This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Emily: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I am Emily Jensen, here with my sister-in-law, Laura Wifler. We are excited to talk about an exciting topic today. We’re going to use a trendy word, your “tribe.” [laughs]
Laura: Emily and I don’t love this word, we’ll be honest, but it is the word that is used. So we’re going with it. [laughter]
Emily: Sometimes you might also see people—this is a little younger than us I think—use #squad. [laughter]
Laura: I don’t think at our age we’re allowed to use that, Emily. #squadgoals [laughter]
Emily: There is a lot of talk out there about finding your “tribe” in motherhood. Sometimes when people use that, they mean my “tribe;” like, “Look at my little 'tribe,' my family.” Sometimes it’s my “tribe” like, “The group of moms that I work out with.” Or my “tribe” is like an entrepreneurial group. Or maybe it’s just a group of women like boy moms or adoptive moms or twin moms. You can go through the whole list, but there are so many places out there today where people are just encouraging you to find your “tribe.”
Laura: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with finding like-minded moms. I am in a group called “little four eyes;” we’re about little kids and glasses. When my son was on getting glasses, this was a lifeline for me to meet other moms. So there are really wonderful benefits, particularly with these online resources where you can find women who are like you. But there is also danger sometimes in at least having those people be your primary “tribe.” What we’re talking about today is an online “tribe” versus an in-person “tribe” within your local community, and specifically, your local church. How do we balance those and weigh those? There’s a greater discussion that’s going on in the church right now about the role of women’s ministry, different ministries—like Risen Motherhood for example—that are outside of the local church. How a lot of women are looking to these ministries as being their primary source of meat, or food, to grow and to learn spiritually, in particular. We want to talk about that a little bit today. We don’t often talk about popular topics.
Emily: Especially in terms of motherhood. There’s definitely a women’s ministry conversation and we see it happening, especially in moms. That’s a time in your life, especially when you have really young children, that you have a lot of these felt needs. A lot of these, “I don’t know if anybody understands me,” or “My spiritual needs aren’t being met in a way that I like, or that makes me comfortable.” Well, there’s a whole internet out there of places we can go to. Again, like Laura’s saying, we definitely see a place for that. Obviously there would be no Risen Motherhood if we didn’t see a place for that. But we also want to have the conversation because if you were to peek into Laura and I’s lives on a weekly basis—in our home, in our community lives—you would see us both really heavily involved in our local churches. You would see us as a product of the people who are pouring into us in our local churches. Our community of peers around us that are talking through gospel stuff—our pastors, the teachers at our churches. It’s just hard because you don’t always get to see that when we just come record a podcast. But we want to be intentional to say it like, “That’s where this comes from.”
Laura: It’s the real, in-life personal relationships that we have. Just to be very, very clear, Risen Motherhood can fill in some gaps; we hope that we are a supplemental resource for you to help launch you into thinking about things differently and to hopefully discuss these things in-person with your friends. But we do not want to become a replacement ministry for you or a replacement friend for you. We really desire to see each and every listener of Risen Motherhood invest well, locally, and for us not to be your primary source of food. I feel like we just want to say that. It is the heartbeat from our show since the beginning. Now it is out verbally and clearly. It’s out there.
Emily: We thought we’d just spend a few minutes and talk about community and God’s design for it, because it’s something that we’re not always educated well in. I’ve even realized that Laura and I have talked about that a ton in the last year, like, “Oh, we just take for granted what true gospel community is.” Starting of course with creation and the way that God made things to be: He is, as the Trinity, a picture of community and relationship. Out of that overflow, he created Adam and Eve who were different, but they’re also in his eyes equal in value. They were created to enjoy relationship with God and to worship him together. Then they were both to work together to carry out a mission and a purpose. That was the original community.
Laura:. But we know that community has been broken by sin. So the number one mark for that is we start looking about our own interest. We begin to really look for, specifically online, friends that are going to make us feel good. Friends that can soothe our itchy ears. We often stop looking for friends that are going to push us or exhort us or get us ready for the kingdom preparation and sanctification. The other thing that happens though, is that the church doesn’t meet our needs any longer. Not perfectly, at least. It’s relationships with other sinners; so we see that community is marked by people using their gifts for the benefits of themselves. They don’t love the church as they should. It’s marked by slander and lying and gossip. So sin entered in and broke community to function as well as God originally designed it.
Emily: It’s like when we start replacing Jesus, who is the cornerstone of our churches and the cornerstone of our communities, with shared interests. When we make that the primary thing, then we will start to become really dissatisfied with the church that God gave us and start to look outside. But, of course, the gospel obviously plays into that a ton. Because Jesus died for our sins and adopted all of believers into his family for a new purpose, and we were all set apart to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth, we can be unified in that. We can see that we all have a part to play. That we need to treasure the church as Christ does, as his bride, which is really hard because we’re treasuring sinners. But God has given us a new heart with the Holy Spirit to be able to do that, even when it’s hard.
