Today we are continuing our exclusive two-part interview with Dr. Joneal Kirby, author of the new ebook Heartfelt: A Woman’s Guide to Creating Meaningful Friendships, recently released by Worthy Publishing. Heartfelt takes a look at the importance of inter-generational relationships for women in the church, and how women can begin to develop deep friendships with other women.
In Heartfelt, you write that the ultimate goal of the book is for the reader, “to understand what it means to be vulnerable and relational, so the wise women in your life can reach into your heart and help you.” What are some major roadblocks that stop women from being truly vulnerable with one another?
This is the evil one’s great trap for women. “Don’t be real. Hide who you really are. Because no one will like the authentic, natural person you are.” Women begin this hiding as girls, early as pre-adolescence and it hits hard in the middle school years and we continue to become good at wearing masks as we mature into adults. In addition to society, Church has not been a safe place for many of us. The expectation of “being good” “doing good” “be on your best behavior” that children hear about church life is unfortunately one that many churches reinforce in their social culture.
A lot of Christian women don’t think it’s a smart move to really share feelings, struggles, hurts, pains, and sins. We wear our masks to the church building and don’t really get it that we are all needing the Cross! None of us have any special favors from God. His mercy and forgiveness is for all.
Churches need to create intimate spaces, small groups – safe prayer groups, Bible study sessions, counseling and conversation groups – where their members know they are loved on, cared for, befriended and it is safe to be real with your struggles, hurts, doubts, fears, worries, mess-ups and mistakes. Safe places for healing of all the hurts, bad habits and kooky hang-ups that every human being alive lives with!
And women need to be led in this and be leaders in this movement of vulnerability and authenticity. There’s no place for gossip, back-biting, racism, husband/wife/mom-bashing in God’s Kingdom. [Click to Tweet!] We need to love ourselves – and one another – as sinners who are dead without that Cross.
In your personal life, how have you been impacted by cross-generational relationships between women?
My personal history of godly women speaking into my life began in my own family through the influence of my grandmothers, who were both faith-filled, precious women. I was very close to my maternal grandmother and loved hearing her sing the old hymns and cannot remember a time when her Bible wasn’t open in her house. My mother is my greatest example of walking out a Christian life. I still want to be like her when I grow up!
I was doubly blessed because I had them and then when I married right out of college, God gave me some of the most wonderful friends who were 10-20 years older than I was. These women were part of the church my husband and I joined right after our wedding and we moved to a new town to new jobs. As a young woman in my twenties, I spent a great deal of time in these “older” women’s homes and just hanging out with them and their families. They were willing, lovely friends to me.
Perhaps the memory I cherish most of these dozen women is remembering they were the ones who encouraged me to teach my first women’s Bible study (even tutoring me through the prep) and my first speaking engagement at a women’s conference was created by them.
Some younger women struggle to have authentic relationships with older women in their church communities. Do you have any specific advice to offer to encourage these young women in their journey?
First pray for a relationship with an older, wiser godly woman in your church or community.
Then seek out getting to know them personally. Ask with a humble heart for help with a particular challenge you are having for some wisdom and advice. This will allow you to hear this woman’s heart to see if she is one you can learn from and grow through a relationship with. If she has never been a mentor and isn’t sure what that looks like, suggest you study together, either a Bible study book or a book on mentoring, like Heartfelt. Do not assume because a woman seems shy, or busy, or uninterested that she is. She may be feeling like you. She may even think you don’t like her!
Older women may also find it hard to connect with the younger women in their congregation. What suggestions do you have for older women looking to build relationships with younger women in their church?
Get to know the younger women. Become a friend. Ask to help with their children. Or to take them to lunch or dinner as a “mom’s day out” event. Have a personal Bible study with a few of them in your home. Bringing them into your most personal space – your home –immediately sets a friendly tone.
Hospitality in your home says without words, “I like you. I want to be your friend. I accept you and want you here with me.” Begin a small group women’s Bible study with some women your age and a few younger women. Start a Heartfelt Friends ministry in your church—you’ll share this message soon with hundreds of women who have a heart for deep meaningful connections!
Towards the end of Heartfelt, you admit to the reader that, “Mentoring is not always easy, but it should always be intentional”. In what ways can women seek to intentionally mentor one another?
Seek this ministry with prayer and an open heart. Mentoring costs. It means you are going to get to know people who are not like you. It means you will spend some time with someone other than your best friends and closest family. Approach mentoring as you would any other service in the Kingdom- with hands and hearts open to God’s leading. Seek His purpose and passion and plan for your life’s work. [Click to Tweet!] Telling your story of God’s love, sharing your salvation story, telling of how your marriage survived because you didn’t give up and God didn’t give up on you, strengthens a younger struggling wife.
Seek out a younger woman. Notice someone struggling. You don’t have to have a counseling degree. Or even be great at anything! Just love on her. Care for her. Be her friend. And pay attention as God gives you opportunities to teach, train, guide and nourish her soul.
Do you see any new opportunities around the horizon for the Heartfelt ministries?
Many. My phone, email, and snail mail are full and ripe with opportunities to go and share about Titus 2 mentoring. I am so thankful for this blessing. I am totally convinced God has prepared me and this ministry for such a time as this.
I am hearing a hunger for relationships that matter among the women of God like I have never before. And the acceptance by church leaders for women’s ministry programs is greater than it has ever been. Many vital, dynamic churches are searching for quality plans to help their women to grow in the Lord and to deepen their relationships in the church.
What’s next for you?
I feel a call on my life and my Kingdom service to speak and teach how to live out this scripture for the rest of my days. So I am planning a speaking schedule to Conferences, traveling where I am asked to train churches, and building a team of leaders to help continue building a legacy of generational faith passing ministries.
I have ten years of Bible studies I’ve prepared for use by women’s small groups I hope to have published in the next few years. I also host a daily radio program and if God opens doors in more communities for this ministry I will be blessed to continue this.
My love for marriage ministry will never diminish and my husband and I are planning soon to launch a new format of marriage conferences with Alan and Lisa Robertson. I trust God will tell me if there’s more he wants me to do.
Oh, and I plan to play with my grandkids a lot. And teach them a lot about Jesus.
Get Dr. Joneal Kirby’s ebook, Heartfelt: A Woman’s Guide to Creating Meaningful Friendships, and check out great new titles from Worthy Publishing today.
Today we are continuing our exclusive two-part interview with Dr. Joneal Kirby, author of the new ebook Heartfelt: A Woman’s Guide to Creating Meaningful Friendships, recently released by Worthy Publishing. Heartfelt takes a look at the importance of inter-generational relationships for women in the church, and how women can begin to develop deep friendships with other women. In Heartfelt, you write that […]