Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Woman to Woman: A Book Review

I recently started teaching a Ladies Bible study on alternating Thursdays with my congregation.  In our first two meetings, we had 20-25 ladies. I ordered thirty books. That was almost six months ago.  In one of our recent meetings, there were two of us. Needless to say, I was discouraged. Multiple people told me not to take it personally, and they were probably right, but I could not help but feel like I could have done more to encourage the ladies from the beginning.

At just the right time, God sent a little book to me.  Woman To Woman: A Guide to Teaching and Leading Women is one of the most practical books I've ever had the privilege to read, and I read it right when I needed it most.  It was written by ten different experienced Christian women, and it covers a whole host of leadership roles that women can take. From teaching a ladies Bible class, to speaking at a ladies day, to leading a prayer, the book gives practical and Biblical advice for what women can do as they lead other women. The entire first third of the book covers Ladies Bible Class. I learned a lot of things that will help me as I continue to grow as a woman of Christ called to lead other women.

The theme of the first several chapters of the book is that Ladies Bible class is a three legged stool.    Rosemary McKnight introduces the idea by saying, "For the stool to work properly, all three legs need to be firmly in place.  Three different legs need to be in place if a ladies class is going to be dynamic -- Bible study, fellowship, and outreach."

Well, there's my first problem!  As a nerdly sort, I was focused too intently on Bible study to the exclusion of the other two legs of the stool!  I thought the other two legs were taken care of in the context of the whole congregation, but perhaps a broader view would have made my class more successful.

As I said, this book is very practical.  As I continued reading, I saw ideas for multiple ways I could include fellowship and outreach into the class.  Some of them were simple, like recognizing birthdays or starting the class with singing.  In her chapter on fellowship, Melissa Lester uses the frame of Romans 12:10-13 to discuss how women can encourage one another.  

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. 

Ms. Lester gives practical ways to live out each aspect of the verse in the 21st century church.  For instance, being devoted to one another means we must express our love for our sisters.  She suggests writing encouraging notes.  In this age of email and Facebook, a handwritten note is especially encouraging.  She also gives examples of how to rejoice in hope, like making a congratulatory phone call, or persevere in tribulation, like sitting silently with a grieving sister.  "Our challenge as Christian women is that we must be alert. It is so easy to become consumed with our own schedules, responsibilities and trials, but we must remain interested and involved in the lives of others." 

I can humbly say I did none of those things during the time the Ladies Bible Study was going on. What if I had sent a thank you note for each lady that came?  What if I had taken special note of birthdays, or made phone calls to my sister experiencing joy or pain?  If they had known I really cared about them and not just about studying Ephesians, would it have made a difference?  I don't know, but I do know that I will be making more of an effort to fellowship with my sisters the next time I lead a class. 

If possible, the outreach chapter was an even tougher read for me.  Pamela Steward did not pull any punches as she encouraged women to evangelize to other women.  "If we are not involved in teaching women, perhaps it is because we have not truly developed a love for the is our responsibility to lead women to Christ through studying Word with them." Ouch.  Thankfully, Ms. Stewart did not stop there.  She gave multiple ideas and resources on just how to plan an outreach lesson and team up with other women to make the plans a reality.  I wanted to say, "But I don't know any local women to share with!  I only know my church friends in this area!" Then I read this: "If you prepare yourself, God will send the women."   Perhaps I haven't met anyone to share the gospel with because I am not prepared!  I'll be reading this chapter again and again as I seek to get ready to do outreach.  

I could continue to tell you all the things I learned that would make me a more effective leader among women, but I guarantee you would rather read the book.  I've included all the pertinent information at the bottom of the post if you want to check it out.  Over the next year, I plan to keep this book handy and grow closer to the women around me. Maybe my next class won't shrink so much, but if it does, I'll at least be closer to the women who come.  

Woman to Woman: A Guide to Teaching and Leading Women. Edited by Debbie Bumbalough and Dwina Willis. Copyright 2007 by the Gospel Advocate Company. Available in paperback or for the Kindle. 

Woman to Woman was sent to us by the publisher for the purpose of reviewing.  No compensation was provided, and the opinions are entirely my own.  It's a great book, even if I did get it for free. 

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. 

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