In 2009 we had the first ever Generations…The Unbroken Chain: Ministry Through the Ages training event. It was such an eye-opening experience. One of the highlights was the “top ten” for each generation represented. This is the third in a series of “top 10s” in which I’ll share what the breakout leaders thought were the most important things for leaders to know about the generation they represented.
Our young adult women’s track was led by Lorie Keene, a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY, where she earned a Masters of Divinity in Christian Education and a Th. M. in Leadership and Education. She also served as Assistant Director of Women’s Programs at Southern. Here is Lorie’s top ten for young women and my comments.
1. Younger women are very diverse in the realms of education, marital status, emotional maturity and clarity of future. Because, as a leader, you and the other older women in your church have such diverse experiences, you are perfect to minister to these younger ladies. As you spend time building relationships with them, and discovering their life situations, you will be able to connect them with other women who can relate to their lives. My own experiences such as infertility, not walking with the Lord through my teen years, trying to be the “perfect wife and mother” and failing often, and many other issues I’ve experienced, can connect with where they are. So can yours!
2. They crave attention and direction from older women even if they are not verbally telling you so. Lorie, a young woman herself, said, “We need you! We need you to be you!” Sometimes we think we have to become someone else to relate to these women, but they really do want us as we are, warts and all! I believe if older women understood what they really want-women who have lived life and are willing to share that with them-they would be so much more willing to invest the time. It’s so much easier to be who God created us to be than trying to become something else!
3. They desperately hope that mistakes of their teen and college years do not hurt their futures, while also hoping that they learned enough during that time period to adequately meet the demands of this phase of life. Did you fear this as well? Think back to your college age years. Help them see how God can take even those past mistakes and bring glory to Himself as He uses it for good! Share Romans 8:28 over and over again with them.
4. The majority of the time, they appear very confident and put together externally, yet inside most struggle with insecurity and a search for real hope and meaning in life. Of course, we know that each one desperately needs a vital walk with Christ to find true meaning. Perhaps you can help them walk through a discovery of who that person is by looking at personality, spiritual gifts, past experiences, hopes and dreams and praying together to see what God would reveal about His plan for her life.
5. Many grew up believing that once they were married all would be well in life, so they are now facing the reality that no one person can fulfill them. I will never forget when I realized that I had to love God more than my man. No one had ever told me that. I also thought when I married him that he would meet ALL my needs ,without me ever telling him what they were. I actually believed it and this was before the days of Men are from Venus,Women are from Mars, His Needs Her Needs and For Women Only! I grew up in the 60’s where men and women were equal and everything was unisex! Boy, did I have a huge shock when I figured out he really didn’t understand the female mind and wasn’t totally supposed to! We can help these women look to Christ for what only He can provide instead of expecting any human being to fill our deepest spiritual needs.
6. As opposed to older women, this age range has been fed a heavy does of post-modernism, which affects their outlook on political and lifestyle issues. We will have to continually take them to the Bible to discover real truth. It will take time and often small doses of the Word, to begin to change what has culturally been drilled into their minds and hearts. We must show them that the Bible is as relevant and true today as it was when it was penned.
7. Those who are unchurched can have a cynical response when first approached with anything that can be labeled religious. Building relationships outside of church buildings will be vital. Where can you find young women on a day to day basis? Serving you at your favorite coffee ship? At your children’s activities and schools? Begin spending time wherever you run into them, asking them about their lives and interests. Help them to see you care about them personally, not just about “getting them into the church”. As you do, doors will open for you to begin sharing your own faith with her.
8. They are the first generation that has been heavily raised in a culture where divorce is a “normal” aspect of life. Women need to see role models of women who have stuck it out in marriage, who have loved through hard times, and who have honored God with
their commitment to the covenant of marriage. I am studying Kay Arthur’s new Bible study Covenant . She makes it very clear what covenant means to God both in the Old Testament and the New and how it relates to our own life covenants. Might even be a study you could do with a young women or a group of young women. For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn or Women Making a Difference in Marriage are also great studies to help women navigate marriage issues.
9. They tend to repel from things that seem fake, while are attracted to people who appear honest and vulnerable. Share your own stories with her. Share your failures and what God has done throughout your life to draw you near. They have seen so much “fake” in their life time, through government, relationships, and even church. If we have to “fake it” we will spend lots of wasted time trying to remember “how to be” with that woman. Being real is so much easier, just like we said in #2 above. Being ourselves and being real will take less effort and be much more meaningful.
10. Lastly, they desperately need to see what true love is. Can we love her when it’s hard? Can you pray for and with her when you want to box her ears? Can you let her experience real love through you, perhaps for the first time in her life? Walk together through 1 Corinthians 13. Discuss what it means to really love someone. Relate that to how God loves us. When my daughter returned after a period of 8 years of living away from our family, God ask me one thing only, “can you just love her?” I had no idea how I could do it after much heartache and distrust, but He’d never asked just that of me before. The day I was to see her for the first time after she returned, I was able to say Yes and I cannot tell you what joy I have had in building a new relationship with this child of mine ( who also has children of her own!). Sometimes God will only ask you, “Can you just love her?” What will be your answer? You can’t do it without His love flowing through you to her.
What else are you doing to reach young women? Share your ideas with us!