Shortly before my second daughter was born, I faced the possibility of giving birth early due to a health complication. All of a sudden, I was scrambling to find someone to care for my oldest daughter until my mom could arrive. My sister, who was planning to help, was out of town that weekend. And as it turned out, so was almost every friend with childcare experience.
There simply were not enough available older women. It was one of the loneliest moments in my life.
We Need Older Women
I’m convinced that many of our churches are suffering from a lack of mature, older women. I’m in my mid-30s, and I’ve mostly been part of city-center churches, church plants, and university churches. On any Sunday, I see three, maybe four gray heads when I worship.
But gray heads are exactly what we need. Young women need older women. We might not be good at communicating it, but it’s true. We often don’t realize how much we need help until we’re in crisis.
The crises women face, big and small, can be difficult to discuss with male leadership. I find it exceptionally difficult to go to a male pastor about my sex life with my husband, physical suffering and my postpartum body image, the anger I often feel about trying to balance life and work as a mom, or the fight I had with my sister.
Older women who mentor, disciple, and care for younger women are an essential part of a biblical community.
And this doesn’t include the infertility, miscarriage, emotional and sexual abuse, marriage failure, and mental-health issues I’ve seen female friends struggle with alone. How we long for older, wise women to seek us out.
These concerns bring to mind the words Paul wrote to Titus. He writes that older women “are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (2:3–5). Older women who mentor, disciple, and care for younger women are an essential part of a biblical community.
Are You an Older Woman?
Here are the primary qualifications for the type of woman I wish we had more of in our young congregations:
- Available and flexible. The number-one thing millennials feel like they don’t have is time. This means we need people who don’t share this mindset and can challenge our sense of time. Those who have more open-ended schedules can push back on the cultural insistence that we stay busy. Especially if you’re retired and have flexible commitments, you will be a blessing to a young church.
- Spiritually mature. Being spiritually mature does not mean you have to be a teacher or leader. It means you exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23) and the qualifications listed in Titus (Titus 2:3–5). It means you love the Lord, his Word, and his people.
Especially if you’re retired and have flexible commitments, you will be a blessing to a young church.
- Submissive to church leadership. Churches need older women who respect and support the pastors and elders, and who can encourage younger women to do the same. Powerful spiritual fruit is born in the lives of younger female congregants when an older woman actively serves in cooperation with and submission to a church’s leadership.
- Content. We need both older single women and older married women who rejoice in the life God has given them and can model contentment. We also need older women who are divorced and can model the same. If you’re able to thank the Lord for the life he has given you, including the trials you have endured, you will have much wisdom to share.
- Able to talk about sex and sexuality. Especially if they were raised in non-Christian homes, younger women often do not have a biblical understanding of sex and sexuality. Even if they were raised in Christian homes, they often need places other than the mainstream culture to discuss sex. We need women who can talk about sex without feeling awkward and who will be compassionate wherever the conversation goes.
- Willing to serve. I don’t mean we need older women to do all of the church’s practical chores. I mean we need women who serve their young sisters as Jesus would: slow to judge, kindly persistent in admonishing sin, present in our physical needs, and constant in furthering devotion to the Lord.
Sacrifice Is Required
For older women, becoming part of certain churches might be uncomfortable. Commuting to city centers or university towns will be a big hurdle. When you walk in the door, it will not be immediately obvious where you fit in. It will take initiative to figure it out. In short, it will be a sacrifice.
But given that countless women across the United States attend churches where they spiritually grow up without spiritual mothers, I ask you to prayerfully consider whether this is a sacrifice the Lord is calling you to make. If you have an abundance of wisdom and availability, consider making an offering of your time to a younger congregation (see 2 Cor. 8:13–15).
Given that countless women across the United States attend churches where they spiritually grow up without spiritual mothers, prayerfully consider whether this is a sacrifice the Lord is calling you to make.
Reward Is Eternal
Young Christians are sometimes a mess. Later in his epistle to Titus, Paul writes about the types of issues older Christians will have to deal with when teaching younger believers: “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:1–2).
But this is how the kingdom of God goes forward—by displaying to the next generation the grace we ourselves received (Titus 3:3–8). And for older women who invest in younger women, the reward will be unending.
As you sacrifice to ensure the younger generations in our churches are not left to themselves, remember that you do so for the beauty of Christ’s bride, the church, so that she might be presented immaculate and whole when he returns.