What is Your Focus?

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Not that long ago, I was speaking with a woman who serves on her church Women’s Ministry team.  She shared with me that at a previous planning meeting, she was frustrated as they spent over 30 minutes trying to decide on the color of the napkins.

As part of my attempts to stay abreast of what happens in Women’s Ministry, I’ve joined various social media groups for Women’s Ministry leaders.  In my observations I notice a lot of backwards planning.   It starts with a catchy theme or pinterest worthy decor plan, and then they begin searching for the verse or topic that fits the theme.  Speakers are lined up to deliver a topic, but no one knows what will be said.  

Instead of starting in the Word, in prayer, and with God… they are beginning with decorations and trying to figure out how to put God into it.  It should not be this way at all. 

We would never dare to make the icing and decorations without first having a cake in mind.  Yes, while the cake is baking, we can begin working on the frosting and planning out the details of how the cake will be finished.  BUT, all that work is for naught if we forget to bake the cake.  In fact, we can’t even decide what kind of icing we need without knowing the type of cake first.

What if we began the process with:

  1. Prayer – ask the Lord to put a message, topic, or verse on your heart for your next ministry event.
  2. The Word – take the time to go through the Scriptures related to the message or topic, or to study the verse the Lord gives you in context.  
  3. Topic – once you have a clear topic/verse, then create a name for your event (if needed) that expresses the topic so that women know what to expect.
  4. Details – finally, create the hospitality details that will accompany your topic/message.

A great Women’s Ministry event can deliver the message, while you are seated in the sanctuary.  The table cloths and centerpieces, favors and games, and the atmosphere are the icing on the cake.  It does convey a message to your guests that they are welcome and loved, so long as that message doesn’t overwhelm the true message… The Gospel.

Don’t forget to register for #LeadHer2018 !  Seating is limited and we anticipate the event will sell out.  $79 includes a continental breakfast at arrival, plated lunch, and all conference materials.  And, we have some amazing things in store thanks to some soon to be announced sponsors.

October 6, 2018 in Hobe Sound, FL.  Click through the graphic for more information:

Add _God is within her, she will not fall._Psalm 46_5(89)

This Is Serious Business

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When I speak to people about Women’s Ministry, or quietly observe in various Facebook groups about Women’s Ministry, I wonder if we are talking about the same thing.

So much time is spent talking about decorations and favors, cute little themes… I wonder if this is Women’s Ministry or Pinterest Ministry?

I’m not suggesting that we disregard creating a wonderful experience for the women who attend our events, I am concerned when this appears to be all that we are providing.

Not being one prone to silence, I decided to speak up.  In one group, after reading countless posts over many months that discussed what verse would match their theme… I had enough and spoke up.

Think about this for a moment.  They had already decided a theme for their event, but now they needed to find a verse to teach from that fit the theme.  I can’t be the only one who feels like this is a backwards approach.  Shouldn’t the WORD be the forefront of the plans, and the decorations and theme the icing on the cake?

I asked  a simple question…

“What are you doing to disciple your women?”

Other than a few responses that related to Bible Studies and Small Groups, there wasn’t a lot.  For most, their event were their primary outreach and teaching tool.

I was encouraged, however, by the number of women who were honest…

We don’t.   But, I’d like to.  I don’t know where or how to begin.

We’ve tried but it didn’t take off.

Now I am committed to helping these women come up with a plan to kickstart discipleship in their churches.  The conversation is open, and the opportunity is endless.  But, what is prone to happen in these types of scenarios is a lot of conversation and research with a heavy dose of push back from the question of “what if”.

I’ve learned over the years, you can “what if” yourself into complacency and inaction.  If you are going to wait for every detail and facet to work itself out, nothing will ever get done. Sometimes the greatest “what if” to ask yourself is…

What if we don’t?

What if we don’t disciple our women?  What if we don’t challenge our women to dig deeper in the Word?  What if we don’t encourage our women to a more intentional prayer life?  What if we don’t steward our money, resources, and time toward The Great Commission call of Women’s Ministry?

Women’s Ministry is far more than fun themes and pinterest worthy decorations.

Author Gloria Furman, in an interview, referred to Women’s Ministry as being any occasion where women minister to other women.

