Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The Higher Calling

I love women's ministry. Everything about it just calls to me: the word of God; real fellowship and community with other imperfect women willing to be vulnerable; transparency and accountability to grow in my personal relationship with Jesus Christ; and the laughter that reaches beyond age or season to envelope everyone in the room. Yep, it is good.

I also have a particular connection to women's ministry because God has graciously allowed me to teach bible study in many different settings and churches over the past 19 years. Preparing, studying and planning are simply a part of my life - like breathing.

I assumed, like breathing, that it would always be this way.

Someday I'll stop making assumptions.

You probably picked up on this long before I did, but in between my passion for teaching women and changing diapers I somehow missed the amazing serendipity (I love that word - even though I don't believe in happenstance or mere chance) of birthing six daughters. Six little women! As my daughters came I pictured us enjoying deep, theological discussions together. I imagined them in bible study as adults, but somehow I completely skipped over adolescence. After all, that was why churches had youth ministry and not simply men's or women's ministry. The needs of jr. high and high school ages created such an altogether unique dynamic that it required an entirely different model of discipleship.

Or at least that's what I assumed. (See note above about what I need to do with my assumptions.)

Hannah (14) - Phoebe (3) - Me
My eldest daughter joined our church's official youth program a couple of years ago. At that time my husband began to serve as a leader in the youth group. Week after week I quizzed him on what was being discussed during the teaching time for Hannah's class. Week after week Christopher shared with me the gist of the topics and conversation until I began to see a pattern in my reaction. I loved that Hannah was getting a chance to hang out with her friends. I thought the games the youth played were often imaginative and developed great team spirit. I was glad she was being challenged to think on her own about concepts from the bible. But I also recognized a growing disappointment that the lessons often scratched only the surface of genuine Christian character and godly lifestyle choices. 

The group was mostly made up of other boys and girls from similar backgrounds. Many of them were churched meaning they, like Hannah, had grown up attending Sunday School and VBS and usually knew the "right" answers. They were also questioning, often for the first time, the concepts taught them through childhood and beginning to decide if the faith their parents ascribed to was going to be their own. This all seemed normal. And so did the awkward, embarrassed, sometimes confused ways the group interacted as the individual trajectory of puberty and personality began shaping each member into their own unique person. But the very same factors that made it "youth" ministry were also keeping it from being entirely successful in effective ministry.

How transparent can I expect my daughters to be in front of a bunch of kids who are struggling just to understand their own bodies, let alone their deeper purpose and unique calling in this world? Growing and maturing takes discipleship. Or at least it does if I want my girls to transition through adolescence  gracefully and without unnecessary heartache - which I do. So, mentoring becomes invaluable. I want my darling girls to learn about femininity from the heart of great women (and men) before they have it compared to the likes of Lady Gaga. I want them to engage in open conversations about difficult subjects with candor and respect before they learn all the street slang for what they should do if they really "love" that boy. And most importantly, I want them to understand what the bible says about the beauty and value of their womanhood before their peers define it for them. 

Youth ministry, alone, can not achieve these goals. Why? For the same reason elite athletes don't train with amateurs, and why virtuosos don't practice with beginners - we can not grow in maturity when consistently surrounded by people as immature as ourselves; and we do not learn to stand out by working hard to fit into the mold. One or two adults working to shepherd a roomful of rambunctious teenagers isn't a ratio built for success. 

Bottom Center & Clockwise:
Phoebe, Hannah, Mary, Leah, Bethany, Me, Evangeline

So, I'm quitting what I love in order to love what I'm called to - women's ministry. The ministry of making women... making godly, honorable women who are strong, capable thinkers in a world filled with relativity and subjectivity. By the grace of God I have the privilege of sharing my passion with six of the most amazing girls I have ever known.

1 comment:

  1. I can't tell you how full this makes my heart. I know you know this, but the choice you're making to put women's bible study on the back burner for now and focus on discipling your girls is going to have such great reward and your girls will so treasure this time. These are just the sort of hopes I have for our girls too.