Laura: We can look at, again, the biblical example of women are to live life with one another. Men too, but specifically here, we’re called to live life together, to learn from one another, to teach each other. We can see that Paul lays it out in Titus 2 and we see that littered all over the Bible. That doesn’t happen; you can’t do life with someone online. There is a literal, physical block for you to be able to do that. Doing life means park play dates, and getting together to cook, and crying on each other’s shoulders, and going out for coffee. That has to happen as an in-person relationship. We’re going to talk through some of the dangers of finding your primary—again, we don’t want to say there’s no place for online ministries—but for it to be a primary crew, we’re going to talk about some of those dangers. The first one is you get really focused on having relationships and organizations meet your needs instead of the local church meeting your needs.
Emily: And we talked through this a little bit in how sin has wrecked this whole situation. Something I have to go back and remind myself—and Laura and I were just having a conversation about this over the weekend—God has designed for the local church to be able to meet our spiritual needs as moms. The thing is, it’s not always in the way we think. We want it to be like, “I am going to lock arms with moms who I think are having the exact same circumstances as me, and are reacting to it the same way.” But God has designed that we would interact with different generations and people who come from different backgrounds and have different views on things, that love Christ, and are studying doctrine with us to help meet those needs that we have. It’s counter-intuitive, a little bit, from what we want, but it’s the way it was really designed to be.
Laura: And with an online relationship, you only let people see what you want them to see. Even if you’re willing to be pretty vulnerable, and maybe email someone—and we’ve had many of you that have been sweet enough to email us some difficulties that you’re going through—we only see this very, very small picture online of each person. A real in-person relationship is really the only thing you’re able to ask a lot of questions and you’re able to get to the heart of the matter. Maybe they see the physical sin happening right in front of you. Maybe it’s something that you yelled at your kids and you’re struggling with that and they saw it happen and you’re able to say, “Oh, in this situation, what would you do?” A real, healthy in-person relationship won’t just leave you with inspiration and maybe some empathy, which is what a lot of online ministries do. A real, healthy in-person relationship sees your sin and sees your needs, and challenges and exhorts you. It monitors you to move beyond that in the light of the gospel.
Emily: Another danger we wanted to bring up is that, sometimes, if you are primarily finding your “tribe” in an online environment, it can sometimes cause you to have these skewed doctrines or skewed beliefs about what scripture actually says. This is because you are getting the bulk of your learning outside of your local body where there’s accountability. Again, examples of this might be that you’re reading blogs or, again, podcasts like Risen Motherhood, or those other online teaching ministries. There’s parent-church organizations. Again, all provide, sometimes, really amazing supplemental content, and we certainly hope that we do. But when that becomes your replacement and your main voice, again, it’s that you choose what you want to hear. When you view gaining good theology similar to going to the store or picking out what you want, you’re destined to get off-track at some point.
Laura: The true convicting question to ask yourself is are you more interested in what the latest, cool blogger or the new book or what the podcaster says? Or are you more interested in what God’s word says? So, really looking at, as Emily said, that God’s word isn’t just a store where you can take your shopping cart to. But instead, there are solid truths that you need to dig into and find out. Sometimes those are hard things to hear, and sometimes when we’re only seeking it online, we just don’t hear those things. Our eyes kind of glaze over to them.
Emily: Some of the hardest things I’ve been challenged by have been from the pulpit of my own local church or from the mouth of an older woman at my own local church. They weren’t just speaking off of the polls of the latest things that are circulating online. They’re committed to speaking the truth no matter what. Those are the times I am like, “Urrgh!.” It just gets you. But that’s good. That’s what’s supposed to happen, and it doesn’t always happen when we have a consumer mentality.
Laura: So what are some of the benefits? We’ve been sort of hitting on those and hinting at them. One big benefit is that you have other women who will see you parent and help you work through the real issues. So I started touching on this when something’s happened even before their eyes. When you’re in a local community of believers, you’ll start seeing and finding, hopefully, that there are some peer-moms around you. Or maybe some moms that are a bit further down the road, but they still remember what it’s like having your littles, and it’s so much better than taking what little an online person can give you in a written format. Instead, they’re able to ask the right questions to get to the heart issue and to truly speak into your actual situation and not just a general one.
Emily: Also, you get the opinions of people who are going to do it a little differently from you, rather than just people who you feel are in the exact same spot you are. Sometimes that difference is valuable. Another thing is just that the benefit of teaching your kids to love and value the local church. Needing to model that and saying, “Our spiritual growth and our learning happens primarily in this body of believers and not out there online.”