How we minister matters.  Titus 2 calls us to minister to women through teaching, and how we live our lives.  Which means that what we teach through Women’s Ministry matters.  I would call all of our churches to examine how we are doing Women’s Ministry today, and weigh it against these questions:

  1.  Are we encouraging and providing avenues for women to learn to study the Bible, and offering a Bible Study schedule that provides enough variety and opportunity for women to plug in.  Do we encourage our women to sign up for these study groups?  Are we preparing women in our church to become teachers of study groups?
  2. Are we fostering a spirit of intentional prayer in our ministry?  Do we model prayer?  Do we have a prayer team who prays for the women in the church?  Do we take time to teach women how to pray?
  3. Are we creating space in our calendar of events to include service projects in our communities?  Do we call our women into action, responding to the needs around us?
  4. Are we providing opportunities for our women in leadership to receive training and support in this call?  Are we identifying future leaders among our women and investing in their development?
  5. Do we have a Women’s Ministry that is focused on The Great Commission?  Do our events center around the Gospel?  Or, do we fit the Gospel into our events?

You see, I believe that Women’s Ministry is not a simple little ministry that gathers once a month to learn about making the perfect centerpiece, surviving motherhood, or even feel good messages about how beautiful we are to God (granted those have there place and time).

No.  I believe that Women’s Ministry is serious business.  Being a Women’s Ministry Leader means that the Lord is trusting me with half of his flock.  Which means that I am called to handle the Word of God responsibly, and teach it to other women.  It means that I am called to go out and share the Gospel with the poor in Spirit.  It means that I am praying over our church, community, and the women I serve … as well as teaching them how to pray.  I am leading in order to build up more leaders who will go out to all the corners and share the Good News.   None of this call is something to take lightly.

It is a great and noble calling, to lead His daughters.  How we lead matters.

Lately, Women’s Ministry has come under criticism.  Women are tired of the same old same old, and they want something deeper.  Younger women are not interested in their mother’s type of Women’s Ministry.  They want to be a part of something that has significance, meaning, and purpose.

We are not being challenged to something new, but rather returning to the way it was.

The Old Testament has several points relating to how women ministered in their time.  We begin with Eve in Genesis Chapter 2, created to be a helper to Adam.  What is interesting is that the Lord made Eve as a response to Adam being alone.  God was with Adam.  There were animals with Adam.  Man was hardly alone.  Yet, God says that it was not good for man to be alone, which meant there was something Adam still needed. When Eve was created, Adam had instant community.  Women have been serving others in community ever since.

One of our primary roles of Women’s Ministry is to create a community and build relationships with one another.  This is why having events and studies are a great tool, so long as the event doesn’t trump the purpose of the event.  Through our events we can bring women into community and fellowship with one another, but also by encouraging them into the Word and prayer, we bring them into community with God.

One of the best, and simplest, definitions of community is COMMON + UNITY.  What are the things that we have in common that unite us?  As Christians and women, we are united by our uniqueness in how God created us.  Women’s Ministry draws us together in COMMON UNITY as we identify as daughter of the King.  Through that community, we are able to minister to one another’s needs, teach the Word and how to pray, serve along side each other, and spur one another forward.

We lift one another up and defend one another.

We sympathize and have compassion for one another.

We teach each other and grow in faith along side one another.

We go before throne for one another, speaking truth to our sisters.

Let our Women’s Ministries become more than just a monthly gathering, and instead become a community.  One where we gather at the well of Living Waters, drawing from it, together.

Breathing New Life to Women’s Ministry

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This year, you will plan your church’s one hundred millionth women’s tea.  The women will arrive, potluck offerings in hand.  They will find a seat a table that is beautifully decorated, sipping on tea, and noshing on shared bites.  A singer will lead them in several songs to set the mood.  The speaker will address the group.  We will laugh.  We will cry.  We may feel convicted or inspired.  Then the ladies will pick up their purses, say their goodbyes, and head out the door.

It’s the same old Women’s Ministry routine you have been executing for as far back as you can remember.  Perhaps you really like these special events.  Or, it’s just “what has always been done”.   You see the same faces, you may have even long given up on trying to attract the women who don’t attend.

Or, maybe you lay awake at night… knowing there is something more to Women’s Ministry than what you have been doing. You can feel the Lord is calling you to something different.  You don’t know how.  Or what it would look like.  You just know that you are not satisfied with the same old, same old.

