The following was originally posted by Angie Brown on Discerning Daughters (November 16, 2016).
Paul Martin is the founder and senior pastor of Grace Fellowship Church, a church-planting church in Toronto. A graduate of The Master’s Seminary, his passion for God’s Word and gospel-centred leadership have led him to teach at local seminaries as well as oversee a long-standing mentoring program for future pastors. You can find Paul on Facebook, Twitter (@PastorPWMartin) or his blog (preacherthoughts.blogspot.ca) or via the website of Grace Fellowship Church, Toronto (gfcto.com).
1) What would be some of the benefits of having pastors/elders intentionally investing in and equipping older women to disciple younger women? (Titus 2:1, 3-5)
Paul: The greatest benefit is that those pastors would not be failing God. The Lord is the One who has called them to this work and they need to fulfill their ministry. Of course, shepherding the older women so that they can effectively train the younger women has all kinds of attendant blessings. First off, those older saints will grow in godliness. What is better for a church than godly old saints? Secondly, the older women will be giving the younger women a leg up in life as they coach them on how to do what looks so simple, things like loving their husbands and children. Finally, this kind of intentional training will help to create and and maintain a culture of discipleship in the church. And that is awesome.
2) What are some of the ways your leadership is discipling older women? Can you recommend some resources you have found to be helpful?
Paul: I still feel we are learning our way here, but they are a few things we are doing or have done that I think of as helpful. First, we offered to meet with any women (in one large group setting) that had any willingness to at least explore the possibility of serving their sisters by leading the ministry to women. At these monthly meetings, we planned aspects of the women’s ministry, trained our sisters in teaching, leadership, conflict resolution and things like how to effectively evaluate the ministry. I led this for one year, than my associate pastor did for the next year.
We are also big believers in getting resources into the hands of people. So, we try to give away copies of great books (not necessarily “women’s books”) into the hands of our sisters and encourage what we call, Intentional Spiritual Friendships.
Finally, I like to encourage as many women as I can to find a sister and just get together in some regular pattern to read a chapter of the Bible together and discuss it. We can talk “around” the truth so much that it is great to read the text and ask what it means!
3) Many women in the church would like to be equipped by their pastors/elders in addition to Sunday morning preaching. What steps might women take in order to respectfully invite this type of intentional discipleship?
Paul: They could have their pastor read this! Or, they could just ask their pastor for more training. It would take either a very fearful or arrogant pastor to turn down that request. I was a fearful pastor for many years. I thought if I had more than a twenty second conversation with a sister it would “look bad” or “lead to bad.” In my effort to protect them and me, I ended up distancing myself from half my sheep. It took a while, but I learned that I could have very meaningful friendships with sisters in the church that were not weird. This allowed for even greater interest on my part to help train those who were always dear to me, but not always shown it.
So, I would suggest that any sister desiring to request more training from her (potentially well-intentioned, yet fearful) pastor should start by praying for six months that God do something in her pastor’s heart to warm him to the idea. I say, six months, as I have never known myself to change very quickly in anything and, how else will this sister learn importunate prayer (Luke 18:1-8)?