Women's Ministry in the Local Church

Sept. 21, 2012 Susan Hunt

Session Transcript

Susan Hunt: Thank you for being here. Thank you for being concerned about this topic, Women's Ministry in the Local Church. This is how, through the vehicle of a women's ministry, that we can take what we're learning here back to the women in our churches.

Let's go to the Lord in prayer before we begin.

Father in heaven, I thank You for each woman here. I thank You for her concern to disciple the women in her particular church. Father, when we come to something like this, and it's just so wonderful, and it's just so wonderful to be here, but it's taking it back into our own churches that really matters.

And I pray that in some way the things we discuss today will be of help to us as we serve You in Your Church, as we love You by loving Your Church and by loving Your daughters. In the name of Jesus, amen.

The purpose of this seminar is to give some biblical foundations for women's ministry in the local church and also somehow choose some resources. And it's very important to me to point you to resources because we're going to be talking about so much information you can just feel like, "Information overload. What do I do with all of this?"

So what I'm going to do is point you to the resources first so that you won't start panicking as we move through and think, I really can't get it all. You really don't have to get it all, because it is in printed resources—that if this is what you want, if this will help you in your ministry, then I'm going to go ahead and show you to begin with where to go for it. It's all listed in this Biblical Womanhood: Generation to Generation.

The principles that we will be talking about are in the book Women's Ministry in the Local Church and Leadership for Women in the Church. Also, the Women's Ministry Training and Resource Guide, huge notebook—it has a Leader's Guide for Women's Ministry in the Local Church and for Leadership for Women in the Local Church.

So if you have this notebook and those books, those are really designed to help you train your leaders, take them through the biblical principles for women's ministry. And they give applications for some ways you can implement it in your women's ministry.

In addition, in this notebook, later on in the seminar we will be talking about a small group model for a Titus 2 ministry. That's in here. It's in Section 4, and there is material for you to train Titus 2 leaders.

So before we even get started, I want you to know you don't just have to listen to every single word I say, but it will point you to these things.

Okay, what I have tried to do is to anticipate some of your questions, and they're listed there on the handout. I think we have the questions when we start thinking about women's ministry, such as is our women's ministry task, personality, event, or Word-driven? And even if you've never heard those terms, you probably know exactly what I mean.

What an event-drive ministry looks like—we just move from one event to the other, and we can't understand why women are not all that excited about it, or we're having to top the last event. And the problem is that our ministries are not Word-driven.

Do you feel like you have to reinvent women's ministry each time there's a change in leadership, or do you have biblical principles that give consistency and continuity to your ministry?

And then that generates other questions. How do we train women's ministry leaders from a gospel perspective? How do we implement a Titus 2 ministry? How do we cultivate community or relationships among women? And how do we disciple teen girls?

All of those are very important question, but the very first question that should be asked—and unless we can answer this question, we should not have women's ministry. And that question is, are there biblical reasons for a women's ministry in the local church? If there are only practical reasons, then we'll just have a task-driven ministry. But the real question is, are there biblical reasons? Because there is so much kingdom work to be done that if we can't say we understand these biblical principles, and this is our mandate to be involved in this. So that's the question that we really need to ask.

It is a question that you cannot just pull out a few isolated verses of Scripture and then construct what women's ministry should be. But rather we must see that that question, as well as any question, should be seen in the light of the big story of God's Word. It should be seen from a redemptive, historical perspective.

In other words, that the Bible is one wonderful story. It's not fragments and bits of stories that really don't fit together, but everything in there is all revealing God to us, and it is telling the wonderful story of redemption. So it's important that we put this topic solidly in the context of the gospel—solidly in the context of the big story.

So what I'm going to do today is give you two reasons that I think we should have women's ministry in the local church. And the first reason is that God created us male and female.

We read in Genesis 1:27, "So God created man in his own image." Pause just a moment. Being created in God's image means we're created to live face-to-face with Him, to be His image-bearers, to be His reflectors. We are created to reflect the glory of God's goodness, to reflect His glorious character. So that is our purpose, and you're hearing that over and over this weekend.

And when we minister to women, we need to be sure that we're discipling them to know our purpose is not our happiness. Our purpose is God's glory.

