Titus 2 and You

    Titus 2 has been rolling around in my head.  You know the verse (it’s actually part of a broader context, beginning at verse one, but generally referenced as follows):

“Then they (the older women, see v. 3) can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husban, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

(vs. 4,5, NIV)

This verse is frequently trotted out as the sole or main criterion for leadership within women’s ministry or church spheres.  Translated, it usually sounds something like this: younger women need not apply.  (What constitutes “younger,” by the way?  Who qualifies as “older”?  Based on what criteria?  Who decides?  How?)

I bring this up is because this “older women only” mentality recently wrought havoc with a (now defunct) women’s ministry group in my church.  I watched this unsavory drama unfold mostly from the sidelines, with good friends in the midst of the fracas.  I won’t bore you with all the gory details.  But in brief, the timeline went something like this:

— New ladies’ Bible study launched in spring ’06.  Participation  “bv invitation only.”  Women who completed the study = mentors for the next group.

— Bible study opened to whole church in fall ’06. 

— Assumption: first group ladies not interested in covering same material with bigger group, so not asked/invited into leadership.

— Unilateral decision made by one person (let’s call her Betty) to pass over first group candidates in favor of “older” women to fill leader positions.

— “Older women” recruited as mentor moms.  Two main criteria for recruiting newbie leaders = age and buddy status with Betty. 

Surprise!  Women expecting to serve as “mentors”/leadership for the second group weren’t told of change until first session of fall group, when new “older” women installed as leaders.  (Talk about an “oops”!) 

  First women not real happy with being “passed over” in favor of “oldsters.”  Strong aftertaste of favoritism/elitism/cliquism.

— Betty and key players confronted with situation and resulting fall-out.  (They never did “get it.”)

—  No substantive attempt to acknowledge or rectify situation.  No apology from responsible party. 

— Revisionist history prevails.  Some 2nd group “mentor moms”  went so far as to insist that the displaced women from the initial group stepped out of leadership voluntarily (to run the nursery).  Rather than being shunted aside, the revisionists insisted, the displaced women “stepped aside” out of leadership on their own.  (Is it possible to “step aside” from something you were never part of to begin with?  )

— Betty leaves church summer of ’07.

— Bible study folds.

— Residual feelings of favoritism, cliquishness, displacement, alienation remain.

Talk about a mess. 

The real tragedy is that much of this mess — and the resulting disunity and discord — could have been avoided.  If “Betty” had looked around a little longer or considered how her unilateral decision to recruit “older” leaders over qualified younger ones might have effected others, this whole sorry episode may have been avoided.    (We have a term for that in our house: AVND.  As in, All Velocity, No Direction. )

Was Betty sincere in trying to get this Bible study up and running?  Was it a great idea?  Was she eager?  Enthusiastic?  Well-intentioned? 

Is a bear coming out of hibernation hungry?

Good intentions aside, what happened with this group – and the subsequent bungling and mishandling of the situation – is  a sterling example of how a lack of maturity coupled with a lack of basic leadership skills can result in disaster.  You know you’re in trouble when a group adopts “Damn the torpedoes and full steam ahead!” as its unofficial motto.  This attitude may get your boat from one place to another (or complete a workbook), but at what price?  How many people get run over in the process – and is it worth it?   

Note what happened to this group.  Birthed in exclusivity, divisiveness and cliquishness, it hit the ground stumbling and never recovered – largely because the leadership wouldn’t or couldn’t learn from its mistakes. 

Curiously, when Betty skeddadled out of the picture, not a single woman among the half dozen “leaders” left over was able or willing to step in and pick up the slack.  Wasn’t a year and half sufficient time to develop new leaders?  Or was this an exercise in myopic self-perpetuation?  Whatever the case, the group imploded without ever cleansing or addressing the rank aftertaste of its decisions and actions.

Good intentions – effective leadership + myopia – ability or willingness to correct or adjust = big mistakes. In this particular intance, AARP membership alone isn’t a valid meter to measure leadership qualifications or teaching abilities. 

My point?  There’s clearly more to teaching, leading and Titus 2-ing than years alone. 

What do you think?

For a related discussion click here:  https://hevencense.wordpress.com/2008/01/09/womens-ministries-ideas/

For a great discussion on Titus 2 from Elisabeth Elliot – a personal favorite – visit: http://girltalk.blogs.com/girltalk/2006/10/heres_elisabeth.html


Also in the pipeline:

Titus Who – a continuation of this meme.

Born to Follow?

Nuggets & Nudges – Ideas for Women’s Ministry

A Century of Faithfulness: a salute to my alma mater which marks its centennial this year.

McFriends.  A look at an eroding relationship between two women in novella form.  What can we learn from principals Claire Sinclair and Sylvia Winthrop?  How did their relationship wither and die – and what does that say about our own female friendships?


One Response

  1. I found this online because I have been pursuing understanding exactly what qualifies an “older” woman. I have a forum with a Titus 2 category and it just seems unclear as to who should be considered “older.” Check this out, it’s pretty good:


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