As the Lord continued opening my eyes to things seemingly removed from the book of Acts and the Epistles, He also began stirring my heart for the life of discipleship. In that season, I had the opportunity to work with young adults in two capacities and these experiences gave me a glimpse into both the beautiful and ugly sides of the church. Today’s post will focus on the first of those experiences.
For the first year following our return from Rhode Island, I threw myself headfirst into disciplining young women. (You can read about that here.) My original group started out with five young women and one hopelessly naive leader (that would be me). A few months in, we grew to eight. By the spring, approximately 8 months in, we grew to 12. At that point, I was sure of two things: First, these young women were hungry for expository teaching. Christian self-help and topical studies about decluttering their lives would never cut it. They wanted to know Jesus for who he was, not for what he could do for them. Second, I couldn’t do this alone. Teaching was one thing, discipling was another. I was trying to be intentional with each of these ladies, making myself available for late night calls and coffee dates… while being a homeschooling mom of four and seminary student. There weren’t enough hours in the day.
I started recruiting friends to help. I also started something called Discipleship Dinners. The concept was simple: Invite young women, as well as more “seasoned” ladies, over for a meal, followed by a brief teaching and conversation. During dinner, we would split up into two tables. Each group would consist of equal numbers from each age demographic. After dinner, the younger ladies would switch tables for dessert; this allowed everyone a chance to meet on another. After dessert, I would teach a brief lesson and then ask the women questions based on the lesson.
At first, there was reluctance to participate and those who did kept their answers surface level, safe. But, then my friend, Connie, gave a raw, unscripted answer, opening the flood gates. What followed was miraculously cathartic: real conversation based on vulnerability, wisdom, inquisitiveness, and a desire to grow. The more seasoned ladies saw how much they had to offer, something ALL of them questioned. The younger ones begged for more time to soak up as much wisdom as possible. These small dinners lead to a summer long Bible study with more than 60 multi-generational women. Ladies began connecting on their own. (Side note: If you’re ever tempted to match women up, I STRONGLY urge you to pray about it first. I mean, you should be praying about it regardless. But in by experience, the Lord is better at sorting those things out than me. We often make these decisions based solely on what we know, but there is so much going on below the surface. We see what people want us to see. Thankfully the Lord knows our hearts and He knows what we need. Let women interact. Let them hear one another’s stories. Let the Holy Spirit do its work. The most unlikeliest of women will be put together in the most beautiful ways.)
That summer was a turning point in my understanding of church. So often churches will silo their congregants, usually by age and gender. And if it wasn’t by the church’s design (for example a women’s conference), we’d silo ourselves. We stick to our kind; it’s just easier that way. But, pushing ourselves outside the limitations of our comfort (age, race, sexual orientation, etc.), we burst that bubble we’re living in… and it’s most likely a self-imposed bubble. It’s a scary place… being surrounded by the unknown, the unpredictable. It’s even scarier to allow yourself to lay bare, vulnerable, in an environment where you can predict little and control even less. An incredibly fun exercise for type A personalities. (That was sarcasm, just in case you missed it.) This was an important lesson for me.