A transcript of an interview with Jim Daly of Focus on the Family and Dr. Joneal Kirby of Heartfelt Ministries.
Jim Daly: Wow, what an amazing comment about our culture today and where we are in it. On today’s Focus on the Family, we’re going to hear more about this heart cry of many women to have a friend, to know that someone cares about you, to connect with someone who’s willing to listen to you. I’m Jim Daly. And John Fuller is here in the studio with me. And we’ve got a special guest today who has a passion for reaching women, especially in the church, who may be feeling lonely or isolated. And they don’t even know where to go to find deep and meaningful relationships with another woman.
John Fuller: Dr. Joneal Kirby is our guest. She’s a marriage and family therapist and author, a speaker and a radio host. She started a church-based mentoring ministry for women more than a decade ago and since then has been training women in churches on creating similar ministries. And today, the basis for our conversation with Dr. Kirby will be her book,Heartfelt: A Woman’s Guide To Creating Meaningful Friendships.
Jim: Dr. Kirby, welcome to Focus.
Joneal Kirby: Thank you for having me.
Jim: Now, you have a little accent. Where are you from again?
Joneal: Louisiana. (Laughter) West Monroe, La.
Jim: Uh-oh, that’s a famous place.
Joneal: We’re called Deep South.
Jim: That’s aDuck Dynasty home, right?
Joneal: That’s aDuck Dynastyhome, yeah. And I hang out with those Robertsons pretty frequently.
Jim: Well, you’re related, aren’t you?
Joneal: I am. Willie’s wife Korie is my niece.
Jim: That is awesome.
Joneal: It is.
Jim: It seems like a great culture. I mean, I know it’s not going to be a perfect culture, but I just love small-town America. I grew up in a small town. I love it.
Joneal: You know…
Jim: You know, there’s a lot of mischief in small towns, (laughter) but there’s also a lot of good things that young people learn in small towns. So it’s great to have you today. Let’s start with the why.
Jim: I mean, why did you feel this book was necessary? You know, obviously, you were thinking women need help connecting with one another.What were you noticing that motivated you to reach out and help women in this way?
Joneal: Several years ago, I founded a counseling center and was doing a lot of work in my church with young families – wives and mamas and doing a lot of parenting classes.
And a couple of my other friends – including Kay Robertson, who was a close friend of mine – we were doing a lot of personal work with these younger women. But we realized that in a church the size of ours – it’s a fairly large church – that there were very few of us that were actually doing that.
Jim: And what you mean is connected.
Joneal: Connecting knee to knee, heart to heart, sitting and really getting to know somebody’s life and then doing life with them.
Joneal: And in a church family, that is one of the connections that I believe is essential to growth in a church. Well, I was noticing that this was really not happening on a routine regular basis with intentionality in our church family, as good a church as it was. And I’d also I’ve been studying Titus. And I read in Titus 2 the instructions that the older women are to train the younger women.
Joneal: And I looked around and asked myself the question, are we really doing this? Are we following God’s instructions? And realized that we probably would if we knew what to do. And at that time, I think that’s when the Holy Spirit said, well, you need to make this happen here at your church.
Joneal: And uh, I was actually writing my dissertation at the time, so…
Jim: So you had free time! (laughter)
Joneal: Yeah. And I told God, I said, as soon as I get this thing wrapped up, that’s my next calling. And God was like, no, it needs to happen at the same time. (laughter) So I was writing it and writing this program and getting it started. We launched it in January of 2003 with 135 women – 10 small groups. And I began getting calls from other churches within the year asking me what we were doing with this ministry. And so I developed a program where I could teach others how to do Titus 2 mentoring.
Jim: Speak to that issue – that need- that women have particularly. You know, I know God has wired us all differently as individuals but as gender as well. I mean, men have a certain way of thinking through things generally.
Joneal: Sure. Yeah.
Jim: And women do as well. Women have a lot more white matter than men. That allows you to connect different areas of your brain compared to men. I mean, it’s a lot. It’s interesting to me. But why do women particularly feel so lonely today?
