All Have the Same Resources

I remember when I first began to understand that I wanted to give my life helping make disciples.   I was introduced to the idea as a junior in high school.  I began to grasp it and actually try to do it as a college student.  I was captured by the vision of helping young men and women walk with God.   It was a compelling life purpose; however, I often felt handicapped because I had never been “discipled.”  Then, in my late twenties I went on staff with a collegiate ministry where making disciples was to be my full time job.  Suddenly, I felt woefully inadequate as I was faced day after day with the needs, questions, eagerness and sinfulness of a large group of college students under my care and direction.

 My network of relationships at the time put me around a lot of people who came from large, prominent disciple-making ministries.  They all seemed to have skills I didn’t.  I perceived them as smarter than me, more effective than me, and likely more spiritual than me.  They shared a common vocabulary which I was unfamiliar with and often spoke of their past mentors.   I regularly felt like a misfit, an imposter, or worse, a hopeless case.  I found myself thinking, “Gee, if I had only had gone to college there,” or “I wish I could have attended that church.”   Of course, that kind of thinking quickly deteriorated into, “Well, not much can be expected of me.  After all, I didn’t have the right training.  I’ll just have to muddle along and do the best I can.” 

One weekend I was invited to join some friends who were hosting one of their mentors, a man who was well known as a very effective disciple-maker.  God had used him tremendously in my friends’ lives and, although I had never been around him personally, I had a lot of respect for him.  It was a small group of ten or twelve and we sat casually in the living room as he shared his thoughts on making disciples, and encouraged us regarding our various ministries.  Toward the end of the evening he invited us to ask questions.  Sometime during the next few minutes I took a deep breath and found the courage to ask, “What if no one ever discipled me?  How can I learn how to disciple someone if I was never discipled?”  (I’m pretty certain I said this with a distinct whine in my voice.)  He looked at me and replied, “No one ever discipled me.”  I was stunned.  And convicted.   And challenged.  Here was a man who had influenced hundreds of people, maybe thousands, and no one had ever personally discipled him?  In that moment it dawned on me.  There is no magic wand.  No secret handshake.  I am a disciple by following Jesus with all my heart, and I make disciples by loving people and coming alongside them as best I can on their journey to know, love and follow Jesus.         

Not long after this encounter, I was reading Romans in my Phillips Translation of the Bible.  It translates Romans 10:12* this way:  “For all have the same Lord, whose boundless resources are sufficient for all who turn to him in faith.”  Finally, after all my self-pity and excuses, I began to understand.  I have all I need to love and minister to people because I have the Lord Himself.  His boundless resources are available to me.  To me!  There are no formulas, no charmed curriculum that “works” better than others.  I have everything I need in Him.       

 (*Note:  I realize this verse in Romans is about salvation not equipping, but I don’t think it is a stretch to apply it as I felt God applied it to my heart that day.)

Be My Guest

From time to time I plan to invite some of you to write guest posts for this blog.  I want to create a place that feels more like a community of women, rather than merely me dispensing my two cents every week.  What does collegiate ministry look like on your campus?  What is God doing in your life?  Is there something you have learned about walking with God in the midst of doing ministry?  What have you learned about living well as a single?  Can you pass along some wisdom gained in the crucible of marriage?  What observations are you making regarding current campus culture?  Do you have something to say that you think might encourage other women or help them be more effective in their ministry?  Well, be ready.  I might invite you to say it here. 

Post Valentine's Day: A Few Reminders That Matter

 I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.     ~ Psalm 13:5

Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the (woman) who trusts in Him.  ~ Psalm 32:10

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies . . .  How priceless is your unfailing love!   ~ Psalm 36:5-7

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and                            be glad all our days.  ~ Psalm 90:14

For your Maker is your husband – the Lord Almighty is his name – the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer.  ~ Isaiah 54:5

. . . for the Lord will take delight in you . . . as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.  ~ Isaiah 62:4-5

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with lovingkindness.  ~ Jeremiah 31:3

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  . . . I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  ~ Romans. 8:35

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that iswhat we are!  ~ 1 John 3:1

What Are You Doing for Lent This Year?

I have noticed that coloring is not just for kids anymore.  College students are coloring for fun and relaxation.  Adult women are breaking out the coloring books after the kids go down at night.  Maybe some of you on staff have picked up a box of crayons or colored pencils yourself lately!  The link below is to an article titled Praying in Color and it is an activity to help you engage Lent in a new way this year.   I’m all in favor of giving something up for Lent.  I plan to say “no” to something in my own life.  But, I also like the idea of saying “yes” to something.  Here is a way to observe Lent by reflecting on a word, or a passage, or by praying for a different person each day – with your Crayola in hand.  Have fun!  And may God draw each of us nearer to his heart as we march toward Easter.