Laura: It brings in, too, people from different walks of life. They can see younger college students or singles, grandparents-type figures doing things differently, but they’re all for Jesus. I love showing my kids, “Hey, it’s not just mom and dad that love Jesus. All of these people around us from all different walks of life, they love Jesus in their own way and have their own personal relationships. Look at all these people who are pursuing him.” For me as a younger girl, that was really inspiring that like, “Hey, this isn’t just for my parents’ faith. There are a whole lot of people who do this. It’s really individual and special for those people." The last one is knowing what we’re talking about a little bit, but your challenge and your discernment of your theology. It does help you to stay focused on what matters. Sometimes I might mention a popular author’s name, and be like, “Hey, did you read blah, blah, blah’s new book?” It’s so funny because some of the older women in my church will be like, “Who? I’ve no idea.” [laughter] They keep me grounded. Let’s just put it that way. [laughter] They remind me that I don’t need any resource besides God’s word. That is all that I need. I was just talking to a woman over the weekend and that’s what she said. She’s like, “What can you find online that you can’t get from the Bible?” I was like, “Uh, uh, uh...” She’s totally right and while it’s easier to consume—and again we see major benefit; we wouldn’t have Risen Motherhood without it—it was very convicting for me to remember, "Where is my primary source of truth coming from? Is it online, and is that how I expect to grow? Or do I expect to grow through God’s word?"
Emily: Do we expect to grow in the way that God has ultimately designed, which is within our church community? Even in motherhood, and especially in these motherhood things, it’s not just in a “tribe” we find outside. I was thinking about this; my husband and I had some hard days this week where we got some hard news. I had a woman stop by within an hour to give me a hug and two more offered to do it within two hours later. No Twitter follower or Instagram person can ever walk into your home and do that. Also just loving that we can’t hide; I love that. I love that the people who I go to church with see me and they see everything about me, and it’s there. That’s what we’re supposed to do; it’s live in community with one another.
Laura: That’s right. We’ve built the case for finding a local church and some of you might be thinking, “Oh, I don’t have a good local church.”
Emily: Or like, “I really don’t like that. We’re not in agreement with our local church.”
Laura: Start with finding one that you can agree with doctrinally. It may not be perfect with every single thing, but get it right on the big things, and get involved. None of this, “I showed up and nobody talked to me” jazz; it’s my pet peeve. You talk to people, you tell them that you’re there and that you want to help, that you want friends, and you initiate it. I know that it is hard, but be brave, moms. I have a whole blog post about this that we’ll link to. But essentially, I just want to encourage you to not just show up to things, but to say, “Okay, I am going to take that first step of saying, ‘Hi, my name is....’” and try to build that bridge. Because again, sin is in the room, so people aren’t always noticing all the needs.
Emily: Join the Bible study that they’re offering. Join the small groups that are being offered. Get involved. Intentionally get inter-generational relationships—find older women you can hang out with, find younger people than you that you can hang out with. Honestly, if these things don’t exist, and you’re going, “My church doesn’t have anything like that,” start it ! Something that Laura and I hear a lot with Risen Motherhood is, “No one else is talking about this in my friend group.” I am so grateful that Laura and I both have friends that are talking about these things. But if you’re in that situation, just start; like once a month, or once a week, or whatever. Have people over for a play date and say, “Would you guys be willing to talk about this? Would you guys be willing to tackle these topics intentionally?” My guess is there are other women out there who want to do that, and they’re just terrified, as well.
Laura: Be open to them looking a little bit different than you are. Another key is that sometimes we don’t have the exact same demographic for these people. We want all moms of littles, or we want whatever. But that’s where most growth happens; again, it’s when you bring all these women with different life experiences in. Don’t expect it to look exactly like you want to have an open hand as you start these things. Or you can get involved in these things, and say, “Lord, let it look like what I need, not what I want.” I think we’ve harped on this long enough. This was kind of a heavy show, guys, and we don’t want you to leave discouraged. But we also really wanted to speak truth into the situation. I am just encouraging and exalting each of you to take a hard look at where you’re finding your source of truth. From there, maybe make some adjustments or tweaks if you need to do that. Just look at how can you love your local church and be most invested there. We just hope that you guys will re-evaluate those things in your heart. Maybe you’re doing it awesome, but maybe there are some things that need to be tweaked.
Emily: Yes. Find your true “tribe.”
Laura: That’s right. So find us on—speaking of another “tribe,” the Risen Motherhood “tribe” is still [laughter] a “tribe”. But again, supplementary “tribe”. Let’s start using that word, that’s a hashtag. Anyway, @risenmotherhood.com, find us on social media—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Check out the show notes for more resources on this topic. Yes, that’s it. Thanks for tuning in.