About Me

I am a Christian mother of five, and our highest goal as a family is to serve God in every aspect of our lives. Jesus promised His disciples 'life in all its abundance' (John 10:10) - that has been our story, a rich life, not devoid of challenges, but certainly abundant. Previously writing at www.homeeducationnovice.blogspot.com, we have come to realise that education is just one area where our faith shapes our choices and direction in life. This blog seeks to share our adventure.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Mentorship and Modelling


‘Teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge 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’. Titus 2:3-5

In another post on this blog, I made reference to this passage in Titus Chapter 2. It is an interesting section of the Bible, and it is teaching us how we should set an example for others who are walking a similar path, providing guidance, mentorship and encouragement. I think these are a few verses which are sometimes misapplied, and given an incorrect emphasis. 

Who is it written to?
Titus Chapter 2 refers to many groups of people – to Titus himself, as a leader in the church. Then to the ‘older women’, then to the older men to ‘encourage the young men’, and then finally to ‘slaves’ (many people draw parallels between the biblical passages referring to slaves and masters with modern day employees and employers). So it is written to Christians in all walks of life.

Who is an ‘older woman’?
Not many women would like to think of themselves as ‘older’ women! And I think that is one reason why the passage can be misinterpreted. What it is referring to is women who have learnt through life’s experiences and have grown wise through these. I might be considered an ‘older woman’ to a student, for example, or a newly married woman, or a first-time mother. But it is not simply a matter of chronological time or events; I might be considered in this way to a woman much older than myself who faces a trial which I have endured, such as the death of a child. To me, the ‘older women’ are those who have walked through similar life events in faithfulness to God; they are women I seek to emulate. 

What are these women to teach one another?
This is where I think over-emphasis on one section of the verse can bring confusion. We are to draw on our own experiences of trusting God through life’s circumstances and events, living by faith. The examples given here are loving our husbands and children, being self-controlled and pure, being busy at home, being kind, and being subject to our husbands (I have discussed the issue of biblical submission in a marriage elsewhere, and will not go into detail about it in this post). Some interpret this passage as directly saying that women must only work within the home, but I do not think that is what it is saying. But rather, it is telling us that we should not neglect our first responsibilities, and that we should learn from and be encouraged by other Christians as we seek to do so in a society and culture which throws so many other messages at us.

Why is the passage written?
It is written so that ‘no one will malign the word of God’. What that means, is that we should be consistent in how we live, in a way which shows that we really believe what we talk about. Of course none of us will be perfect whilst we live in this world; if we could be, there would have been no need for the salvation which comes only through Christ. But we are exhorted throughout the Bible to live lives which give honour to God in all things. And this is another such example. And this principle is expanded towards the end of the chapter: ‘For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good’. (Titus 2:11-14)

So what is it asking us to do?
A lot of what the passage talks about might be summarised by the word ‘mentoring’. This is a process by which somebody (usually, but not invariably, with a certain set of skills or experiences) seeks to facilitate another individual in maximising their own potential in those same areas. To me, it implies a close, honest relationship where regular, open discussions take place, and specific challenges and suggestions may be given. It is something which may occur informally, and ideally should occur naturally within a church setting, but could also be formalised (as is often the case within the workplace or in education). The type of relationship described is one where an ‘older’ woman shares her life, her faith, her challenges and her encouragements with a ‘younger’ woman, with the goal of spurring her on towards love and good deeds (ref Heb 10:24). 

What does it look like?
An interesting blog item discussing this very issue can be found here:  
My husband just reminded me of a recent example of where I may have served in this role, but not exactly as I would have intended! We had a younger female Christian staying with us for a week. I had recently given birth to my fourth child, was vomiting frequently, and so was in and out of the hospital having medical tests which required me to not eat and drink for long periods of time during the week she was staying (whilst breastfeeding, which made me quite dehydrated and unwell). A couple of times, I was very fragile and tearful, and did not feel I was the ‘perfect Christian hostess’ I sought to be. However, this friend commented that it had actually encouraged her more, because sometimes she would think that life would be so much better were she married or with children; my struggles encouraged her as she saw that our faith and testimony were real, but that just like her, we faced trials. And so, through opening our home, and not being ‘perfect’, we had some very helpful discussions about living as Christians through trials and suffering.

For me, the women who have become ‘Titus 2 women’ in my life, have been those who have radiated a vibrant relationship with Christ, a desire to know Him more, a humility and openness, and a loving concern whereby they sought me to know Christ better. 

Does it actually happen?
Sadly, I would say that in my experience, it does not happen nearly as often as it should. I am thankful to God that He has provided me with some older, wiser Christian women from whom I can learn so much through simply spending time with them. But one lives in Malawi, another South Africa, and another a distant part of the UK; I pray for such a relationship closer to home. Reading the blog reference above, you hear echoed time after time women yearning for such a relationship and for such guidance as they seek to raise their families for the glory of God.