Joneal: I think we live in a false connected society. The social media has created this sense of relationship which basically, you know, when you look down and go, wow, I have 2,000 Facebook friends. And you think…
Jim: But it’s superficial.
Joneal: It’s not deep. And it’s not real. And it’s not doing life.The other thing I believe that’s happened is we’re just a busier society. We are uh, you know, the majority of women work outside the home. And they’re involved in a job 30 to 50 hours a week that keeps them away from focusing on their home, their husbands, their children.
Another reason I think that we have become so disconnected in our churches is because I believe that programatically (ph) about 50 years ago, we started segregating by ages and stages…
Joneal: And so you have groups for the senior saints. And then you have the young marrieds. And then you have the young singles. And then you’ll have the newlyweds. And then you’ll have the young family groups. And I believe, in studying this as long as I have these years, it really goes against the biblical model of church family.
Jim: And mentoring.
Jim: Faith mentoring, which is really critical.
Joneal: You can’t do a Titus 2 Ministry unless you have intentional outreach that pulls older women in and teaches them how to actually do the training.
Jim: It’s so true.You know, Joneal, I was talking to Jean about this. And I was hoping – we’re going to do a web extra. I was hoping that Jean would be able to join, but we’re going to have other women for our web extra, so…
Joneal: And that’s a genius idea, by the way. (laughs)
Jim: Yeah. I just – you know, I thought I’d be great for you to interact with them. And we’ll guide the conversation a little bit. But for those listening who want to hear more from other women and talking with you, you can go to the website and you can catch that web extra with a little more dialogue, women-to-women sort of speak.
But with Jean, so she had gone out for coffee with her girlfriends. And I was catching her as she was leaving on the phone, saying, hey, Dr. Joneal Kirby’s going to be in and we’re going to be talking about relationships and mentoring, and I thought you might like to participate in that. And she said, oh, I don’t know mentoring. I mean, I have friendships, but I wouldn’t classify myself as a mentor. I said, well, didn’t you just come away from having coffee with a bunch of friends? And is that partly mentoring?Define that distinction between friendship and mentoring. And why do women – mentoring seems to like – I’m too busy to do that. That sounds overwhelming. I’ve got enough on my plate. You know, there’s so much going on. Mentoring sounds big because a woman typically goes headlong into wanting to do it so well.
Jim: So ease the fear of women and then guide them into a mentoring definition.
Joneal: One of the things I do to knock down that barrier which is there for women when I teach this, is to say,you are influencing someone already. Regardless if you’re doing intentionally or not, someone is being influenced by your behavior, by your walk, by your talk.
What most of us want is just authenticity. And what we need to do when we’re doing this kind of discipling and training as older women is we just show up and do life. And then we share how we did it. It’s the been-there-done-that T-shirt. And it’s not stories about how much we’ve been great and how awesome we are and how we’ve conquered it and how marvelous our marriage is.It’s sharing our mistakes.
Joneal: And it’s – like I tell my young women that I mentor, I’ve made enough of ‘em. If I can share some of them with you and keep you from doing it, I would love to be able to be a part of that.
Jim: In your book, you talk about the need for vulnerability. That’s what I’m hearing you say, that vulnerability is key to mentoring. But take us through a healthy mentoring perspective. What does that look like? You spend 15 minutes together, an hour together? And what’s the goal for the mentor and the mentee?
Joneal: One thing I learned when I started working on this program that intimidates a lot of women about mentoring or discipling other women is doing it by themselves. So the key to the success I believe to Heartfelt has been putting you with a Heartfelt team. So you work with two or three or four other women…
Jim: To build this…?
Joneal: …To mentor a small group. So what you may not feel like you’re strong at – say, maybe Bible study is not something you’re good at but you’re really good at hospitality, so you mentor some young women with a partner who comes in who loves to do Bible studies.
Joneal: And then there may be another person on your team who’s extremely sociable and easy to talk to people and is a good conversationalist. So with your team of heart moms, you’re able to really reach the lives and the heart of younger women on a variety of different levels because you’re not doing it all alone. That’s one of the most intimidating things that I’ve found that keeps women from feeling like I can’t disciple, I can’t mentor someone else.One thing is realizing that they’ve not done it perfectly, and how can I share that? And the other one is I just don’t think I’m adequate enough. I don’t – I’m not the perfect-all-around person.
