When my daughter Courtney was little and developing her preschool independence, I often heard the phrase, “I do it myself” whenever I tried to help her with a task or maneuver an obstacle she couldn’t physically get around or over. I was often reminded we are all born with an instinct of selfishness and self-reliance—from the time we can verbalize it.
As women lead women in the local church, one of the most asked questions is, “How do I involve younger women in ministry?” It’s an age-old question and an important question leaders should continually ask. The problem is many seasoned leaders want younger women to be involved, but they don’t know how. There’s a fine balance of letting a young leader “do it herself” while giving her encouragement in the process. If you’re looking for ways to empower younger women to lead, here are a few suggestions.
1. Don’t tell them how it’s always been done. This gets to the “do it myself” mentality, but there are some positives when it comes to giving women ownership. The last thing younger women want is for an older woman to tell them how something has been done for 20 years. Give them the opportunity to make it their own and most likely, make it more relevant.
2. Don’t abandon them. While it’s easy to throw your hands up in the air and give in to their cry for independence, be ready to walk alongside them. Just as you wouldn’t let a preschooler wander into areas of danger, you can be available when called upon.
3. Participate in what they plan. You know how it feels when younger women don’t come to your ministry events, so support them with your attendance. And while you’re at it, bring along a group of women your age. While there may be things that don’t fit your preference, get out of your comfort zone and be a learner.
4. Avoid criticism. The last thing a younger leader needs is criticism from an older leader. Keep your speech seasoned with grace and encouragement.
5. Coach them when they struggle or fail. I bet when you were a younger leader you didn’t always have success in ministry. There will be times when a younger leader doesn’t feel like she’s measured up or that what she planned didn’t go as intended. Don’t be a Nancy Know-it-all. Just coach them from your experience—and when you are asked for your advice.
Above all, remember you aren’t always going to be the leader. You need a new generation of leaders who have relevant ideas and think outside of the box. Your ministry to women will be better when you can let them “do it myself.” Or better yet, let them do it with you—together.
Kelly King is the Women’s Ministry Specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources and oversees the YOU Lead events. Join her this year and get to know her heart for ministry leaders. Follow her on Twitter @kellydking.