Yesterday morning the ministry bat phone went off (ok, maybe it was my husband’s iPhone, but you get the point). A red alert was issued for the women’s bible study that very night. The leader was down, hospitalized with a vicious migraine, and backups were being called.
Back-ups, oh right…I guess that means me. Sometimes I forget that leading the women’s ministry also means being the understudy.
It was the very first night of the new ministry season, kicking off the working women’s study, and canceling the event didn’t seem to be much of an option. So, I took off to work in a panic and picked up the leader guide at lunch, skimmed over it during the day, grabbed the workbooks, and then rushed home from work to throw my kids in the car and head over to the church for set-up. Whew!
I expected the study to be small, just a few women gathered to dive into the word, but as our church has grown, so have the studies. Women quickly filled up the room. Women who were all staring at me for guidance. I felt the weight of their expectations drain the lightness from my heart.
The air was thick with awkward giggles and pauses. The very same women, who would eventually spill their tender and fragile hearts, now eyed each other with cool appraisal. They were anticipating a spiritual giant and here stood a bumbling and unprepared third string quarter-back.
I tried to break the ice by playing a silly name game, which generally has a high success rate at connecting groups, but they were a wily bunch, and weren’t buying my juvenile ploys to get them to relax. So, I rambled a bit more, tried to sound like I wasn’t winging it, did some introductions, and then finally, gratefully, turned on the video DVD by Beth Moore.
The women seemed to enjoy the video, but I was acutely aware that a certain element was missing. The group hadn’t bonded and I had only 15 minutes left. A spirit of suspicion seemed to permeate the room.
“Oh, Lord, what do I do?” I prayed.
I sensed that prayer was the right direction, but the group was so big, if we all shared it could take hours. So, I went out on a spiritual limb, asked the women to split in pairs and pray with each other. I knew I was taking a risk in a group this big, not really knowing if some of the women had ever even prayed out loud. Mutiny was looming in the back of my brain.
And all of a sudden, as if a bomb went off, the room exploded in voices. They were happy voices that rang out and reverberated off the ceiling.
I sat and watched dumbfounded, realizing a profound truth. Even though women say that Biblical learning and instruction are a priority, from their reaction it seemed like what they really wanted was connection. And it was desperate greedy need.
More and more often, I am confronted with the idea that our community of believers is literally starving for human interaction. People are becoming tremendously isolated, despite the advances in technology (or maybe because of them) and working women, maybe even more so, because they miss out on the community of mothers and play dates, classroom parties and volunteering. Sitting in a cubicle all day staring at a computer does little to strengthen the bonds of communal living. And it is eating away at our very souls.
We weren’t designed for this. God created us to be in relationships within in a community of believers and to live in fellowship. Our relational connection was never intended to be fulfilled with an iPhone, Facebook, and tweets.
And so, women come to Bible study for far more than the Scriptures. They come to find friendship, solidarity, and support in a world that is destroying the very nature of our relational design.
Lesson learned for this Bible teacher. Next session we do group time first, and then study time!
Intentional, interactive, chatty time that is cathartic for the soul; for a generation of women that are subconsciously mourning the loss of a shared lifestyle and needing nothing more than a smile, a hug and a little empathy from some Godly gals.
Oh, and maybe a little chocolate too!