the shape of leadership

Mothers as Disciple Makers

The valuable role of moms and spiritual moms

I’m not sure I believe in God.”

I said it hastily, in the heat of some adolescent argument with my mom. Nevertheless, it was true. I had grown up in an Assemblies of God church in the heart of the Bible Belt, but by the time I reached high school I was wrestling with doubts.

This confession didn’t cause the reaction I expected. My Spirit-filled mother smiled and nodded knowingly.

“That’s OK,” she said. “You will. I’ve prayed for you, and God has assured me you will serve Him and tell others about Him.”

Her unflappable faith has been a constant throughout my life — and it ultimately helped bring me back to Jesus at age 21.

My mom likewise grew up in church, went her own way as a teenager, and returned to Christ as a young adult. Her life change didn’t happen during an altar call but in her mother’s kitchen, with my grandma leading Mom in the sinner’s prayer.

This Mother’s Day, there will be people in churches across America whose godly moms helped point them in the right direction. According to a recent Barna report, about 6 in 10 practicing Christians in the U.S. today say they came to faith because of the influence of a believer in the household where they grew up. Of those, 68 percent say a mother’s faith influenced them.

Roughly 70 percent of Christian teens told Barna they had talked with their mothers about God and faith in the past month, and more than 60 percent had prayed with their moms. In fact, teens are more likely to turn to their mothers for spiritual guidance than to other family members or friends.

This Mother’s Day, there will be people in churches across America whose godly moms helped point them in the right direction.

About 90 percent of Christian teens say they would take questions about faith and the Bible directly to their mothers. And nearly all say their moms encourage them to attend church.

From the earliest days of the Church, women have been diligently discipling the next generation of believers. Paul was a spiritual father to Timothy. But it was Lois and Eunice, Timothy’s grandmother and mother, who laid the groundwork of “sincere faith,” guiding Timothy toward becoming a “man of God” (1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:5).

Growing up, I saw my grandma infrequently because we lived in different parts of the country. Yet I vividly remember the joy she had in Christ, and the way Grandma clapped her hands and bounced in her rocking chair whenever she mentioned the name of Jesus. She died 20 years ago, but her example still inspires me.

We need faithful moms and grandmas in our lives and in our congregations. I don’t just mean biological relations. Many Christian women are investing in the younger generation as pastors, teachers, coaches, business leaders, friends and neighbors. This is the way the Church is supposed to operate. Paul told Titus to teach the older women, so they can encourage and instruct younger women (Titus 2:3-5).

Beyond my biological family, I’ve benefited from the wisdom, support, and prayers of a number of church “mothers” over the years. And I’ve watched my own precious mom reach out to become a spiritual mother to others.

We need more such role models today, in an age when many young people are growing up without a spiritual foundation and others are dropping out of church to join the growing ranks of the religiously unaffiliated. We need godly women (and men) who will step up and lovingly, confidently say, “I’ve prayed for you.”

Mother’s Day is an opportunity to reflect on the vital role moms — and spiritual moms — play in the life of the Church. Honor them. Thank God for them. And prayerfully consider what you can do to train, empower, encourage and equip women to grow the Kingdom.

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