Driving home from church events last week, I listened to a sermon series by Philip De Courcy on my radio station. In his expository teaching on Titus 2:1-5, De Courcy explained discipleship between older and younger women in the church. One recurring phrase of De Courcy’s resonated with me: “the church’s job is to disciple across genders and across generations.”
What does discipling across genders and generations look like in my life? My starting point is Jesus’ sending words in Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” My decades’ long discipling project changed focus as my two children, a son and a daughter, launched as young adults. Much as I would love to hop a plane and be a missionary elsewhere, I live in the northern Minnesota woods. Now that I am an empty nester, how does God challenge me to disciple across genders and generations?
The football hit my leg as I spoke. Sitting in the front row, Jacob listened and focused on me even as he tossed the football in the air. Then he missed the catch. After it bounced off my leg, I picked it up and set it behind me. Jacob obviously sat where he could not be distracted by peers, held eye contact with me (so much so that he dropped the football) and paid attention.
God, why me?! Our youth director asked me to give the middle-school lessons on Wednesdays. I can’t do this! I don’t have the physical comedy skills to get their attention. My language is old; my references, slang, and language patterns are far removed from these kids. That antsy energy that I used to get in trouble for? They have that too! I don’t want to shame them or discourage them from listening and growing in Christ. Help me, God to serve in your name and teach from your truth only. In Jesus’ name.
After background checks and other paperwork, volunteers from local churches participated in a mentoring lunch program at our public middle school. Each assigned to 1-3 kids at a time, volunteers spent three lunch periods in a row playing board games, enjoying seasonal-themed activities, and talking with the middle schoolers. On my first day, I met “Lexi” (not her real name). Lexi ate her pizza and talked, spilling out anecdotes of family dysfunction, neglect, and gender dysphoria. I connected with her on places of my own family wounds, but mostly I listened as she poured out her story. Later, I relayed concerns to the school counselor in charge of the mentoring program, who assured me that Lexi was receiving regular and professional counseling.
Dear God, you love “Lexi” so much! Please help her to realize that she is your precious child, created in your image. Please protect her in that chaotic household. Make her aware of your love and guidance. Dear Jesus, please let me love with your love and listen with your patience. In Jesus’ name.
“Sorry, guys. David [our youth director] called and texted every man he knew, but he couldn’t find a man to lead your group tonight. I am their last choice so you are stuck with me.” I introduced myself to the 8th and 9th grade boys’ small group on a recent Wednesday night. This fun group of young men surprised and humbled me as they discussed how they spent time with God.
God, thank you that these young men are yours. Keep them loving and following you, and please bring a male group leader to challenge and encourage them. In Jesus’ name.
Titus 2:3-5 spells out how older women should teach younger women. Mature Christian women have blessed me (thank you, Mom and Maryanne!) and now, as an empty nester, I want to bless others that way. Before we moved, I volunteered in MOPS as a mentor mom and now I occasionally return to speak. In my current location, I mentor informally or when moms contact me.
Lord God, teach me to open my heart and schedule to mothers and wives who need encouragement and direction from you, Lord. Help me to always point them to the truth of Jesus. In your name.
In my new church, I co-lead a small group of middle-school girls in youth group. Last year, we had sixteen 5th-8th graders; this year our list includes eight 6th-8th graders. We discuss the lessons, share from our hearts, and pray together.
Dear God, you know and love these girls. Please keep drawing them to you and deepen their relationship with you. In Jesus’ name.
Six months ago, Pastor Mark gave a kick-me-in-the-butt sermon (my words, never his) about loving your neighbor. God used that to convict and motivate me to meet and serve the family at the end of our gravel road. I now spend time helping 93 year-old, bedridden, cancer-ravaged Edith. As a nurse, the diarrhea and diaper ministry is doable, but listening to anger and cursing are not my choice of ministry. When I hear Christ’s name yelled in hostility, my strategy is to sing “Jesus loves me, this I know . . .” Turns out Edith’s mother sang that song to her eighty-some years ago, and now it seems to calm her.
Lord, once again you sent me where I didn’t want to go. Forgive me for resisting. Change my heart to love and serve my neighbors in your name. In Jesus’ name.
Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:19 to “go and make disciples of all nations” includes all genders and generations. May God affirm our identity in Him, teach us to obey, and ground us in His love as He sends us to disciple across genders and generations.
Lord, teach me, humble me, and use me to minister in your love. Please send me to disciple across genders and generations. In Jesus’ name. Amen.