I Would Like to Invite You to a Memorial Service


The pastor of my church often shares the following analogy when he preaches a funeral. These are not his exact words, but rather a compilation of what I recall him saying at various funerals, mingled with my own thoughts. My apologies to Pastor Terry if I have misrepresented his words. I don’t believe I have misrepresented his intent.

“A funeral is like a window. Imagine that you are toiling day after day in an office high in a tall building. It is a spacious office, and it has a large window covered with blinds. You keep your head down and do your work diligently. You are productive. Days, weeks, and months go by with you coming and going from that office, doing the work of each day. You are so intent on your tasks that you never have time, nor even think, to open the blinds. Then, one day you rise from your work, walk over and pull the blinds open. What unfolds before you is a breathtaking view - the city below, and mountains rising in the distance. It is a panorama of brilliant sunshine illuminating a world that shouts of beauty and hope and meaning. It stops you in your tracks. For a few long moments your life gains new perspective as you gaze out at the wide world beyond the four walls of your office. You take a deep breath and let out a long sigh. Perhaps you reflect on how brief life is and think about what really matters to you, beyond the project waiting on your desk. That is what we do at a funeral. We step away from the hurry and work and mundane of our lives, and we look out the window. We gaze for a few moments at eternity and think about the things that matter most in the end.”

Recently, I watched Elisabeth Elliot’s memorial service that was held in July at Wheaton College. As a result, I have been standing at the window. Elisabeth is one of my heroes of the faith. Her writings shaped my early spiritual development, and have continued to feed my faith through the years. I often return to read Elisabeth when I know I need reminders of God’s faithfulness and complete trustworthiness. Her mantra, “Suffering is not for nothing” has buoyed me at many crucial junctures of life. The service is poignant, inspiring, and even humorous. There are stories of Elisabeth’s faith and influence from those who knew her best, and it gives those of us who felt like we knew her greater insight into the things that made her such a resilient and profound voice. I would like to invite you to take some time to stand at the window and watch the memorial service. It can be found here on YouTube: Note: The service is 2hrs and 45 minutes long and includes a lot of special music by grandchildren as well as congregational singing of numerous old hymns of the faith. If you prefer not to watch the entire service, I have listed below the segments (they are each short) that are, in my opinion, the most rich and wonderful. If you only have time for one, listen to Joni Eareckson Tada. Personally, I thoroughly loved listening to all the old hymns. Above all, I felt urged forward to live well for Him.

  • Video, Younger brother, Dr. Thomas Howard, speaking at her funeral a month earlier than the memorial service 1:14-1:20
  • Peter Devries, nephew of Elisabeth 1:20-1:28
  • Walter Shephard, son-in-law 1:28-1:40
  • Joni Eareckson Tada 1:40-1:58
  • Valerie Shephard, daughter, 2:02-2:16
  • Video looking back at Elisabeth’s life 2:17-2:32

How About One-to-Two Discipleship?

I realize that one-to-one is the gold standard in discipleship - and for good reason.  I wonder, though, if there isn’t a place for one-to-two or even one-to-three?   After all, Jesus often took Peter, James and John aside together for intentional teaching or experiential training together. 

Here are some reasons you might consider, from time to time, meeting with two girls together rather than only one.

1.       Have you ever met with a girl who is exceptionally quiet?  Maybe she is timid.  Perhaps she just doesn’t process your questions quickly.  Maybe she is a little intimidated by you!  Whatever the reason, getting her to open up and share her heart or express her thoughts feels like pulling teeth.  A third person might eliminate some of the awkwardness or pressure she feels.  As she listens to her friend share, it gives the timid one a little longer to process.  Hearing someone else may help her put her thoughts into words. (Note:  You will still need to work to draw her out and ensure that she doesn’t hide behind her friend’s thoughts and feelings.) 

2.       Meeting with two girls together adds another set of eyes, ears and another voice.  They will likely know things about one another you have not witnessed.  They can add affirmation or give a different perspective.  It is an added level of accountability.  Also, they will likely see each other in between meetings where they can continue to talk about what God is doing.