What if I was to suggest that the Lord is not calling you to something necessarily new… but instead the Lord is bringing you back to the way it was mean to be?

In the month of August we are going to look at the Biblical defense of Women’s Ministry (why we should have one), the Biblical Model of Women’s Ministry (what it should look like), The Detour (where we went wrong), and how to Reroute (find our way back).  We will also look at Significant Female Leaders in the early church through modern times.

It is time to breathe New Life into the Women’s Ministry.

Serving in the Absence

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When we began this series, we asked that our readers and members expand their definition of single women and single mothers.  We wanted to ensure that we didn’t look only at the young single girls and the single mothers, but all the variations of singleness.  The never been married, the divorcee, the widow… and those women who are married but live in the absence of their spouse.

What do we mean by living in the absence of their spouse…?

A husband who is in the military and on deployment.

A husband who is in rehab fighting through addiction.

A husband who is incarcerated due to poor decisions.

A woman who is married but currently separated (possibly hoping for reconciliation).

A husband who has a job that keeps him away from the family for long stretches.

A husband who is present but has a chronic or terminal illness that is stealing him from the family.

There are probably more circumstances than the examples given, hopefully that is enough to get us all thinking.   In the last year, a good friend of mine was married with an absent husband.  His father lived in another state, he was being treated for cancer.  Because of his work flexibility, my friend’s husband was able to travel back home to spend a lot of time with his father.  It was such a blessing that he was able to do so, but that meant my friend was left here to run life as normal for their kids without her husband by her side. There were things that needed done around the house, that she would normally leave to her husband.  Now she was talking about getting a handy man to come and make the repairs.  We were all offering up our husbands to come by and get the job done.

Circumstances will arise that can leave a woman flying solo temporarily.  Just because it is not permanent, doesn’t mean it comes without complications and struggles.  As we become aware of these people in our churches and communities, we can begin to find ways to help them through these periods.  

A mom struggling during the absence of her husband may be in desperate need of a baby sitter, in order to maintain life as normal.  The times when she would normally depend on her husband have now fallen on her shoulders.  She can’t be in two places at once, and many parents do not want their kids’ lives to be disrupted.  Having a second set of hands to divide and conquer when the kids need to be in two places at the same time… that is a blessing.

All of the things she depended on him for, may be overwhelming her.  What can we do to lift that weight off her and ease her life until he returns home?  What can we do to ensure that when he comes home that he is returning to a house that has been maintained versus a laundry list of things to do once he is home?  How can we minister to him and his wife at the same time?

She made need a person to sit on the couch with her and listen as she pours out her heart about her absent husband.  She misses him.  She is worried about his safety.  She hasn’t heard from him in a few days, and is concerned.  She doesn’t know when he is coming home.  The rehab center won’t let the kids visit him yet, and they miss their dad.  His court date keeps being postponed and she has no idea what to tell her children.  Sometimes, they just need to unload the weights in their heart to someone who isn’t going to try and fix it or give them sage advice.  They may need someone to hold their hand, to stand in agreement that this is a hard road, and pray with them.

A mother of sons, would appreciate men in the church stepping in and being a guiding influence while her husband is gone.  A mother of daughters, may need a seasoned mom to walk along side her helping with the decisions that she would normally bounce of her husband.  Perhaps you could include her in your own family activities, making her an honorary member of team so that she doesn’t feel alone and isolated in her space.  

Take advantage of any opportunity you have as a ministry leader to speak with women and families in your church that have been down these specific roads, and glean from their wisdom.  Pray that the Lord will show you who to serve, and new ways to meet their needs that you may have overlooked.  

Serving the Widow

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It could have been a long time coming.  She may have been caught by surprise.  But, one day she was holding her husband’s hand… the next he was in the arms of Jesus.

Her days may have revolved around going on adventures and surviving the daily grind.  She may have spent the last years dressing him and dosing out his medications.  But, one day she was planning for their future… the next day she was planning a funeral.

How do we as ministry leaders, sisters in Christ, come along her during this time?

Unless you have walked this road, it is really hard to answer that questions with authority.  We may feel like we are ill equipped and flying by the seat of our pants.  We don’t know what we are doing, how we should respond, or even if we should respond.  How much is too much?  How do we know if it is not enough?  When do we speak? When do we quietly hold her hand?  What can we do?