Jim: Sure. Well, I think that’s one of the big obstacles a woman needs to get over because of that sense of inadequacy, the idea that I can’t do this, the overwhelming feeling. But the benefit is tremendous. And it’s kind of that scriptural truth that when you pour into another person’s life, you actually end up receiving more perhaps than that person is receiving because of that giving quality that is so God-like.
In your book, you also share a story of Miranda. And this, to me, is the proof in the pudding. This is the evidence of that work that you have to go to to be in a mentoring relationship. Share with us the story of Miranda.
Joneal: Miranda came to us as a young wife who came out of a broken home, had grown up basically a latchkey kid with a single mom who worked two jobs. And when she came into our church family, she was very ignorant and innocent of a lot of things that was necessary to be a godly wife. And when she first was in Kay Robertson’s group, she heard Kay share authentically her testimony of going through a really – well, a bad marriage for 10 years and trying to hold onto it with her three young sons.
And Miranda had never heard Christian women or people of faith say bad things that happened to them and they came out of it. And it was an awakening for her. And she reached out to Kay, and they developed a strong relationship. Miranda’s life immediately started changing because she started embracing listening to the Holy Spirit, listening to older Godly women. And on one particular day – I share this in my book – it was Mother’s Day. And her mom called. And her mom is emotionally not a very healthy person and has had a lot of troubles. And she just chewed her out and basically was abusive.
Jim: On Mother’s Day.
Joneal: On Mother’s Day.
Jim: Saying how poor a daughter she was.
Joneal: And why are you not taking care of me? And it was a horrible thing for Miranda.She calls Kay up, and she relates what’s happened. And she said, you know, Kay, you’re my spiritual mom. Today, could you be my physical mom? And Kay said, you better believe it. Yes. And she took on much more of a mentoring, more life-giving role even after that.
Joneal: But because she was so immersed in our program at our church, Heartfelt, what Miranda will tell you today after 10 years is I have lots of moms — women who’ve taught me how to cook, how to raise my children, how to do Bible studies, how to read a Bible, which she had never ever done before she came to our church. I told her to go to the Christian bookstore and pick up a children’s book and just start reading that children’s Bible and learn those stories because she wanted to be able to tell them to her children. So that was the kind of practical things that we helped her with.
Joneal: And if we were not doing life with her, those kind of moments may not happen, but they would have been kind of awkward even.
Jim: And I think with everything that women juggle, that having that kind of friendship/mentoring relationship is so critical because it’s how you’re wired.
Jim: You need that kind of input. You need to be able to – we all do, frankly, but men are more loners. We have pride and ego and other things that keep us from asking a guy how you tighten that nut on that engine, you know, (laughter) because we’re going to figure it out ourselves. But women really need that relationship and that’s critical.
John: Our guest today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly is Dr. Joneal Kirby and we’re talking about her book, Heartfelt: A Woman’s Guide to Creating Meaningful Friendships. And you’ll find information about that and a CD or download of our conversation at focusonthefamily.com/radio or when you call 800-A-FAMILY. And please visit our website to hear an extra panel discussion that we recorded with Dr. Kirby and several guests where we delved more deeply into this topic of relationships between women.
Jim: Joneal, let me stand up for the introverts. (laughter) You know, I tend to be more extroverted. And I’m trying to always be mindful not to overpower that moment when you’re in a meeting together or room, I mean. But speak about the introverted woman who would find this very difficult. I mean, they don’t do well in a group. They typically pull back from that. They’re pretty comfortable doing it on their own, figuring it out. Speak to that woman and the need to have friendship, have relationship, have a mentor and to mentor, even if you don’t feel like you are gifted for a relationship.
Joneal: I have been so blessed to work with a number – well, hundreds of women through this ministry and up close and personal in my home, in my heart group. I’ve worked with a number of women who would definitely follow that personality type. And what I find is once I have just really spoken into their lives that the – what they have done, give them encouragement because of what their lives are all about, I mean, I think that’s the goal of this mentoring program. We’re not just discipling just women younger than us, we are discipling one another as peers, also.
