Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Long-Term Influence of Your Life

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Leslie Basham: Susan Hunt has been involved with women’s ministry in a local church for a long time, and she wants to invest in other women so much that the work can carry on without her.

Susan Hunt: We want this ministry to be such that if we drop dead, the ministry will not hiccup. The principles are still there. They’re not dependent upon us to keep it going.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for Thursday, May 9, 2019.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: As we close to Mother’s Day, we’re exploring a hugely important topic with our guest Susan Hunt. All week she’s been explaining this whole concept of what she calls spiritual mothering. If you’ve missed any of the episodes this week, you can hear them at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Nearly twenty years ago Susan wrote a book that was a precursor in a lot of ways to the True Woman Movement that we talk a lot about on Revive Our Hearts. Susan's book is called The True Woman: The Beauty and Strength of a Godly Woman. Recently, she updated it so it could reach a new generation of women.

I was so honored when Susan asked if I would be willing to write the forward to this book, and, of course, agreed to do so. The book has been repackaged, re-released, and it's hot off the press. We’d love to send you a copy of Susan's book, The True Woman, when you support Revive Our Hearts this week with a gift of any amount. You can visit ReviveOurHearts.com to take us up on that. As we pick back up on this week’s conversation, Susan is going to explain what she means by spiritual mothering.

Susan: It is based on the passage in Titus 2 when Paul writes to Titus that the older women are to train the younger women. And the word “train” means “to model, to demonstrate,” so what we see here is a nurturing, caring ministry of discipleship.

It is both informational and relational. It’s sharing life, as well as the gospel, with other women in order to encourage and equip them to live for God’s glory.

Nancy: Wow, I love it! And the impact on the whole church—not just women, but all ages, men, women, families, the church structure . . . I think Titus had his hands full in this church on the island of Crete, and Paul so wisely said to him, “Look you’re not supposed to be the one doing all the hands-on discipling of these women in your church. You’re supposed to be teaching what accords with sound doctrine. Then here’s how the women are to flesh this out—how they’re to figure it out—how they’re to live it out in different seasons of life.”

So there’s, of course, the ministry of the Word from the pastoral staff, the preaching of the Word—there’s no substitute for that. Women’s ministry in the local church doesn’t replace that. But it’s how it gets worked out into the warp and woof of everyday life.

We’ve talked about mentoring relationships, discipling relationships, encouraging relationships. But today I want to take the a little more broadly in the context of the local church. What can that look like? Why is it so important?

I’ve asked a mutual friend to join us for this conversation today. Leslie Bennett has been a friend for many years (another Southern gal!). You’ll hear her voice in just a moment. She served as a women’s ministry leader, director, in her local church for many years in Columbia, South Carolina.

She’s now serving with Revive Our Hearts as the coordinator, the leader, of our women’s ministries initiatives. Leslie, say “hi” so they’ll know for sure that you don’t come from Michigan, as I do.

Leslie Bennett: Hello, ladies.

Nancy: Susan has such a heart for women and women’s ministry, and Revive Our Hearts desires to see this kind of ministry established in local churches all across the country and around the world, because this is not just an American concept. This is a biblical concept.

I know we have people listening who . . . some of them are in churches that have well-established women’s ministries. Some of them are doing a really good job at this kind of ministry. Some of them are very much more event-based—and women wish there was more of this mentoring going on.

Then some are in churches where there is no concept like this present, so we’re talking to a wide audience here. I’d love to hear you two women just interact with us about what are some of the core values, as you think about the women’s ministry in your local church?

As it’s getting started, what is foundational? What do you need to make sure is there—is not missing—as you think about women’s ministry in the local church? Both of you have done this for years and years. Susan, why don’t you go ahead and get us started.

Susan: I think we have to start with a commitment to establishing a women’s ministry based on biblical principles, as opposed to an event- or task- or personality-driven ministry. That is a huge order, because so often what happens is . . . There are so many tasks to be done. There are events to be planned. And there are strong personalities leading the ministry. All of these are good, but we need to be sure those are grounded on biblical principles.

