Sometime in late 2009, on a chilly winter morning in Dubai (still 90 degrees!), Mack and his wife, Leeann, came up to me in the back of our church’s worship center. They communicated their intention to join our church-planting team working to establish a new church on the north side of town. They were the first to do so. As the months unfolded, Mack, as a founding elder, certainly played a huge role in the new plant. His evangelistic zeal and joyful leadership proved contagious. However, Leeann was the unsung hero.
Over the years, through Leeann’s leadership and discipleship, a number of women matured and began to lead Bible studies with other women throughout the church. One of these leaders is named Happy (whose personality matches her name brilliantly). Happy has since returned to her home in South Africa and has continued her ministry there, but during the first decade of our church plant, Leeann led our women’s ministry and then handed the baton of leadership over to Happy. The spiritual fruit was tangible and beautiful.
I would never call either of these women “old,” but they are certainly older than me and older than most in our congregation. In an environment where virtually all expatriates leave our city to retire in their home country, older members are a special blessing to our demographically young congregation. Yet no matter the predominant generational demographic of a church, older women are always a blessing.
Older Women Teach Younger Women
Leeann, Happy, and many other women have modeled what the apostle Paul wrote to Pastor Titus:
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. (Titus 2:3–5)
Neither male elders, male preachers, nor the word of God itself negate the need for older women to teach younger women in the church. Every church needs older women who will model godliness and teach younger women to follow their example.
First, faithful older women model godliness and Christlike humility. They are reverent in behavior. They walk with God, and out of their relationship with God they model Christ to the other women in the church. Along with these positive descriptions, Paul gives two examples of irreverent behavior they are to avoid. Both areas indicate a lack of self-control.
Older women are not to be slanderers. Older women model what it means to guard their mouths by not gossiping and harming the church. Our words carry great power, and a wise older woman reminds younger women of the truth of Proverbs 12:18: “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” An older woman glorifies her Savior and gives grace to those who hear her when she does not let any unwholesome words come out of her mouth, but only what builds up, as fits the occasion (Ephesians 4:29).
Older women are not to be slaves to much wine. In other words, older women are self-controlled. Alcohol does not enslave them, nor do the typical preoccupations of this world. They live moderate, commendable lives that other women in the church can emulate.
Second, older women are to teach younger women “what is good” (Titus 2:3). Instead of speaking slanderous words, they train younger women to care well for their family and home. Older women have a plethora of wisdom to share with younger women about singleness, marriage, parenting, and other aspects of life. Regardless of one’s situation, older women have likely walked the same paths younger women are now walking. This teaching includes a study of how to love their husbands and children and what true biblical submission looks like. Such topics cannot be relegated to a classroom; they involve life-on-life discipleship.
This teaching Paul has in mind also includes areas like self-control and living pure lives in kindness. And older women teach all of this “that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:5) — that the godliness of a church’s women will display the goodness of God.
Older women are needed to serve all over the local church. They are needed to meet with other women in their homes for Bible studies. They are needed to teach other women in public and private. They are needed to meet one on one (or in small groups) in intentional discipleship relationships. It’s one of my greatest joys of pastoring to hear when people in the church meet with one another simply to open the word and study together.
Older Women Bless the Whole Church
While God calls men to lead and preach in local churches, godly older women tutor the whole church through their faithful ministry, their commendable example, and their Scripture-shaped words. As all watch their godly example of teaching and training younger generations, the result is infectious. Others in the church see their ministry and are challenged to follow in their path as they follow Christ.
By their example, older women instruct the whole church. I still remember learning from Leeann and Happy about godly speech. They were always slow to speak, but at the same time, they were quick to compliment and encourage. Their example still challenges me to build up my fellow church members with God’s word. Alongside those two, I can’t count how many conversations or testimonies I’ve heard from older women in our church that have encouraged me personally as a pastor and as a Christian.
I’m so thankful for Leeann and Happy and the long legacy of sages with silver hair who have blessed our church. I am thankful for their ministry to the younger women, but I am especially thankful for the impact they’ve had on the entire church. They have taught me about living a godly life and equipping the next generation.
Pastors, church leaders, and church members, we would all do well to learn from the older women in our congregations. They have much to teach us about life, ministry, and godliness.