3.       It is a great way to model discipleship. What does it look like to cast vision for someone?  How do you have a hard conversation?   How do you learn to ask questions in order to draw someone out and get to know them on a deeper level?   We don’t usually learn METHODS as well when something is being done TO us, but when we can watch it taking place with someone else, we get to observe how it is done.  At any given time, one girl is observing how you are discipling the other girl. 

4.       It can be practical and strategic.  Discipleship is not about efficiency; however, in larger ministries there are inevitably a lot of women around who are eager for help, and not enough staff or upperclassmen available to meet with them.

5.       There is often more fun and more energy with an added person in the mix.

If you decide to try it:

  • Be sure you choose two women who have a natural affinity with one another.  Are they in the same small group?  Maybe they live in the same dorm?  Both on the worship team?  I would not choose two who are best friends, but it is helpful if they have some things in common.  I would even suggest telling one girl you would like to include another.  Give her two or three options and let her choose the third person.
  • From time to time, meet one-to-one with each of them separately.

Unwelcome Tasks

My mother used to say things like, “You can’t go out to play until you’ve made your bed” or, “That room isn’t going to clean itself!”   Sometimes I wish my mother could live with me.  I might get more done.  The truth is I am a terrible procrastinator.  I hate to admit that.  But there it is in black and white.   Actually, if there is a procrastinator’s club of shame, I suspect I would have plenty of company. 

Have you ever noticed that we don’t usually procrastinate doing the things we are eager to do?  Does my friend Nancy want me to call her today?  Is there a tennis match on television?  Am I thinking about baking brownies or picking up my favorite author’s new release?  Well, I’m on it!  On the other hand, I can find a million reasons not to balance my checkbook or clean the bathroom.

I have heard several leadership and time management experts say that the first thing we should do every day is tackle one thing we dread doing.  Do it and get it behind us.  So, for a while now I’ve been trying to do this - with some small success.  Some days it is my financial reports for Alongside Women.  Other days it is writing an email to begin the initial conversation with a potential supporter.  Today it was taking the time to back up my computer.  (I don’t know why I hate this task so much.  Probably because it is technology related.)  I am realizing how freeing it is to start the day with this sort of accomplishment and how much emotional energy I waste on things that sort of hang over my head, waiting to be done.       

Here are a few true words on this subject from an old Scottish preacher:

“No unwelcome tasks becomes any the less unwelcome by putting them off till tomorrow.  It is only when they are behind us and done that we begin to find that there is a sweetness to be tasted afterwards, and that the remembrance of unwelcome duties unhesitatingly done is welcome and pleasant.  Accomplished, they are full of blessing, and there is a smile on their faces as they leave us.  Undone, they stand threatening and disturbing our tranquility, and hindering our communion with God.  If there be lying before you any bit of work from which you shrink, go straight up to it, and do it at once.  The only way to get rid of it is to do it.”      Alexander MacLaren

Isn’t that great?  Just so you know, Alexander MacLaren lived in the mid 1800’s.  He didn’t have to deal with Facebook and CNN or an iPhone to help him perfect procrastination.  Yet, apparently he understood the struggle to face daily duties and do them rather than skirt around them.  He was right – long before the guys on the current leadership circuit began saying it.  There is a certain joy and freedom to be found in looking squarely at the unwelcome task and getting it done.  Proverbs 18:9 says, “One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.”    Putting something off over and over again is slacking.  It is lazy thinking and unwillingness to reign in my mind to DO the thing in front of me.  

Do you struggle with procrastination too?  Whatever it is, “go straight up to it” and do that thing that has been hanging over your head.    

A Reading List: Books by or about Old Mostly Dead Christians

Why read books by old Christians?  Eugene Petersons says, “That means they have been tested by more than one generation and given passing marks.  That means that what these Christians have written has been validated by something deeper than fashion or fad.”  As I get older I find that I read fewer books that were written recently, and instead am spending more time with books and authors from 75 or 100 years ago, and many much older than that.  Don’t misunderstand me. I do not mean to say that I can’t learn anything from young, current thinkers and writers.   I often read them and I do have a few favorites.  But in a fast changing world where it seems like our theology and faith practices are being redefined every week, I am finding surer footing on the bedrocks expressed by the old authors.  

The list below consists of the books I find myself returning to again and again. These are the books that have shaped me and continue to strengthen my faith.  This is not an exhaustive list.  I have probably forgotten a few.  I may add others later.  I have included only books that I have actually read and benefitted from, rather than books I know I should read but haven’t gotten around to yet.  Who are your favorite “old” authors?    


