Each of my life roles involve elements that are energizing and elements that are draining. I delight in long talks with my teenage kids; I am zapped when I must address the same issue over and over. I love cooking; I loathe dusting. I’m grateful when my handy husband fixes a broken refrigerator; my eyes glaze over when he tells me every detail—and quizzes me afterwards—of a recent car repair.
The same is true as I lead women: there are energizing and draining elements of my responsibilities and relationships. I am invigorated when I see a younger woman with skills, talents, and a desire to lead other women. I light up when I overhear a younger woman specifically and biblically encouraging another. I am full of praise when a younger woman displays excellence in a task I’ve asked her to complete. And I flat-out shout, clap my hands, and raise my arms in victory when she tells me a story about sharing gospel truth with another woman or her children.
These are the joys of ministry! To know that I am involved in a portion of the journey of discipleship that stretches from the moment a woman came to know Christ and into the future beyond my earthly years is a deep blessing. At the same time, it’s a responsibility. We who are in leadership positions—and any Christian woman in relationship with younger women—must be involved in the work of bringing others alongside us now, to continue the mission when we are gone.
The “must” doesn’t come from me. It comes from God’s Word, as older women are instructed to teach younger women (Titus 2:3-5), and those of us entrusted with the truth are compelled to share that truth through the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 1:14).
As such, raising up younger women as leaders includes some specific considerations and an essential perspective.
Practical Considerations: Identifying Younger Leaders
Whether the need is for additional women to come alongside you in leadership now, to take over where someone else has left off, to bring fresh perspective that your church or ministry needs, or simply to prepare for the future, there will eventually be a need for new, younger leaders. The best way to identify these potential leaders is to pray first, then open your eyes and ears.
Let’s not think of this prayer as a rote responsibility, but as pursuit of God’s perspective and a confession of dependence upon the Holy Spirit to give us insight and wisdom. We need this perspective to notice those whom God may be equipping and calling to lead. After you pray, keep your eyes and ears open. Here are some questions you might ask:
Who speaks up in group discussions?
Who often volunteers for a certain task?
Who invites other women to worship services, events, or Bible studies?
Who graciously and sincerely shares a different perspective or difficult truth?
Who willingly serves when others don’t?
Who has a unique skill, gift, or training?
Who comes to you or other leaders to share her passions and ask deep questions?
These are the younger women you should be investing time in, having conversations with, and finding opportunities to serve alongside, as you seek to build up future leaders. Also remember that you are not the only woman who can invest in them. Part of our responsibility and privilege within the Body of Christ is to invite others to come alongside us. So as you look for future leaders, ask for the help of your peers and older women. Let’s utilize the richness and diversity within our local church families, as well as the Body as a whole.
Spiritual Considerations: Matching New Leaders with the Needs of Your Church
The spiritual needs of current leaders, future leaders, and those of the women within your church or ministry all need to be addressed. That’s a whole lot of people and a whole lot of needs.
While we’ll never be able to (and most certainly aren’t required to) address every one completely, that consideration should be a part of our big picture. Beginning again with prayer, ask the Lord to give you awareness and understanding of the spiritual needs of the women you are currently leading, as well as the spiritual needs of the women you are serving alongside. This understanding will involve intentional conversation and observation.
Once you understand the spiritual needs, begin to identify younger women who can help meet those needs. Here’s another list of helpful questions (and some answers) to get you started:
- Have you identified a lack of Bible knowledge among your women?
Seek a younger woman who is a voracious Bible reader and student, who is also able to teach.
- Have you identified common struggles or sin issues?
Seek a younger woman who has experienced similar issues and is trusting and obeying God to overcome them.
- Have you identified a shallow understanding of theology?
Seek a younger woman who dives into learning and discussing essential theological concepts and truth.
- Have you identified a lack of women living out their faith within the community?
Seek a younger woman who is meaningfully involved in your community, who can invite and mobilize others to do the same.
- Have you identified current leaders who are growing weary or in need of support?
Seek a younger woman to come alongside or support them.
- Have you identified women in your community, church, or ministry who do not have a saving knowledge of Christ?
Seek a younger woman with an evident burden for the lost.
(Hopefully this last one is obvious, but it’s so completely necessary I’m including it.)
Essential Perspective: Trusting God to Do the Work
Every Christian should seek to strengthen and grow God’s kingdom. We all have unique and necessary roles within that kingdom, and as leaders, that includes exhorting and equipping others to join in the mission.
There is no set description or formula for leadership. The one distinctive that should mark every Christian leader, though, is dependence on God and His Word. This may vary in degree depending on the maturity of the believer, but that reliance should be evident in a leader’s life. When you see the evidence of a woman relying on God, even if it’s only a small seed, take her under your wing, allowing her the space to grow and to nurture a deep and abiding faith.
As you seek to raise up younger leaders, be on the lookout for that dependent trust in God. Look for willing servants and learners. Look for God-given skills and talents that can be sharpened under the guidance of an older woman. Then, get to the good work of building up younger women to serve and lead so we might grow the kingdom together.