“Older women … are to teach what is good, and so train the young women…” Titus 2:3-4a
As a young woman, I remember lamenting with another woman about the lack of willing or available older women in our church at the time, who could help us journey this noble but challenging call to God-honouring womanhood. Having been raised by a loving and sage mother, I fared better than many, but a wise and local voice would have been welcomed during a season when little humans stretched me beyond my competencies and regularly exposed the sin areas in my life that I didn’t realize existed until these children did.
As I’ve taught on the subject over the years, I’ve encountered women in different cities with a unifying experience: They finally worked up the courage to approach an older woman to request a bit of time and wisdom, only to be met with a “no”. That response sent them back home, tail between their legs, vowing never to ask again.
Because of those experiences and having moved now from beneficiary to benefactor, I’d like to issue this challenge to my fellow middle-agers and those ahead of me in life: If younger women in our churches or spheres of influence ask us for some of our time to guide or teach them… Don’t say no.
It’s our job. God has uniquely charged older, Christian women with the task of teaching the women who come after us. Our pastors and elders are charged with the task of ensuring that older men, younger men and older women are holding to belief and behaviour that adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s a large portfolio for them. So, let’s make sure we are sharing the load by eagerly investing in the demographic group specifically and strategically entrusted to us by God. To fail to do so leaves a critical void in our church’s ministry.
Feeling uncertain is different than being unqualified. Many women feel unqualified but aren’t. We must be careful not to confuse insecurity with lack of qualification. If a younger woman has watched our lives and finds something in our walk with Jesus Christ worth emulating, let’s praise God that He can use us, flaws and all. If we have dependently, albeit imperfectly, sought to bring glory to God with our lives, live by his wisdom and be a conduit of his grace to the people in our spheres, we have something to share. To fail to do so because it stretches us or makes us uncomfortable is to put our interests above hers which is an action incompatible with our biblical mandate to love others.
Being unqualified is a temporary excuse at best. If a woman’s request for our wisdom prompts an introspection that reveals a legitimate disqualification in our biblical understanding or lifestyle, we can respond by saying “Yes, just give me a little bit of time” and then get to work fixing it– by the confession of any sin, by cooperating with the empowering work of the Holy Spirit, by committing to spiritual disciplines that grow us and by seeking the direction of wiser folks who can help us get where we need to be so we can help others get to where they need to be. To do otherwise is to acquiesce to a lifestyle that denies the transforming work of the gospel before the watching world, robs us of our joy, injures our relationships and diminishes our usefulness. To respond to her request with “no” is to leave both of us where we are.
There’s always a way. A request for our time doesn’t automatically commit us to a 2-hour-a-week commitment until death do us part. We’re big girls. We spend our daily lives finding creative solutions for the many demands and priorities of life. We can do the same here. We may be in a season of life where we have weekly time to invest in a younger woman. If so, wonderful. But if we are in a season where our life load would not permit that kind of commitment without great cost, consider offering the following options:
- We can suggest bi-weekly, monthly or quarterly frequencies.
- We can invite her along for our exercise walk to make double use of that time.
- We can invite her for a cup of coffee court-side, pool-side or field-side to make extra use of spectating time.
- And at the very least, if we can’t make an ongoing commitment, we should always leave enough margin in our schedules to meet her for a one-time coffee or lunch date where she could bring a list of pressing questions that we could address with wisdom, prayer and resources.
If a faithful and intentional young woman seeks out our time and wisdom, there are countless responses we can give her. I encourage you to adopt a personal conviction that “no” should never be one of them.