Florida Grieves

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There are quite a few of our women who have roots in S. Florida.  We serve women who live there.  We have family and friends who are part of the community of Parkland.  Our core leaders are not that far from Parkland.

On Wednesday, we began getting notices from our long distance friends and family wanting to ensure our children were ok.  We began to see facebook posts from our friends and family down south…

Prayer requests for teachers and students who were injured… teachers and students who had not been heard from.  Parents who were worried.  As more news broke, we learned the devastating news.

Right now, Florida is grieving.  We here at the Women’s Ministry Council… we grieve because this is our home.  These are our people.  This is our community.  This is our family.

We are processing, words are hard to formulate.

We cry out to our Father, we pray for families, we honor heroes.

We pray, standing in the gap, for those who mourn.

We mourn with them.

Florida is grieving.

Communities are grieving.

Families are grieving.

Mothers and Fathers are grieving.

Spouses are grieving.

So we take this time to put our heads on the shoulders of our Father, we lean into Him because we can’t comprehend or understand.

Jesus be near.

An Acts 2 Ministry ….

What is anActs Ministryin an Acts Church

Over the last few weeks we dove into Acts 2 to learn what an Acts 2 Church is, and then we applied that information to the ministries within the church.  What does an Acts 2 Ministry look like?  Five main points were:

  1.  An Acts 2 Ministry is Consistent.  It meets regularly, in expected ways, in order to establish new habits that will replace the old.  It isn’t about creating a full calendar to make a ministry look big or successful, but rather about creating a full calendar that our members or those we serve can be intentional about carving time in their schedule to be in community with fellow believers.  It also provides regular opportunities to invite others.
  2. An Acts 2 Ministry is a Teaching Ministry.  This ministry teaches the women how to transform their minds to think to God’s ways first.  Whether it be a devotional at the beginning of a fellowship event, Bible Studies, workshops, conferences, etc.
  3. An Acts 2 Ministry Fellowships with One Another.  An Acts 2 Ministry isn’t about quick, once a week/month, check ins with each other.  It is about building community, binding us to one another in deep connections, and walking through life with one another.  The lone sheep is far more vulnerable to attack than the ones packed into a tight flock, under a Good Shepherd.
  4. An Acts 2 Ministry is a Praying Ministry.  From the leadership down, an Acts 2 Ministry is united in prayer.  As fellowship connects our lives, prayers allow us to worship God with each other.  As we pray in thanksgiving for His blessings, as we cry out for His intervention, and when we stand in the gap… praying for those who have lost the words in their grief; prayer connects us to God and each other in a very personal way.
  5. An Acts 2 Ministry Worships Together.  Not only by lifting our voices in song, but in our obedience, our prayers, our teaching, our fellowship… we are worshipping God together.

Something that stood out, as each point was developed, was this final component…

An Acts 2 Ministry is Led by Example.  

Each of the five points begins with the leaders setting the example and the expectation.

Our leadership must be consistent.  We can’t have a revolving door of leaders who try to reinvent our ministries every year.  Leaders must also be meeting regularly to discuss the progress of the ministry, make plans, and keep each other focused and accountable on God’s purpose for the ministry.  Leaders must be in consistent alignment with the church they serve under, and most importantly with God’s Word.

Our leaders should be open to teaching.  Either by teaching others, or a willingness to be students; sometimes both.  Not everyone is called to teach the Word of God in front of a large classroom or small group.  However, the Great Commission calls us to go out and make disciples and teach them.  Every leader should have the ability to share the Word, whether it be in one on one conversations, participating or leading in small groups, or larger events/workshops.  Some will be gifted to teach formal theology and some will be gifted to teach by example of living a Christ filled life.

Our leaders should be fellowshipping, with those they serve and with one another.  The Disciples spent a lot of time with Jesus, but also with each other.  In their fellowshipping, they were able to teach one another, rebuke one another, hold each other accountable.  They loved each other like brothers, and even in their disputes reconciled.  We set the example for Christian fellowship for others.

Our leaders should be praying.  In our own personal lives, whether it is audible prayers or prayer journaling… again we are setting the expectation and the example.  If this is an area where we lack confidence, we still set an example as we seek out ways to improve our prayer life & share with others how we have grown.

