First, repent privately and publicly if you think you've neglected the older women in your church. Turning again to God for help and turning to the saints just might open up a fruitful dialogue and meaningful relationships.
Second, do a lot of listening. If meeting with the women of the church hasn't been a part of your ministry, or if that listening has largely been one-on-one personal conversation rather than a more systemic discussion of ministry to women in the church, then don't assume you know what they think or how they feel. Listen. Ask lots of questions and sit back patiently. Having repented, hopefully we can learn from our sisters without feeling attacked, criticized or rejected. Listen, learn and list out the themes you hear.
Third, identify some older women in the congregation who would be willing to study with you and your wife or perhaps you and a couple of other elders. You can identify them simply by asking who's interested or by specific invitation. Form a small group to read a book like Spiritual Mothering or Women's Ministry in the Local Church. Start slow and start small. If this hasn't been a part of your church's ministry then it's likely intimidating for some women. Build their confidence with encouragement and patience. Help them see God's great vision for them in places like Titus 2. Help them understand that their ministry is as vital to the gospel and to the lives of fellow members as your own.
Fourth, pair the older ladies up with younger ladies. There are endless ways of doing this. Perhaps it's a one-on-one relationship or maybe starting new small groups. Or maybe there are specific aspects of the faith (say, living faithfully with an unbelieving spouse) with which one or two older members have experience and would love to help others. Help those ladies host special fellowships or perhaps a tailored small group for a specific period of time. Listen to the ladies as they generate ideas for serving and help them get involved with the younger women of the church.
Fifth, have the entire church pray for these ladies as they study and prepare. While serving at First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman, our women's ministry director, Meg Bodden, suggested we take a few minutes in a Sunday morning to pray for the older women who were becoming our women's disciple-making team. It was a wonderful celebration as 20 or so older women came up front, a little sheepish and shy, and bowed their heads as pastor and congregation committed them to the Lord. Many of these women have been and will continue to serve quietly in the background. But it's good for us to give greater honor to the parts of the body that lack it (1 Cor. 12:23).
The most significant yet unused disciple-making resource we have in our churches is the older, faithful women among us. It's to our shame if as pastors we don't have a strategy for investing in them and seeing them invest in others. But it will be for our joy and for the church's strength if we do.
Reprinted with permission from GospelCenteredWoman.com. Thabiti Anyabwile is a church planter in Washington, D.C., and Council Member at The Gospel Coalition.
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