As I talk with women involved in ministry all over the world, I hear similar themes repeated over and over such as, “Women these days aren’t interested in participating in a women’s Bible study anymore” or “Our church doesn’t have a separate women’s ministry” or “At a missionary conference there weren’t any women’s ministry breakout sessions because women joined the men based on a ministry category.”
As a pastor’s wife for over 42 years and women’s ministry leader for over 38 years, this is very sad to hear. I noticed involvement starting to wane before Covid hit in 2020. It was rare to see newcomers attend a weekly Bible study. During the pandemic, we had maybe 2 new women among our 40, all safely distanced and mask-covered. It was all too easy to fall into discouragement during those long months. A fellow pastor’s wife from western Europe wrote me the following: “There are so many areas where women need teaching, support and encouragement. But there appears to be a real aversion to any type of prepared [Bible] study!”
After surviving worldwide pandemic and lockdowns, I expected the zeal for an in-person weekly Bible study to increase greatly. But it hasn’t. True, I have a small circle of women friends who are thrilled to get back into the discipline of a weekly, in-person Bible study to discuss homework and the spiritual gems we’ve uncovered. Yet, we’ve been together for decades and are now in our sixties and seventies. Today, there are only a handful of newcomers who share a kindred spirit for the same. What happened? I don’t know.
Older Women Encouraging and Teaching Younger Women
We find the Apostle Paul’s call and exhortation in his epistle to Titus. In a series of appeals, Paul urges Titus to appoint elders in every city, explaining that these men must be godly, loving, faithful, just, and devout. These elders are to teach, “holding fast the faithful word … that they may exhort in sound doctrine” (Titus 1:7-9). Paul continues with words of guidance to the older men, older women, young men, and bondservants.
Obviously, I will only delve into Paul’s teaching regarding women. In Titus 2:3-5 Paul says, “The older women, likewise, be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored.”
I’m always intrigued by the one-time use of a certain Greek or Hebrew word in the Bible, and Paul uses a unique and beautiful word in verse three. The older women are to be “teachers of good things.” In Greek the word is “kalodidaskalos,” which literally means “a teacher of goodness,” that is, teaching what is precious, excellent, honorable, praiseworthy, and commendable. Paul qualifies his exhortation with mature women teaching the younger and fulfilling the characteristics of a godly woman. He doesn’t say the older men or younger men are to teach these things; only the older women are given this calling. Why? To instruct in practical application of Scripture “so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, and to love their children” (Titus 2:4).
So, according to Paul, the women are to be “teachers of good things.” The root word for teacher is “didaskalos,” used elsewhere in Scripture, as in Ephesians 4:11: “God gave some as pastors and teachers.” That word is used 58 times to describe Jesus, the apostles, or anyone who taught the things of God and salvation. The Greek word for teaching or doctrine is the root of the above, “didache,” which is used over 30 times in the New Testament concerning Jesus, the apostles, or lay leaders. It’s understood that teaching isn’t limited to casual chit-chat at the village well—though it may include that—but the imparting of specific wisdom and spiritual knowledge to others.
The mature women of the local churches have a calling and duty to teach practical application of church doctrine to women so they may raise up a new generation of godly followers of Christ. These teachers are to encourage a disposition of kindness, faithfulness, self-control, and sensible living.
Here again, Paul uses two different words for love in verse four that he only uses one time in all his writings: “love their husbands, to love their children.” Regarding husbands, Paul uses the Greek word, “philandros,” which speaks of the warm and affectionate love of a close companion. Regarding children, Paul uses the unique Greek word, “philoteknos,” which means to be fond of one’s own children. We recognize, of course, the root in both of these lovely words, “philo,” which is the Greek word for friendship love that’s full of sincere affection.
Older Women Addressing the Spiritual Needs of Younger Women
I observe that women everywhere are inclined to look to their women friends in order to glean the wisdom they’re searching for, wisdom about living a steadfast, faithful life in God. But this hunger can only be satisfied by the Word of God. I’ve yet to see a young mom approach her pastor when she needs wisdom for how to deal with her PMS so she doesn’t scream at her children. Nor have I seen a young working woman talk to her male pastor about being sexually harassed at her job. There’s a push these days to treat men and women the same, concluding that they have the same needs.
But the Apostle Paul didn’t think so. He said older women are best suited to address the spiritual needs of younger women. One such teaching could center around “How to potty train your toddler without violating the sixth commandment.” At a pastors/leader’s conference, instead of having women attend a session together with men about how to preach to atheistic millennials, provide a breakout time with teaching about how to pray for and reach their own backslidden atheist 20-somethings. The hearts of these women are broken and they need hope!
No Demand vs. No Opportunity
I don’t believe there are men in ministry silently cancelling the women’s ministry, but rather, they’re raising a finger to the wind and concluding there’s no demand for women’s Bible study. There’s waning interest among women to gather together after doing a week’s worth of study and then to share with one another. That said, women need one another—young and old, single and married, workers outside and inside the home. I’ve never met a pastor who wouldn’t be thrilled if half the people in the congregation were practicing the spiritual discipline of meditation and application of God’s Word every day.
I think church leaders must step up to the plate to fulfill the Apostle Paul’s call for women’s ministry in the local churches. Pastors need to find the older women teachers in their church body and give them opportunities to teach the other women. Most often, they’re not the pastor’s wife. Rooms need to be available with childcare provided if it’s a daytime study. It seems a general understanding to provide our churches with Sunday School directors who oversee the teaching of the little children during the services. But these kids are at church maybe only two to four hours a week. Mothers have the care and responsibility to raise up their little ones … for 84 waking hours—every week of the year. It would be far more effective to teach moms directly about how to impart the way of Jesus to their own young ones.
The Growth Opportunities Women’s Bible Study Fosters
In 2 Timothy 1:5, we see examples of this in Timothy’s grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice, who taught him a rich and genuine faith. They could impart the truth of Scripture to Timothy because they knew the Word and built their homes on God’s truth. All women, young and old, single and married, should be diligent to present themselves to God proven workers who don’t need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately (2 Tim. 2:15).
Hopefully we don’t have to look too hard to find a Bible study; those should be provided for us through our churches. By joining one, we’ll find that much-needed mutual support for mining the spiritual gems of Scripture that we’ll treasure in our hearts. In this way, we’ll be equipped to share God’s wisdom and help our children withstand the storms blowing through their lives.