Leslie: I like to describe it as women linking arms together, once those foundations are in place. There’s that biblical, Word-based ministry. And it’s a ministry of prayer where women are growing in their prayer lives.

But women need to link their arms together, living life-on-life together. On one side you have the older woman who is a little bit further down the journey than you are, and that younger woman on the other side.

It’s a ministry of care and compassion between women in the local church. It’s extending that gospel love to each other and being welcoming to each other—as the gospel is. It is a gospel imperative, as you’ve said, Susan, so beautifully, to live out that Titus 2 mandate of the older women teaching the younger women.

Nancy: Now, I can hear some pastors (I actually have heard some pastors over the years) express a little concern about how a women’s ministry in the church can kind of become its own thing, detached from the life of the whole church.

Maybe there’s a fear sometimes on the part of the pastor, the elders: “Is this going to take off in a wrong direction? Is it going to be biblically sound? Is it going to be something that ends up causing us more trouble?”

How do we make sure that these women’s ministries, in the context of our local churches, fit in well to the context of the spiritual leadership of the local church? Talk to a woman who’s getting started. . .

Should she just go get a group started and say, “We’re going to have a Titus 2 ministry in our church!” How does she go about this?

Susan: We need to back up. First of all, if there are women who are interested in beginning a women’s ministry, they need to begin with prayer. Pray together. Then begin studying some materials that help us to know what are the biblical foundations. Are there biblical foundations for a women’s ministry in a church?

The book that Ligon Duncan and I wrote several years ago addresses that: Women’s Ministry in the Local Church.

Nancy: That book is available through Revive Our Hearts. It’s linked to this program at ReviveOurHearts.com. So it’s another book we recommend, by Susan Hunt and Dr. Ligon Duncan—another great resource.

Susan: By Ligon and me writing the book together, we were able to show that women’s ministry must come under the oversight of the leaders of the church. It’s imperative that a women’s ministry not live in its own orbit, but rather that it is a part of the total ministry of the church. It’s one part of the discipleship ministry of the church.

So in the book, Women’s Ministry in the Local Church, we look at five principles that are taken from the books of Timothy and Titus—because those books were written to young pastors, telling them how to have healthy churches.

There are five passages that speak specifically about women. The principles in those passages, then, are: 

  1. Ecclesiastical submission: In other words, a women’s ministry is to be one part of the ministry of the church. It is to be under the oversight, it is to coordinate with, to support, to further the ministry of the entire church.
  2. Compassion: Women are to be equipped to extend practical compassion within the life of that covenant family, that local church.
  3. Community: Women have been designed and equipped to bring a sense of family into the local church—and so, they’re to be discipled to do so.
  4. Gender-specific discipleship: It is through this discipleship that women are taught why we are to submit to the male leadership of the church.

    We begin to teach women why and how they are to bring the women’s ministry under that oversight We see the richness, the totality of it. We see the way that this brings harmony into the life of the church. Through gender-specific discipleship, through Titus 2 discipleship, women are taught to be cultivators of compassion and to nurture community life in the church. Those two things feed each other. As we bring compassion into our communities, our communities become stronger.
  5. The sufficiency of Scripture: Everything else that we have said rests upon and flows out of Scripture.

For the woman who wants to start a women’s ministry in her church, I would suggest getting the book, reading it, reading it with some other women, and then go to your pastor and have a conversation with him.

Leslie, as we’re talking, I see your eyes are getting big. You’re wanting to jump in. You want to respond to what Susan just said.

Leslie: I would love to. The resource, Women’s Ministry in the Local Church—you’ve recommended it for women’s leaders, particularly in getting a women’s ministry started. It’s also a great resource for a pastor. It will help give him a vision for how he wants that to look in his church, and how it does fit under the umbrella of the discipleship for the church.

