From church to church, across denominational lines, we seem to have something for everyone. There are kids, youth, young adult, men, women and senior adult ministries. Maybe as you read these, you had one or two to add to the list. All of our churches are divided into pods of ministry, and if you are a smaller church like ours, that means that you lead more than one of these groups.
As someone who has worked in youth and women’s ministry for 24 years, I love students. I love the energy and vitality that they bring into the room. I am passionate about seeing them find and grow in their love for Christ and the church. There is nothing better than seeing one of them “get it” for the first time. Teens, for the most part, will be the first to volunteer to help out with a project at the church, work hard and have FUN while doing it.
A few years ago, I attended a women’s conference and heard a message that changed my life forever. As I sat in a room of 7,000 women, I felt the Holy Spirit so gently undoing my heart as I listened to Christine Caine give a message about passing the baton of faith to the next generation. As a youth pastor and women’s leader I was being shown that we are a part of a divine relay and the exchange zone between youth and both men’s and women’s ministry has been sloppy at best.
Over the next few weeks I began to pray and look within at how our exchange zone was in our local church and the Church as a whole. And what I found was heartbreaking. In my research, Christianity Today reported here that 70% of students were leaving the church after graduation and 80% of those who left had no intention to do so. I did an inventory of what we were doing as a church to bridge this gap and invest in these students so that they did not become one of these statistics.
I saw that there needed to be a change in our current women’s ministry and not the creation of a new ministry pod within the church! In Titus 2 the Word of God tells us that we are to teach the younger generation…and may I say it is not only how to be a good wife. The older generation have been there and done that and we have a wealth of life experience to share with these younger women. This will not happen if we have a separate ministry just for those younger women. But it will happen as women of all ages – even dare I say your older teens all the way up to women in their 90’s – are joined together and walking this journey together. Here are a few ideas on how to bridge the gap in your local church.
1. Team up with your youth leader.
No one can build a bridge alone and your youth leader knows these young women best. Many of these girls have been under their ministry for up to six years. He/she has watched them grow and change through some of the hardest years of their lives so far. Your youth leader has sown seeds and put in a long-term investment; now it’s your turn to help foster their spiritual growth.
The best thing you can do to grow your women’s ministry is to buy your youth leader a coffee, sit down at their desk, and ask for the inside scoop. What is the temperature of the spiritual walks of the young women in your church? What kinds of activities are girls, both inside and outside of your church, interested in? What activities have been successful and what studies have the girls enjoyed recently? Opening this conversation not only helps you minister to your young women, but also provides an opportunity for your youth leader to get more involved in your adult ministries. You will probably find that the topics that your youth leader is tackling will also speak to the women of your church. Find common ground and grow from there!
2. Meet them where they’re at.
These young women are in some form of constant transition. From high school to college, from marriage to children and new jobs, young women live in an ever-changing state. More than likely, the established leaders in your women’s ministry have survived this time. Standing on the other side provides them with plenty of insight and godly advice to pass down to these young women who just want to know that they will survive it too. A good way to cultivate lasting relationships in your women’s ministry is a mentorship program. This doesn’t need to be formal and can happen organically as you encourage established members to reach out to younger women in your church and community. This cannot be forced, but will happen as you lead by example.
This next generation has grown up with the world in the palms of their hands. Using tools like social media can help you reach young women in your community that you never would have been able to reach before by word of mouth. Do your research and know the culture of your area. What books are popular with young women? What music or movies are they listening to and watching? All of these areas point to ways you can reach them.
3. Be genuine and have fun!
This generation of young women isn't just looking for a ministry that is new and shiny. They are looking for something that is more than just skin deep. Though young women today connect with each other from behind screens, they can spot a disingenuous person a mile away.
Making an event fun for both young women in your community and yourself will spark genuine, meaningful conversation that can lead to deeper relationships. If you have consulted your youth leader and done your research, you should know what kinds of events the women in your area are looking for. Make your women’s ministry attractive to young women. Have a girls night out, build relationships and share life over a meal. Have a craft day and get creative together. Choose a Bible study and dig deeper in God’s Word together. Be real, and have fun. All of your women desire this, young and not so young.
As you seek the Lord on how to bridge the gap in your church, realize that it starts with prayer and teamwork. Passing on the baton of faith to the next generation is of utmost importance and will be filled with growing pains and will take work, but remember that this is the race that God has called us each to run, to ensure that future generations carry on what we have begun!
Angela Loughridge and her husband, Lance, recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in May 2017 and have served together in ministry for almost 24 years. They have three grown children, ages 26, 22, and 20. Their family's story is one of complete redemption when an unplanned pregnancy made them teen aged parents. Under the leadership and love of their church and pastors, Angela and Lance surrendered their lives to Christ, got married, and began their life's journey toward accepting a call into ministry. "They gave us the grace needed to grow in our faith and relationship with Christ. It forever changed my view of God and how He loves us, no matter what; how our past does not define our usefulness or change what He has planned for us." Their ministry philosophy has been shaped by those earliest days: to serve God and serve others.
While she's admittedly a workaholic, Angela enjoys crafting and has recently taken up painting. Her greatest passion in ministry is to see people walk in the love, grace, and mercy of the Lord. "I love students and know that we have a small window of opportunity to truly make a difference in their lives. Looking back, where would I be if no one had invested in me?"
To learn more about Angela's passion for bridging the generational gap in women's ministry, visit her site at SO MO Thrive. You can also follow the SO MO Thrive Instagram, @somothrive.