I have a confession to make. I hate women’s ministry.
I not into flower arranging, quilting, cooking, or any the particular womanly virtues most women enjoy. Most ‘women’s ministry’ activities drive me nuts.
I’m a weird woman.
I don’t like to gossip, snoop, or tend to others business.
I used to think all women were like that—and I didn’t like them very much. I’ve always had more men friends than women friends. Women don’t like me much. I’d rather talk ideas than people.
That was before MOPS. I have been the mentor mom for our Mothers of Preschoolers Ministry in our church for over a dozen years, and I’ve come to realize I do share the most important trait of the feminine psyche—the drive to nurture and protect meaningful relationships, to be the best wife, the best mom, the best daughter-in-law I could be. I’m proud that my adult kids are my best friends and my husband of forty-seven years is my friend, my lover and the father of all our five children.
MOPS has taught me women are magic, mystical creatures, uniquely formed and gifted with tenacity, strength, and resilience—awesome creatures! We are the keepers of the home, the heart of the family, the watch-keeper of those we love. We stay up nights, rise up mornings and work throughout the days to make home beautiful, clean, and warm. Our lives revolve around those we love—even if we work outside the home.
I have watched women refuse to give up on their marriage, spend weeks traveling back and forth to the NIC-U, weep over their troubled kids, out-of-work husbands, or pour out their time and energy for a friend. Remarkable creatures, women. Steel Magnolias. I honor them.
I came into MOPS through the back door. My daughter came home with a two year old boy and within a year realized she needed more education to be a single mom and provide him with all she wanted for him. Day care wouldn’t work for my grandson—he clung to his mother or me with an abandoned child’s ferocity.
Our church began a MOPS ministry, and I volunteered to help with childcare—K.J. needed a playgroup, he needed to build relationships with other children, so I went into the two-year-old group with him.
Because I had founded a pregnancy help ministry, when the women wanted a speaker to help them teach their children healthy sexuality, they asked if I would step out of the childcare room one week. At the end of the year, they asked me to mentor, and I’ve done it ever since.
I love MOPS! Mothers of Preschoolers is a God-inspired program. A good MOPS group is a support group for mothers—advertized in the paper, featured on TV, spread by word-of-mouth. Come, learn how to be the best wife and mom you can, get help, cry over your struggles, and have a few blessed hours a month talking grown up talk while your children are lovingly cared for.
It is not a Bible study.
It is not ‘religious.’
A good MOPS group gives loving welcome to all. A warm, attractive setting, supportive and caring friends, and interesting programs to teach basic parenting skills: discipline, love languages, financial planning, plus a few just for fun days: manicures, fashion shows, tea parties. Fringe activities include playdates in one another’s homes, and the favorite mom’s night out. Mothers deserve them!
Now to the mentor part.
I meet every time the team meets—our monthly planning sessions, and the monthly discussion group leaders’ meeting and an annual overnight strategic planning retreat. I pour into these young women. I may have some advice or I not have a clue how to help them with the problems they face, but I can, and I do, love them. Do you remember being young and insecure, afraid you were scarring your children for life. We know kids are survivors, with love they will turn out okay. How nice it would have been for me to feel someone in my corner. As a mentor, I am in their corner. My job is to love them, and that love enables them to reach out and learn. Without love, words are meaningless. An older woman who dictates, mistrusts, or knows it all is unable to produce disciples. More is ‘caught’ than taught. The disciples learned the ways of the Master by living with him, day in and day out, seeing his prayer life, watching his self-sacrificial example hour by hour, even when he was exhausted.
I have the privilege of seeing women grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord as they meet the challenges of leadership and relationship. We pray together, weep together and come to love each other deeply. MOPS women are different, they have caught the vision of Agape love.
Mentoring is a buzzword today, but it sounds more serious than it is. As the mentor mom for the Mothers Of Preschoolers (MOPS) ministry in our local church for over a decade, I can attest to the challenges, joys, and unique opportunities waiting for the individual willing to assume a mentor role in the lives of others. Because these young mothers graduate when their children are no longer preschool age, each year we have a new leadership team. I see myself in a real-life leapfrog role, helping young women advance forward on the back of my experience. If I can share my mistakes and be vulnerable enough to expose my failures and missed opportunities I can help others not to go there. I have accomplished my mission and saved some heartbreak.
