A Note from Chris Adams: What a timely article written by my sweet friend and ministry/prayer partner, Karen Alexander Doyel. She is a woman who has challenged and inspired me for so many years to follow hard after Christ and to not give up! Karen and I are the same age, and as I retire in February, I am so looking forward to a new season of serving the Lord. This totally inspires me to keep leading, teaching, and mentoring those coming behind me to lead others! I know this will encourage you as well no matter what age you are! You are older than someone else coming behind you who needs to see the fruit of the Spirit lived out!
I have been serving women’s ministry since before it was even called women’s ministry, and it has been one of my life’s greatest privileges. From my earliest days as a Christian, I have always loved my sweet sisters in Christ. As the Lord grew me side by side with the women around me, we shared, laughed, cried, and prayed together. Each one of us brought something to offer, something we could learn, something we could minister to and with.
I am now 65 years old. Honestly, I did not expect to reach this age due to some major health issues. Yet, here I am, serving with sweet sisters in Christ all over our country. It remains a true joy for me and such an amazing honor, meeting “forever sisters” wherever I go.
Nowadays as I travel, I am encountering a new type of sister. These are young women ready to serve. They are much more educated, more talented, more organized, and have studied more of the Bible than I had at their age. These women are serious about the world around them. And while these sweet, young sisters have a deep desire to serve, they definitely have their own ideas as to what that looks like.
Lately I find myself wondering: What am I, as an older woman, going to do? Am I being replaced? Is it time to retire? Should I hold these young women back until I think they are mature enough to serve? As with so many questions before, I have found answers in Scripture.
Here is what I believe God has told me and is teaching me: I believe God wants me to bear fruit and show that fruit to these women around me.
Galatians 5:22-23 reads: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control.”
Love. First, I must love them. Love them exactly where they are, love their differences, love their music, love their ideas, just love that God is raising up young women to carry the torch of the gospel and serve Him. I must love these ladies like Jesus has loved me all these years.
Joy. I must show joy as these young ladies move into leadership. I must be full of joy as they succeed and surpass me in knowledge, gifts, talents, and service. I must remember that everything I have is from Him and for Him. I’m not called to compete, and I certainly don’t want that ugly green monster (jealousy) in my life. I want to have full joy as I see God use these women He has called according to His purpose.
Peace. I want to walk beside them in peace. When they see me, I want them to know I am on their side. I am here to support, not criticize. I am going to have peace about God’s leading in their lives and show them I am their biggest fan. I will never fight them, but I will always challenge them to grow. I will be their biggest cheerleader.
Patience. I ask that God will allow me to have and show true patience. I have experienced the long suffering of our Savior over and over again. There has been no limit. These young women need us to show the patience that we have received. I want to be a listener, not a know-it-all. I must allow them to try, and whether they succeed or fail, I will be ready to help them try again.
Kindness. Kindness seems like it should be an easy fruit to produce as a Christian woman. I find that as we serve together we often forget that kindness is not optional. When I am challenged by someone, I must show kindness. I’m not called to defend myself. I’m called to show my God. I do this by being kind—kind in my tone, in my actions, in my conversation.
Goodness. God is good, and He wants us to reflect His goodness in all we do. This means showing goodness by praying good into all our endeavors. We are called to do everything for the glory of God and that means striving to be excellent, and to do our very best at every task every day. In women’s ministry I may be called to jump in and help or stay put and pray, but I must do so with all I’ve got. I must do so with goodness.
Gentleness. I so want the fruit of gentleness to be taught and caught in my own life. Gentleness means letting go of my own desires and plans and being ready to share when and how the Lord leads. I will be gentle when my young sisters need guidance and even more gentle when they make mistakes. I will gently share and teach, the way God has gently taught me when they ask.
Faith. Does a woman of faith have to be reminded to have faith? Oh yes! There is no greater testimony to every person around than when a person truly believes that God is in control. Women’s ministry is full of surprises and changes. I believe God is faithful and will do what He has promised. I will be faithful to these young women. I will not retire and leave them to manage alone. And while I will not try to take over or fight for position, I will faithfully walk beside or behind and hold them up as they learn and serve.
Self-control. Showing self-control as we minister together is a must. I want them to see that God can control our emotions when they are in His hands. I need to control the urge to tell them how we did things in my day. I need to control the urge to “preach” a little sermon when they don’t agree with me. I want them to see what the fruit of self-control looks like in a woman of God. I will not gossip with them. I will not complain to them. I will exercise self-control.
The passage in Galatians goes on in verses 24-25: “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
I think this is God’s message to us as older women. Be ready to walk alongside, not out in front and certainly not holding back, the young women God is bringing to serve His Kingdom purposes. Just as Elijah and John the Baptist worked to prepare the way for our Lord, so we are all on the same team. We are all “forever sisters” in Christ!
Karen was a Pastor’s wife for 28 years and after the death of her husband, God opened doors for her to share her journey. She is a conference speaker, Bible study teacher, seminar leader, and has written several studies that are on CDs. She is a LifeWay Ministry Multiplier and teaches across the country and world. Karen’s heart is to daily fall more in love with God and His Word. She delights in sharing and encouraging women to “seek Him with all your heart.” Her joy and passion is now passing this love to her grandchildren. The verse God is continuing to burn in her heart is Galatians 2:19-20: “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Yet not I but Christ in me; and the life that I live in the flesh, I live by faith in Jesus Christ, who loves me and gave Himself for me.”