Adam 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 Beliefs; and Carolyn Mahaney’s Feminine Appeal. We have also recommended Owen Strachan’s and Gavin Peacock’s The Grand Design; and 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.