By Jessalyn Hutto
Editor’s Note: This continues our periodic interviews with women who have been a “Titus 2” women for our writers. We hope you will be encouraged by the example of an older woman discipling a younger woman in the faith.
I was saved the summer before my sophomore year in high school. Up until then my understanding of God was incredibly limited. I knew there was a holy God and that he had a son named Jesus who was very important. I also knew from the weight of guilt I carried that I was a desperate sinner, enslaved to sin and in need of divine help. Tragically, I had no idea how to reconcile my brokenness to God’s holiness. That is, until the truth of the gospel invaded my heart one night at a summer camp. Suddenly, through the knowledge of God’s forgiving grace in the cross of Jesus Christ, my soul began to truly live. Freed from the chains of sin, I began down the road of sanctification at the age of 15.
It was about this time when the church I began attending hired a new youth pastor. His wife, Chelle Stire, would become one of the greatest spiritual influences on my life. Week after week this young mother poured into me, teaching me how to apply the truths of scripture to my life, challenging me to be faithful in reading the word of God and in prayer, and living as an example of godly womanhood for me to follow. She was my real-life Titus 2 mentor throughout the turbulent years of high school. Much has changed since then. I am now as old as she was when we first met and have three little ones of my own to care for. Her daughters are growing into beautiful women who are as old as I was when my relationship with her first began. Our relationship has evolved from one of a mentor and disciple to friends who are able encourage one another in the faith. Even now however, though she and her family are serving on the mission field half a world away in Albania, her faith and joy in the Lord continue to impact me.
Recently, I asked Chelle to share some of the wisdom she has gained over the years as she’s sought to faithfully minister to younger women in the faith and now to her own teen and preteen daughters. I was curious if—when looking back over her ministry—she would have done anything differently. As she has grown in her own personal relationship to the Lord, how has her ministry grown? How does all this carry over to her relationship to her own daughters? Here is just a sampling of the wisdom she shared with me:
When you first began serving with your husband in youth ministry, what was your vision for the young women you would invest in?
I don’t remember sitting down and really formalizing this thinking in my own mind and then actively seeking to disciple with a “model” of discipleship. I just began to meet and get involved in the lives of the girls who were part of the youth group. Thankfully, we were very small at the time and I could do this even when I had 3 small children. My greatest desire was to see young women really knowing and loving Christ and making him the central and driving force in their lives on a day-to-day basis. I am so thankful to the Lord that he was gracious to me and my ministry to these impressionable young women because I was so young, inexperienced, and immature that I made many mistakes, worked in my flesh often, and sought for external alignment to “disciplines.”
Given the benefit of hindsight are there things you would have done differently in those early days in youth ministry?
As I reflect back on the early days of youth ministry I can cringe when I think of how I dealt wrongly with some of the girls in our youth group who were professing Christians but whose lives were not reflecting their profession. My heart was truly desirous for them to honor God with their lives and to find the joy of living in accordance with God’s commands. However, I was often more focused on the things they did or didn’t do (the results) than their personal love relationship with Christ (the motivation or cause). John 14:15 says, “If you love Me you will keep my commandments.” I just didn’t really make that connection between their “basement motivations” and their actions. I spent a lot of time trying to reform their behavior (modesty, disrespect, infrequent church attendance, inattention to the Word of God preached, immorality, and drug abuse) by talking about repentance and obedience but not really focusing on the heart of the issue – lack of love for God.
I don’t think this really crystallized in my own heart until God brought me to the point where I saw the depth of my own sinfulness and how gracious He was to reveal that sin, forgive me of it, and draw me into a vibrant and intimate relationship with him—this brought me to true worship, adoration, love, and increased desire to obey. This paradigm shift in my own life has definitely changed the way I disciple. I do a lot more asking questions to reveal heart motivations and dealing with the root of the issue, praying, and interacting with Scripture, and less time finding ways to change behavior.
How is your relationship to your teen and preteen daughters similar and/or different to your relationships with the girls you formally discipled in the youth group?
The challenges, difficulties, and complexities present themselves on a daily basis. The fact that we live together is one of the main challenges. You would think that this makes it easier to disciple your kids, but I have found that it makes it harder to keep a true discipleship focus because I am a sinner (my kids see that regularly) and they are sinners (which I can easily become “tunnel-visioned” about). Somehow, in the discipleship relationships I had as youth pastor’s wife, I could interact with the girls with a more observational mindset and keep my personal emotions and perspectives in check. When I am dealing with my own children (in a formal discipleship setting like our one-on-one times together weekly or in the informal setting of daily life), I can be myopic about the real issues of their reactions, sins, motivations, and struggles. Sometimes my own sinful laziness, selfishness, impatience, critical spirit, and pride get in the way of seeing clearly what is really going on in their hearts or helping them to discern it for themselves. Often, I am the source of their problem (my wrong response or sinful example) and this makes having a godly discipler/disciplee discussion a bit more challenging.
Each child has different personalities and sin struggles. This in itself presents its own challenges because I can more easily have conflict with one of my daughters because we are more similar in temperament. I have to come to discussions with each of them knowing how our similarities and differences can help or hinder our communication. 1 Thess. 5:14 mentions the unruly, faint-hearted, and weak and helps us see that we need to not only know which of these types of people we are dealing with, but also deal with them differently according to their character. Knowing my children (we have each kind of child in our home – and often they fluctuate between all 3) has really helped me know how to interact with each one.
Jessalyn Hutto blogs regularly at Desiring Virtue (www.desiringvirtue.com) where she passionately encourages women to dig into the Word of God and apply it to their lives. Jessalyn lives in Texas with her husband, Richard, and three precious little boys: Elliot, Hudson, and Owen. You can connect with her on Twitter (https://twitter.com/
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