Finally, our leaders should ever be in a posture of worship.  Others will watch how leaders respond when times are good, and even more so when times are difficult.  I remember once going through a difficult time, and I had to make some hard decisions.  A few days later, I was speaking with a friend who was aware of the situation, and she made a comment about seeing me at church that Sunday.  She said that I walked as if a load had been lifted off my shoulders.  She was trying to understand how in the midst of this chaos I seemed so unburdened by it.   She saw something I didn’t even realize was apparent, and this created a beautiful opportunity to talk about faith and trust.. even in the trials and the storms.

Leaders, you are the tone… lead by examples… and set the expectations for those whom you are in charge.  Lead well.

An Acts 2 Ministry Will Worship Together

WORSHIP

For most of us, we would define worshipping together with fellow believers as coming together and singing songs that praise God and honor Him.   I’m a big fan of including a short Worship session as part of a Women’s Ministry Brunch, or tying in Worship into the schedule for a conference.

There are other ways we can worship God.  We can encourage these as individual habits, as well as corporately as a ministry.

  1.  Prayer.  Prayer is a very active form of worship.  We worship God through our prayer and supplication, as we confess and repent, thank and praise, and even when we put our trust in Him with our petitions.  Individually we set an example for others as we pray and share how God has responded to our prayers.  As leaders, we can teach others how to pray and encourage them to challenge their prayer life to new heights.  Corporately, we can pray as an assembly of believers.
  2.  The Bible.  We honor and worship God as we get to know Him through His Word.  To know God is to love Him, trust Him, and glorify Him.  We make time to commune with God through His Word, it is an act of worship.  Individually, we set the example of the value and importance of regular time reading and studying.  As leaders, we step into the role of teacher and shepherd.  Corporately, we create avenues where the women can learn how to study the Bible for themselves and groups where they grow and challenge one another.
  3. Obedience.  If we are praying and committing to be in the Word, we can’t avoid His truths and His direction.  To worship God fully, we must also be in obedience to His call on our life and His commands.  Individually, we must set the standard of obedience… but I believe we also need to show how to respond when we recognize that we’ve been out of obedience.  Leading the women to do the same, and being obedient in His direction for the ministry.  Remember, this is HIS ministry not ours.
  4. Fellowship.  Hebrews tells us that we must not forget to meet with one another, it is important that we are not just having a potluck with our sisters in Christ ever other month.  We need to build deep relationships, getting to know others and challenging each other to become more deeply rooted.   Individually, this means that we are careful to not isolate our selves from the body but to embrace them; with healthy boundaries of course.  As Leaders, we must find the balance between our prayer and study offerings and opportunities to fellowship and have fun with one another.
  5. Service.  We worship God when we serve His people, the ones He knows by name… the least of these.  We worship God when we serve those who do not know Him, because we may be seed planters.  Individually, we need to be modeling service and missions.  As Leaders, we can plan projects or partner up with ministries and organizations to create service opportunities.  Corporately, not only can we serve in the capacities together but we can also help the women discover their spiritual gifts and then plug them into serving the church/community with those gifts.

These are just a few ways that we can worship God, as an Acts 2 Ministry.

An Acts 2 Ministry is a Praying Ministry

prayer

A ministry that is seeking to align itself with the Acts 2 Church, needs to be a ministry that prays.  Together, corporately.  Individually, independently.

  • We set the standard for prayer being important in the daily life of the individual believer, and also over the body as a whole.
  • We model the behavior we want repeated, when we as the leaders pray… we encourage others to pray.
  • We teach how to pray.  It shouldn’t be assumed that everyone instinctually knows or at least feels confident in it.

Have you ever been in a situation where you were praying in a group, and you listened to someone fumbling through a prayer when put on the spot?  Did you ever ask for a volunteer to pray only to hear awkward silence?  

The Scriptures talk a lot about the importance and value of prayer.  How often we should do it, why we do it, who should do it, etc.  In Luke 11, Jesus was praying and when he finished one of his disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray.  Surely this wasn’t the first time they heard Jesus pray, modeling wasn’t enough.  They needed to be taught how to pray.

We should never assume that just because a person has gone to church all of their life, that they understand how to pray (or why it’s good practice).