The first thing, I believe, is that we educate ourselves.  Nancy Gutherie has a book titled:  What Grieving People Wish You Knew (about what really helps and what really hurts).     Taking the time to read books like this, that discuss grief that you have not personally experienced can give you perspective.  There are books on general grief, loss of a child, loss of a spouse, etc.

Take the time to read, and take the time to talk with people who have walked through grief already.  Ask the widows in the church about their experiences.  Learn about what things people did for them during their grief that was helpful and what wasn’t.  Ask these women what they wish people would have thought about or what things were overlooked.

Bring the Men’s Ministry on board.  Perhaps there are things they may be better equipped to help with, when a woman is becomes a widow. Teams that can help with simple house or car repairs, mowing the law, tending to the trees and bushes.  Have a plan in place ahead of time so that when someone in the church is actively walking through grief your teams can go into immediate action.

Acquire a pool of resources related to grief.  Books or booklets on grief that you can give to her, a helpful option.  Build up a list of support groups, local Christian counselors or grief counselors, services that she can benefit from , and whatever else you can think of that would make this time easier on her.  Include a list of phone numbers for your prayer warriors who are willing to go and pray with her, or women who are happy to just sit on the couch and hold her hand (or fold her laundry, do her dishes, etc.)

Begin a ministry in the church with the sole purpose of serving the widows and widowers in your church.  It may be a support group, or a team of people who are volunteering in various capacities.

There may be occasions where the loss of the spouse is expected.  Speak with her BEFORE and ask what she expects her needs will be.  Let her know that you want your team to be able to spring into action as soon as she needs them.  What would she like help with, who does she need during this time, begin making those arrangements in advance when her mind is a bit clearer.  She may need a person to help her make phone calls to out of town family, arrange for their travel, etc.  At some point she may want someone to go with her (or for her) to pack up her husband’s office or go through his clothes for donations.  If you have someone in your church with a gift of administration, creating a check list of ways your church can serve might be helpful.

Remember her.  Remember her on the holidays… not just Christmas morning.  Remember her anniversary, his birthday, father’s day, etc.  Remember her children, and help love on them through this time.

These are just a few thoughts on how we can serve our grieving women.  Share your own ideas or experiences by commenting!

Single Women in the Church

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I’ve learned quite a bit about single women in the church.  I’ve learned they are not all the same.  Some long for husbands, others have embraced singleness as a blessing.  Some desire children, others are content to love on others’ children.  Some single women are young, some are not.  Some have never been married, married for a season, or widowed.  Some have children, some do not.  Some have pets, some do not.  Some have homes and debts, others have roommates and live debt free.  Educated, not educated.  One ethnic group, or another.  Some are lonely, some enjoy their solitude.

Their experiences and expectations vary like snowflakes falling to the ground.  To better serve the single women in our church, we can not expect that there will be a one size fits all solution. A “singles ministry” may not work for every single woman.

Our best solution to serving the single women in the church is to actually take the time to meet these women, get to know them, and serve them where they are at.

In preparation for the June 30th Women’s Ministry Council meeting, we reached out to women nationwide.  We acknowledged that we knew the church and women’s ministries could do a better job reaching and serving our single women.  Then, we asked the women to tell us how because we dare not assume to know the answer ourselves.

Overwhelmingly, the first response was appreciation that we recognized this need.  It was the one thing that all of the single women agreed upon, that the church could do a better job.  From there, the opinions on how varied. Some women wanted a formal single women’s ministry, others simply wanted us to be more aware of them as we selected speakers and study topics.  Let’s face it, we can’t have every brunch speaker and Bible study revolve around the topics of marriage and children.

If we are going to serve a mixed audience, we must understand the mix.

Learn more about the women in YOUR church and in YOUR community. Then come up with a strategic plan to start serving, even if it is just a small gesture in the beginning.  Figure out ways the men in the church and serve the single women too.  Start the conversation, be willing to try things, be willing to fail… the women will appreciate that you simply tried!  Then regroup and try something else if need be.  Add.  Adjust.  Grow.  Serve. Love. Thrive.

It can start by an invitation to meet for coffee.

It can grow into a ministry that reaches further than you can ever imagine.