A Note From Kelly King: Many times we find ourselves dealing with issues that aren’t always comfortable. Even so, Ashley Chestnut reminds us that ministry leaders need to be equipped to help women or guide women to find help in the areas of sexual purity. I’m grateful for Ashley’s leadership at The Church at Brook Hills where she works with young adult women.
Do you look at porn? Did you purge this week? Have you ______ with your boyfriend this week (intercourse, oral sex, etc.)? Do you struggle with same sex attraction or gender dysphoria? If you would have told me six years ago that these would be regular questions I would ask twenty-something single Christian girls, I would have thought you’re crazy. But now these questions come up weekly—sometimes daily or multiple times a day—in conversations that I have with girls in our church.
Recent conversations with several other small group leaders in our singles ministry have prompted me to reflect on questions we don’t ask in ministry and why we don’t ask them. Such questions can range from salvation to spiritual disciplines to sin struggles, but if we disciple others, question asking is part of how we identify where people are at in their spiritual journey and how we build relationships with them. However, there are some questions we often do not even know we should be asking, and other questions we do not want to ask.
Questions We Don’t Know to Ask
We don’t know what we don’t know, and some questions may not even be on your radar to ask. This was me with regards to masturbation. Five years ago, I had no clue that this is a common struggle among high school, college, and young single girls, but then, I had nine girls in one month confess to me that they masturbate on an addiction-type level and use it as a means to cope. Now, masturbation is something that I both talk and ask about when meeting with girls.
On a different level, maybe investing in others is new for you, and you don’t know where to start. I recently had a conversation with a first time small group leader who asked what meeting one-on-one with the girls in her group should look like. While she desired to help her girls grow spiritually, she did not know how to do this.
Maybe this is you. If so, start praying for wisdom and start studying. You can usually know what issues I am facing in ministry by looking at the books on my nightstand. When girls began talking to me about masturbation, I started reading, listening to sermons, and even talking with a Christian counselor about the topic. Identify someone who can assist you in either answering your questions or pointing you to resources. Why is this important? Because the questions we’re not asking indicate gaps in our ministry and areas in which we need to learn and grow.
At dinner, I asked another small group leader about where her girls currently are in their relationship with God and how she can come alongside them. While she provided some general answers, she acknowledged that she had not spent much time one-on-one with her girls recently, so she lacked having her finger on the pulse of their daily lives and their spiritual growth. While everyone has different bandwidths and availability, discipleship does require spending one-on-one time together because there are some conversations that would never occur otherwise. So sometimes we do not know what questions to ask those we lead because we do not spend enough time with them for things to come up or for us to probe and discern what’s really going on in their lives.
Reasons We Avoid Asking Questions
Other reasons why we do not pose certain questions include a fear of man, a fear of not knowing how to respond, and simply not wanting to deal with the person’s response. When I was talking to my mom about what I would write in this post, she made the comment that discipling others is like having a baby. If you knew ahead of time the type of pain and effort it took to deliver, you probably wouldn’t do it. But after doing it, you realize what a joy, privilege, and responsibility it is to care for this human being God has entrusted to you.
When I first started discipling college girls through my local church, I had no idea what I was getting into (much like a first-time parent). I can definitely say that discipling has stretched me and required more from me than I could have imagined, but because of it, God has increased my love for Him and dependence on Him. He has used these girls to mature my faith, and discipling them has totally been worth everything it has cost.
Taking the time to ask questions and to learn what’s beneath the surface requires effort. The “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality reflects a desire not to know. There’s deniability if I don’t ask. I don’t have to deal with an issue if I don’t acknowledge its existence or pursue evidence of it occurrence. Unfortunately, I have seen similar behavior in the church with regard to sin. Maybe I feel inadequate and do not even know where to begin to respond to that person’s particular brand of brokenness, so I don’t ask, even if I suspect there’s more going on below the surface. Maybe I don’t care. Or maybe I feel sorry for the person, but I have too much on my plate and don’t have (or want to take) the time to get involved in another person’s messy life. Thank goodness God doesn’t feel that way about us!
Ultimately, we face a love question. Do we truly love God? Our love for other people derives from our love of God, so if we lack love for someone, that traces back to a deficient understanding of God’s love or a lack of acceptance of it. “We love because he first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19). Rather than leave us in our sin, God loves us enough to pursue us and to save us, and He calls us to guide others to Him and to love others like He loves us.
Loving God is our motivation to do this (1 Jn. 4:11). So because we love God and have experienced His love for us, let us, in turn, love those we disciple enough to spend one-on-one time with them, even if we don’t feel like it. Let us love them enough to ask them questions about their struggles and to caringly confront them about their sin. And let us love them even when they’re unlovable or it’s hard and messy and exhausting. Sisters, “let us not love in word or talk but in deed and truth” (1 Jn. 3:18).
Ashley Chesnut serves as the Associate Singles 20s/30s Minister at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, and has a Master of Divinity from Beeson Divinity School. While Ashley has a passion for discipling young women, she also loves her city, and when she’s not at the church or meeting with girls, you can probably find her at the farmer’s market or trying some new local restaurant.