Differences in Discipling Women vs Men

When I started on EDGE I had very little exposure to disciple making. I had not come out of a Nav ministry so everything during those years proved to be a huge learning curve. I looked to my EDGE team and trainers to see what I should be doing. But when it came to discipleship, comparing myself to my male teammates was a big mistake. Feminine discipleship is different, and though some of the content we cover may be the same that men cover, the similarities end there.
 I.  The needs and approach are different
As a young EDGEr I couldn’t understand how the guys on my team could meet with so many men each week. I simply didn’t have that many hours in my day. But as I look back they probably weren’t spending nearly as much time with each appointment as me. It seemed to take me a good half hour before I could even dive into the content we had planned to discuss. That half-hour I later learned to label “Life” (as in share the Word, Life and Prayer). But I also needed to understand why it was important in feminine discipleship.
Because women approach life holistically we need to allow time in our one-on-one’s to simply talk about how life is going. Shanti Feldhahn uses the example of a computer screen with only one window open at a time to describe the male brain. The female often has many windows open and running at once.  It is harder for females to compartmentalize everything mentally and emotionally.
Taking a chunk of time to cover “Life” will help close some of those open “windows” on her screen so you can focus in on the “Word” and content you have prepared. It will also give you a good glimpse into how they are really doing, not to mention time to share your life with them too. The trick is to not let this take over the whole time – I know I have fallen into that trap more than once in my discipleship times.
II. It takes more Emotional Energy 
The male’s bent towards compartmentalizing life and not have every “window” open also helps them maintain their emotional tank through back-to back one-on-ones. My EDGE male teammates cared just as much but probably didn’t feel nearly as drained emotionally as I would after just one a discipleship appointment.  I couldn’t compartmentalize those conversations so I felt more drained. I had to learn that I needed to plan not just for the physical time it took to meet with a woman, but the emotional energy as well.
Recognizing that she is on my mind even when we aren’t together, I’m praying for her, getting text’s from her, emotionally carrying some of the things she is dealing with – these all pull from my emotional tank. I need to make sure I’m not taking on too many other things and have enough time to re-fill my energy. This isn’t easy to do with littles!!!! (Understatement of the year J). Therefore there were many years when all I did was meet with one or two staff women. That was it folks! Other years I was able to do more.  I also needed decompress time between a one-on-one and taking over life at home again.
I’m not saying that I try to be a pseudo counselor. More than once I have referred a woman to professional counseling for things that are beyond my expertise. Beth Luebe shared with me this list she pulled from Shepherding a Woman’s Heart, by Bev Hilsop. 
What I can do 

  1. Be a listener
  2. Designate time to be available
  3. Get more help
  4. Pray for her
  5. Suggest professional help (for eating disorders, depression, big family issues etc.)
What I can’t do 
  1. Change her
  2. Go without regular sleep
  3. Do it all alone
  4. Cure her hurts or fix it
  5. Erase past pain/choices
This list relieves some of the un-needed pressure and expectations we can put on ourselves as disciplers.
It has been many moons since those early years of disciple making and I’m still learning the best ways to make it work. It is a delight to watch God use me and change me as He knits my heart to another woman’s for a season.
Blessings to you young mommy missionaries as you disciple hearts – both little and big – day in and day out! 
Sherry has been on staff since 1997. She and Jeff have been married for 14 years and have served in WI, SD and now in CO.  They have 3 boys ages 6-11 and there is never a dull moment in their house. Sherry enjoys writing and encouraging mommy missionaries when she isn’t busy shuttling boys around town. She is also re-entering the world of homeschooling after a year off. 

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