Joneal: So the woman who may feel like I don’t have anything to offer or I really don’t even like to talk and share oftentimes has some of the most wonderful wisdom to share once she’s been felt safe. She has to feel emotionally safe, I believe. And I think that’s one of the things that this small-group program the way I’ve done it helps because she’s not by herself. It may take her six months to warm up.
Joneal: But I worked with a woman for about seven years who basically told me don’t expect me to ever say anything, but she was my right arm as far as loading the dishwasher, cutting up the carrots.
Jim: Getting things done.
Joneal: You know, she’d be at the door to open the door and then let me step in and start talking. She was the first one to clean up. And after about six years of her faithfulness of just being there and showing up, she always had a big smile on her face and hugs, but she just didn’t want to share. One night in our Bible study, we were on one particular passage about marriage. She raised her hand. And she said – and, you know, that old commercial when E.F. Hutton says something (laughter) everybody stops? Well, that’s how it was. We’d never heard Marilyn talk. And she said, can I just share?
And she gave her testimony of being a young widow who came as a very shy, depressed, grief-stricken woman to our church family and was taken in by this ministry where she has been loved on. And she’s been able to give love through these close connections. And, I mean, I was bawling. Everybody was crying because we didn’t know how she really felt about it. I personally knew it because we were close friends but she’d never shared it. But after those years, she finally got to a place where she was safe and comfortable and had enough confidence to go ahead and share her story.
Jim: But think of that – took six years for her to get to that point. That’s amazing.
Joneal: And God is patient with us, isn’t he?
Jim: Oh, yeah. Well, and that’s a good thing. I mean, she was comfortable enough after that amount of time. And there are people in every church that probably fit that description.
Joneal: Exactly. But that’s another reason why I do believe this ministry has had such success in the churches it’s been is because it doesn’t matter your personality type, your skillset, your strength that’s been found. It doesn’t matter about any of your qualifications spiritually. You may be a fresh-brand-new-out-of-the-baptismal-water Christian or someone who’s walked this road for 50 years. There is a place for you in this type of women’s ministry. If you are just the woman that stands at the door and hugs when those young women come in the door, that is valuable. You may be the woman who fixes the coffee and serves it, but there is a place for you in a mentoring ministry.
Jim: You talk in the book about benefits to – when – when a woman is engaged in doing mentoring, being linked in friendship to other women, marriage tends to work better. Parenting tends to go better. In fact, you shared in your book a story about Mindy. Describe what – what benefit you saw and what Mindy saw in her own life.
Joneal: Mindy is kind of a unique situation in that she lost her mother at a young age. And then her dad is spending a lifetime in prison in Angola for shooting her mother.
Joneal: So when she came to us at our church as basically an orphan child – she was being raised by her grandparents.
Jim: How old was she at that point?
Joneal: Uh, 14.
Joneal: Right, and she and her younger sister were being at – they were at a place where, spiritually, they were very vulnerable, as well as emotionally. And – um – so Mindy went through a series of marriages and devastating aftermaths of that. And when I got involved in her life, she was just getting ready to start her third marriage. And – uh – we pulled her into our group and started mentoring her.
She and Michael, her third husband, have just celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary…
Jim: Oh, that’s great.
Joneal: …And have a little girl that came into that marriage. And she – um – she needed some mothers in her life, for sure.
Joneal: She needed one mom, for sure. But what she got when she came to Heartfelt was a lot of mothers who took her under our wings and taught her how to be a woman of God and how – what it looks like to be a Godly wife, what it looks like to relate to your children, as a mother.
Because her mother was taken from her at such a pivotal age in her development, she had totally gotten to a place where she didn’t understand how women work. And so women were a mystery to her. And when we got her in small groups and in Bible studies and got her connected in life with us, all of a sudden, it was an exciting time for her to start learning what her potential was as a woman.
I cannot even describe adequately how God is using her now because of the work that we all did and how faithful we were. And it was a joint effort. She says she looks around our church family, she’s got moms all over… (Laughter) That have…
Jim: That’s great.
