How do you reach young women and get them connected to the life of your ministry? LifeWay’s Women’s Ministry Specialist Chris Adams interviewed young leader Mary Margaret Collingsworth on this topic recently who shed some light on her generation’s perspective.
Chris: Mary Margaret, one of the things we hear over and over from women’s ministry leaders is “How can we connect with and engage our younger women in ministry?” We know that we must reach them for the sake of passing down the heritage of faith with those generations that come behind us. What do you think is the barrier to seeing this happen?
Mary Margaret: One of the biggest barriers I’ve seen is the lack of intentionality on the part of the leader. Often, they’ll plan events and ask younger women to come, but they haven’t asked us to be a part of what they’re doing—they’re just inviting us to be a part of what they’ve already put into place. I love the opportunity to engage in ministry, but I don’t want to feel like I’m stepping on someone else’s toes while I’m doing it. I hope that the older generation will start not only asking us to help, but letting us do some of the work (and letting us learn how to fail). We need to be given the opportunity to learn from our mistakes.
Chris: If you could speak frankly with an older women’s leader, what would you say is the most important thing to consider in seeking to reach young women?
Mary Margaret: Give us some room to grow. Let us ask questions, and let us make some mistakes. If you want to reach our generation, using us is a big part of making it happen. Give us the chance to throw out some crazy ideas, and sometimes, let us run with those ideas. Give us some freedom, but guide us along the way. We want to learn, but we need to be given responsibility.
Chris: Often I hear young women say the older women aren’t available even though these younger women desperately want older women to pour into their lives. What would you suggest to a young woman if this is true in her church?
Mary Margaret: If they’ll let you, step right into their lives. Most of those women in my life are moms, and it can be really hard for them to carve out time to sit at Starbucks and catch up. I try and ask when I can come over and help around the house and spend time with them that way. It makes it easier on them, but I still get to talk and learn from them. For those of you who are the “older women,” don’t feel like your house has to be completely clean or that you have to entertain. Let us see you in your normal setting, and just be a part of your life.
Chris: What are some practical ways for the older leader to connect with the younger?
Mary Margaret: Spend time with us. Invite us into your home. Let us be a part of your life. We value authenticity, so let us see you as you are. I truly believe that authenticity breeds authenticity. If you’re honest and open, chances are, she will be too. My generation is highly relational, and we want to do things that matter and have value. Find ways that we can serve others together—it’s a fantastic way to bridge generations!
Chris: If you are the older woman, I encourage you to be intentional to connect with young women on an ongoing basis. Where do you often go that you see the same young women? Stop and just ask them about their life and make that initial connection. She needs to know you care. If you are the younger woman, watch for that older woman who has something you want her to teach you. Be bold enough to ask her to go have coffee and then ask her about her life. She needs to know you are interested.
Mary Margaret: If you are the younger woman, make sure you listen to the older generation. They’ve been around the block and have experienced things that we haven’t. Ask questions, but be prepared to listen. Just because you’re in a position of leadership doesn’t mean that you have to change everything overnight. Let the Lord lead changes that you make, and make those changes as a team. If you are the older woman, we want to learn from you! Take us under your wing and offer us wisdom, but give us room to grow. Let us know you’re real and that you care, and it will make all the difference in the world.
Don’t miss LifeWay’s Women’s Forum Nov. 14-16 in Nashville! Seasoned leader or young leader: this event will equip and encourage you to reach the women in your church. Register here before it sells out!