What Good Things Do We Teach in Ladies Ministry?
Vickie Kraft & Gwynne Johnson
The subject matter to be taught by the older women to the younger women is described in Titus 2:4-5:
Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
INTEGRITY AND REALITY
In the Amplified translation of Titus 2:4-5, the Greek word translated “self-controlled” in the New International Version is further developed to read “sane and soberminded-temperate and disciplined,” which captures added aspects of training for younger women. Our counsel to them should promote integrity and reality. Those qualities make a significant difference in how a person lives. Escaping reality does not promote biblical living. Calling a younger woman back to “sanity” may involve recounting our own youthful “insanity” and how God brought us through similar experiences. That will require the willingness to be open and vulnerable. Although we should be able to share selectively and discreetly, the women we are counseling need to understand that their struggles are not unique to their marriage and children.
I recall a young woman who came to see me after only six months of marriage. Tearfully she spilled out her disillusionment with her husband and her fear that she had made a terrible mistake by marrying him. She wondered if it was too late to consider annulment. After listening briefly to the specific incidents she mentioned, I smiled gently and told her that what she was experiencing was common to almost every married couple in the process of learning to live together. My counsel to her was to go home, keep communicating, loving, adjusting, and forgiving-and to trust me that these adjustments could be made and that the Lord would supply her needs. I prayed with her and gave her a hug. About a year later she came to me all smiles and shared how much “things” had improved and thanked me for sending her back to the Lord and to her husband to persevere in the process of learning to share and give.
In the area of discipline and self-control, it is important that we understand that exhibiting those qualities does not just mean abstaining from impulses. (The inability to delay gratification is indicative of immaturity, whereas a growing ability to postpone gratification is an indication of growing maturity.) It also means learning to yield control to the Holy Spirit. Doing that will involve not only study of biblical teaching but also modeling the importance of depending upon God in daily situations and choosing to yield to His control.
Praying together effectively models how to turn a problem over to God. Many times I stirred supper on the stove with one hand while holding the phone in the other and saying, “Let’s pray right now and ask God for His wisdom.” Over and over I hear how God answered our prayers and how much the young wives were encouraged by our conversation and prayer. These times of prayer and conversation didn’t prevent me from completing my responsibilities, and they accomplished something additional of eternal value. They also demonstrated how God is available anytime and my own dependence upon His wisdom. This willingness to talk or to give a word of counsel can turn a young woman toward God and transform her whole attitude.
In addition to promoting integrity and reality, our teaching of young women should focus on her primary relationships. For a married woman that would be her husband and children. For a single, younger woman that might be her parents and siblings or her roommate or business associates.
LOVE FOR HER HUSBAND
Scripture clearly instructs us to teach the younger women to love their husbands. The word used here is the Greek word phileo. Phileo is the love of human emotion, friendship, and enjoyment. I think young women, especially newlyweds, need older women to teach them to be adaptable and patient, to enjoy their mates without demanding perfection. Many of us learned this the hard way, but everyone doesn’t have to learn everything by experience. I am amazed at how helpful it is to simply explain to a young woman the basic differences between men and women. When they say, “He won’t do this, and he won’t do that,” I say, “You know, that is very typical of most men.”
They are often shocked. “It is? You mean it isn’t just my husband not being interested in what I say?”
I recently had the opportunity of speaking with a couple married for several years. As we discussed their difficulties, it was apparent that a common difference in the communication styles of men and women was a large part of the problem. When Leah inquired about what happened during Matthew’s day at the office, he often replied, “Nothing.” Conversation ended. Leah felt shut out and unimportant. As I was able to explain to Matthew Leah’s true interest in the minor details of his daily experience, he was more than willing to give her more than his usual bottom-line response, “Nothing.” As we discussed the general tendency of men to condense and women to amplify, I saw understanding dawn and brighten their faces.
As we talked further, it became apparent that Leah often frustrated Matthew with her lengthy accounts of her day with the children. She committed to attempt to condense her stories and leave time for his. I encouraged her to develop friendships with other women, who would enjoy hearing all the details she so enjoyed sharing.
There are other differences in the masculine and feminine viewpoints. Larry Crabb states, “Men are designed to enter their worlds of people and responsibilities with the confident and unthreatened strength of an advocate. Women are designed to invite other people into a nonmanipulative attachment that encourages the enjoyment of intimate relationship.” Because our fallen natures hinder our being all we were designed to be, there will be differences. When those differences lead to conflict, a confidential talk with an older woman can allow feelings to be shared and attitudes to be adjusted.
LOVE FOR HER CHILDREN
We are instructed to teach our younger women to love their children. Our world is increasingly hostile to children. With the legalization of abortion, many never make it to birth. Those who survive may experience all kinds of abuse from neglect to molestation. In fact, this has been the experience of some of the young women we mentor. They don’t know what a normal childhood is.
