It’s easy to feel that as we grow older, our usefulness declines. We may lose some of our physical fitness, and our brains somehow seem to lose the capacity to keep up with the younger generation. We can look at the church and feel that we have nothing to offer the younger women — besides which, they all look and act so differently to us and have so many friends that they don’t need me. It’s easy to feel that we have no real role to play once we get older, except maybe making the tea and turning up for the regular meetings. Or maybe we feel that it’s our turn for a rest, it’s time for me to retire and leave it to the younger generation.
But the Word of God teaches the exact opposite. Paul writes,
Likewise, 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).
Who are the older women?
The older women were probably those over childbearing age, whose primary responsibility is no longer the day-to-day care of young children. They were to be reverent, women who lived their lives according to the gospel of grace. They were not women who lived ‘perfect’ lives but women who knew that their salvation came from the Lord and were still being transformed through the gospel of grace and their dependence on Christ. Paul expects these women to have ‘sound doctrine’ (Titus 2:1), so they are women who love to hear and study the Word of God. They are women who regularly sit under the ministry of the Word, who listen to their pastor and learn from him and others. They are also women who are self-controlled both in their lives and in their speech.
What are they to do?
Paul writes that they are to ‘teach what is good.’ To teach the gospel, to encourage the younger women not just to do good and to be kind, but to grow in their spiritual walk. Just as Jesus encouraged Martha to do what Mary was doing; listening and learning from him not getting distracted by the busyness of the world around her (Luke 10:38-42). Why? So that the world can see they are servants of Christ.
How are they to teach?
They are to ‘urge’ the younger women or as the English Standard Version puts it, to ‘train’ the younger women. Christian growth doesn’t just happen, it needs encouragement, it needs help and it needs a focus on the Word of God. But none of this can be achieved without good relationships between older and younger women. To teach or train younger women, older women need first to befriend them. Within our churches we ought to be cultivating friendships across the generations.
What are they to teach?
The teaching may be practical: help with raising children, help in a marriage or help with budgeting. Teaching may be spiritual: leading a Bible study, contributing to a Bible study, praying alongside a younger woman, encouraging a younger woman to help out in a particular ministry. Teaching may just be the voice of experience, a shoulder to cry on, or an encouraging word. Let the younger women see the ups and downs of your Christian life, share what you have learnt from the Bible recently, be willing to open up about some of your struggles and the lessons you have learnt through your walk with God. They will listen and be encouraged.
What about the younger women?
Of course, this is not a one-way process. Younger women must be respectful of the older generation; they have important lessons they can teach even though they may not be theologically trained. Younger women must be willing to step out of their social spheres and befriend the older women. They must also be willing to learn. Then the blessings will flow both ways. Ask questions of older women, don’t be afraid to admit when you are having difficulties. Put yourself in situations when you can learn from older women, make that extra effort to attend the ladies Bible study. Maybe you will be the first young person there – but you may not be the last! Could you invite an older lady around for tea? You may have more in common than you thought. Maybe you will find a surrogate grandmother, maybe you can both just enjoy each other’s company and learn from each other.
Does your ladies’ Bible study or fellowship group run at a time when all generations can attend? Maybe try an evening or Saturday morning monthly group.
Think about ways in which your church can cultivate friendships across the generation divide, maybe a craft evening, a board games night, a coffee morning.
Do you think about making relationships with the young people in your church, the teenagers who will soon grow into young women?
Does your church value the contribution older women can bring to it? Do you encourage older women to remain involved in the various ministries of the church? Could they serve alongside a younger woman as a team? Even when physical infirmities mean that they cannot attend in person, could they still be a part of a particular ministry through prayer?
Maybe you could sit next to someone from a different generation in church this week, or ring someone older/younger up during the week? This could be a good starting point from which to cultivate friendships across the generations.
And most importantly of all – pray. Pray that God will use you as an older woman to train and encourage a younger woman, and pray that God will raise up godly, older women from the present younger generation all for his glory.