Why doesn’t it happen?
I think part of the problem may be that women don’t think of themselves as ‘older’! But also, in many churches, women are not really empowered to make the most of the gifts they have. I realise that by using the words ‘women’ and ‘empowered’ in the same sentence, that some may raise their eyebrows and consider me a feminist. But my point is serious. In churches that interpret the Bible (correctly in my view, but I have good friends who disagree) that women should not preach or have church leadership roles, the women can become quite passive, and not see the many opportunities they have to teach other women, to teach within their homes, to facilitate discussions, to model through their lives, and generally to be the godly woman described in Titus 2. Also, we are all aware of our own shortcomings. I remember in my early twenties hearing of how a teenager in my home village saw me as a role model, and I was horrified! I could see so much wrong in my life, and thought she could find a far better person to encourage her. But I was a young Christian who was growing and seeking to overcome challenges and obstacles through His strength; and in that respect, I was probably an ideal role model. The precise challenges faced do not matter; to be a mentor and to inspire others, you do not need to have been through exactly the same circumstances, but rather be seeking the power of God in overcoming whatever this world may throw at us. A third reason may be that not enough of us have known this kind of wonderful relationship for ourselves. I have mentioned that I have women who have greatly helped me, perhaps more than they will ever know. And so I can see the value of simply opening one’s home and inviting others to walk alongside, through the good days and the bad. And I seek to emulate these women, and encourage others as I myself was encouraged. But it is not something I have ever been encouraged to do through my church! 

Why is this relevant on this blog?
As I have mentioned in many posts, I find it difficult to separate out parenting, educating my children, living as a Christian. Interestingly, all three of the women I have mentioned as role-models to me have educated their children, both formally and informally. What drew me to spend time with them was seeing the godly way in which they raised their families, opened their homes, and shared their faith. As we grew to know one another more, and I asked the questions about home education (at first, I knew very little about the idea and was intrigued), I came to see that it was simply an outworking of their faith in all areas of life, and it was completely consistent with their lives and testimonies. 

Why am I writing this now?
Raising a young family in a godly way in today’s society can be lonely. People do think you are strange. With young children, it can be difficult to have a long enough conversation with anybody to really get into the nitty-gritty of a discussion. It is tiring. And there can be few encouragements greater than having an older, wiser person talking of how they faced similar times, and that yes, it is not easy, but all so worth it. ‘Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching’ (Hebrews 10:24-25)


I'd love to know your thoughts on this! Have you been encouraged by an 'older woman'? What do you think are the main obstacles preventing us all from living according to these verses?

3 comments:

  1. Yes, a few years ago aged 33 I realised that I was one of the "Older women" of our church. It was a responsibility I didn't want & I didn't feel ready for, especially as my "younger ones" are often quite a bit older than me in years... But thankfully the Lord is in charge, I have been growing into the job as I try to do His will x

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  2. I very much agree with what you have written here. The other interesting thing about the Titus 2 passage is that the mentoring mandate is just that; a mandate! It's not an option. I have often been discouraged by what I felt were my futile efforts to befriend an older woman in the search for a mentor. However, I do think the tide is turning now, as mentoring has become more widespread and 'trendy' among the men, many of us wives have taken it on board too.
    I think our lifestyles are to blame a lot also. It is not often that there is an 'older' woman available to drop in on for a cup of tea, or ring up unannounced! Jobs, family commitments and even 'Church' busyness can strip these women of the time, let alone the inclination, to meet with a younger woman who they may feel they have absolutely nothing in common with.
    I really recommend a very helpful book on the Titus 2 passage called 'Feminine appeal' by Carolyn Mahaney.

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    Replies
    1. Dear CL,

      I am encouraged that you think this is happening more. Sometimes I struggle to know what the right balance is between 'formally' mentoring somebody, having been paired up through a mentorship scheme, and the informal relationships that ideally should develop. I think the pairing up approach becomes necessary because it does not happen spontaneously in today's society, at least not as often as it ought. It is a mindset and a lifestyle, to see people as important, to make time, to recognise that real people bring baggage (physical and emotional mess at times!) and require investment and flexibility. Many of us would acknowledge that having an 'open door' is ideal, but few of us really respond well to interruptions! At least I know this is a big area I am praying that God changes in me, to realise that the unexpected knock on the door IS in fact God's plan for that hour, rather than the list of tasks I had envisioned achieving! In a different context, Helen Roseveare the medical missionary to the Congo, writes beautifully about the same type of issue during her intial years serving God overseas.

      I agree hugely that our lives can just be too busy. What really matters? Are we too busily involved in 'ministry' that we actually miss out on our greatest ministry to those around us?

      Thanks for the book recommendation! I'll take a look.

      Kondwani

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