Another assumption that should be avoided is that because someone doesn’t pray well out loud in public doesn’t have a solid personal prayer life.  She may be shy.

Some recommendations:

  • Use some of your women who are gifted in prayer to set up a prayer team.  A prayer team stands in the gap for those who need someone to pray for them.  This is a great way to incorporate your introverted women into serving the body through intercessory prayer.
  • Invite the more extroverted praying women to lead the prayer at your women’s events, let them model their prayer gift for others.
  • If a prayer warrior is also a gifted speaker, How To Pray is a great topic for a women’s event or part of a larger retreat breakout session.
  • Build confidence in praying by never putting people on the spot to lead/close prayer.  As them in advance, if they seem hesitant offer to take a few moments to guide them, and give them an opportunity to opt out if they are not ready.  Make a note to follow up with her later about coaching her on praying.
  • Host Small Groups/Bible Studies that explain the value of prayer, cover the Scriptures about praying, and that teach women how to pray on their own and corporately.  Make this something you offer regularly or as part of your discipleship program.

Acts 2 Church & Ministry Has Fellowship

Fellowship

There are two common definitions for the word “fellowship”.  The first defines fellowship as a friendly association of people who share a common interest.  The second defines fellowship as a group of people that are in an official group.  In the case of the church, I believe both apply.  A church body should be more than a bunch of people meeting in a space to receive information from the Pastor, it should be more akin to a family gathering or people who come together to celebrate their shared passions.

In Tolkien’s book “The Lord of the Rings” a group of unlikely characters rally together united in a common goal, and they refer to themselves as a fellowship.  Over the course of the story, this fellowship become more than strangers … they become friends, then really family.  They break bread with one another, face trials with one another, loss and grief, life and hope with one another.  By the end of the story, there is a deep and binding connection among the fellowship that endures even when life separates them.

This type of relationship is something that many are striving for, especially our women.  Yet, time and time again, I hear about how lonely they are.  In a world where we are connected instantly to one another, at the touch of a button, fellowship is an areas where we seem to be lacking greatly.  A ministry that is spending all of it’s time teaching is going to develop women who are Biblically smart, but without an emotional connection it will remain superficial … like a group of professors in a collegiate fellowship.  Sharing ideas, asking questions, etc.   To get to the emotional connectedness, women in particular need opportunities to live life alongside one another.

Fellowship has to extend beyond Bible Studies and Small Group, and into opportunities to get to know one another at a personal level.  We should be careful to not focus so much on fellowship that we neglect teaching, but rather find a balance where we are building a community that is growing in connection and in knowledge.  When scheduling social events with the women in your church, we need to make sure that they are also events that are connecting the women to Christ.  This doesn’t require teaching per say, but opportunities to model Christlikeness.  

Fellowship will:

  • Help your women develop authentic relationships with one another.
  • Deep connectedness where they can lean on each other in times of trial.
  • Creating family connections, particularly women who are not near their family.
  • Open the doors for women to invite their family, friends, and co-workers.
  • Transition new members into the family of believers, guiding toward Small Groups.

An Acts 2 Church & Ministry Teaches

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The Acts 2 Church was a teaching church, those who came into the fold were taught the Scriptures and the foundations of faith by the Apostles; eventually becoming teachers themselves.  Jesus’ words in the The Great Commission call us to 1) go forth and make disciples, 2) baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and 3) teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded (Matt 28:16-20).

If the Pastors of an Acts 2 Church are called to teach it’s members, then the same responsibility falls on an Acts 2 Ministry.  Are you teaching the women God has entrusted in your care?

How Do We Teach?

  1. One method in which we teach others is by modeling the behavior we want repeated.  If we want the women in our care to be students of the Word, so must we.  If we desire our women to have a robust prayer life, we must set that tone.
  2. Use brunches and luncheons as an opportunity to teach women basic skills like how to pray, how to schedule time to study, life application of scriptures, etc.
  3. Host workshops on deeper study methods, Bible or prayer journaling, etc.
  4. Not only recruit, but also train women as small group leaders & study teachers.
  5. Develop future ministry leaders by investing in their educations.
  6. Establish an intentional discipleship pathway for new believers.
  7. Create mentor relationships that encompass spiritual growth and real life relationships.