Children need our protection, provision, discipline, and spiritual instruction. These require our presence. The training of children can’t be done by making appointments during office hours. We must encourage the mothers of young children to choose, whenever possible, to stay at home with their Children during those early years when they are so dependent and need to see the love of their parents demonstrated in tangible ways they can understand. This doesn’t mean that a wife can’t contribute to the family income. Many of the new small businesses starting today are by women working from their homes. With the expanding technology available today, this is not only possible but also preferable in many instances.
I am aware, also, that today many single mothers must work to support their families, and that introduces different and difficult problems. But we can encourage those who must of necessity work outside the home to look for childcare in home settings where the child’s experience parallels a family atmosphere as much possible in contrast to a structured day care center. The statistics emerging on the emotional effect on children whose primary care has been in day care centers is not encouraging. Young women need experienced mothers to give them perspective and guidance during these critical years. Here the church can also provide support and wisdom.
MANAGEMENT OF HER HOME
The area of home management is often neglected in church training because it is not considered to be spiritual but secular. However, such a compartmentalization of life is not biblical. All of life is sacred. Therefore, it is important for the church to see home management as an appropriate subject of training for the younger women.
Since God assigns home management as the woman’s area of responsibility, this responsibility requires appropriate authority. First Timothy 5:14 teaches that women are to “manage their homes.” The word manage translated literally is “house despot.” This gives emphasis to the area of a woman’s home responsibility and authority. Some, unfortunately, teach biblical submission in such a restrictive way that while the woman’s responsibility remains, the needed authority to accomplish it is removed. Instead of being, as I believe the Scripture teaches, the queen of her home, a wife often feels that she is simply a hired servant. Perhaps it is in rejecting this inaccurate and undervalued role that many middle class women have abandoned the arena of the home, leaving it increasingly cold and empty, while they seek self-fulfillment elsewhere. There is no doubt that today the home and the family have been severely damaged. Conversely, a home well managed by a loving woman given the appropriate authority and responsibility provides her with the legitimate satisfaction of a significant job well done.
However, we must remember that neither marriage nor motherhood nor career is intended to provide our deepest fulfillment or worth. Only Jesus Christ can do that. This important truth must also be taught to younger women as well.
Many basic homemaking skills are necessary if we are to obey God’s directions about home management, and they are greatly needed by young wives today. Too many have come from homes where mothers didn’t teach or model how to manage a home, or where mothers lacked the appropriate authority to manage with godly creativity. So there is a great need for the skills which many older women exercise almost automatically-skills in meal planning, cooking, baking, sewing, housekeeping, and time management. Her experience in those skills make the older women a valuable resource to young women today.
The high percentage of women working outside the home in this new millennium creates added pressure. Here it is important that husbands and wives share home duties, but the wife still needs to take the primary initiative in seeing that the home is well managed. Counsel with an older, godly woman can help a younger woman balance these demands of twenty-first century living.
Does this aspect of home management relate to loving your husband? I believe it does. When a man returns home from a difficult day in the office (wrestling in figurative terms with the thorns and thistles of the curse of Genesis 3:17-19) and comes into a home that is orderly and welcoming, he will be deeply encouraged that his efforts are accomplishing something, somewhere. His home, at least, reflects some sense of order in a world of chaos. Here, in the orderly home, we, as wives, reflect to him God’s original design of a loving environment. Here, when a wife responds with care and attention to her home and learns to adapt herself to her husband, she ministers to his deepest longings for respect and a sense of adequacy.
“Men are different from women. They feel meaningfully encouraged not by a strong advocate who moves toward them but rather by a woman who appreciatively and respectfully accepts their efforts to handle the responsibilities of life. ”
A wife who chooses that supportive role in the marriage, adapting herself to her husband, cooperates with God in demonstrating to her husband his unique value without in any way diminishing her own value and worth. Likewise, the wife who neglects the home and refuses to adapt to her husband communicates a lack of appreciation for his contribution to the home and a lack of a respect for his worth and value. With home management viewed as a significant ministry to one’s husband, the most mundane of tasks take on eternal worth. Could it be possible that there might even be crowns for clean bathrooms, balanced meals, and all that laundry? I think so.
SUBMISSION TO HER OWN HUSBAND
Likewise, when a wife chooses to submit to her own husband, as to the Lord, she reinforces his value and worth as seen by God. She fuels his sense of adequacy for the task he is undertaking, even though he may be meeting resistance on the outside.
Unfortunately, the subject of submission has frequently suffered distortion in the way it has been taught. Such unbalanced teaching often causes women to grit their teeth at the mere mention of the word. Many women resent it, and more than a few men exploit it. However, it is important for men and women to understand that this is voluntary submission to a husband’s leadership. It comes from a spirit of obedience to Jesus Christ. It is not something the husband is given permission to force upon an unwilling wife.