And then the verse goes on to say, "In the image of God he created him, male and female he created them." Gender distinctiveness is woven into the creation story, and a biblical approach to women's ministry cannot ignore this. It is part of our mandate, as we will see as we go along.

So you can't start anywhere except with the fact that God created us male and female. We must have a biblical understand of womanhood in order to have a biblical understanding of women's place in the Church. Now this is true anytime, but it's especially true in a culture that does not just deny gender distinctiveness but is hostile to gender distinctiveness.

We are equally created in God's image, but we are created for different functions. Man and woman are equal in being, but God created us to reflect different aspects of Himself. Our functions are different.

The wonderful thing about that is that this reflects the unity but the diversity of the Trinity. Our gender distinctiveness is a reflection of the distinctiveness of the Persons of the Trinity. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit live in a perfect interdependent relationship of love. So when God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit decided to create a creature to be His image-bearer, it was natural then that that image-bearer must also reflect the unity but the diversity of the Trinity. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in being, but each has a different function in accomplishing our salvation.

The Father chose us before the foundation of the world. The Son redeems us by dying on the cross for our sins. And the Holy Spirit applies what the Father purposed and the Son accomplished into our lives as He breathes new life into us.

We certainly would not say that the Son is not as important as the Father or the Father is not as important as the Holy Spirit. No. There's equality of being but difference, diversity of a function. And that's what our gender distinctiveness reflects.

But then we want to hone in on God's female design. In Genesis 2:18, "the LORD God said, 'It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'" In this verse we see at least four principles.

One is God's sovereignty. This is God's plan. This is the way He set it up.

Secondly, we see His character. The reason it was not good for the man to be alone is because he's created in the image of an interdependent relational God, and so man needed one who was equal but different.

Now let me say this is where we get the view that is known as complimentarianism, that man and woman are equal in being but have been assigned different but equally valuable functions in God's kingdom. That's known as complimentarianism.

By contrast, egalitarianism says that there's really no difference in function between men and women. But you see the problem with that is that it diminishes our reflection of God's glory and it denies our value as females.

The third thing that we see in Genesis 2:18 is God's order. He created the man first, showing headship. And man's headship reflects Christ's headship over His Bride, and woman's submission is to reflect Christ's submission to the Father in accomplishing our salvation.

So the reality is, whether you're male or female, we have the high and holy privilege of reflecting something about Jesus and telling that grand story.

And then the fourth principle that we see in this verse is woman's design. What does it mean to be a helper? This word that is used for helper, the Hebrew word, is used most often to refer to God as our Helper throughout the Old Testament. And I've listed a few of those verses, and as you look at how God is our Helper, this begins to unpack this design.

He helps us as He defends, as He sees and cares for the suffering—supports, protects, delivers from distress, rescues and comforts. These are very strong words. They're relational, nurturing, caring words. This is really a description of our female design. It is a description of the true woman.

Perhaps you've heard of the study that was done at UCLA several years ago. It seems that there were some women in a research lab who began to notice that when men in the lab were under stress that they reacted differently than the women. And their words were:

When the women who worked in the lab were stressed, they came in, cleaned the lab, had coffee and bonded. But when the men were under stress—get this—they holed up somewhere on their own.

And so these researchers began researching it, and what they found was that up to that point most stress research had been done on men, and the prevailing notion was that people react in one of two ways—the fight or the flight.

But as they studied it, they realized that women respond differently. Because when women are under stress, we release a cascade of hormones, oxytocin—and this is their words—that encourages her to tend children and gather with other women instead of just fight or flight.

And when she actually engages in this tending or befriending—aren't those just great words?—tending or befriending, studies suggest that more oxytocin is released which further counters stress and produces a calming effect.

Tending and befriending—is that not what the helper design is described to be right here? God has wired us, even with this cascade of hormones, to tend and to befriend, and as we move on, we'll see that in many ways that is such a beautiful description of women's ministry in the Church.

But the problem is Satan inverted the creation order and went to the woman. She gave the fruit to her husband, and they rebelled against God's authority. When they rebelled against God's authority, when they sinned, they lost their relationship with Him, and thus their ability to be what they were designed to be.