Why should those of us who have achieved a certain season of rest and relaxation roll up our sleeves to take on the new challenges mentoring others brings? We are in times of rapid change, increased demands for leadership, and an urgent call to the Master’s Harvest of the earth. In short, time as we know it may be running out, and every local congregation worth its salt needs ready workers for the tasks at hand. Older Christians have arrived at a place in life through the perfecting trials that have shaped us, and we can impart disciplines, experience, and wisdom to the coming generation of leaders. II Corinthians urges believers to “. . . Comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God [II Corinthians 1:4b, KJV].”
Those of us who have experienced the financial distress and emotional pain divorce has visited, especially upon our children, are uniquely positioned to facilitate divorce care ministries. Women who have suffered an abortion make the best volunteers in our pregnancy help center. How can we see others in need, suffering what we have survived, and withhold the testimony we have after we have gone through similar experiences and found victory and new beginnings? Often our hardest struggles opened new doors and brought us new opportunities. Because of abandonment and divorce, a young woman returned to school and entered an entirely different career, one she may never have dared to dream. Now this one-time homemaker has become an esteemed attorney in her community. It is right and good to birth hope and encouragement in the lives of those around us who are caught in crisis.
Because time appears to be running out for planet earth, we need to take short-cuts to achieve the goals our Master has laid out for the Church. We do not have to re-invent the wheel. We talk about those paths we took that turned into dead ends. Why let the young believer butt his head against the brick wall that we were unable to knock down with our own hard heads? If you have made your way to freedom by following a certain path, share the map! The slaves who traveled the Underground Railroad left maps on quilts or scraps of paper, indicating safe houses, refuges, pitfalls, and shortcuts. We can follow their example—whom the Son sets free is free indeed! Reach back, lend a hand, spare others some of the time-consuming and heart-wrenching wrong turns you have made.
Opportunities abound to mentor others. Many congregations have discipleship groups, and older believers lead a Bible study, prayer group, or study fellowship to encourage, support and train new believers. Almost every local church has a youth group desperate for adult supervision. You don’t need a degree in child psychology or education to be a role model for teens. Anyone who has out-lived the teen years can fulfill the requirements—you have been a teen at one time in your life! Likewise the children’s ministry in your church needs moms and dads who have, both successfully and unsuccessfully, disciplined, cuddled, and guided their own children through the toddler and elementary years. You meet the requirement for work in children’s ministry—you have loved a child.
Mentoring the young mom-leaders who make up our MOPS leadership teams has been a fantastic and rewarding experience for me personally. I am qualified—I survived five toddlers, and I am (relatively) sane and whole. Life did not pass me by after years of baby talk and diapers. How encouraging it is for those caught in the demanding preschool years to see me able to laugh, cry, and share those precious memories.
Beyond the benefits extended to others, mentoring is especially gratifying and rewarding for the mentor. Being around enthusiastic young women keeps me young. I don’t have to be out of style or unaware of the newest vocabulary, nor left behind the dustbin of disregard. I don’t feel old or set aside. I feel active, participatory, vibrant, and valuable. Laugh often, live well, and keep learning—your brain will be stimulated, your body invigorated, and your psyche renewed. We could mention obedience to God’s Word, which exhorts the elder women to teach the younger women to love their husbands and their children [Titus 2:4], but obedience is not a chore—it’s a privilege and an adventure! The challenge is there, and the call is not so daunting.
This generation is much more open to mentoring than mine was. No one could tell me anything when I was a young woman. I was smart, educated, and successful. I knew more than my teachers and way more than my parents. Today’s young adults have seen their parents’ lives shipwrecked by divorce. If their family does have a good auntie, uncle or parent who could support them, often they are separated from those extended families. I have found them welcoming a ‘word from the wise.’ I am amazed at their openness and honesty in sharing their own struggles, and their compassion and tenderness when I share my failures. Don’t be afraid, be human, be vulnerable, be a mentor.