Four Tips for Young Women in their First Years of Ministry
In between books with colorful spines, and binders that hold my ministry dreams, there is a memo board that sits on my desk at home. It is a hodge-podge of push-pinned fabric swatches that inspire me, magazine clippings of someday projects, and notes from my cheerleading section.
Do you have cheerleaders in your life? A few years ago, I started my first ministry position. In God’s graciousness, He brought many wise women in my life to cheer me on. They cheered me on not because I was anyone special, but because they had ran a little farther in the race than I, and they 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, my ministry, and for God’s will to be done. Still others came just for a season to lift my arms up when I grew weary.
But all of them—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 and the lane He set before me to run.
Are you, or do you know, a young woman in her first years of ministry? By no means have I “arrived” in ministry, or leadership, or in my walk with the Lord. But I have learned a few lessons along the way, and maybe somewhere out there is a young woman starting out that needs someone to stand up, pound their feet on the bleachers, cheer her on, and remind her of the goal, the stakes, and the prize that awaits her at the finish line. So I’m taking my hodge-podged memo board out to the field and waving it high.
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.” During that time, 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 sixteen books within the next year. I am still thankful for his leadership, this challenge, and the impact it had on me! As I read books on leadership, ministry to women, and discipleship, God continued to prune my spirit for the trajectory of my calling, and I learned a valuable lesson: Always keep a teachable heart and a humble spirit. Does sixteen books sound daunting? Reach out to leaders around you for recommendations and start with a list of four! Keep reading, learning, and growing!
Find Your Prayer Warriors (and be honest!)
During my first year of ministry, a pastor’s wife encouraged me to find a small band of prayer warriors. She told me to meet with them regularly, and be honest with them about how they could pray for me personally. It required confidentiality, trust, and vulnerability on all fronts. Fast forward three years. As I write this, I know that I have three gray-haired women of valor who are lifting me (and my ministry) up 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 knowing and resting in, God, and how to develop a purposeful and strategic prayer life. Find women that will be faithful to pray for you!
Keep the Sabbath Day (and prepare for it!)
Every start to my week, I become more aware of how crucial God’s command to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy truly is. 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 every minute of it—but knowing I needed to become more intentional about observing the Sabbath myself. It took prayer, counsel, preparation, rescheduling, and a lot of self-control. Fridays become the time when I laid down my work…and rested. Trust me, friends. 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 (and make it a lifestyle!)
“Who is investing in you, and who are you investing in?” asked one of my cheerleaders. She encouraged me to adopt the invested life. She explained that 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.
There’s another thing push-pinned to my memo board. It’s a crinkled piece of paper that captures the best cheer of them all. While I study from the English Standard Version translation (ESV), I particularly like the paraphrase of this verse from the Message. May it 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!” (Heb 12:1-3, MSG)
Yes it will. Whether you are just starting out, or just need some to stand beside you, lift your arms up, and run alongside of you, know there is a fellow co-laborer cheering you on in the grandstand. I’ll see you on the field!