This year started off with a blank slate for me. I quit my part-time school counseling job, and I knew I was not supposed to pursue another school counseling job this school year.
What has morphed out of this year is only a work of God. If you told me this time last year what I would be doing now, I would have probably looked perplexed. It is amazing how, in His timing, God brings about things. It is more amazing when He brings things that are not in your scope of vision but perfectly fit your heart. That is what he has done with the discipleship of young women with me this year.
People who know me, know that I have a heart to help others. Throughout the years, that heart has stumbled through naivity, broken hearts, joy, frustration and sometimes I have learned about stalking (but that is another story). That heart is what lead me to be a school counselor. I have also been passionate about leading girls/young people. For three summers in college, I served under my youth minister, Tommy Campbell, as an intern with teenagers. After I graduated from college, I spent time in various cities trying to figure out what in the world I wanted to do with my life. In that time, I typically had low-level office jobs. The constant to my life became starting and leading girl’s discipleship groups. I really was clueless, but I knew I wanted to help them share their hearts and encourage them to grow in God’s word. I had a group of high school girls for a semester in Hendersonville, Tennessee. I, then, worked at Centrifuge in New Mexico as a Bible study leader that summer for 10th through 12th graders. The next group I led was in Plano, Texas for a semester or so. Then, when I moved back to Knoxville for grad school, I led a high school girl’sgroup for a couple of years for Tommy. When Greg took the job as College Pastor at Fellowship in 2003, I began to lead a college group of girls that summer. That was my first experience with college students, and I really loved it. I laugh to myself now at the change of that group in an 8 week period. Some weeks there would be 25 people in the “small group.” I cringe at the cluelessness to which I lead. It was then, I began to get practice at speaking the truth in a group where the truth may not be received too well. There are a few girls that I met that summer that perservered with the group. Each year we added and lost several people.
Now, we have been meeting for five years, and the group is coming to an end. I feel as if I really grew up with this group–learning how to lead, learning how to rebuke in love, learning how to let go, learning how to bear with one another, learning how to teach the Bible, learning to ask questions and be vulnerable myself to encourage growth of the heart, learning how to encourage them to lead others, learning and stumbling through conflict. With each of these girls, I have had a personal relationship to see their heart, their struggles, their tendencies toward sin and toward trust in the LORD. I have learned that no one is as she presents herself initially to be…it takes time to see the real woman beneath the layers. This group is so dear to my heart (as are those who have been a part and are not anymore). In this process of ending the group, I am learning that ending well is as important as beginning well. Like life, we cannot hold on to things forever. To lead is learning to know when the time is to let go and encourage growth in a new way.
Greg and I have said goodbye to many people in the last five years working with young adults. It is sad for us to lose day to day contact, but it is also exciting for them to grow up and spread their wings. A sense of urgency is built into working with college students/young adults because you know you may just have a limited time.
That sense of urgency really took hold in my heart this past summer when, in the course of events and relationships, I really began to search what it means to disciple someone new to a walk with Christ. I was intimidated and excited all at the same time. I began looking into the gospels…counting the cost. I remember a week early in the fall, when I was doing housework, with the question droning on in my heart “what am I really doing with my life?” I knew I needed to be still…and not try to create a plan for myself (way easier said than done!).
Then, in the course of the fall, girls began approaching me about meeting with them one on one for me to disciple them. It was a short matter of time, that I was meeting with girls all along the journey. In the process, I began to look to see what the foundational things were that they needed to learn in the short amount of time given. I, then, began crafting an extremely rough guide to try to point them in their relationship with Christ to God’s word and away from false teaching (which is so rampant that “mature” Christians often cannot decifer what is true). God, in this short amount of time, has taught this people pleaser so much about speaking the truth and pointing toward Him and counting the cost of not being well-received.
Ironically, a job opportunity came up, in this time, that a few years ago would have been my dream job–literally. I prayed through, and I knew that I was not supposed to pursue it. It was weird to weigh financial options and let it go. In the world (and the church’s eyes) it is not “okay” to be a woman without children or without a hefty bank account to not have a paying job, but I knew that was the course for now to follow. So, I began to ramp up working on the curriculum and framing time with these girls. It was during this time, that a person close to us mentioned starting a non-profit for discipling women and encouraging other women to do the same. OUTSIDE OF EVERY BOX FOR JENNIFER PINKNER! (and, in some ways I am not an out of the box girl because in my flesh I am a people pleaser) But, it did move my heart to think that I could continue doing this…it brought a smile to my face and a spring to my step.
So, these last few months I have met with 5 young women along with leading the 9 girls in my Bible study. I have had conversations with people about discipleship. I have asked people to pray. Greg and I have been praying. We have sought wisdom and discernment from those ahead of us on the journey with Christ. We were in a process of prayer, under wise counsel, open to see if we could continue on financially the way we were. It seemed that that was the route that I thought we would take…making decisions to trim several things in our budget. Greg has been extremely encouraging through this process–I am blessed to have him as my husband to call out places in me and encourage me toward growth. Then, we have hit a point with his health problems with Rheumatoid Arthritis…and had some hits financially unrelated. We are confident in the Lord’s provision and leading. I was bracing myself to start applying for school counseling jobs thinking…maybe this dream in my heart that has bloomed is for the future. However, in my heart, I was very disappointed over the prospect.
Last week, Greg said, I think we are painted into a corner…I think we pray and move forward. I was feeling the same way. It is either, go forward in faith seeking God to see if this ministry will bloom or scrap it and go back to school counseling. So, here we go on the journey. If you think about it, please pray for God’s leading and provision for this ministry of discipleship for women. I am excited, and I trust God that He is molding us in this process. I learn everyday that life is not just about end-results, it is about knowing Him and seeing His faithfulness and glory throughout the shaping process. We are being broken and shaped in so many different ways right now in this season. I certainly trust Him if he breaks this dream…for if it becomes about me instead of Him, I do not want it.