Joneal: …Told her what to do and…
Joneal: …Helped her. But that kind of life mentoring needs to be in every single church. We all, as God’s women, need to look around us and find the Mindys, find the Mirandas, who may have never had a good figure of a woman of God in their life, may never have had a mentor that was a mom – their mother.
In fact, in our ministry, we call them heart moms because we think the older women need to do the job of a spiritual mom, as well as, oftentimes, a physical mom, like Kay (ph) was to Miranda.
But in our churches today, to have the kind of healthy church that all of us are seeking to have in the 21st century, having women this engaged with one another on an authentic basis…
John: Well, yeah, that’s the key, isn’t it? You didn’t say you lived it out perfectly in Mindy’s life. You just lived it out authentically and continuously.
Joneal: And with her on a routine basis. It was intentional. This was not casual or haphazard or yeah, I’ll catch up with you later, call me if you need me kind of thing. It was intentional the way that we pursued her to be in relationship with her. And where were times where that’s difficult. Sometimes when you’re – you know, things are not always just black and white and easy. Sometimes it’s a complicated relationship.
That’s one of the reasons that I believe the model of using small groups of women – sometimes it wasn’t my – I wasn’t the best person to talk to Mindy. But because there were other women involved in her life, I could call Lauren (ph) or Beverly (ph) and say, OK, what do we need to do about helping her with this situation? Because I wasn’t adequate to do all of it, and I knew that. But I had other friends who wanted to do the same thing with Mindy and the Mirandas and all the other young women.
Jim: Yeah. And I – again, I’m just thinking of the reward for you and the women that do this. That, to me, is the most impressive thing is, as you give, you’re going to receive so much more. And that’s not the motivation, but it’s in that place of your heart that fulfills you. It makes life worth living, right?
Joneal: And I believe that’s one reason that the widows in the churches where this program is active – have found a new way of living life.
Jim: Wow. Joneal, this has been terrific to introduce people to Heartfelt and what you’re doing. How many churches are you involved with now?
Joneal: Right now, we’re almost 200 churches.
Jim: That is great. Let’s aim for 2,000, maybe 20,000…
Joneal: I love that!
Jim: …That could do this. But we’ll have information at the website for that. I have one more question for you coming up. But let me turn to you, the listener. If this is touching your heart, as a woman, and you want to be involved in deeper relationships, you want to be a mentor, or you need to be mentored yourself, Focus is here to at least start that process. And we have counselors. We can help you talk about the issues you’re facing. We have great resources, like Joneal’s book Heartfelt, who can give you an idea of how to get a small group going and how to be part of the Heartfelt effort. And, again, contact us here atFocus on the Family,and we will get you moving in that direction.
John: Yeah, our number is 800-A-FAMILY – 800-232-6459. Or online, you’ll find the book and an opportunity to donate to the ministry, as well, at focusonthefamily.com/radio. And we do need your financial support. Please be as generous as you can and we’ll send a copy ofHeartfeltto you – a complimentary copy so you can kind of jumpstart this effort in your own church and your own community.
Jim: Joneal, let me ask you one last question as we close, close. (Laughs) And that is talk to the older woman listening to us right now – that potential mentor – why does she need to do this? I mean, make that, you know, 30-second case. I’m on the fence. Uh, this has been interesting, but I don’t know if I’m going to act on it. Convince me.
Joneal: I really do believe that this is a direct instruction from God to older women. If we want to see, in the Bible, clear direction from God of what women should be doing in the church, you can go to Titus 2:3-5 and read it. There is no other passage in the Bible that directly speaks to what a women’s role is in the church.
Jim: For those driving, what does it say?
Joneal: It – the older women are to teach the younger women. That discipling ministry right there is the heart of what will grow a church family to a closer connection. The spiritual meaningfulness in the friendships is what we need to have. And, older women, whether you’re 40 or 90, need to be involved in younger women in their church family, and they want you. They want you badly.
Jim: That’s well said. Thank you for being with us.
Joneal: Thank you.
To listen to this broadcast go to:
FEATURED BROADCAST RESOURCE
To read Heartfelt , Dr. Joneal Kirby’s book
Focus on the Family will send it to you for your donation of any amount!