FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — God in His graciousness brought many wise women into my life when I started my first ministry position a few years ago. They cheered me on not because I was anyone special, but because they had run a little farther in the race and were familiar with the joys, the stumbling blocks and the perseverance needed for a young woman in her first years of ministry.
Some came alongside me and ran in the next lane, equipping and investing in me one coffee date at a time. Others sat in the bleachers and prayed over me and my ministry. Still others came for a season to lift my arms up when I grew weary.
But all of them cheered above the roar of the crowd, amid the arrows of spiritual warfare and the silence of waiting, and helped me to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus.
By no means have I “arrived” in ministry or leadership. But I have learned a few lessons along the way, and maybe somewhere out there is a young woman in her first years of ministry who needs someone to stand up and cheer, pound their feet on the bleachers, and remind her of the goal, the stakes, and the prize that awaits her at the finish line.
Here are a few “cheers” from one young woman in ministry to another:
Buy a bookshelf (and fill it)
When I graduated from seminary, I made the mistake of setting aside books for longer than “I’m-just-going-to-catch-my-breath.” I became aware that my spirit was becoming prideful and my heart unteachable. The senior pastor of the church I was serving at the time challenged his staff to read 16 books within the next year. As I read books on leadership, ministry to women and discipleship, God continued to prune my spirit and I learned a valuable lesson: Always keep a teachable heart and a humble spirit. Keep reading, learning and growing.
Find your prayer warriors (and be honest)
A pastor’s wife encouraged me to find a small band of prayer warriors, to meet with them regularly and be honest with them about how they could pray for me. It required confidentiality, trust and vulnerability. As I write this, I know that I have three gray-haired women of valor who are lifting me and my ministry to God’s throne. And it has been through these three saints that God has taught me about the strength of a mustard seed, the peace that comes from resting in God, and how to develop a prayer life. Find women who will be faithful to pray for you.
Keep the Sabbath day (and prepare for it)
I become more aware of how crucial God’s command is to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy with each year in ministry. I’m more aware of the battle of flesh and spirit. But when I was starting out, I found myself ministering to women on Sunday — and loving it — but knowing I needed to become intentional about observing the Sabbath myself. It took prayer, counsel, preparation, rescheduling and a lot of self-control. Fridays became the time when I laid down my work and rested. Practice this spiritual discipline until it is like a well-oiled machine in your life. It is a gift from God to you and your ministry that teaches obedience, protects you from burnout and equips you, in part, for every good work.
Invest in a few good women (and make it a lifestyle)
“Who is investing in you, and who are you investing in?” one of my cheerleaders asked. She encouraged me to adopt the invested life. As you lead, look around you for a few good women who are faithful, available and teachable. Meet with them regularly, share life with them, disciple them and teach them how to be disciple-makers themselves. I’ve adopted this lifestyle — this invested life — and I will say that, aside from my personal time with the Lord each day, nothing gets my feet moving and my heart pumping like seeing a sister I’ve walked with turn around and invest in others. Invest in a few, and make disciples one woman at a time.
Perhaps, too, these words from Hebrews in the Message translation may kindle a flame in your heart to keep running the race set before you:
“Do you see what this means — all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running — and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, Who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how He did it. Because He never lost sight of where He was headed — that exhilarating finish in and with God — He could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now He’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility He plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (Hebrews 12:1-3, MSG)
Know there is a fellow co-laborer cheering you on!