Don't Let Women's Ministry Turn People Into Projects
When it comes to guidance for mentoring relationships among Christian women, it seems there's only one place to go: Titus 2.
I wonder if the Apostle Paul imagined his instructions on transmitting faith to the next generation would become a checklist for church mentorship in the 21st-century, as women try to teach others "to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God" (Titus 2:4-5).
In recent years, various iterations of these Titus 2-themed "matchmakers" programs and other church curricula have brought Christian women together for the sake of discipleship. Although Titus 2 includes similar coaching themes for the relationship between older men and younger ones, the chapter has become shorthand among evangelicals for "women only." Very few programs apply the relevant passages to brand men's ministry.
These mentorship programs, in some evangelical circles, replace older models of women's ministries, which relied on ladies lunches and women's retreats. In her Her.meneutics post entitled "Why It's Your Job To Break The Women's Ministry Sterotype," Sharon Hodde Miller observed that the "doilies and teacups" events—ones often light on content, heavy on large group socializing—are fading away. These gatherings are, at best, a gateway for the kind of relationships Paul described to Titus… but, thanks be to God, they're certainly not the only point of entry.
Bible studies, book groups, and ministries bring the women of the church together, and in these settings, cross-generational relationships can sometimes grow into meaningful spiritual pairings that nurture and benefit both women. But oftentimes, there are too many factors working against these relationships forming organically. We're compulsively busy. Fewer of us, even in the same congregation, live in the same areas. We don't naturally connect one-on-one with someone of another generation, particularly in churches that focus on age-segregated programming.
Thus, the mentoring relationship described in Titus 2 may be easier read than done. Programs rooted in the passage may view the mentorship relationship as overly formulaic and straightforward. Actually cultivating connection across generations can be much more difficult. But even a forced pairing between an older and younger woman might be better than no mentoring relationship at all. Over the course of a 13-week small group study centered on Titus 2, participants may actually move into relationships that go beyond the standard church lobby hellos.
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