Abandoned to God, about the Life of Oswald Chambers

The Autobiography of George Mueller

Borden of Yale, by Mrs. Howard Taylor (about the short life of William Borden, who died en route to the mission field, 1913)

A Chance to Die, by Elisabeth Elliott, about the life of Amy Carmichael, missionary to India

Daws:  The Story of Dawson Trotman, Founder of the Navigators, by Betty Lee Skinner

Evidence Not Seen:  A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II, by Darlene Deibler Rose

The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom, by Pamela Rosewell Moore

The Hiding Place:  The Triumphant True Story of Corrie ten Boom, by John Sherrill

Life Lessons from the Hiding Place: Discovering the Heart of Corrie ten Boom, by Pamela Rosewell Moore

Letters to an American Lady, by C. S. Lewis

Safer than a Known Way, by Pamela Rosewell Moore

The Shadow of the Almighty, by Elisabeth Elliott

The Small Woman, by Alan Burgess, about the life of Gladys Aylward, missionary to China

Surprised by Joy, autobiography of C. S. Lewis

These Strange Ashes, by Elisabeth Elliott, about her first year in Ecuador

Through Gates of Splendor, by Elisabeth Elliott, about the death of Jim Elliott in Ecuador


George MacDonald: An Anthology, 365 Readings, by C. S. Lewis

A Diary of Private Prayer, by John Baillie

Joy and Strength, compiled by Mary Tileston Wilder

My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers


The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis

Hannah Coulter, by Wendell Berry

Hinds Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard

Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo (Seriously, try reading the book.  Full disclosure:  I skipped/skimmed most of the lengthy chapter about the sewer system in Paris.) 

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, by J. R. R. Tolkien

Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan

Spiritual Growth

Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster

Of the Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis

Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A Resilient Life, by Gordon MacDonald

The Restoration of the Heart, by Dallas Willard

The Return of the Prodigal, by Henri Nouwen

The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis


The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard

The Knowledge of the Holy, by A. W. Tozer

Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis

The Weight of Glory, by C.S. Lewis


A Hymnal (You know, a book with old hymns in it:  Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, etc.)

The Christian Book of Mystical Verse, by A.W. Tozer

Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer, by C. S. Lewis

Prayer: Finding the Hearts True Home, by Richard Foster

Toward Jerusalem, by Amy Carmichael

With Open Hands, Henri Nouwen 

If you want an additional list of books by someone smarter than me:    Take and Read, by Eugene Peterson


Welcome to Alongside Women

Welcome! I’m glad you found your way here.  This space has been created especially for women who work in collegiate ministry.  Your job is unique.  Who gets spring break trips and barn parties as part of their job description?  Your lives are unique.  Most of you probably earn your salary by raising your own financial support.  Most of all, your opportunities are unique. You get to share the gospel with college women who have never heard or really understood who Jesus is and how he wants to redeem them.   You get to sit face to face with women who are navigating a crucial season of life, deciding how or if faith will intersect with their future.  Some are considering or reeling from disastrous choices.  You get to speak to them of God’s purposes, grace and forgiveness.  Day after day you get to hear stories of heartache and hope and redemption.   You get a front row seat to what God is doing.  You also help keep your local coffee shop in business (and you have your own little “corner office” there!)

The content on this website is chosen particularly for single women who serve full time on a collegiate staff team, investing their lives in the next generation.  However, if you play any role at all in a college ministry, you are welcome to join our discussion here.  Some of you are married and serving on staff.  Some of you serve part time or in a volunteer capacity.  Some of you are wives of directors and are busy raising children and going to baseball practice and gymnastics.  Even so, you find your home frequently stuffed full of college students for meetings and meals and game nights. I hope there will be something here for you too.

As a matter of fact, any woman is welcome.  If you resonate with what you find here, then come on in. Brew yourself a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and spend a few minutes with other women whose lives look a lot like yours.  My prayer is that you will find camaraderie and spiritual nourishment for your own soul.  I also hope you will discover some practical help for ministry and discipleship.  

God is Not Your Boss

I don’t remember where I first heard the phrase, “make Jesus the boss of your life.”  I do know that I have never been entirely comfortable with it.   Even so, I have used it myself from time to time. Whoever first coined the phrase meant well, I’m sure.  It is an attempt to translate the concept of “Lord” into contemporary language.  Since we no longer live in an age of feudalism and those of us in the United States have little exposure to or understanding of royalty, the term “lord” can sound a bit archaic.  So, someone came up with the idea of expressing the concept of lordship as, “God is our boss.”  In other words, he is in charge.  He calls the shots and we answer to him.  On the face of it, this makes sense.  However, it has increasingly seemed to me that rather than being a helpful translation, it takes a powerful reality and makes it a puny shadow of its former self.  

