A program that has been successful in developing supportive friendships between older and younger women is one we call Heart-to-Heart. Titus 2:3-5 places the responsibility for teaching and discipling younger women upon mature, godly women. There are important reasons for this. First, women understand women. They have gone through the same experiences and felt the same emotions. Moreover, sympathetic listening and godly counsel often defuse tense situations before they escalate into crises.
Second, the immorality that is disqualifying Christian workers from the ministry would be avoided. Ninety percent of these situations start with men counseling women. To fill this role, spiritually mature women should have a biblical perspective of life, a sound working knowledge of the Scriptures, and a solid track record of godly conduct.
The experience, empathy, maturity, and spirituality of these women create an enormously powerful reservoir of untapped, God-given strength from which the church can benefit and should utilize. Women need it; Scripture commands it. The Heart-to-Heart program taps this reservoir.
This program can be initiated in any way that suits your church, consistent with its size and your culture. Informal gatherings can be used to kick off the program, enabling women to meet each other and quickly establish areas of common interest. They can choose their partners themselves, or a steering committee can match partners. The general women's meetings, Sunday school classes, and worship services should be used for recruiting participants. We give each woman a profile sheet to fill out to facilitate matching.
The following guidelines are suggested:
1. Make a one-year commitment to the relationship.
2. Contact each other once a week and meet at least once a month.
3. Pray for each other.
4. Do things together, whether it be Bible study, shopping, learning a new skill, or just going to lunch. Each set of partners is free to do what they want as long as they work on the relationship.
This ministry works. Some older women enjoy it so much that they are meeting with several younger women. And younger women love these friendships! They feel loved and have someone to call on for support and wisdom. Dr. James Dobson has often pointed out that women need socialization with other women. The isolation and loneliness women are feeling is not so much that the communication between men and women has broken down, but that the communication between women and women has broken down. Women need other women.
Furthermore, this ministry is primarily a ministry of encouragement. It is not necessarily a discipleship program, nor is this an in-depth counseling service, but rather a ministry which promotes friendship for support, counsel, and guidance.
This program can be started in any size church. Older women must be encouraged to accept this role because generally they have not recognized the value of their maturity and life experiences. These are their credentials for this relationship. The Heart-to-Heart program can become a source of healing, strength, and growth as spiritually mature women are given meaningful influence in the lives of other women. Women have unique needs that can be met only by women. In addition, as these critical responsibilities are delegated to these godly role models, the entire church will be blessed.
The chairman of Heart-to-Heart is a Women's Ministries Board member, and her primary function is to oversee the operation of the Heart-to-Heart Ministry of senior and junior partners.
1. She shall select an assistant to help with administrative responsibilities.
a. To help in matching senior/junior partners
b. To help make re-matches when necessary
c. To help coordinate and publicize social events
The chairman and assistant chairman use their knowledge of the women as well as the profile sheets to make matches. If possible, try to match women who are geographically close, and who have at least two interests or needs in common.
There must also be an appropriate age span between the partners. Generally, women under 30 are juniors; women 3045 are either, and women 45 and over are seniors. Some women in their late twenties and thirties can become a senior to a very young woman, but also become a junior to an older woman. Most of all, pray that God's will be done in the matching process.
When a match is made, the senior partner initiates the first call to her junior, but from then on calling should be equal between the two. The chairman and assistant chairman should call their committee members monthly to find out how the matches are progressing. The chairman should also keep a file of profile sheets, brochures, entertainment records, suggestions, etc.
2. She shall select the senior and junior members for the Heart-to-Heart steering committee:
a. To call the matched partners for follow-up and accountability
b. To assist in preparing for coffees, teas, social events, and announcements
The steering committee consists of trustworthy junior and senior women who serve two-year terms. They are each given a list of matches which they are responsible to pray for and to call monthly. The juniors and seniors are called alternately through the year; therefore, each woman is called bi-monthly in order to see if she and her partner have met and if the relationship is going well. The partners' general comments are then recorded in the committee member's card file. The committee member may share ideas with a partner; however, any problem or confidentiality should be immediately referred to the chairman. If the problem is severe, the chairman should seek help from her authority within the women's ministries.
1. Have a one-month sign-up period, beginning in September.
a. Make announcements and provide information and sign-up tables throughout the church.
b. Place announcements in the church bulletins and newsletters.
2. Host sign-up coffees.
a. Give one on a Saturday to accommodate women working outside the home (a nursery can be provided at church).
b. Coffees preferably should be held in a committee member's home, with committee members providing the food, juice, and coffee.
c. Provide name tags, profile sheets, and Heart-to-Heart brochures.
d. The chairman or her assistant should initiate a time of group sharing during which the concept and commitment of Heart-to-Heart is presented. The chairman should also encourage group interaction by presenting two or three self-revealing questions from which each chooses one to share with the group.
e. Ascertain if any women present wish to be matched together.
3. Give a Heart-to-Heart tea.
a. Have the tea in early spring.
b. Invite all the women of the church, but ask for reservations.
c. Have a qualified speaker give a message, book review, or personal testimony.
d. Ask a senior partner to share her experience in order to help urge others, especially seniors, to join the program.
e. Heart-to-Heart ministry should provide food, gourmet tea and coffee, flowers, music, name tags, brochures, etc.
4. Pass the word along! Encourage partners to tell others how wonderful the program is and how God has used it to minister to them.
For more information on starting a Heart-to-Heart ministry in your church, look for my book Women Mentoring Women: Ways to Start, Maintain, and Expand a Biblical Women's Ministry in the Local Church at your local Christian bookstore.