The Grace of Graying: The Undervalued Impact of Elder Women in Churches

In the winter of 2009, a warm morning in Dubai saw Mack and his wife, Leeann, approach me in the back of our church’s sanctuary. They had decided to join our church-planting team working to establish a new community of believers in the northern part of the city. They were pioneers of this movement, the first to pledge their commitment. As a founding elder, Mack undoubtedly had a significant impact on the development of our church, bringing with him an infectious passion for evangelism and a spirited leadership style. But Leeann, often overlooked, was the unsung heroine of the story.

Leeann’s tireless work in leading and mentoring other women in the congregation saw the emergence of a powerful women’s ministry within our church. This ministry was later passed onto Happy, a woman as radiant as her name suggests, who continued to foster this sense of community among the women of our congregation. The fruits of their labor were nothing short of miraculous.

These women may not be “old,” but they are of an age greater than my own and most others in our community. In a setting where most expatriates retire back to their home countries, these mature members became a unique and precious resource for our predominantly younger congregation. However, irrespective of a church’s generational profile, elder women always bring a wealth of wisdom and blessing.

Elder Women: The Guideposts of Godliness

Leeann, Happy, and countless others exemplified the teachings of Apostle Paul to Pastor Titus:

“Elder women are to conduct themselves with dignity, not engaging in slander or becoming addicted to alcohol. They should guide younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-disciplined, pure, caring for their household, kind, and respectful towards their husbands, all to protect the reputation of God’s word.” (Titus 2:3–5)

In the church, there’s an irreplaceable role for elder women to guide younger ones, a need that cannot be replaced by male elders, preachers, or even the word of God itself. Elder women are beacons of godliness, instructing younger generations to walk the path of righteousness.

Beacons of Godliness

Firstly, elder women demonstrate godliness and Christ-like humility through their conduct. Their strong bond with God allows them to embody Christ’s virtues and inspire younger women in the congregation. They exemplify restraint and wisdom, guarding their words against slander and gossip. Instead, their words bring healing and uplift others, much like the wise woman of Proverbs 12:18.

Furthermore, they exhibit self-discipline, free from the enslavement of alcohol or worldly obsessions. Their lives are moderate and commendable, serving as a model for other women in the church to emulate.

Imparting Godliness

Secondly, elder women are instructed to teach younger women about righteousness (Titus 2:3). They are to guide them on how to care for their family and home. Their vast experience and wisdom on various life stages, such as singleness, marriage, and parenthood, make them valuable mentors for younger women.

Elder women also teach about self-discipline, purity, kindness, and a proper understanding of biblical submission. Such lessons extend beyond mere lectures; they encompass life-on-life mentorship. Their teachings are designed to ensure that a church’s women live a life that glorifies God and his word.

Elder Women: A Blessing for the Church

Elder women serve the church in myriad ways. Their role includes leading home-based Bible studies, teaching other women publicly and privately, and engaging in one-on-one discipleship. As a pastor, it brings immense joy to witness members studying God’s word together.

While men may be ordained to lead and preach in churches, godly elder women nurture the whole church through their ministry, their exemplary lives, and their scripture-centered teachings. Their impact is palpable, inspiring others to follow in their footsteps towards Christ.

Elder women have a broad influence on the whole church. I vividly remember learning from Leeann and Happy about godly speech. Their words were always measured, filled with encouragement and compliments. Their example continues to challenge me to uplift my fellow church members through God’s word. The countless conversations and testimonies from these elder women have provided personal encouragement and guidance in my journey as a pastor and a Christian.

I’m incredibly grateful for Leeann, Happy, and all the wise women with silver hair who have graced our church with their presence and service. Their influence on the younger women is evident, but their impact on the entire congregation is profound. They have taught me invaluable lessons about godliness and preparing the next generation for Christian service.

Pastors, church leaders, and church members alike have much to gain from the elder women in our congregations. They offer a wealth of wisdom about life, ministry, and godliness that is invaluable to our spiritual growth.