But the gospel. God did not end it all there, but we know that He came to the garden, and they listened as He spoke to the serpent. And imbedded in this curse upon the serpent is the promise of the gospel. This is the first proclamation of the gospel in Genesis 3:15: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."

God says, "I will put enmity." I will—words of sovereign initiative, sovereign grace. They cannot disengage from the enemy of their souls. They are enslaved. But "I will put enmity between you and between them and between your offspring and hers."

Now think about this: The man and woman are standing there fully expecting death because that's what they had been told—disobey, death. But now they're hearing that she will have offspring. That means life. There's beginning to be hope. "And he [that is this life that will eventually come from woman] will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." They expected death, but they hear a message of life.

The question is, what was the man's response to this first proclamation of the gospel? In verse 20 we read, "Adam named his wife." Don't skip over that. This means that because he believed the gospel, he was restored to his position of headship. Because you see, naming is an indicator of headship. He had named the animals, and so he names her.

But what does he name her? He names her Eve, because she would be the mother of all the living. Eve means "life-giver." This is Adam's celebration and the affirmation of his belief in the gospel.

Life-giver does not just refer to our biological ability to give life, though that is the beautiful illustration of it. But every redeemed female, regardless of age—even our little girls—when we have the life of Christ in us, we can be life-givers in every relationship and in every situation.

That is our potential. But you see, our own sin nature and culture pull us to be life-takers instead of life-givers. But what's going on here is the redemption of our helper design, because those helper words are life-giving words.

But woman's new name needed to point to, not what she is to do, but what she is given so that she can do. Do you get that? So the new name Eve points to the gospel, the life of Christ given to us, so that we can do the helper work. Isn't that exciting to see that? What a beautiful picture of our potential.

But as I said, everything screams at us to be life-takers. And I've given you the contrast there. The life-giver words could be summarized as community and compassion. We, by our very design, are wired to be relational, to build that deep sense of community or a family in our homes and in our churches, and to be the channels of compassion.

Women, just as the verse said from Psalms, we see and we take in hand those who are oppressed, who are sad, who are lonely. We just know that to take a meal or to go sit with someone is important. And that's what we're wired to do—to tend and to befriend—whereas the life-taker words are words of division and of destruction.

Redeemed women have the ability to be life-givers, but we do not automatically become life-givers when we're saved. That is the process of sanctification. It is an ongoing lifelong process, and we need to be discipled in order to be life-givers.

And that's the second reason that we should have a women's ministry, because Jesus' final instruction to His Church, His great imperative to His Church, is to make disciples, teaching them to observe all that He has commanded us, and He's with us until He comes back.

A woman's ministry is a discipling ministry. A woman's ministry is all about discipling women to be life-givers and not life-takers. Now sometimes biblical discipleship scares us just a little—we're not sure what that's all about. But I want to give you three principles of biblical discipleship that I think will help to make it just a little easier to think about.

First of all, biblical discipleship is informational. Jesus said, "Teach them." So there's a certain amount of information that must be given. We must be teaching them God's Word.

But it's also to be relational. It is not just academic. It is to be relational. We read that Jesus "appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach" (Mark 3:14). "With him" is key there. You see the relationship with Him preceded the task. And yet, too often we just move toward the task.

There's work to be done, and so we just focus on the task rather than on the relational part of it—a woman's relationship with God and our relationships with one another. If Jesus took the time just to be with them, we must take the time in true discipleship to be with them.

But biblical discipleship is also transformational. "A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40). We actually become increasingly like Christ. It's so exciting. And when we're involved in this wonderful process, we should be involved with the sense of anticipation of watching God not only transform those we're discipling but to transform us through the process.

I think that Paul's description in 1 Thessalonians really sums it all up: "We were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us" (vv. 7–8).

In our women's ministry, if we're only downloading information, we're not doing what we've been called to do. It's all about sharing ourselves as well as sharing the information of the gospel, sharing Scripture. And it's about helping women learn how to share life together because Jesus has adopted us into His family, and His family is to reflect the relationship of the Trinity.

