As Christian women, how do we live a life of godliness in an ungodly world? Do our views align more with the Bible or with what we see around us? How do we respond to what the world tells us about marriage, children, being a worker of the home, and other important issues? Are we more influenced by the world or by the godly women in our lives?
Our Design for Discipleship
God has designed us to grow in godliness through discipleship relationships. Discipleship is God’s calling for all Christians (Matt 28:18-20) and God has specifically commanded older women to disciple younger women by teaching them to grow in their maturity as Christians and to model biblical womanhood.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.Titus 2:3-5
Older women are to be examples and to teach what is good. There are an endless number of issues in life we face as women, and this type of life-on-life discipleship is critical for each of us to be equipped and to grow as Christians. Seeing the Word of God lived out is invaluable.
For example, observing the harmony in a marriage or a wife’s godly submission to her husband brings to life what Scripture calls us to do and proves His Word to be trustworthy. A godly example looks Christ-like, faithful, respectful, loving, and counter-cultural. How she lives and conducts herself is other-worldly and brings honor to God.
When I became a new believer, began dating as a Christian, became a wife, and became a first-time mom, I did not know where to begin—I needed guidance. God placed many older women in my life to encourage me through every season. Their godly example, faithfulness to train me, and sacrifice of time, energy and resources helped form me into who I am today.
My first discipler shared the gospel with me and led me to Christ. When she moved away to become a missionary, she connected me with another woman nearby. As I grew in my faith, I began seeking out older women I thought I’d like to learn from by either asking for discipleship or just asking to spend time with them. Some relationships were regular and some were intermittent. At my church, I was initially connected formally with someone through the women’s ministry. I’ve learned that there is not one way to do discipleship and no matter how it’s done, discipleship is crucial for our growth as Christian women.
A Couple of Examples
About ten years ago I asked a woman I admired from church if I could come to her house on a Saturday to shadow her. She spent her Saturdays in her kitchen baking loaves of bread which she would sell at church to raise funds for missions. Every Sunday, she would bring bread and chicken eggs from her chickens for people to buy.
Her husband, who is an elder and music leader at the church, who has been blind most of his life, praises her as an excellent wife (Prov 12:4; 31:10). Together they have raised nine wonderful children. I wanted to see what it looked like to bake all day and then to feed a family of eleven.
As a single woman and newer believer, it was one of my first glimpses of a Proverbs 31 woman, and its impact was life-changing. I was inspired and encouraged by her example in the areas of being a worker at home, loving her husband and children, and being a woman who loves the Lord and loves people. That lady is one of the most hospitable women I’ve ever met and I have many fond memories of spending time with her and her family. She was someone I would meet up with occasionally for informal discipleship when I was at that local body. She was and is someone I desire to emulate.
Another woman who also discipled me about ten years ago was slightly younger than I am now. She had a baby and at that time she was discipling me and a couple of other single ladies. We met one-on-one occasionally but also in a group setting. She invited us to her house for about five sessions to teach short lessons from Titus 2. She provided practical guidance on topics of homemaking, marriage, and children. She modeled hospitality by serving us yummy warm drinks paired with scrumptious snacks in her pleasant home.
Little did I know at the time how great of a feat this was when you have a baby! She taught us to bake (and fed us) delicious scones (which I still make to serve others) while providing a welcoming space for fellowship. She also gave us budgeting worksheets and discussed with us the topics of purity and birth control.
On another occasion, she taught us how to make a meal for a family in need of help. It was part of a meal ministry for someone sick in our church. From that time on, I learned to help with bringing food to those in need through meal trains. Again as a single woman, her equipping was practical and tremendously helpful for my growth. We enjoyed our time together while being equipped to do the same to others.
First, as Christian women, we should be intentionally meeting women of all walks of life. The best opportunities to meet women in our local body are by serving (1 Pet 4:10) and by participating in church gatherings (Heb 10:25). Some ideas include (but are not limited to) serving in children’s ministry, women’s ministry, women’s events and fellowship meals. Participation ideas include participating in a fellowship group, prayer night, seminars, supper 6 or secret sister, etc. Simply talk to the women sitting near you at church. Sometimes discipleship relationships form organically and sometimes they can be set up by the church.
Secondly, we are all an older woman to someone and a younger woman to someone else. As older women, we should prioritize inviting younger women to be in our lives and homes. Prayerfully ask God to use you, despite your weaknesses, and be faithful to come alongside younger women, teaching them what is good and desiring to see them mature in their faith. Let them observe your life, both successes and failures in light of the gospel.
Be generous and sacrificial (Mark 10:45) with your time, energy and resources, which are from God. We should make ourselves available, teach and encourage, and be open to answering their questions. Whether or not we like it, we are being watched as examples of what to follow or what not to follow.
As younger women, we should prayerfully seek out older women we desire to emulate and learn from. We should emulate the Christ-likeness they exhibit. We should not be afraid to ask someone to disciple us or simply ask them to get together. Be teachable, share truthfully, and be willing to be held accountable. A mature older woman would feel honored to be asked and be willing to serve in this way.
What should we look for in an older woman? The older woman in Titus 2 is not defined by age, but maturity worthy of emulation; such a woman conducts herself in a godly manner in the areas related to her calling, similar to the Apostle Paul who is an example to all of us and is worthy of emulation (1 Cor 4:16, 11:1; Phil 3:17). We should look for women committed to our local body who are spiritually more mature than us. The one discipling will likely be older than us in age (though not necessarily) and will probably be in a life stage further along than us.
Here are some practical ideas for discipleship from my own experiences of being discipled as well as discipling others:
- Discuss Scripture
- Share life
- Serve one another
- Discuss a sound Christian book together
- Discuss various topics relating to biblical womanhood
- Have a meal together
- Talk over coffee
- Chat on the phone
- Go to their house
- Or just spend time together
Every relationship will look different. The arrangement may be formal or informal, the frequency may be regular or intermittent, and the setting may be one-on-one or in a group setting. Remember to be respectful, keep confidentiality for private information, be humble, and communicate clearly. I’ve been discipled while making decorations for women’s events and I’ve discipled while running errands. Sometimes it will take creativity and flexibility to make it work for both sides.
Lastly, our motivation should be to see God honored and the gospel carried forth. We should not think that we have nothing to offer and thus withhold service to a younger woman because that thinking may be rooted in false humility. If we’ve been a believer for some amount of time, God has given us wisdom to share with younger women. Also, we should not think that we have so much to offer to someone out of pride and forget that the credit belongs to God. I love what Susan Hunt says as she encourages older women to disciple younger women, pointing to the gospel:
Some discipleship is age and gender specific but all discipleship is to be gospel-focused. It is Jesus who redeems and purifies us. For a fallen sinner to become eager to do what is good is the radical work of the gospel. The result of our investment in the lives of others is not dependent upon our own power or experience. It is only the power of the gospel that can transform self-centered sinners into Christ-centered disciples. And one of the wonders of gospel-driven discipleship is that even if we do not see this transformation take place in the disciple, it will take place in us as we disciple others.
My dear Sisters, may we prioritize discipleship in our lives. May we trust the Lord to help us minister to the younger women at our church through modeling and training. May we also seek to be discipled by older women so that we continue to grow in godliness and are not deceived by the lies of this world. To God be the glory, honor, and praise.
Susan Hunt, “Wanted: More Older Women Discipling Younger Women” in 9Marks Journal (Summer, 2010): 26.