“The combination of spiritual maturity and life experiences qualify a woman to nurture a younger woman. Although this combination might be found at any age, my personal observation is that women in their fifties and beyond have a life-perspective that is only possible from living through several life-stages.”
Spiritual Mothering Versus Coaching
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. (Titus 2:3-5)
The popular concept of mentoring and coaching suggest some degree of structure and formality. Spiritual mothering may involve mentoring and coaching, but it is broader. Nurturing seems to be more compatible with what Paul is advocating in his command in Titus 2:3-5.
A nurturing relationship may be structured and ongoing or informal and infrequent. It may be up close or at a distance. It may involve formal instruction, or it may simply mean a weekly telephone call to a new mother who needs support as she adjusts to motherhood. It may mean one-on-one Bible study, or it may mean meeting for lunch once a week to give practical guidance to a colleague about living out her faith in the marketplace. Whatever form it takes, the similarity is that the faith of the younger woman is nourished and enhanced by the relationship.
Whatever the degree of involvement and however the relationship works itself out, the command is clear: older women are to encourage and equip younger women to live for God’s glory. It does not seem to me that this is optional. Titus was not told to teach those women who were interested in signing up for the course. The command seems to be inclusive. The older women in the congregation were to be taught how to live in accordance with sound doctrine so that they could train the younger women—no exceptions.
Who Are “Older Women?”
It is impossible from the passage to designate a certain age requirement for older women. Cecil Williamson has explained it this way: “The method used to identify the older women in a local congregation is based on spiritual maturity. . . . Those who manifest the Christian virtues given in Titus 2:3 are to be viewed as the mature women in the local congregation.”
The character of Christ qualifies a woman to be a spiritual mother. This has nothing to do with biological birthing. It has everything to do with a knowledge of sound doctrine that produces faithful living.
Chronological age is a component because life experiences provide a valuable resource for training and encouraging younger women. Chronological age gives a view about the life stage that can only come from living through it. But that still does not indicate a specific chronological age. To a degree, we can all be both an older and a younger woman. A spiritually mature woman in her thirties may have a spiritual mother-daughter relationship with a woman in her twenties. The “thirty-something” woman has lived through the experiences the younger woman is facing and has a perspective that can only come from hindsight. At the same time, the “thirty-something” woman may be a spiritual daughter to a woman in her fifties while the “twenty-something” woman is “mothering” a teenager struggling to live for God’s glory.
The combination of spiritual maturity and life experiences qualify a woman to nurture a younger woman. Although this combination might be found at any age, my personal observation is that women in their fifties and beyond have a life-perspective that is only possible from living through several life-stages. These women must utilize the lessons learned through their various experiences to encourage and equip younger women to live for God’s glory.