I wonder who has been the most influential Christian woman in your life.
The person who came alongside you and nurtured you as a young Christian and showed you what it’s like to live for Jesus? The person who gave you a hand up when you were in a hard place and offered you a spirit filled friendship which was real, honest and very welcome? Maybe it’s been someone who meant it when they said they would pray, not just for you, but with you over coffee or across the kitchen table.
When I think about how I grew most as a young Christian woman I think of different women who had been walking the path of faith that little bit longer than me and who gently offered me godly guidance and prayers, and pointed me to God’s Word as I took my first steps of faith. It’s good to thank the Lord for those people who took time to come alongside us and encourage us to grow in Christ and to have Him at the centre of our world.
Side by side - Why?
Whether we like to admit it or not we all need other people alongside us as we travel through life. This is also true for us as Christians - we need to walk with others in wisdom and love. We need the love others can offer and the challenge they can bring. But why is it that this key area of side by side discipleship is one of the least practiced in our churches today?
Within PCI I constantly hear that one of the greatest barriers to the growth of women’s ministry is generational separation, where age divides and younger women still struggle with the mind-set that some women’s groups are for their mum, aunts or grannies. We need to create opportunities where older and younger women share together and get to know each other, to do life alongside those who have different life experiences.
We live in a world of social networks with communication at our fingertips, but it is said that people have never felt so alone, isolated and disconnected. We are incredibly busy and often the family unit breaks down because of hectic lifestyles. Sadly, this in turn puts stress and strain on our ability to develop intentional and spirit-filled relationships. Life is complicated, and the consumerism mentality is often also adopted within the church where people are spoilt for choice by the menu of activities and programmes.
Quite often though, younger women are not looking for more information, or even more meetings, but instead they are longing that someone who has walked the path of faith would come alongside them as they walk theirs.
The main aim of this ministry is always to point people to Jesus, to encourage them to grow in trust, and to obey His Word. In her book entitled One-to-one, Sophie De Witt defines it as; “one Christian taking the initiative with another individual to help them know Christ better and obey Him more fully, through studying the Scriptures, prayer (for and with them) and sharing one’s life with them – leaving the results to God.”
Side by side - me?
Perhaps you’re thinking, yeah that’s sounds great but you know, my life is full, why should I bother? I have plenty to do, and anyway it’s much easier to spend time with people my own age! Or maybe you’re thinking, I could never do that, what wisdom or encouragement from my life would I have to offer? Or perhaps you would really value someone drawing alongside you but you don’t know how to go about organising that. Let’s not allow our fears and feelings of inadequacy rob us and others of benefiting from a closer walk with God.
Side by side – what?
As you probably know, this isn’t a new thing and there are some of you doing it already. However, I believe it is a neglected part of biblical relationships within the body of Christ that perhaps needs some of our attention. We need to ask God to help us catch a fresh vision of what this could look like in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
Both the Old and New Testaments encourage us to invest in such relationships. Older generations are called to pass along stories of God’s faithfulness and challenge others to hold fast to the truths of the gospel. Psalm 89:1 says, “I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.”
We only need to look at the side by side relationships of Naomi and Ruth, Jesus and Peter, James and John, Paul with Titus and Timothy to realise their potential. Perhaps it’s time for us all to take a closer look at intentional side by side discipleship among women. Ask God to help you to catch the vision to become involved in this incredible area of discipleship in your church family across the generations.
Pauline Kennedy is PCI’s Women’s Ministry and PW Development Officer. She is responsible for supporting the ministry of Presbyterian Women, as well as assisting in the development of strategy and coordination of women’s ministry in general.