When a ministry is teaching it’s members, they become teachers themselves.  You pour into them, and they will pour into others.  It is a ministry that grows and multiplies.

An Acts 2 Church & Ministry Has Consistency

Consistency

In Acts 2, we learn that the early church met regularly, and daily they added to their numbers (Acts 2:47).  The early church had momentum, and part of that was rooted in the fact that the community of believers was having frequent opportunities to gather and connect with one another.  In this time, they would be able to teach and learn, praise and worship, and also pray and serve.  As they connected to one another they were building new habits as not just a community but as a family.

When I was a child, all of my family was in close range.  We met for weekly dinners at my grandmother’s house.  Major holidays, we were always together.  As we entered into adulthood… marriage… children… buying homes… distance began to enter the picture.  For a period of time there was one thing we could count on, we all went to the same church.  Even that would eventually change.  Now, we don’t spend nearly 1/4 of the time together we once did.  And, I believe, in part, that is due to the fact that we fell out of habit.  The less regularly we met, the easier it was to allow more time to pass between family gatherings.  

The same happens with our church family when we allow too much time to pass between gathering in our community of believers.  

Hebrews 10: 25 (NIV)

Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

There is value in consistent, regular, gathering.  When my husband was under going several surgeries, our attendance to church during that time was very sparse.  The more time away, the easier it became to make excuses not to show that morning.  Stay apart for too long, and even the most faithful may struggle to return because they have disconnected from the people they share community with. 

In a conversation with ministry leaders recently, we were talking about the value of sabbaticals… how often, and for how long.  Resoundingly, all of those who were in favor of sabbaticals strongly cautioned about not being apart from the body for too long.  Even Pastors recognized how hard it can be to return to the fold, to the habit, to the regular meeting when you have allowed too much time to pass.

As the early church built up their community, over time they were able to move the congregational gatherings to weekly versus daily.  Why?  Because, since the people were already in the habit of meeting regularly… they continued to meet in homes.  Whether it was having a meal together, studying together, etc. they were still committed to regular connection.

What Does This Mean For Women’s Ministry

  1.  CONSISTENT IN MEETING:  A thriving Women’s Ministry is going to meet regularly, how regularly is going to be up to your team and the leadership of the church to decide.  What regularly means is that it is consistent, expected, and scheduled.  When a woman in your church asks: “When is the next Women’s Ministry event?”, you should have an answer.
  2. CONSISTENT IN CONTENT:  Any ministry event should be consistent in it’s content, meaning that the Women’s Ministry should be a reflection of the church it is under. If you are a Missional Church, then your Women’s Ministry should be Missional as well.  If you are a Teaching Church, your Women’s Ministry should be too.
  3. CONSISTENT IN DOCTRINE:  All events, speakers, participants, and activities should be in alignment with the Doctrine of your church/denomination.
  4. CONSISTENT IN EXPECTATIONS:  When your ministry is all over the map, it is hard to have clear expectations in place for the women you serve.  It isn’t uncommon to get wrapped up in trends and implement new exciting ideas one after another.  However, that can create confusion and chaos, and the women have no idea what the ministry is doing at any given time.  Therefore there are no clear expectations either.  Whether it is studying the Scriptures, praying regularly, serving the community, or any other good Kingdom thing… make sure your expectations are consistent & well expressed to those you lead.

When you have a clear vision and mission statement for your ministry, then you can create a CONSISTENT Women’s Ministry by vetting all decisions and planning in accordance with that vision and mission.  Consistency is dependable, expected, and committed.  Regular, on-going, connection to people whom we share a common unity under Christ.  From Bible Studies and Small Groups, to Brunches and Ladies Night Out… we become those in between services opportunities for the community of women to gather and walk through life together.

Remember, how Acts 2:47 said that they added to their number daily?  That is the benefit of consistency, the more you meet… the more women who will attend, as the word gets out about the amazing community you have established in your church.  The more women attending the events, the more women will connect to the church.  You will see your event attendance increase, and your church attendance increase… and this increase brings more women (and their families) to the greatest gift we could receive.  We open the doors, welcoming them into the House of the Lord, introducing them to Jesus.