Wanted: More Older Women Discipling Younger Women
I had spoken on the topic of biblical womanhood and a college-age woman asked me a thoughtful question: How can I think biblically about my womanhood when I am constantly told that independence is power and that I should seek my own fulfillment and determine my own destiny?
My answer: “Go to godly women in your church and ask them to speak the truth of biblical womanhood into your life. Ask them to show you how to live for God’s glory as a woman.” But then I wondered, “Is this young woman’s church preparing its women to answer her question?” Someone is teaching women and girls what it means to be a woman. Is it the church or the world?
Older women discipling younger women is not just a nifty idea someone concocted, and it is not optional. It’s a gospel imperative. The apostle Paul writes,
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)
In light of this passage, let’s consider some questions that will help the church sound the call for women to invest themselves in younger women. I pray that this brief article would challenge women to respond to this high and holy calling.
THE TITUS 2 MANDATE
The mandate of Titus 2:3-5 is that older women are to disciple younger women, teaching them how to grow in godliness in their distinct relationships and calling.
Some of the principles of discipleship embedded in this amazing chapter will help us to understand the specific directive to women in verses 3 to 5.
Principle #1: The church is responsible to encourage and equip women to disciple each other
In verse 1 Paul addresses his instructions on discipleship to Titus, the pastor. Since women training women is an integral part of the church’s ministry, Titus must equip the women in his church to do so. Therefore, it is the responsibility of every church leader to see that women are equipped for this calling.
Principle #2: The church should teach sound doctrine
In verse 1 Paul tells Titus to teach sound doctrine, doctrine that is healthy or whole. This shows us that women discipling women should flow out of and be consistent with the regular preaching ministry of the church. This discipleship should help women apply sound doctrine to daily life and relationships.
Principle #3: The communion of the saints
Yet verses 3 through 5 also tell us that discipleship is not just the responsibility of church leaders (see also Ephesians 4:11-16). As the Westminster Confession of Faith states: “All saints, that are united to Jesus Christ their Head… and, being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other’s gifts and graces, and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man.”
Biblical discipleship is relational. The content of the gospel should be taught in the context of relationships that validate the gospel. Our relationship with God is personal, but that relationship also brings us into community with his other adopted children.
Older men and women have the generational responsibility to share their gifts and graces with younger men and women. They are to tell the stories of their victories as well as their failures and show how their stories are part of God’s grand story of redemption.
The Titus 2 mandate is life-on-life discipleship that guides and nurtures to mature Christian womanhood. It is a mothering ministry. This mothering spirit is evident in Paul’s description of his own ministry to the Thessalonians:
But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. (1 Thess. 2:7-8)
Principle #4: The gospel is our motivation
There are costly challenges in this chapter. Investing in the lives of others costs energy and time. It means taking relational risks. Why should we live so sacrificially?
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (vv. 11-13).
Christ came and he is coming back. He appeared in grace as a babe and he will come in glory as the King. While we wait for that glorious appearing we are to make disciples. Unless we are motivated by the gospel we will become discouraged and weary.
Principle #5: The gospel is powerful
Paul concludes with an electrifying reminder of the power of the gospel: [Jesus] gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (v. 14).
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.
WHO ARE THE OLDER WOMEN?
The passage does not give a specific age for the “older women” who are to disciple the younger women. Given the content of what they are to teach, their main qualifications would seem to center on spiritual maturity. Of course chronological age provides life experiences and perspective that are valuable, but the reality is that every Christian woman and girl should consider herself an older and a younger woman. We should seek out women who can encourage and equip us to live for God’s glory even as we seek to disciple other women in biblical womanhood.
HOW CAN A LOCAL CHURCH FACILITATE THIS MINISTRY?
Spiritual mothering relationships come in all shapes and sizes. There is no formula. A Titus 2 relationship may be regular or intermittent, consist in two people or a group, occur between older women or young girls, but every Titus 2 relationship will be purposeful. It will be an intentional effort to encourage and equip another woman or girl to live for God’s glory by living under the authority of God’s Word, and it will train her in biblical principles of womanhood.
This ministry is not a program, it’s a lifestyle. However, it sometimes takes more programmatic efforts to jumpstart these relationships. A women’s ministry is one vehicle that a church can use to challenge and equip women for this calling. If a church already has a women’s ministry, they can begin by asking some strategic questions:
- How is the women’s ministry enabling our church to obey Titus 2:3-5?
- How does our discipleship ministry reflect the principles of discipleship in Titus 2?
- How are women being equipped to train younger women in biblical principles of womanhood?
- What opportunities do we provide to develop nurturing relationships between older and younger women?
Whether a church takes a more formal, programmatic approach or seeks to encourage Titus 2 relationships more informally and organically is up to each church to decide. Here are a few resources that could be useful for encouraging such a ministry, whatever form it takes:
- Biblical Foundations for Womanhood, a series of books that teach principles of biblical womanhood. There is a leader’s guide for each book. For more information, go to the PCA Christian Education and Publications web site and click on Women’s Ministries, or call 1-800-283-1357.
- A Titus 2 Small Group Discipleship Model, including a suggested strategy for implementing this model.
- TRUE, a 3-year discipleship curriculum on biblical womanhood for teen girls.
WHERE ARE THE OLDER WOMEN?
Where are the older women? I believe they are sitting in the pews of our churches waiting to be captivated by this biblical calling and equipped to fulfill it.
Susan Hunt is a mother and grandmother, a pastor’s wife, and the former Director of Women’s Ministries for the Presbyterian Church in America. She has written a number of books, including Spiritual Mothering: The Titus 2 Model for Women Mentoring Women (Crossway, reprinted 2009).
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