If you are a leader seeking to raise up the next generation, you have probably found it sometimes difficult to figure out how to build community. You may be wondering why what you are doing with women doesn’t seem to connect with your young women.
If young people are saying that “together is better” then how do we build community in a world that seems to draw us apart? We are all busy women, with very few blanks in our calendar and building community takes time! How can we do it? Let’s look at the challenges mentioned in Lost and Found by Ed Stetzer and Jason Hayes, and consider at some possible solutions.
1. One challenge to community is the ever growing social networking. Even though technology is a wonderful way to communicate and connect us with women around the world, it can, if we are not careful, take the place of one on one ministry, friendship and mentoring.
What can we do to counteract the tendency to stay behind a computer screen or text our friends instead of actually speaking to them?
Plan a coffee house evening for women. Have 2-3 women share short and varied personal stories about what God is doing in their lives. Then have women in small groups around tables share as well. Place a set of questions to begin their discussions, then let it flow freely, having a facilitator to guide discussion when needed. The facilitator could be an older woman who is willing to invest in the younger ladies not only at the coffee house, but possibly at other times as well. Younger women long for mentors who will share their stories and lives with them. They desire to connect with women who have been where they are. You might plan this easy get together for women once a quarter. Just provide coffee and dessert and encourage the women to share their “God stories” as they grow together.
What about starting a moms group, led by older moms? I remember when I became the mom of 10 month old twin baby girls, I thought I knew all the answers. I quickly found out that babies don’t always do what the books say if I do what the books say! I desperately needed other moms who were dealing with potty training, two year old issues, and marital relationships all at the same time. I was in a mom’s Bible study long before we ever heard the words women’s ministry. We truly ministered to, prayed for and loved each other. Our leader Sonja was a little older than we were, and much more spiritually mature. She led us to the Word of God to become the moms that would honor Him. I am so grateful for her investment in our lives.
This, once again, is the been there, done that idea, but focused on mothering. There are women staying or coming home to raise children who desperately need encouragement and camaraderie with other moms. Many churches have MOPS (Mother of Preschoolers) groups. Others have broadened the target to include moms of all age children. Linda Anderson had been doing this for years in her church. The ministry, Mom to Mom, has now become nationally known. She has three years of Mom to Mom curriculum written that will help moms navigate through motherhood, while growing in community and in Christ.
2. The speed of our community and our world makes it difficult to take time to slow down and just “be” with others. Is that a challenge for you as it is for me? If we aren’t intentional about taking the time to get to know other women, discover their gifts and passions, then how can we know who to pass leadership on to? Block out space on your calendar just for that. One leader told me once that each month, she schedules lunch with someone in a different generation. This helps her get to know what their lives are like and how she can connect with women in each generation.
3. Another challenge is the whole security issue in our world today. Most people do not feel safe and have become more guarded with those they don’t know well. We can provide safe places for women to connect, share their stories, and grow in their walk with Christ. It might be at a coffee house, your own home, the workplace, or church. You can promote a safe environment and model what that looks like by keeping confidences, not gossiping, and being open and honest in your communication and caring. Keep a Bible handy, ask women how you can pray for them, then be faithful to pray and follow up on answers. Do not share their concerns with anyone else unless you have their permission. As you consistently and transparently build a relationship with a young adult woman, showing her your successes and failures, she will feel secure in sharing hers with you as well.
4. The fourth challenge is the family and relational dysfunction we see in society today. So many women have not have a “normal” home life, with parents showing them how to build relationships based on covenant commitment. So many families are broken, and even filled with anger, hurt and betrayal. Some women may need more help than you can provide. You can direct them to professional help as needed if you know the resources available. By taking the time to get to know her, her needs and her desires, you can not only provide a safe place to share, but also practical steps to take for healing.
With all these challenges, do you feel like giving up? It can be daunting at times, but if God has called you to lead, he has called you to leave a legacy for those who come behind us. Young adult women of today desperately need wise women to invest in them, slow down and take the time to build relationships amid busy schedules, provide safe places for women to share and grow, and direct hurting women to appropriate resources as you share your heart and Christ with them.
What are you doing to build community with young women? Share your ideas of how to overcome these barriers to reach young adult women.