And then some discipleship is to be gender specific, and now it's down to where we are—women's ministry in the church. All discipleship is not gender specific. There are many places where we learn shoulder to shoulder and where we minister shoulder to shoulder with men. We sit in our worship services, and we are discipled by our pastors, and that's not gender specific. But Titus 2 clearly tells us that some discipleship is to be gender specific.

In Titus 2, we read that Paul writes to the pastor, and he says, "But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine" (v. 1). And then he gives him some instructions about older men. And then he says, "Older women . . . are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They 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" (vv. 3–5).

Now don't get too hung up on the list of behaviors that is given here. This is not just a behavioral model. But rather, what's being told here is that women are to be equipped to train other women to be life-givers—whether they're single or married or whatever—we are to be training women.

But notice this mandate is not just given to women; it's given to the Church. And so women's ministry is necessary in order to help the Church obey this mandate. Some discipleship is to be gender specific.

After one conference a young college woman stood and asked the question, "How can I possibly think biblically about my womanhood when I'm constantly being told that independence is power, that I should determine my own destiny and seek my own fulfillment, to experiment sexually?"

And my answer to her may sound simplistic, but I really don't—well, in some ways it's so profound and it is simplistic—but I took her to the Titus 2 passage, and I said, "Go to the women, go to your own local church, go to the women's ministry in that church, and ask godly women to speak the truth of womanhood into your life as a counterpoint to what you're hearing."

But I shuddered because I wondered, Is her church equipping women to do that? Are the women in her church equipped to give a clear, articulate, biblical apologetic for womanhood that can stand up against everything that she's hearing?

But it also made me shudder because I had to wonder, How did one of our covenant daughters, a daughter of the Church, get to college and not know the answer to that question, "How can I think biblically about my womanhood?"

Okay, then, we're convinced that we need women's ministry in our churches, I hope. So are there biblical principles to guide us in crafting these ministries? We can clearly see the biblical apologetic for womanhood in those opening chapters in Genesis, and then it's just replayed over and over for us throughout Scripture. But are there as clear principles for woman's ministry?

I was thinking about this question a lot several years ago, and I was writing a Bible study on the pastoral letters, Timothy and Titus—those letters Paul wrote to these pastors to help them to know how to do church, how to have a healthy church.

And as I worked through those letters, I realized that there are five passages that speak specifically about women. Within those passages, there are special mentions made of women. And when I pulled those passages out, there it was. And where else should it be except in the letters that deal with how to have a healthy church? And I have those listed there on your handout.

The first principle is ecclesiastical submission. The second is compassion, community, discipleship, and Scripture. Now I hope you're connecting the dots.

Ecclesiastical submission, in other words, headship and submission. Where does that take us right back to but creation.

Compassion and community—it takes us back to woman's creation design.

So the principles God gives us for women's ministry correlate exactly with the way He created us, and so what He's shouting to us is, "My daughters, I want you to be doing in the Church exactly what I designed you to be doing. This is your mandate. This is what the Church, My Beloved, My Bride, needs from you."

Now we don't have time to unpack those passages—again, they are unpacked in the book Women's Ministry in the Local Church. But just to give a couple of examples: Ecclesiastical submission, in other words the governance of the church, is to reflect the creation order. This is not because we sinned. It's not part of the curse. It precedes the fall into sin. The governance in the Church and the home is to reflect the creation order, which reflects the Trinity. So it's a lot bigger than that.

Practically, this means that our women's ministry doesn't just stand off here as something isolated and on its own. It is one part of the church's total discipleship ministry, and it functions under the oversight of the male leadership of the church so that all the ministries are coordinated, that there's theological consistency all the way through, and that we are discipling God's people.

Compassion—woman's helper design equips us to tend and to befriend. And I have to tell you, I can go into a church and not be there very long before I know if there is a vibrant women's ministry. Pretty soon you can see whether there's this deep sense of community and compassion, where there's a sense of family, a sense of home. And that will say to me that women are doing what we've been designed to do, the things that really make us feel like a family, when the women's ministry is taking food to those who are sick, when the women's ministry is equipping other women to understand the value of those kinds of ministries.

