When I said “I do” to my husband, I was aware of taking on the new titles of wife, daughter-in-law, and sister-in-law; however, nobody warned me I would also be taking on the new title of “hermana” (“sister”) in the church. I grew up with the cultural norm of addressing older women in the church as “sister.” Before the eyebrows rise, let me establish that “older” does not mean old in age, rather more experienced or mature in the faith. The “sisters” were those involved in coordinating women’s Bible studies, weekend retreats, and cooking meals for the sick. I did not anticipate that when I married, I was classified as a “sister.” While being called a “sister” was new for me, serving in women’s ministry was not. I am grateful for the women in my life that understood the discipleship model of Titus 2 and invited me to become part of the women’s ministry leadership team while I was still a single woman. Even then, this was a cultural shift for me, as I once believed women’s ministry was for the “sisters”.
There is not an exact standard for how one receives this title; yet a cultural classification of womanhood seems to exist when one becomes a wife. A young girl moves from children’s ministry to youth ministry based on school grade level. However, once a young woman graduates from high school, she is often considered a “youth” until marriage. Some Hispanic churches have ministries for young adults, but this ministry is often combined with the youth. This cultural perspective sends the message that women’s ministry is for the married or those who are mothers. Challenges arise when younger women do not have a place at the table of women’s ministry. Oftentimes, we witness young women leave the Hispanic church in pursuit of a church with a college and career ministry or leave the church altogether. Limited opportunities for ministering to young women contribute to the generational gap in Hispanic churches. Younger women, married or single, need a place at the table alongside older women. When this happens, we share in the joy of the Psalmist David – “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1). I witnessed three major changes that transformed my perspective on how Hispanic women engage in women’s ministry together.
1. Invite Young Women to the Leadership Team
A church that ministers to women of all ages should include both younger and older women in leadership. When I was first approached about serving in women’s ministry leadership, I hesitated to accept because I felt it was not my place yet. Although I grew up in the church and led the young adults’ Sunday School, I assumed I would serve in women’s ministry later in life. What the other women in leadership saw was the need for younger women to engage in ministry. They wanted to teach and admonish the young women (Titus 2:4).
When this leadership is in place, young leaders should not exclusively reach out to young women and older leaders exclusively reach out to the older women. The purpose and end goal is unity among all women in the church. Younger representation not only brings a different generational perspective to the table, but also provides an opportunity to teach young women the qualities of a sound church.