The word used for the obedience commanded of children and slaves is a different word from the word submit. Submitting is our responsibility before the Lord. It does not mean that all women are to submit to all men. It emphatically does not imply that women are inferior as persons to men. Man and woman were created equal in person in the sight of God to reflect His image (Genesis 1:27). A helpful parallel to consider is the Lord Jesus Christ, who chose to submit Himself in His humanity to the Father.
His submission in function in no way diminished His deity. Neither does a wife who submits to her own husband diminish her personhood in any way. Rather, she demonstrates her commitment to and trust in a sovereign God and ministers to her husband through the respect she gives him evidenced by her submission.
Ephesians 5 instructs the husband to lovingly and sacrificially lead his wife, and the wife to voluntarily submit to her husband’s leadership. But neither can do those tasks without the control of the Holy Spirit. I like to picture biblical headship and submission not as a prison where a wife is restricted and oppressed but as a greenhouse where, under her husband’s protection, provision, and with his blessing, she is encouraged to develop her full potential.
KINDHEARTEDNESS, A GOOD NATURE
This kindness is not simply smiling sweetly and saying nice things. It means being a good person and doing good deeds. First Timothy 5:9-10 says, “No widow may be put on the [official] list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds.” Listen to how the Scripture describes her good deeds, such as “bringing up children.” Did you realize that bringing up children is a called a good deed?
Often a young mother thinks, I can’t do anything for other people because I have so many things to do here at home. God considers bringing up children a good deed as well as “showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting [oneself] to all kinds of good deeds” (v. 10). That’s kindness.
How do we teach kindness? By doing it. As we older women model it, the young women catch it. Galatians 6:10 teaches that we are to do good to everyone, especially to the family of God. This kindness starts with our families and with other believers and then reaches out beyond them to the hurting world around us.
Considering the quality of life within our own families, Tim Hansel often asks the women in his audience a searching question: “Are you fun to live with?” A willingness to forgive and to adapt and to cultivate a sense of humor adds zest to any marriage. I have a friend who loves to clip out cartoons and humorous articles and put them on her husband’s plate for a smile at the end of a difficult day. A loving e-mail sent with an encouraging word can lighten a long and difficult workday. A welcoming smile goes a long way toward easing weariness and knitting relationships.
This characteristic is very significant as related to loving your husband. Teaching purity would include teaching sexual chastity before marriage and fidelity in marriage. This unchanging biblical truth is desperately needed to counteract our present declining culture where sex has been so distorted and defiled that many people are genuinely surprised at what the Bible has to say about it. Popular sitcoms are based on ignoring the call for sexual purity. The accepted cultural views disregard this as irrelevant. It is not. Because Christians value purity, many people outside the church believe Christians are prudish and against the enjoyment of physical intimacy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every biblical prohibition against sex relates to sex outside the marriage relationship. Within marriage, the sexual relationship is to be fully enjoyed and celebrated. Indeed, an entire book of the Bible, the Song of Solomon, describes in vivid detail the joys of the marriage relationship. It was designed by God to be enjoyed within marriage.
However, God had a design in mind for the sexual relationship. He designed marriage as a commitment without alternatives. Especially today when our culture affirms and promotes premarital sexual relations, where popular media characters model sexual involvement as routine, where violation of the marriage covenant and extramarital affairs are commonplace, and divorce continues to grow, we must address this issue head-on.
Especially today we must give clear, biblical instruction. First Corinthians 7:1-5 teaches both the exclusivity of the sexual relationship in marriage and the gift of the sexual relationship to be enjoyed within marriage. Additionally, we must teach that choosing sex outside of marriage may damage or preclude a meaningful and satisfying relationship in marriage. Sex is not simply a “right” to be enjoyed in whatever way is satisfying for the moment, but this God-given gift is a treasure to be guarded and celebrated within biblical guidelines.
Someone told me recently that her husband deserted her and their four children because he was in love with another woman. He admitted that he knew what he had done was wrong but said that after the divorce and remarriage he would ask forgiveness of God and be restored. Did he think he was fooling God? However, I am afraid that his thinking represents a more prevalent view than we would like to admit, even within the evangelical church.
Sex within marriage is an important part of the ongoing relationship between husband and wife. Women need other women to encourage them to understand both the privilege and the responsibility of the sexual relationship. A neglect of the physical aspects of marriage can put the relationship at risk. The Bible is clear that the physical relationship is to continue regularly except for a season of prayer for particular reasons. The decision for abstinence must be by mutual consent and for a brief time (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). (And, of course, there are times when for reasons of health there must be restraint.)
