragement and edification so that we’re strengthened for the work that remains. So, I’d suggest simply starting with encouragement, which will build up the pastors and it’ll make us more aware of what God is already doing in our lives.

Then I’d suggest passing along good articles, blog posts, and books that might introduce the pastor to this idea of investing in the older women who will in turn invest in younger women. Word-Filled Women’s Ministry is a wonderful resource. But so also is Susan Hunt and Ligon Duncan’s Women’s Ministry in the Local Church. As an encouragement, pass along the good things you read that inspire you to take part in the joy of making disciples. Let the pastors know you’re there to help disciple women and show some initiative in building relationships with women.

Third, ask for opportunities to learn from the pastors. I know it might seem silly, but until asked many pastors tend to think women (esp. older women?) are not interested in learning from them beyond Sunday morning. So, suggesting that a group of women would love to meet with a couple of pastors to learn theology would be a blessing to any good pastor. And volunteer to organize it. The easier we make it for each other the more likely it is to happen

Shepherds & Sisters Interview Series

The following was originally written and posted by Angie Brown on Discerning Daughters (November 3, 2016).

This month will feature a series of interviews I conducted with church elders and women in ministry. The aim is to gain perspective on the benefit of having church shepherds intentionally invest in older women, so they are better equipped to disciple younger women (Titus 2:1, 3-5). Many of these leaders have made this a priority in their churches, and have valuable insights and resources for us to consider. I want to thank all of the shepherds and sisters who contributed to this series for the glory of Christ and the building up of his church.