I can just testify, as a women’s ministry director, that we’re longing, yearning, for the pastor to share with us his vision for the women in his church, and to impart to us what he wants to see us doing. We’re hungry for that. That’s one of the ways I would encourage a pastor.

Take the time to share that with us. We want your authority; we want your input. We need to have a great dialogue between us so that we’re always in conversation about the studies that we’re doing and the direction we’re taking and how can we pray for the church.

A beautiful gift of the women’s ministry to a church is to pray for their local pastor and for the staff. There should be just a beautiful, sweet, surrendered relationship between the pastor and the women’s ministry leaders.

Nancy: We have a women’s ministry leader in a large local church—a well-known church. She’s become an active part of True Woman and Revive Our Hearts. I remember her telling me that she was the first woman in her church who had ever had a vision for a women’s ministry. There really wasn’t anything like that.

When she started, she said she was really swimming upstream, because the pastoral staff didn’t have this vision. They were doing other things. They had just been through some real difficult things in their church; their focus was elsewhere.

She said it was really a challenge, initially, to get support. But what I appreciated about the way she handled this was, she didn’t become a burr under their saddle. She didn’t whine, complain, badmouth, undermine the pastors—as I’ve heard others do: “If they would just get this vision,” “They just don’t pay attention to women’s ministry,” “They don’t give us any budget in the women’s ministry.”

That’s counter-productive. But what she did was what you just described, Leslie. She began to graciously, winsomely, humbly talk with the pastoral staff. She shared with them what she felt God was putting on her heart. Then she was patient. She waited until God was working.

It wasn’t that she didn’t do anything, but she waited. She didn’t just say, “I’m going to start this whole ministry,” and overwhelm these pastors who already had their hands full with other things in the life of that church. She worked with them.

It took a little longer than she would have thought, maybe, was needed. But now they have a beautiful, thriving, healthy local church women’s ministry that has the blessing and the oversight of the pastoral staff.

So a longer process than, maybe, what she would have wanted—but a really good and healthy one.

Susan: I have a friend who prayed for seven years that her church would be open to Titus 2 discipleship. I have another friend who prayed for two years and waited patiently, as you said, and then the Lord began to open up for them to start the women’s ministry.

In both cases—and in many others that I’ve seen—those women were so grounded; they were so trusting in the Lord. They were better prepared to lead that ministry because they had waited and prayed.

Leslie: So “pray and wait” is such great advice for those women serving in the local church and wanting to get some things going. They’re so energetic and excited, and they’re ready to jump right out of the chute. But to pray and to wait . . .

And what I love is, these resources that we’re recommending to the local leaders are giving them biblical principles, but there’s not just one model for women’s ministry. As you pray and wait, under the authority of your pastor, it’s going to look different at different churches.

We don’t want to rush out and try to duplicate exactly what someone else is doing, but to wait on the Lord to show us how to tailor what the needs are to our women in our church. That’s where the praying and the waiting comes in as well.

Nancy: Yes, I think it’s a mistake to hope for something that will be a cookie-cutter resource here—“Here’s what you do. Here are the twelve steps to get a women’s ministry program going . . .”—because it will look different in your church.

For one thing, church structures can be quite different. The needs of the women or the local congregation can be different. The heart and burden that is on the pastor’s heart can look different. So there’s not “one size fits all” for local church women’s ministry.

You want to make sure that you have these elements, these components, these pieces. You discuss this, Susan, in the book you wrote with Dr. Ligon Duncan—but also in Spiritual Mothering. There is a lot of wisdom there about women’s ministry in the local church.

This is a matter of asking the Lord, “What’s your vision for how that should look in our church?”

Susan: It’s more important to have the biblical principles—what we may call core values—and then you adjust and adapt it to the particular situation and the particular time, because at different times in the life of a church, different things are needed.