And then community—are our women's Bible studies just informational? And I will never minimize the importance of information, but we've got to be sure that we're also teaching women how to have relationships with one another.

One young woman who had been a part of our women's ministry moved to another community, and she was in a wonderful church. But she said that she went to the women's Bible study, and that when they got there, they were given a sheet of paper with some questions on it, and then they were told that following the lecture, they would divide into small groups and discuss these questions, and they were not allowed to talk about anything else except those questions. They could not bring personal issues into the discussion—nothing else.

And she said to me, "I went there so lonely. I went there feeling so displaced, longing to have some Christian women pray for me, and I was not even given the opportunity to find out the name of the woman who was sitting next to me."

I don't think that's what God's called us to do in women's ministry. Our ministries need to be building that deep sense of community. And we've got to be very intentional, as the women's leaders. That's not just going to automatically happen anymore. We don't live in family systems like we used to. We don't know how to do relationships. So we need to be sure that we're helping that happen.

One of the things we suggest in the notebook, and we do it in our own women's ministry, is our Bible study committee, the women who plan for our Bible study, one of the chairmen on that committee is responsible for community building. And each week when we meet, there is a community-building activity. We spend time helping women to connect.

One of the ways we do this is with Box Talks. Do any of you know or have you done Box Talks? Raise your hand. A lot of you have come up and told me that you do them now. I'm just going to give a very, very quick demonstration.

If I was doing a Box Talk in my church, my box, or my container, would be my beach bag because I absolutely love the beach. I grew up on the beach in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We go back every summer for vacation, all of our family. We are beach people. We love the beach.

And then I would start pulling things out to tell you a bit about myself. I would tell you that I absolutely love God's Word, and I grew up in the church, but I did not become a Christian until I was twenty-two. And God has given me a passion for His Word. I'm a pastor's wife, and I thank Him every day that He has enabled me to study His Word and to actually teach His Word to people.

And I don't have the other items because I flew here and I did not have room for them, but I would bring out a couple of pictures of our family and tell you that we have three children and twelve grandchildren, and I'd tell you just a little bit about them.

And then I would pull out my hoodie, my South Carolina Gamecock hoodie, and tell you that our family is crazy about SEC football. And on any Saturday you can find us, wherever we are, different ones are gathered around a TV because our grandchildren now, three of them, are in Auburn. Now that does present a bit of a problem, because my husband is a graduate of the University of Georgia. And so usually we're okay. But then there are a right many Saturdays when we're playing each other, and the grandchildren kept asking me, "Well, Me-Mommy, who are you going to be cheering for?" I mean, what's a grandmother supposed to say? "My own team" or "my husband's team"? I know what they want, so I've resolved the dilemma. This is what I do—I cheer for whoever has the ball. Yeah!

Now don't you know me just a little bit better than you did two minutes ago? Some of you may even come up and say, "I love SEC football, too." That's just the way it is."

And that's what happens with these Box Talks. One of my favorite stories is the young woman who did a Box Talk in our church, and she pulled out a quilt square. And she said, "Since I was a little girl, I had been fascinated with quilting, and some day I'm going to learn how to quilt."

Well, I was looking and saw an eighty-something-year-old woman there who was very quiet and timid, but she just began glowing. And as soon as that Box Talk was over, she rushed up to this young woman, and she said, "I'm a quilter. Would you go to our quilting circle with me next week?"

This young woman began going with her—I could go on and on telling you about the relationship that developed there. So that's the kind of thing that can happen when women connect. But be intentional. And we give you lots of ideas for that in the notebook.

And then the fourth principle is being gender specific. And, of course, Titus 2 calls us to that. And that is so essential. Our Bible studies and our ministry to women is not just to be having a separate time for women, but this is the time when the church is to see to it that women are being taught the principles of womanhood.

One woman, who had been in a church where womanhood was clearly taught, moved to another city—her family did—and they located in a wonderful church with wonderful preaching, sound theology. But after about six months, she emailed me and said, "I'm so confused. The preaching is wonderful; the women's Bible studies are wonderful. But in these discussions, and as I'm getting to know the women, they think like feminists. How can there be such a disconnect between their theology and how they apply God's Word into their lives?"

