Jen Wilkin is passionate about teaching women the Bible, but she’s also a dedicated student. Over the last 15 years, she has led and organized studies for women in her community and church and encourages those women to dig deep into the Word of God. Committed to allowing our knowledge of God shape our experience of Him, Jen brings a fresh perspective to women’s Bible studies and Scripture.
Over the course of her childhood, Jen spent time in seven different denominations, and this experience sparked an interest in knowing the Bible up close and personal. “One of the churches we attended at the time was a Bible church that taught Scripture straightforward, and that stuck with me throughout the rest of my ‘denominational travel,’” she says.
“I did come to faith as a child, but I couldn’t tell you the date, which isn’t typical as a Southern Baptist,” she jokes. During the years in that environment, she found herself asking hard questions and felt heavily influenced by her mom’s leadership in teaching her family the Scriptures. When the Wilkin family moved to Dallas several years ago, they immediately searched for a church home. “My husband, Jeff, and I didn’t plan on joining another large church after the move, and we told friends not to recommend anywhere that wasn’t 10 minutes from our house,” she laughs. “A friend suggested The Village Church, and sure enough it was 10 minutes away and though large, didn’t feel that way.” The couple joined a small group immediately and found a real authenticity some churches lack today. “I think there’s a form of authenticity in churches today more defined by over-sharing rather than being truly connected to each other. The people in the highest places of leadership at The Village Church had genuine, deep friendships and relationships with members of the congregation, and that mattered a lot to us,” the author says. Jen now serves on staff as part of The Village Church Institute, directing all adult classes at their five campuses.
Raising Kids Who Love God’s Word
With the wisdom of Bible teaching and church ministry under her belt, Jen’s family has a strong foundation of faith. “With parenting in general, people want to have a formula, but nothing is guaranteed.” She and Jeff aim to ask themselves not about how to raise a believing child, but how they, as parents, can instill their beliefs and one day “stand in front of the Lord with a clear conscience, having done their very best.” Her pastor encouraged them to think of parenting as laying kindling and asking the Holy Spirit to set it on fire, and they try to avoid a formulaic approach. Rather than encourage scheduled quiet time, the Wilkins modeled a love for Scripture. As a Bible teacher, Jen prepped for lessons and discussed the Word with Jeff when their kids were home. Jeff rescheduled his daily time in the Word from late in the evening to mornings so the kids could see an emphasis on spending time with God.
The key to continuing their growth, Jen adds, is increasing the depth of family study. When their children were small, Jen and Jeff practiced prayer together and short, family devotionals. As they grew, devotional time turned to once a week but more in-depth. Schedules can get busier as children get older, but good conversations can stem from their experiences with the world around them as they grow up and form their personal faith.
Spending Time in Scripture
Over the course of her ministry, Jen’s Bible studies have taken on a signature format, and finding that niche has been heavily influenced by her work in women’s ministry. “As a women’s ministry director at my last church, I noticed a gap between women involved in inductive Bible study and those doing topical study, but the groups never really overlapped,” she says. Jen wanted to write resources that took the tools from inductive study and the application from topical study and merged them together. “I wanted to give women more than insight — I wanted to give them the confidence to handle Scripture on their own,” the author adds. Jen teaches entire books of the Bible and encourages people to take in the Word in its entirety. “As a student of any subject, you never show up for a class and simply listen and go home. You come prepared, you may do group work, and then the teaching builds on those efforts. I incorporate these elements into my studies to encourage active and eager learning.”
Jen also encourages Christians to take the time to read the Bible as it was written. She notes that the Bible is first and foremost a book about God rather than a book about us; it is ordered intentionally to show us who God is. “I think any time you come to the Scriptures trying to pull something from it to deal with your current issues, you’re asking the Bible to speak to you on your terms,” Jen says. She goes on to explain that the only way we can understand ourselves is through the light of who God is, and viewing Scripture as a way to learn about God takes a shift in our perspective. She discusses the idea that biblical authors didn’t write their books expecting for them to be picked apart, but crafted their ideas from start to finish, thinking about how they would present arguments or a narrative.
When asked about how Jen balances God’s Word as part of “work” and keeping it alive in her faith, her response offered a new perspective. “I consider myself the luckiest girl around because my job is to spend time in Scripture. I don’t draw a line between personal time with the Lord and prepping to teach,” she says. Considering it a privilege rather than a job, Jen reminds us that all work is
Engaging God’s Gift of the Mind
An avid reader, Jen remembers one of the first books that transformed her faith. Fifteen years ago she was handed a copy of A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of The Holy, and she recalls that serving as the beginning of her journey to think about a transcendent God in Scripture. Tozer increased her vocabulary for the vastness of God, and because of that, God became truly captivating to her for the first time. “Women have a tendency to read books that are written by women for women, and I began to look for ways to get that vision I felt into the hands of women who might not necessarily go looking for it,” she says.
When thinking on her years as a young Christian, she says, “I would tell 20-year-old me that faith is more than a feeling. Your feelings will not always tell you the truth, either because things are going extremely well or extremely poorly, and in those times we need a faith that’s grounded in who God says He is.” When speaking to younger women in the church, Jen found herself aware of the deep desire to feel something. Though she believes women should feel deeply about God, Jen also wants to remind women that they’re called to also love God with their minds and “the heart can’t love what the mind does not know.” She recalls Mark 12:30-31: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these,” (CSB).
“Thankfully in today’s world, we have women who understand that they can bring their full intellect to their jobs and their churches,” Jen admits. Her hope for this next generation of women is they bring the gift of their minds to every environment, not least of all the church. “If we populated the church with women who think deeply about the character of God, it would completely change the way they influence every sphere of their lives.”