Me: Alison, first of all tell us about you: how you became a Christian and how has becoming a Christian impacted your life?
I grew up in the 1960’s, Mum & Dad had a sincere but private faith & I went to Sunday School from the age of 3. By the time I was 13, the church was shrinking and, although I knew God & Jesus were important, I didn’t have a clue why. I couldn’t even work out the difference between Christmas & Easter! (A reminder that a churched kid may not be a saved kid – ask them what they make of Jesus!). I knew enough to know I needed to sort things out, so I returned to the Christian group at school, where I met a couple of older girls who clearly loved their church & seemed to understand things about Jesus. So I took myself off to their church & looking back I can see God was graciously guiding me towards salvation. Within a short time, through Youth Group Bible teaching & Sunday sermons, God made it clear that to me that I wasn’t a Christian. I needed to become one & I started praying that he’d help me make sense of what Jesus had done for me. On the outside, I’m sure I looked Christian – the reliable, obedient, keen, high achieving teenager. But inside I was so aware that I didn’t know Jesus as my Lord & Saviour – & that mattered! In year 10, at an ISCF camp, my small group leader (a Yr 12 girl who spent most of the weekend in conflict with the other leaders!) explained the gospel & it all made sense – Jesus, God’s Son, died on the cross, in my place, paying the penalty for my sin, so I can be forgiven. I immediately (but very quietly – I am an introvert after all!) confessed my sin, thanked Jesus for his death, asked for forgiveness & accepted Jesus as my Lord & Saviour. The Bible shaped ministry of that church was formative in establishing me as a Christian over the next 6 years.
Me: When and where did you start doing one to one ministry? What lead you to doing one to one ministry there? How did it go?
Only in the last 10 years – but I wish I’d started earlier! Michael (my husband) had been the minister at Narellan Anglican Church since 1994. The church was small & struggling but keen to be “re-potted” to reach out to the hundreds of people moving into the new housing estates. So much of my ministry revolved around small groups (Play Group, women’s daytime Bible Study), hospitality, just keeping up with new women at church, plus mothering my own school age children.
As time went on I tried to encourage our more mature Christian women to simply encourage other women, one to one; to be regular at church & join Bible Study groups. We started running a couple of events each year – usually a whole church “teaching event” & a couple of “telling” (or evangelistic) events. On the whole these were successful – unsaved women were prayed for & invited, some came along, the gospel was explained clearly & engagingly and women had the opportunity to find out more about Jesus. But sadly, for all sorts of reasons, very few of our Christian women felt able to read the Bible one to one, or lead an unbeliever through a course like “Simply Christianity”. They were also were reluctant to be trained. So I just taught myself to use Simply Christianity as best I could. I tried to improve as I went along & kept inviting any women in our church who I thought may not be Christian to join me.
Along the way, women like Isobel Lin & Di Warren were promoting the joys & value of one to one Bible reading with women. So, I asked Isobel to come out to train our women. That seminar really motivated & up-skilled me, but didn’t seem to result in much change in the church culture.
Around 2010, I decided that a women’s ministry shaped by “events” wasn’t helping our women in the task of making & growing disciples for Jesus Christ, so I suggested we scrap them & instead focus on encouraging women to be committed to church & small group Bible Studies, where we’d pray for our unsaved friends & family, and focus on inviting them to church & “whole church” outreach events. And I focused on inviting women to meet with me one to one – strugglers, women already investing in the church’s ministry, women connected to us through our children’s ministries.
I’ve found David Helm’s “One to One Bible Reading” & Sophie de Witt’s “One to One”, plus Jean Williams articles on Titus 2 ministry in The Briefing very practical & encouraging in persevering with this ministry among women.
I’ve tried to prioritise inviting women who are unsaved but interested or uncertain about their salvation to read the Bible with me, and also any Christian women who I think might be able to eventually do one to one Bible reading with others, but I’ve rarely been able to successfully pass on the baton.
Me: Tell us a bit about the ministry you are doing now:
Michael has just commenced studying for an MA at Moore College so he’s no longer leading a local church and, for the first time in 28 years, we’re not in formal, paid, local church leadership. We’re also now empty-nesters. This really changes how I go about ministry & I’m still working out what it looks like in this season of life!
I’m settling in to being a committed member of our new church & getting to know God’s people there. I’m still involved in primary school SRE locally, attending a daytime women’s Bible Study & I play in a local tennis competition. I’m working one day a week as a women’s chaplain at Moore Theological College & I’m part of the leadership team for the Ministry Training & Development program for wives of recently graduated ministers in the Sydney Anglican Diocese.
Me: What opportunities do you get for one to one Bible reading?
That’s still a work in progress! I’ve had some great conversations with women at church & I can see there are women who might benefit from meeting for one to one Bible reading to help them strengthen their faith. There’s other women who are investing lots of time & energy into serving their families, church & the community & I’d love to meet one to one to read the Bible with them as an encouragement to both of us to persevere in living for Jesus.
I mustn’t have a “lone ranger” mentality about one to one Bible reading ministry – it needs to occur in partnership with the wider ministry of the church, so I plan to talk with our minister about the possibilities for next year.
Me: What are some of the challenges you find in one to one ministry?
One to one Bible reading has become part of the teaching & training culture of our university Christian ministries but that doesn’t seem to have flowed over to our churches. It’s simple but not easy & seems to be an unknown & scary animal for many women. It can sound too intense, too simple & inefficient. In reality it’s all about allowing the Scriptures to do a deep work of God, in a few people, at a time. Sadly, in women’s ministry we can be tempted to buy the lie that women need friendship more than they need the Word of God, so we’re keener to run events than to equip our women to confidently sit down with another woman, to feed on God’s Word together.
Me: What are some of the highlights for you of one to one ministry?
Simply helping women to see the truth & goodness of God’s Word, and see it’s relevance for their lives. I love the way one to one Bible reading enables women to see that they can understand the rich truths of God’s Word & that his Word speaks straight into their lives, needs & longings. Minds are renewed & lives transformed for eternity & God’s glory, when the Scriptures are opened up.
I love the way one to one Bible ministry complements the preaching & small group Bible teaching ministries of our churches. There are always Christians in our churches who’d benefit from the “made to measure” nature of one to one ministry. Many of our women may never have the opportunity or ability to teach the Bible “up front” but, with support & training, they are well able to contribute to the building up of God’s church through one to one Bible reading.
One to One Bible reading is such a flexible ministry for women in all different seasons of life. You just commit to as many partnerships as you can manage given your other responsibilities & your capacity. And it’s all about letting God’s Word speak – taking the initiative to build a spiritual relationship with another woman where we help each other to receive Christ & keep walking in him by reading the Bible together, & we leave the results to God.
And I’m also thinking that gospeling through one to one evangelism (at least in the initial stages) might be far more effective than large group events.