Women in the Local Church: Spiritual Growth and Development

The learning process for the Christian is a lifelong and ongoing process. There is always room for growth regardless of age. Many women in today’s church seem to struggle with the definition of discipleship, mostly because they have unrealistic ideas about what it should look like in the first place. Often, when they begin to grasp what discipleship should be, they become frustrated by their lack of theological knowledge or inability to squeeze a Bible study into their schedules. Rather than approaching even the smallest of steps, they simply forego discipleship completely. And then there is the mandate of mentoring. Are today’s godly women obeying this mandate? Mentees can learn from mentors and in turn, mentors can learn from mentees. The benefits include the possibility of mentors and mentees having opportunities to bless the church. Sadly, it appears that a significant number of women are not entering into discipleship or mentoring relationships. Let’s break this down as I best understand.

According to research conducted by the Barna Group in 2015, having a spiritual mentor or seeking discipleship is not at the top of the list for most Christians. The research showed that 43% of practicing Christians attend Sunday school or a fellowship group, only 33% study the Bible with a group, 25% read and discuss a Christian book with a group, and only 17% have a spiritual mentor. I suspect the numbers would reveal even lower percentages post pandemic. Nevertheless, it is through relationships in the local church that women can best learn how to follow Christ, treat others, love well, read and study the Bible, depend on God, and understand many other principles that are foundational to spiritual growth. The Christian walk is not easy, and a lot of what is learned is through observing others and following the example of more mature Christians. This is why women discipling and mentoring other women in the the church is important. Women must be encouraged to use their gifts and to help one another grow in Christ. 

Discipleship is an important aspect of Christianity. To paraphrase the term, discipleship is the process of assisting others to grow in Christ-likeness by teaching the foundations of the Christian faith – What we believe and why. Discipleship is based on materials or information and ends when the content is completed. This can look like a small group at church meeting to cover a six-week study or a book read and discussed. In a group setting, discipleship offers the opportunity for life-to-life discipleship where individuals learn more about each other and gain opportunities to develop friendships in day to day lives. This learning environment can include support in the Christian walk, praying for one another, and fellowship.

“There’s no substitute for life-on-life, in-person discipleship opportunities. This doesn’t mean that at-distance relationships aren’t valuable, but they cannot carry the same weight of accountability.” – Jen Wilkin

In a one-on-one setting, a new Christian has the opportunity to set her feet on a solid path of obedience with a personal discipleship guide. Sometimes, even a woman who is a seasoned Christian has questions stirring in her heart that she simply needs to work through. In both scenarios, these women need someone to lead the way in helping to find answers. Again, the goal in discipleship is to complete specified Bible passages or Bible-based material. The biblical discipleship model is one of multiplication (Matt. 28:19-20). My favorite resources for one-on-one discipleship are:

  • Salvation Worksheets by Martha Peace
  • The Lost Art of Discipleship by LeRoy Eims
  • Rose Guide to Discipleship by Rose Publishing

Mentoring is a Titus 2 ministry in the life of the church where older women invest in younger. The mentor is a woman who is more mature in her faith and shows consistency in living her life. The older woman is willing to listen, share skills, and provide a Christian perspective. A mentor teaches what she has learned is the Lord’s plan for growth and maturity (Titus 2:2-5). The mentee should be teachable. There is opportunity to teach and train women to be committed to their husbands, to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and to mature as godly women making wise choices. A mentor prompts conversations that move beyond surface level and she prays consistently for her mentee. In mentoring, there is potential for a lifelong relationship. The goal in mentoring is to form a strong friendship that becomes a source of spiritual support, growth, and strength. A woman who has a solid faith can contribute greatly to the health of the church.

There is both practical and theological reason for mentoring. Mature women have an opportunity to leave a godly legacy, a lasting legacy. Foundational to mentor/mentee relationships is the practice of spiritual disciplines and awareness of spiritual gifts. There is opportunity for a Word-based relationship where both parties engage in Bible reading and/or study. The mentor can also encourage and train the mentee to implement her spiritual gifts within the Body of Christ.

“Mentoring is [from Ephesians 4] equipping the saints for the work of ministry. There are two parts to that. ‘Equipping the saints’—giving them something—but also ‘for the work of ministry’—so there’s an expectation that we equip so we serve. It’s not just pouring into someone for themselves, but it’s an equipping because I believe that’s how we actually build up Christ’s body. So equipping to bless.” – Melissa Kruger

My favorite books for mentoring are:

  • Spiritual Mothering by Susan Hunt
  • Women & God by Kathleen Nielsen
  • Flourish by Passion City Church
  • Becoming a Titus 2 Woman by Martha Peace
  • Adorned by Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth

Many of today’s women are struggling with what it looks like to follow Christ and be a godly woman. Some women who are believers may not have been raised in Christian households and might not have an example of what it looks like to live out their daily lives as Christians. Even women who grew up in Christian homes might not have had the best example of how to live a godly life. Yet, what is important to note is whether you engage in discipleship or mentoring, God is the one who supplies fruit from our efforts (1 Corinthians 3:6-8). With God’s blessing, the fruit that comes from these relationships and the learning that occurs in the process can prove to be invaluable to the spiritual growth and development of women in the local church.

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