If God is my boss, then when I work hard, he owes me something.
— Mark Vance (The Salt Co.)

This past September I attended the Kansas/Nebraska Collegiate Fall Conference.  Mark Vance, who is the director of the SALT Company in Ames Iowa, spoke on the theme, “Sons and Daughters.”  Along the way he exposed some inaccurate concepts of God.  At one point he said, “If God is my boss, then when I work hard, he owes me something.”   Like a lightning bolt it occurred to me in that moment that “boss” is much worse than a puny translation.  The term “boss” actually injects faulty theology into a person’s heart, often right at the beginning of their walk with Christ.  

There are many Biblical ways to think of God and each one sheds light on him and his character and our relationship with him from a different perspective.  He is creator, savior, judge, friend, etc.  But Vance said that “Father” is the New Testament name for God.  The most important concept God wants us to have is that of a Father to his children.  We have repeated the Lord’s prayer so many times that it is less than startling to us that it begins with the words “our Father.”  Vance suggested that to those first century Jews it must have sounded utterly explosive.  Surely their jaws dropped all the way to the ground to hear someone address God – and suggest that they too address God - as “our Father.”  This was brand new language to them.  I wholeheartedly agree that the primary relationship we have with God, the one we see unfold in the gospel, is that of a father and child. 

Of course, Jesus is also our Lord and this is an important aspect of our relationship with him.  But let’s not call him “boss.”  We are not working to earn anything from him.  He has already freely given us his forgiveness, his love and acceptance.  We are spiritually rich, not because of our hard work but because of his grace.  The truth is (to introduce another Biblical description of our relationship) we are his bond-slaves (or servants) and he is our master.  (Colossians 4:12)  He owes us nothing.  We owe him everything.   I realize that to our modern ears “bond-slave” is perhaps a farther stretch than “lord.”  It is uncomfortable language.  And it is much more accurate than “boss.”  

I think we must try to better communicate what these rich terms mean rather than merely replace them.  God is my father and I gladly declare that he is also my master.  But he is not my boss.    

God is my father and I gladly declare that he is also my master. But he is not my boss.

Five Big Ideas for Discipleship


  1. The goal of meeting with someone is transformation not merely information.  When I was young and just starting out, someone asked me, “What do you want to see God do in the lives of your students?”  I was stumped.  I could have given you a long list of all the things I wanted my students to DO:  show up on Thursday nights, join a small group, have their quiet time, attend the fall retreat.  But why exactly?  How would you answer that question?  I realized I needed to take some time to think and pray about my vision and philosophy of ministry.  Do you long for her to know and love Jesus deeply?  Do you want God to have full and unhindered access to her life and heart?  Are you eager for her to develop a heart that trusts him?  Is she slowly maturing to become aware of the needs of others?  Howard Hendricks once said, “When God measures a man (or a woman), he puts the tape around the heart, not the head.”   That is transformation.  If this is true then . . .
  2. Praying for her is the most important part of preparing to meet with her.  Only God can work real and lasting change in someone’s life.  He will, however, kindly use you to lead and guide her if you will talk to HIM, before you talk with HER.   
  3. It is important to cast vision for her.  What do you see that she doesn’t yet see about her life? What are her gifts and strengths?  Where is there growth and change, even if it is small?  Where is God at work?  What do you think God wants to do in her?  What has he already done?  Where is she living with courage?  Who is she becoming?  Say those things out loud to her. 
  4. Listening equals loving.  These two things are so closely related that they are practically indistinguishable to most people.  (My paraphrase of a quote by David Augsburger.)  Cultivate the skill of asking good questions to draw her out.  I have discovered that if I listen well, sometimes students will discover their own answers, or perhaps discover the real question. “My dear (sisters), take note of this:  Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”  James 1:19  
  5. People pleasing and/or perfectionism are toxic in discipleship relationships.  By this I mean your people pleasing and perfectionism!  You must deal with these tendencies in your own life. Here are a couple of warning signs to watch for:  Do you get angry when she doesn’t take your counsel?  Do you feel like a failure when she doesn’t show up to small group or the ministry picnic?  Cautionary note:  She is HIS disciple, never yours.   You cannot strong arm or manipulate someone into spiritual growth.