So by having these principles, it helps protect us from single-focused ministries, or from personality-dominated ministries, or from getting stuck in one model. How we flesh it out is flexible.

If we’re always coming back to the biblical principles, we will see at times, “Well, this particular structure is no longer working,” but we still hang on to the biblical principles.

Leslie: And it’s not tied to a personality. Explaining that a little bit more . . . when that personality moves or leaves, does the women’s ministry continue or not? That’s an indicator whether we have those biblical principles and foundation in place.

Susan: You’re exactly right. It’s such an important principle to remember. If we have the biblical principles, and if we’re continually teaching those to the leaders of the ministry as well as to all the women (even in the way we promote the ministry), we can use the language of these principles. We can use the overarching ideas from Scripture so that women at large understand the foundations of the women’s ministry.

Then there will be continuity. As we train those new leaders each time they come in, there’s continuity—not based on the person leading but based on the principles. One of the things I always tell women when I’m involved in a women’s ministry is, “We want this ministry to be such that if we dropped dead the ministry will not hiccup. The principles are still there; they’re not dependent on us to keep it going.”

Leslie: Amen.

Nancy: Let me address this to whichever one of you wants to respond. I know there are some women who feel that in their church the expectation is that women’s ministry equals events. They’re going to have the spring thing, this fall thing, this retreat. There’s a pattern, and “it’s always been this way.” There is the expectation is that we’ll do this banquet, this whatever.

I think some women who have a heart for Titus 2 ministry, for spiritual mothering, for discipleship of their women feel like, “We expend all of our energy and our efforts and time and our resources pulling off these events!”

I know you can’t do a one-size-fits-all answer, and we’re not saying there shouldn’t be events in the life of a church. But how do you think about events in the context of what really needs to be happening with women in the church?

Susan: It must begin with the leadership team looking at the umbrella of the women’s ministry and seeing all the various elements. We’ve got to be sure that our Bible studies, our discipleship, is the driving force there. And then the events and any other programs or projects or whatever are an extension of that. They’re helping to accomplish the same purpose. So you begin with this overarching purpose, and then you try to make sure that everything you do helps to accomplish that—it brings it all together.

Within the resources, we give some evaluative questions that women can use, just simple things like, “What is the purpose of this event?” If you can’t clarify the purpose and see that it flows out of your overarching purpose, then—more than likely—it’s just an event.

Those kinds of questions will help leadership teams to think biblically about everything they do.

Nancy: Well, there’s so much more that could be said and that we could delve into on this subject, but I want to take just a moment as we close and say that, our heart—as a Revive Our Hearts team—is in no way to replace the ministry of the local church.

We are not substitute for what God wants to do in and through the women in your church—in the context of your church. Because you do life together, and this is God’s pattern for discipleship and growth and ministry and compassion ministry and prayer and teaching to take place in the context in the local church.

Listening to the Revive Our Hearts podcast or broadcast every day, reading the True Woman blog, these are resources intended to help, but intended to serve the local church. We want to do everything we can—we are doing everything we can—to encourage, to affirm, to support, to resource, to motivate, to mobilize (what other words could I use?) local church women’s ministries.

And that’s why we have a number on our team . . . Leslie Bennett is the one heading up our women’s ministries initiatives. Leslie, I’d like to ask you to take just a minute or two here and share what is available through Revive Our Hearts—how we could serve them.

We have some who are women’s ministry leaders listening, some who say, “There’s nothing in our church, but I wish there was something.” What can we do to serve them? What are we available to do and to offer that might be of interest to women in relation to their local church women’s ministry?

Leslie: Well, I can say that when I was a women’s ministry leader, I was able to look to Revive Our Hearts and find all kinds of resources that were easy for me to duplicate in the local church. We want to continue to do that.

I send people to ReviveOurHearts.com and then click on the Leader tab. Maybe you’ve never discovered that before, but there is a wealth of resources, content there, directed to you specifically as a women’s leader—whether that’s a mentor, small group leader, or church staff.