And so I emailed her back and said, "Well, is there any place within the women's ministry where the women are being taught biblical principles of womanhood?"

Several weeks later she emailed back, and she said, "I have looked and listened, and to my shock, nowhere. There is silence on the whole issue of womanhood."

Unfortunately, that all too often is the case, and then we're surprised that there's this disconnect. You see, if we're silent on true womanhood, by default the only thing women have to buy into is what culture tells them. So we should not be surprised that they think like feminists.

And then the authority of God's Word—that is the foundation of it all. Everything must flow out of God's Word. It must be attached to God's Word. Not only should we as leaders know why we are doing what we do, but we should be teaching it to our women.

When we do Box Talks, over and over and over we tell our women, "Jesus prayed in John 17 that we would be one as He and the Father are one so that the world will know that God sent Jesus and that God loves us as He loves Jesus. And for us to be one, we've got to get to know each other. We need to care for each other and love each other." And so this is just one effort to help us start feeling like family.

At one of these conferences, I cannot remember whether it was last year or the year before, but during a Q & A, a woman stood and she said, "I believe what you're saying. I long to be discipled by an older woman. And so six months ago, I went to an older woman in my church, and I asked her if she would disciple me, and she quickly and readily agreed. And I'm so devastated, because I have not heard from her since."

And I thought about that, and I said, "You know, I have a very strong suspicion that that woman you asked is even more devastated than you are, because she would not have agreed so readily if she had not wanted to do that. And every morning she wakes up and thinks, What am I supposed to do? I don't have a clue how to do this. And so she puts off another day calling you, and her guilt has increased and increased until now she's totally defeated."

You see, that young woman should not have had to go looking all alone, and that older woman should not have been left alone to figure it out. A women's ministry can put that in place. Investing in other women should be our lifestyle, and for some of you it will. As one woman told me one time, "I've been spiritually mothering for twenty-five years, and I didn't know what to call it, but that's what I've been doing." And many of you, that's how you are, and probably a lot of you since you're here.

But this is where a woman's ministry can come in and help those women to find each other. And we can train women for this kind of ministry so it's not just them meeting for lunch and the younger woman dumping all of her problems on the older woman. But rather it is true discipleship, true teaching them the principles of womanhood from a gospel perspective, and then helping them apply it out into life.

As we struggled with this, about ten years ago in my own local church, we came upon a model. As we kept praying about it and thinking, we decided to try a small group model. And it was so effective and so wonderful that then we put it into the notebook, and many of you have come up to me and said you're doing it in your churches. And it's being used in churches all over the country.

Let me just give you a little bit of the overview of it, and this would be in addition to other ministries that you have—you may have Bible studies already going on in your church. Whatever you have going on with your women's ministry, this is something that you can come in and add alongside of that.

We have a weekly women's Bible study, morning and night, for our women, and our Bible study leaders are trained in the principles of biblical womanhood so that they can bring those principles into whatever they're studying.

But then our Titus 2 discipleship ministry is very narrowly focused on preparing our women to be able to answer that young college woman's question. It is teaching them principles of womanhood.

It's small groups—six to eight women. They meet once a month so it does not compete with the rest of church life. Once a month is usually doable for women who cannot attend a weekly Bible study or many women who attend a weekly study also will be in a Titus group.

Our leaders are trained to know that they are not teachers. They are facilitators. They're spiritual mothers. They are nurturers. Now this does not mean that our leaders are only older women—whatever that is—that is a moving target depending on how old you are. I have to look kind of long and hard to find older women right now. But really, older women can be. . .it's not just chronological age. It is also spiritual maturity.

In most of our groups, our leaders are younger women because they're just more willing to take that responsibility where sometimes women get to a place, a life stage where they just don't feel they can do that. But they have so much to give, so we really encourage them to be a part of the group, and our leaders are trained to really call on their wisdom.

So we will oftentimes have a leader and every woman in her group will be older than she is. But that's okay. It's really funny in some of the groups where it's like that. Those older women keep that young woman running. When they need coffee, they'll say, "Honey, you're younger. You go get it."

But it's just great to see how they make that work. And the important thing is, there is mutual teaching and relating and accountability and encouragement there, but your facilitator is there to guide and make sure the discussions are staying on track.