A woman committed to purity and faithfulness in this sexual area honors the Lord and is a blessing to her family.
LIVING SO THAT THE WORD OF GOD WILL NOT BE DISCREDITED
Should one need further motivation to support woman-to-woman ministry, Titus 2:5 concludes by emphasizing that women who follow the examples of godly older women provide no occasion for the Word of God to be discredited.
That statement underscores the fact that the world observes the lives of those who claim to belong to God. When our lives look no different from the prevailing culture regarding home and family, and when our character does not reflect purity and kindness-in other words, when we do not love our husbands and children in demonstrable ways-the world will discount the truth and validity of the Word of God.
A friend of Gwynne’s, John, took the Dale Carnegie course “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” At the conclusion of the course the instructor challenged the class: “Men and women, I hope that you will use all we have studied and that your lives will reflect these principles. I can’t imagine a more disappointing experience than for you to tell someone you have taken the Dale Carnegie course and for them to reply, ‘You? You have taken the Dale Carnegie course? I never would have guessed.'”
Several years later John encountered a mutual friend acquainted with his instructor. In conversation John shared that their mutual friend had been his Dale Carnegie instructor. To which, to John’s amusement and amazement, the man replied, “He, he taught the Dale Carnegie course? I can’t believe it! He is one of the most reclusive and unfriendly people I know!”
I have often reflected on this story as it illustrates what we say when we are talking about our Christian walk versus how we actually live our Christian lives. When the two don’t match up, at least in measure, all validity is lost. Conversely, when our lives reflect the truth of God, others will be drawn to God and they will seek to know what makes us different.
Jesus instructed us, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). A woman’s life well lived in dependence upon God in purity and kindness is one of the most effective tools for evangelism.
An effective Women’s Ministry Program can greatly enhance the development of this kind of attractive lifestyle for women. And, in turn, when a church recognizes its responsibility to provide this ministry for its women, the entire church will benefit. When women are available to each other, the words of Psalm 92:14, which state, “They will still bear fruit in old age,” will be fulfilled. We must never retire from fruit bearing. As the family of God begins to compensate for the breakup of the extended family, we can provide a support system for the generations that will follow us.
In my own life, when I was twenty-eight years old, married with one little boy, and defeated at my lack of consistency in my faith, I was truly at the end of my rope. I told the Lord that if He could not make me a stable, consistent Christian I simply did not want to live any longer. I was attending a women’s Bible study taught with compassion and love by a single woman fifteen years my senior. She took an interest in me and asked me to teach a small study, especially to benefit a woman recently converted from a cult. For five years I taught that small class, never more than a dozen women, in her home and in her presence. She helped me discover my gifts and develop them. She encouraged me, corrected me, and loved me.
As a result of her influence and training, other opportunities opened to me. Thirty-four years ago my husband and I left our home to study for full-time ministry. This woman had more influence on my life than any other person outside my family. Any benefit derived from my teaching today must also be credited to the account of this older single woman who invested her life in me.
VICKIE’S PERSONAL TESTIMONY
We often don’t realize God’s blessing found in biblical submission. I learned this by hard experience. When I was married forty-nine years ago, there was no premarital counseling, nor were there the numerous books and courses on Christian marriage available today. My father died when I was seven, so I was not accustomed to male authority.
When Fred and I married, I really didn’t think much about this submission stuff. It took nine years of stubbornness on my part and determination on my husband’s part before the Lord penetrated my self-will with His Word. My husband and I were at an impasse. I wanted to do something he refused to have done. I was reading Ephesians 5 one day, and the Lord clearly spoke to me from the written page: “Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife .
But Lord, what if I’m right and he’s wrong? What will happen if we don’t do something about this problem right away? My imagination projected all kinds of terrible consequences if we didn’t do things my way. But the Lord kept up the pressure, and finally I said, “Lord, I am Your child, and this is Your Word which I must obey. I want your will for my life more than I want my own way. I am willing for my husband to be an instrument in Your hands to show me your will. And I will trust You to give him the right decisions.”
From then on, before I suggested a course of action to my husband, I would tell the Lord, “It’s Your will I want. My husband’s decision will be Your will for this situation.”
It began to amaze me how many times we were in agreement. The tension and conflict caused by my insistence on my own way disappeared as I trusted God to speak to me through my husband.
This approach will serve a woman well, whether she is married to an unbeliever, an immature believer, or a strong leader. When we depend on God, making Him our refuge, to use the instruments He has provided for our guidance, He has a way of changing minds, wills, and actions to bring about His purposes.
The above article, “What Good Things Do We Teach In Ladies Ministry?” is written by Vickie Kraft and Gwynne Johnson. The article was excerpted from pages 34-42 of Kraft & Johnson’s book Women Mentoring Women.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.