There are articles there. You can search “how to” and look at topics to explore further. There’s a Leader Connection blog that is published weekly. It is written by leaders for leaders—with your same heart. Other leaders are walking the same walk that you are.

We’re trying to encourage you. We want to equip you in what you’re doing. And let me say that we want to hear from you! We would like to hear from you. What are your challenges? Where are you struggling? What are some additional things that we can be doing for you, just to lift you up and to encourage you and to thank you for what you’re doing to serve the Bride of Christ?

Nancy: In fact, I noticed that on a recent Leader Connection, there was an article by Susan Hunt (we’ll link to that on this program). Explain what that was.

Leslie: Yes, I would encourage you to go back and read that. There is such wonderful wisdom from Susan. I asked her to think about, from her perspective in dealing with hundreds of churches over her whole career in women’s ministry, what are the mistakes that we tend to make in our eagerness to get started with the women’s ministry?

She highlighted four of those for us. I see mistakes that I was tempted to make—and have made—just rushing into it without stopping to wait; just having that haste without waiting to pray; just having that personality-driven ministry without taking the time to build a team.

God may be speaking to your heart right now saying, “It’s time for you to step up and to meet with your pastor and to try to get something going at your church among the women.” Well, that’s not a one-woman job! It is a team, so it’s assembling that team together.

There is so much more there at the website. I’m just touching on a couple of things, but I encourage you to read Susan’s article. There are other things like that available.

Nancy: Let us know how we can serve you—how we can serve your local church. You may be a pastor’s wife listening, or a woman who just wants to be discipled in your local church, and you want to know how more of this could be taking place in the context of that community of faith, life to life, generation to generation. We want to be able to serve you with resources connecting you to people like Susan Hunt and Leslie Bennett and others on our staff who serve local church women’s ministries.

So please take advantage of those resources. Contact us at ReviveOurHearts.com. Go to that leader tab and see what’s there. Then let us know how we can pray for you, how we can encourage you, and how we can resource you as you serve the Lord in the context of your local church.

I'm so grateful for the opportunity God's given us here at Revive Our Hearts to invest into the lives of women around the world—including the lives of women who are leading ministries in the local church and elsewhere. The reason we are able to do all of that is thanks to you and other listeners like you who pray and who give to support this ministry financially. And we need to hear from you this month.

It’s the end of our budgeting cycle. We call May our fiscal year-end. That means we’re making plans to continue ministry outreaches and take on new projects. But all of those need funding. So ending this fiscal year strong makes a big difference in the ministry we can do over the next year. That's we’re asking the Lord to provide at least $775,000 in donations here in May. That's a big amount, but if each of use would give whatever the Lord would put on our hearts to do, I believe the entire amount will be met.

My husband, Robert, and I have asked the Lord what He would have us to do to meet this need. And I wonder if you would pray. Ask the Lord how much He’d have you give to help with this fiscal year-end need? When you make a donation of any size to Revive Our Hearts this week, we’d like to send you Susan Hunt's book called The True Woman: The Beauty and Strength of a Godly Woman. It’s been updated and it's just being re-released this month. It will give you a great biblical overview about what it means to be a woman. How are women and men different? And how can we serve the body of Christ and put the gospel on display in uniquely feminine ways?

I hope you’ll explore these questions and be inspired in your calling as a woman by getting Susan’s book. You can make your donation online at ReviveOurHearts.com, or ask for the book, The True Woman when you call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Listeners like you play a huge role in the mission and ministry of Revive Our Hearts. I’m excited to see how the Lord works through our listeners this month to help us call women to greater freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. And we’ll continue that mission tomorrow when Susan Hunt returns.

In our era where there is so much confusion about gender,  Susan will remind us of something simple yet profound: Men and women are different. Hear more tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is encouraging and equipping you to live for God’s glory. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries. 

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