There is an approved curriculum that is followed. Each group doesn't just get together but rather we go through an approved curriculum. We use Spiritual Mothering and True Woman and, of course, True Woman 101 is a wonderful option now that we have that. We didn't have that when we wrote this in the notebook.

But these are informal discussions. Women are to read their chapters, come together, and they discuss the chapter, and then they discuss how it applies into their particular situations, and there's time for them to pray.

Oftentimes they do lots of fun things together. They get together at other times just to go out to dinner or whatever. Most of the groups meet in homes, but some may meet even at the church. We even have some groups that meet at the church while there are activities going on for children and there would be nurseries available.

The way women get into a group is not by us assigning them. We don't do any of this, "Well, we'll find out who matches up with one another." You know what? They all match up with one another, because they're God's children. That's what matters. And so what we do is when we're training our Titus leaders, we ask them to decide, when is the best time for you to meet with your group. And we do some negotiating so that we're sure we have some morning and some night groups and a few that meet at the church when there's a nursery for those women who would need that.

And then—and this is key—we post the times, not the names of the leaders. So women do not sign up for a leader. This is not a popularity contest. But rather they sign up for a time, and then the leader contacts them. And that's made a huge difference. For one thing, it's a good teaching moment for us. We explain to the women in all of the publicity that we're all God's daughters. We've been adopted into His family. And we hope that there will be great diversity in our groups, because that way we can learn from each other.

And so often we've had groups with a homeschooling mom, and a teacher in public education with a single woman, a single mom—just the whole gambit. And they've learned to love and care for each other and to appreciate each other's stage and situation in life and to be supportive of one another.

And so what it's done. . .you maybe have had the experience of churches being fragmented by some of those choices—school choices and all those different things—and it tends to fragment the church. When those women are meeting together this way and praying for one another, we have found that it has deepened community life, and we do not have those kinds of fragmentations, but rather we have the sweet unity. And I think that's very important, very important.

We run these at least three years. We encourage women: You sign up each year. But we encourage them to try and stay in at least three years. And the reason for that is this is such a huge paradigm shift, moving from a secular understanding of womanhood to a biblical understanding, that we find it takes about three years. So we usually run it about three years. So that means that each year we've got new year-one groups starting up even as then there's your two-groups going and your three-groups going.

If that's fuzzy to you, it's clearly laid out here. And I will tell you this: I've put my email at the top of the handout, but I do not answer your email unless you've read the book and the notebook. Because I would say about 99 percent of what I know is in there, and so it saves you and me time if you will do that first. And there's no point in me answering a zillion emails that is here. So go there first. And then if you say to me, "I've read it all, but now we have this question," then it's there for you. Okay?

All right. Now, how do we disciple teen girls? We've tried to give you resources for that too. There is the book Becoming God's True Woman: While I Still Have a Curfew, the devotion book Mary Kassian and I have co-authored. That is a good starting place for you to use with your own daughters, granddaughters, to encourage in your youth ministry or whatever. But then in addition to that, there is a curriculum. We have leaders' guide and journal, and it is a three-year, very intensive discipleship program for teen girls that can be used in youth ministries or mothers use it with their daughters.

Okay, now I want us to look at an example in Scripture, because it's really God's Word that will inspire us, motivate us, and show us the gospel.

The Titus idea was given weight at the high point of human history when an angel appeared to a young woman in the village of Nazareth. If you have your Bibles, you may want to turn to Luke 1. And he tells her that she will be the mother of the Messiah. And it's really remarkable as you read through that dialogue between Mary and the angel, that then seemingly out of nowhere he drops this bit of information in: "Behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren" (v. 36).

And you think, What does that have to do with anything? But you see, Mary got the message. Titus hadn't been written yet, but she knew that all through the Old Testament we're told that one generation is to tell the next generation, and so Scripture tells us that "she went with haste to the hill country" (v. 39). And she went to Elizabeth's home, and when she entered Elizabeth's home, "Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed . . . , 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! . . . Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord'" (vv. 41–42, 45).

