When Eva Rice moved from Winston-Salem to Sparta, N.C., she saw a need in her church for discipleship among the women.
Rice saw that the women were involved in Sunday School, but there was a lack of application of what they were learning. Rice began integrating in-depth Bible study into the women’s Sunday School classes while simultaneously organizing outreach events so that women could apply the things that they were learning.
“I did things that made them get out of the walls of the church,” said Rice, who has been the women’s ministry leader at First Baptist Church in Sparta for 19 years.
Getting out of the walls of the church includes ministry at the local detention center for women and intentional training in sharing their “story,” or testimony, with others.
It also includes women being involved in the community so that they can share what they are learning with other women.
In today’s church culture, “discipleship” has often been relegated to simply and solely meaning “Bible study” or “small group” or “Sunday School.” Though each of these areas of church ministry is critical and foundational to discipleship, it is not the totality of Jesus’ command to be His disciples.
True discipleship is not only studying and absorbing the Word of God, but also applying His Word to everyday life circumstances and situations.
Photo by Alexandra King
Women pray together during an Embrace event. Embrace Women’s Ministry through the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina encourages women to reach outside their churches.
While Titus 2:3-5 gives a direct command for women to be discipled or taught in the things of God, many women are left wondering how to put this biblical mandate into action. Rice, who will turn 81 years old in September, became a Christian as an 11-year-old.
She was not taught to study God’s Word for herself. She was involved in many areas of her church, but was still uncertain how to study the Bible. However, when Rice was in her 30s the new pastor at her church taught her and others not only to study God’s Word, but to apply His Word to their lives.
The new pastor was learning from scripture and gathered people together “almost like a small group … and that really sparked my hunger for the Word, and I realized at that point what it meant to live it.”
As the Holy Spirit began to teach Rice how to appropriate the Word of God in her life, a passion was born to teach women to not only study the Bible, but also make its truths reality in their lives.
“There is so much more out there today for [women’s] spiritual growth … than there has ever been before,” Rice says.
“It is amazing what is available today. Like scripture says, we have no excuse for not being what God has planned for us to be.”
Today Rice disciples a group of women through a Sunday School class and through a Monday night Bible study. The ladies range in ages from 25 to 55 years old and come from a variety of stages of life. “I have watched these ladies grow,” Rice explains.
“They are excited about the Word. I want them to be excited. We do not need to feel like we are comfortable with what we are doing and just sitting on it.”
“When I started in-depth Bible study I realized that there was more to living the life we are to live than what we had. I don’t want to stay where I’m at.”
As she has discipled other women, Rice herself has been discipled.
“The person that is the disciple also becomes discipled.”
Discipleship among women is not limited to those ladies 18 years old and older. The mandate extends to discipling teen girls to grow in the likeness of Christ.
Cathy Moffett, 52, has served as the director of student ministries for the last four years at a Christian academy in the central part of North Carolina. When Moffett was a high school student, a history teacher offered to teach her students religious history.
The teacher was a strong Bible teacher and Moffett was captivated by the scriptures. She began to understand whole books in the Bible and how the text not only pointed to Christ, but also showed how to live the Christian life.
“Here I am some 35 years later still longing to understanding the Word,” she explains.
“That unquenchable desire to understand the Word is something that I want to give away.”
Moffett has been intentional in investing in the lives of teen girls by beginning with the overview of a book of the Bible, usually the Gospel of John.
She walks alongside the girls by asking questions related to the text and by allowing the Lord to speak to the student through His Word.
These questions include “What does the passage say about God, Jesus and how to respond to man?” She also teaches the teen girls to pray before opening His Word.
“We must recognize how small we are,” she says. “In the discipleship position we don’t know all that God wants to speak to a young woman. We are looking to join Him in what He is doing.”
As part of helping the teenage girls apply God’s Word to their lives, Moffett brings them with her to nursing homes, homeless shelters, and to tutor in various schools. She encourages the girls to share their testimonies as they are serving.
Additionally, Moffett reiterates to the teen girls that they must “reorient their lives so that everything that they do comes out of their walk with Christ.”
“Adolescents compartmentalize and think that they can have a life online that is different from one with their friends and one with their families,” she notes. She stresses to the girls the necessity of “sewing all of their life together” and that they cannot view anything as separate from their life with God.
Moffett encourages older women to give the moments of their lives away to younger women. “It is so important that we listen to what girls are saying. We learn a lot from them, too.”
For more information on how to begin discipling the women and teenage girls in your church, please connect with Embrace Women’s Missions and Ministries by phone at (919) 459-5561. Email them at [email protected] or visit their website at embracenc.org.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ashley Allen is the director of Embrace Women’s Missions and Ministries for the Baptist State Convention of N.C.)