COVID-19 brought big changes to all our churches, and one area that may have been affected the most is our Bible study groups. At our church (Heights Baptist in Alvin, outside of Houston), our classes and groups moved online and then to a hybrid model. Our teachers had to not only be good at teaching the Bible, they also had to learn technology skills quickly. Teaching people in person and teaching while looking at a camera on your phone take different skill sets, and we all had to learn together how to make it work.
As we adjust again, planning for what Sunday school and Bible studies will look like this spring and summer and even into the fall, I want to take steps to encourage and equip the women of my church who teach. They did an amazing job adapting, but they are tired, and some are questioning whether they have what it takes to teach in this new normal of church life. It’s my job as the women’s ministry director to support them in their calling and help them strengthen their skills to be effective teachers. I’ll share with you the steps we are taking at our church and mention resources you may want to use with the women at your church who have the gift of teaching.
First, we’re reading two books together: Side by Side by Edward T. Welch and Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin. We’re discussing them in a book club format (meeting together after we’ve read them to discuss what we liked and learned). Side by Side helps us to remember that as teachers, we are called to care for the women in our groups. It reminds us of the “why” behind our teaching. We want to see women grow in godliness and in community with each other through our time together. Women of the Word helps us remember that we can (and should) be women who love the Bible and that the Holy Spirit helps us to understand and proclaim truth. Most of the women in our churches don’t have formal biblical training, but they do have the Holy Spirit working in them and through them. With Scripture as our guide and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we can be effective teachers.
Second, we’re meeting together to discuss specific topics like how to ask questions that get answers, how to do a word study in the biblical languages, how to teach different genres found in Scripture, and how to manage the time we have together in Bible study. We’re using Nancy Guthrie’s excellent podcast, Help Me Teach the Bible, as a resource and guide. Our plan is to meet together once or twice a month for discussion (and probably food). The women in the group will be able to bring questions to discuss or even a lesson they are working on that they want to talk through with us. I’m excited about this time together and all we will learn from each other.
Third, we’re each finding a younger woman to mentor and encourage. One issue in women’s ministry (and other ministries as well) is that it can be personality driven. In other words, the ministry depends on one person, and if that one person can’t teach or wants a break, there isn’t anyone ready to step into that role. COVID brought that to light in many areas in our churches. I remind my women’s ministry leaders that the full weight of the responsibility of teaching and serving doesn’t have to depend on them. Women especially often have to step back from roles at church to care for family members in times of need or their own health, and we don’t want teaching to ever feel like a burden. So, we will be investing in our replacements by inviting them into our discussions and asking them to co-teach in our women’s Bible study groups when they are ready.
My desire as I encourage and equip the female Bible teachers in my church is the pattern we see in Luke chapter 1. Elizabeth saw what God was doing in Mary’s life, and they praised him together as Elizabeth encouraged Mary. I want to seek out women who have the gift of teaching or encouragement, point out what God is doing in their lives, and praise him together as we develop those gifts to serve the church. God is at work as he always has been, raising up women gifted to serve, teach, and encourage other women in our churches. Let’s give them all the tools they need to live out their calling.
Sandra Peoples (MDiv) and her family live in Alvin, where she serves Heights Baptist Church as the Inclusion Coordinator for Special Needs Families and Women’s Ministry Director. She also serves the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention as their Special Needs Ministry Consultant and the Zone S3 Women’s Ministry Volunteer. She’s the author of Unexpected Blessings: The Joys and Possibilities of Life in a Special-Needs Family and the host of the podcast, Self Care and Soul Care for the Caregiver.