Elizabeth spoke Spirit-led words of encouragement, instruction, affirmation, and the result was that Mary sang. Mary sang that beautiful Magnificant that gives praise to God and that has blessed His Church throughout the generations.

If we are doing Elizabeth-work in the lives of the women around us, I think we will see women singing. We will see women whose lives are praising God, and the results of that will travel down through the generations. We will see true women.

But that's not the only woman that God had prepared to speak truth into Mary's life. After Jesus was born, we see in Luke 2 that Mary and Joseph take Him to the temple. Simeon takes the Baby in his arms, recognizes Him as the Messiah and praises God for Him. But then we read that he said to Mary, "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:34–35).

A sword in the soul—what painful language. And there are so many women in our churches with a sword in their soul. What causes a sword? I can think of at least three things.

Our own sin. There are women in our churches who have the memory of perhaps an abortion or an affair, an addiction, and they think that if we knew their baggage that we would reject them—not realizing that every one of us has our sin baggage. But they isolate, and they pull back.

There are also women with swords in their souls because of our own sin and are struggling with that sin.

And then there are those with a sword in their souls because of our providential callings—illness or the death of a child.

But it's what happens next that just takes my breath away. In verse 36 we see that there was a prophetess, Anna. This woman had been married for seven years, and then she had been widowed, and she's now eighty-four years old. But we see coming up at that very hour, God had her positioned and ready to immediately come up and to give thanks to God and speak of Him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Here we see the pastor of the church confronting this young woman with the cost of her calling, and immediately there is a woman who is equipped to come alongside that pastor and to put her arms around this young woman and to help her to think biblically about that sword in her soul, to think redemptively about that sword in her soul. She did not trivialize the sword, but she saw it in the context of the grand story of redemption. She helped that woman to put that sword in the context of God's sovereign love and His sovereign plan.

A woman's ministry is all about being Elizabeths and Annas. And then one final illustration in Mark 16. After the crucifixion, we read that "when the Sabbath was passed, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him" (v. 1). Anointing the body was a sign of their affection, but do you see what's going on here? This is tending and befriending. They got together. They were not holed up somewhere on their own—as were the men, as a matter of fact. And that's okay. We're different. And that's a good thing.

But this is community and compassion and action. "Very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb" (v. 2). This was a dangerous thing for them to do. There were guards there; it was dark. But—look at verse 3—as they walked to the tomb, they asked, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?"

There was a task to be done—anointing the body of Jesus. But they knew full well there was an obstacle that was too big for them, but they went anyway. And what is the result? "When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away" (v. 4). And a young man dressed in white said, "Don't be alarmed. . . . He has risen!" (v. 6).

And Matthew tells us that as they hurried away, Jesus met them, and He said, "Greetings. . . . Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers" (Matt. 28:9–10).

Anointing the Body of Christ—His Church—because we love Him is the essence of women's ministry. If we do it for any other reason, we will not go the distance. A woman's ministry is all about anointing the Body of Christ because we love Him. But I will tell you, there will be obstacles that are way too big for us to overcome.

Most of the obstacles I face are my own sin, my doubt, my feelings of inadequacy. Sometimes the sins—don't be overcome—it's just the difficulty, the messiness of church life. Sometimes I think the only way, the only reason the Church survives is because Jesus said it would, because we sure don't help it along.

Why do we keep at it? I want to bolt sometimes. But you know what? I can't. Because, by God's amazing grace, I've been adopted into His family, and the Church is His Bride, and He has bound Himself to His Bride in covenant loyalty. And one day He's coming back to get His Bride, and when I care for His Bride, when I invest in other women, I'm actually privileged to help get the Bride ready to meet the Bridegroom. And I think that our Savior is most pleased when we join together with other women to befriend and to tend to His Bride.

Let's pray. Father in heaven, I thank You for each woman here. And, Lord, I pray that You will lay upon our hearts throughout this weekend Your calling for each one of us. It will be different, but wherever we are, whatever our situations, we know that it is Your will for us to reflect the life of Christ, to be life-givers and not life-takers. And it is only by the power of Your Spirit that we can do such a radical thing.

We thank You that You're our ever-present help, in Jesus' name, amen.

Thank you for being here.