The Depth of Intentionality
It seems rare today to meet someone so consistent in their pursuance of relationships, but Greta Jones fits the mold. I've had the pleasure of knowing Greta as a small group leader, mentor, and dear friend for the past nine years. She was gracious enough (though slightly hesitant when the camera came out) to sit down with me in a tell-all about her involvement in ministry and her outlook on quality relationships...
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN SERVING IN STUDENT & WOMEN’S MINISTRIES?
I’ve been serving with students since I began teaching 20+ years ago, but began serving in student ministry when we moved to Charlotte nine years ago. I’ve been involved in women’s ministry for years, but just began serving two years ago.
WHAT ATTRACTS YOU TO COMMUNITY?
Everybody wants community. God made us relational, and I think that by being in relation with others, we are pushed to grow. I love to witness students grasp things, which is why I decided to teach. I feel like the only way you can really influence is by being in relationship, and that relationship builds community. Then you get to connect other people - I can see a need in a student and think of someone else who could really relate on common ground.
In reality, I’m getting just as much, if not more, than I’m giving. Others’ experiences teach me a lot. All of that comes with time and intention, which I love. I love asking questions, and those build relationships without even meaning to. Without community, I lack in joy, and I think God is more present in my life when I surround myself with people – and not just fellow believers, but other people who can also challenge me. It’s nice when you have that group of people you can depend on and lean into – once you know what it looks like, I think you miss it when you don’t have it.
DO YOU THINK INTENTIONALITY is LACKing IN EVERY DAY PUBLIC SPACES, SUCH AS AT WORK OR IN SCHOOL?
No, I think you can have it anywhere, but it depends on how much you’re willing to give. We can make a lot of excuses to why we don’t have enough time, but I have never met a person who hasn’t said things like, “I wish I had more friends or someone I can depend on” etc. So I feel like everyone’s searching for it, but making that time can be difficult. My community has always been found primarily in church, but even when I taught, I had relationships with other teachers who had different perspectives on intention than I do. So we were still missing that connection. I do think it has to be something that we are willing to work for, and that’s where the world as a whole is not on board. Many of us have our plates full, which isn’t wrong or right, it’s just the way things work.
YOU SAID A LOT OF PEOPLE LOOK FOR COMMUNITY – WHAT DO YOU NOTICE AS THE PRIMARY SETBACK WHEN THAT RESULT IS NOT REACHED?
Time. So often we are not willing to give the time to make it happen. I can choose that as well - there are times when I’ll retreat and say “I’m not going to do this.”
But you’ll never get to the depth of community without that time.
It’s interesting to me to see this even within small groups. There are women and students in my life who think we are involved in such a meaningful and deep community – and it makes me laugh, because it’s not even halfway to where it could be. The hard questions haven’t come; the vulnerability is lacking. To feel as though you can express the good, bad and the ugly to others comes with quality time.
I also think social media creates a false sense of community. I can text, Instagram, or message someone on Facebook all I want. But it’s still surface level. Is it great to have that instant communication? Yes. Absolutely. But it is not the same as being in front of a person, in their home, talking one-on-one or sharing life even with kids running around – it’s just not the same. And I think people find security in friends on Facebook, but how many of them are your real friends?
(laughs) But that’s just my opinion!
WHAT DO YOU THINK GENUINE COMMUNITY shOULD LOOK LIKE TODAY?
I think this answer is different for everybody, but for me, genuine community is consistent – whether it is once a month or once a week. It involves conversations that go beneath the surface. It can be your every day “how are you”, but follows up with things that go a little deeper and challenge you to dig into your relationship with God. It also looks like someone who cares about what you are saying, and that comes with, again, time. It’s trying to find those people who fit and not being afraid to ask and answer hard questions. My love language is quality time, but for someone else it could be meaningful to come into their house to help with laundry or chores, inviting someone into your home for dinner, or watching a friend’s kids. Just being intentionally thoughtful builds true community.
That looks different for everybody, but it is worth finding out where people need to be challenged and served in areas that mean something to them.
WHAT ARE SOME DIFFERENCES YOU SEE WITHIN THE COMMUNITY ASPECT AMONG STUDENTS VS. WOMEN?
(makes a face & laughs)
i know, I WENT THERE!
This is totally an opinion – I tend to give more grace to students because they’re still figuring it out, but hold women to a higher expectation because they have made it there. However, I’m learning and realizing that none of us have actually made it. We’re all still trying to figure out who we are, and we think differently of how the world perceives us, which is interesting – whether it is a woman who has grown confident in who she is or if she is still searching. Some students already are confident in who they are, even in the stage of life they are in. I tend to place them into categories based on age and lifetime experience, but I’m finding that there are really more similarities than differences.
I’m also very protective of students and the people I love. When I listen to women, particularly as moms, I know that the things they say or do immediately affect their children. I think about that power that we have as parents to influence, so I always wish for that to be positive. But I also see the potential influence in other women paired with that of a student I know, like if a woman has wisdom in an area that a student could need, I pay attention to that and want to make that connection happen, which is a positive.
I do have a softer spot for students, which I’m hoping can change over time. I spent 20 years with students, and I’ve only been really intentional about women as a ministry - even though I have many great friends who have been mentors and supporters who have helped me to be that person for students. I want to learn to have that same graceful outlook on women as well. I guess the setback there is that I view other women and myself as equals, so I almost don’t have as much right to pour in and help direct. I don’t know why that is, but I’m learning to change that along the way.
Could they be powerful together? Yes, as they should be. We are all the body of Christ and should be pouring into each other back and forth – I’m just learning to live with that perspective!
HOW VULNERABLE ARE YOU WILLING TO GET?
(laughs) Not sure Lindsay, do I really want to have this kind of community with you?
DO YOU HOLD YOURSELF TO THE SAME EXPECTATIONS AS YOU DO TO OTHER WOMEN? SINCE YOU NOW HAVE A TEENAGE DAUGHTER, DO YOU HOLD HER & YOUR SON TO HIGH EXPECTATIONS AS A RESULT?
Oh yes. I have high expectations of my kids. Even though I would like to have more grace with them, it is not something that was taught very well in my own home growing up. It was more about rules, so I have a difficult time releasing my control. I’m learning to show more grace and to remember that expectations aren’t necessarily fair. They’re okay to have, but they must be held loosely. There are things about myself that I want my daughter to be different in, and I have prayed since I found out I’d be having a girl that she would have confidence in who she is, which I see in her. But that’s the very thing that challenges me sometimes. Finding the balance between grace and truth has always been a bit of a hard road. Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing it well or not, and of course I would like to be, but I want my kids to see Jesus and that I’m living for him above all.
I think we all probably have a little of that, depending on how we grew up and how our environment is. We have to think about that as believers and as followers of Jesus, and what influence that has on others. I think when we share life with people, we all become a reformer in some way. Whether it’s good or bad, influence is going to happen. I just hope it’s good.