In the midst of bottles, diapers, and sleepless nights it’s easy to understand why motherhood is a season when we’re apt to miss the harvest that surrounds us. Often we’re like the workers Jesus spoke about in John 4:35, believing the harvest is months away when, in reality, the fields are ripe before us.
Throughout this season, I’ve watched the Lord draw women to himself through relationships made at playgrounds, preschools, doctor’s offices, and neighborhood playgroups. The primary way my friends and I have sought to share Christ as mothers has been through forming outreach Bible studies. As I’ve observed a variety of these groups and experienced the Lord’s work among them, here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way.
1. The fields are ripe.
Just as a fisherman knows there are better times of day to catch fish, some seasons of life are more fertile soil for evangelism. Motherhood is one of those times. Mothers yearn for answers and advice. Whether in the workplace or at home full-time, we long for other adults with whom to discuss questions about motherhood, marriage, and faith. I’ve found that many women would love to come to a Bible study. They’re just waiting to be invited.
2. Wherever God places you, be all there.
When my oldest daughter began preschool, I didn’t know any other moms at her school. Truthfully, I wanted to live closer to my friends so she could attend preschool with their children. It’s often tempting to wish our circumstances were different and fail to see the place the Lord has prepared for us to serve his kingdom. Martyred missionary Jim Elliot once said, “Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” This wisdom is especially true for us as mothers. Your neighborhood, the particular ages and dispositions of your children, your school district, your work outside the home, your husband’s work schedule, your financial resources—-all these circumstances we sometimes wish were different—-are the very places to which the Lord is calling you to bring the gospel.
3. Enlist help.
After the initial year of being on my own, two of my friends from church moved closer and enrolled their children in the same preschool. I now realize how much we needed a team to be able to start a Bible study in the early years of motherhood. Each of our different gifts came together to form a beautiful whole. We divided up tasks, prayed for one another, and gave one another breaks during seasons of new babies being born. As the group grew, we needed more help, so a variety of women volunteered to serve in different areas.
4. Build the community the Lord brings.
As we formed the group, we hoped to create a place where women who’d never studied the Bible would feel comfortable coming and learning about Christianity. Instead, our initial Bible study was mainly ladies from church who shared our hopes to reach other women. In retrospect, I realize the Lord was building our community in those first two years so that we’d have a loving place to invite other moms. He gave us a community so that we could share it with others. And eventually he brought the women we were hoping to reach.
5. Study the Bible.
When it comes to starting outreach studies, it’s important to explain that our purpose is to study God’s Word together. We usually have ladies from a spectrum of denominations and beliefs. Studying what the Bible has to say, however, moves us away from opinions about disputable matters and toward the core truths of Christianity. Studying God’s Word allows us to know Jesus in a deeper and more profound way. Week after week and year after year, the Bible is the most powerful tool we have in evangelism. God uses his Word to fashion hearts and transform minds. Honest discussions of struggles and heartache are bathed in the hope of the gospel as the Word becomes the center of relationships. His words, discussed and mulled over among a group of women, change lives.
6. Logistics are important.
It’s important for women to know what’s happening week to week among the group. They need to know when and where the group is meeting and what’s being studied. It’s also helpful to provide childcare in an environment close by so that mothers feel comfortable leaving their children. Such logistics can be among the most difficult barriers for the leaders to organize, but they are an important component of caring for the women you are hoping to reach.
7. Invite with boldness.
Invite the women you meet at the park, your doctor’s office, your preschool, or wherever else the Lord places you. Our group began sending an invitation to each woman in our preschool for a “Back to School Brunch” to introduce ourselves and tell them about the Bible study. I find that inviting women is often a starting point for deeper spiritual conversations. Don’t only invite women to the study, however; welcome them into your lives. Open up about your struggles and failures so they see Christianity isn’t for perfect women, but for sinners who need a Savior.
8. Be aware of the battle.
Here’s the reality of leading an outreach study: the enemy of our souls doesn’t like women studying the Bible. Each year, at some point along the way, I’d face discouragement and want to quit leading the study. Discouragement, of course, comes in many forms—-emotional and spiritual weariness, physical illnesses, unexpected trials, logistical complications, relational struggles, and so forth. In these moments, God’s words to Joshua often brought me comfort: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9). We must depend on God’s presence for the courage to look past our temporal circumstances to fight the battles that war against kingdom advancement.
9. Abide in Jesus.
Unless we abide in Christ in our own lives, we will have nothing to give to the women we seek to disciple. Jesus spoke these words on the eve of his death: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). We must daily take hold of what we hope to pass on to others. By joyfully drinking from the source living waters we will be able to invite others to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8).
10. Prayerfully trust God with the results.
A fisherman cannot make a fish bite, nor can a farmer make a seed grow. They may increase in wisdom and understanding as they perform their tasks, but they must wait in hope for the results. Similarly, all our efforts must be entrusted to the Lord through prayer. We’re not held accountable for the souls we’re trying to reach, but for our obedience to Christ’s call to “go and make disciples” (Matt. 28:19).
Nevertheless, the excitement of catching a fish or watching a plant grow greatly encourages the laborer in her task. I’m so thankful the Lord has allowed me to see lives changed. I have the same hope for other moms and am encouraged to prayerfully live by Jesus’ words: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers to his harvest field” (Luke 10:2).