Social Media Series – #2 Twitter

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By Gena McCown, Women’s Ministry Council Co-Founder

Twitter is a unique form of social media, because it restrains your posted information to a specific number of characters.  It’s purpose is short, jets of information that someone wants to get out quickly.  Over the years, it has found new uses… but for Women’s Ministry the original purpose I find to be the best use.

When you set up your Twitter Account, you have two options to consider Public and Private.

The benefit of Public is that you can get your information out to anyone.  Which can also be it’s downfall.  You can’t control who is seeing the tweeted information.  If you choose the public option, this would not be the best place to share events that may have limited seating or personal prayer requests.

The benefit of Private is that it allows you to keep control over who sees the information you tweet.  You can limit it only to those women who the information replies, and thus foster bit of community.  The only real negative, in my opinion, is that it takes a bit more work on your end since you will have to approve each request to join.  (How are you going to verify if this person is in fact part of your church).

Since Twitter is pretty cut and dry, I decided to share some ways that I believe Twitter can benefit your ministry.

* Planning an outdoor event, and a deluge of rain hits the area?  Twitter can be a fantastic way to get cancellation or relocation of events information to the women attending.  When you know bad weather is possible, you can give the women a heads up to keep an eye for up to the minute updates.

* Planning a retreat and on your way to set up you see that the roads are closed?  Twitter can be a great way to let the women know to reroute their travel plans and give them new directions.

* Live tweet from events, so that the women who couldn’t come can glean some highlights.  Not only do I like tweeting for this purpose, but it also lets those fence riders know what they missed out on.  You my find better (and earlier) commitments to your next event.

* Tweet out upcoming important dates for the Women’s Ministry, link to conference registrations, or tweet urgent prayer requests.  You can also use it to share answered prayer requests and encouraging notes.

* Use Twitter to remind women of the suggested scripture reading for the week, send out  a memory verse, promo upcoming small groups and bible studies, introduce new WM team members, etc.  It’s a great announcement platform, because it is short… sweet… and to the point.

* Twitter is great vehicle for asking questions too.  Your women can use it to ask for book recommendations, resource ideas, etc.  Or, they can use it to pass on things they are finished with… like a bible study, devotion book, or video.

* Use Twitter to toss out a quick lunch or dinner invite, beach/lake trip, shopping trip, etc

* Tweet out links to articles worth reading, youtube or soundcloud links for Christian music, or other external resources that impact the women in the church (like your local newspaper/station).

An important thing to note is that if you want Twitter to be used, you really need to set the example as a WM team.  You can link your Twitter account to your Facebook page, which would allow for the women who are not as acquainted with Twitter to see how they are using it.  Make sure to remind the women that you are adding Twitter as an avenue of communication, and be clear with the women about HOW you are going to use it.  You don’t want women to assume it is private and post personal details.  Nor do you want them to assume it’s public and a place to extend community wide invitations or information.

It may take some time to get the women on board, but it can be a great resource if you choose to use it.

Social Media Series – #1 Pinterest

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By Gena McCown, Women’s Ministry Council Co-Founder

This past week, I attended five day summit on Blogging.  It was an amazing opportunity to garner knowledge from the experience of bloggers that make a living off their blogs.  I was excited to see how it would help me in developing better content and even a financial benefit from my own personal blog.  What I didn’t expect was to take away some great information that we could use in our Women’s Ministries!

As WM Leaders, there are a LOT of questions that we get asked.

  • When is our next event?
  • Could you recommend a devotion or bible study?
  • Do you know of any GOOD Women’s Conferences?

Those are just a few of the questions that we get asked very often, but there are a slew of more personal ones too.

Wouldn’t it be nice to put all of those answers in one single place, where women can find the answers without having to pin you down after Sunday service? (Kidding!)

For most church websites, we have a limited amount of information we can include.   Many Women’s Ministries are turning to social media to serve as a point of information.  Utilizing social media platforms in this way gives the Women’s Ministry team a great way to communicate with their members, store information for future use,  and can even be used for fun.

When you set up a Pinterest account, you organize your page with pin boards.  These are like little miniature filing cabinets that you can title based on content.   You can set up a board for “Church Announcements” where you link back to the church website.  A pin board for “Community News” would be a perfect landing place for news in your community that would interest your members.  Or, create a pin board for “Christian Businesses” in your area that you can link to their websites.

You can also use the pin boards for fun things like “Crafts”, “Recipes”, “Heath & Fitness”.   For spiritual growth, create pin boards for “Bible Studies” or “Devotions”.  You could even link to your WM Facebook Group’s Events invitations, creating a WM Calendar of Events.    Have you ever had someone ask you about the worship songs from Sunday or  recent WM Event? Create a pin board.  Want to keep tabs on different organizations or ministries that your WM supports or volunteers with?  Create a pin board for that too!   It’s a limitless platform, where you can create as many pin boards as you want!

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Pinterest Boards are also a fantastic resource for the MW leaders.  We can create pin boards to store information on event planning, future studies we’d like to offer, decorating ideas, menus, themed events, products, leadership training, articles, retreat locations, and so much more.

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What I love about Pinterest is that you don’t have to choose.  If you decided to set up a Pinterest account for the women in the church to participate in, you can also use it for your WM leader team by creating “secret” boards.  First, select the “Create a board” square at the top left of your pin boards.

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A box will pop up for you to put in the details for the pin board, which contains a slider option for “secret”.  Slide to yes.  Now you have secret board that only you & those you assign as collaborators (under the slider) can see.  There is a limit to the number of secret boards you can create, so you will need to use broader terms for categorizing your team ideas.  However, it allows your pin board to serve a dual purpose.

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If you decide to create a Pinterest Account for your Women’s Ministry, please share it on our Facebook Group!  We can follow each other’s accounts and share ideas and inspiration!

Here is great outline on Pinterest for personal use, which I think is helpful.  Keep in mind, since it is a group to represent your church… use the church logo not your own personal photo for it.  Be sure to include the church website and other WM social media accounts you have registered.  You can update as needed.  If you need to, set up a gmail email account for your WM that you can use to register for social media platforms (even if you are not using it for members to communicate through).  I recommend this, because as WM leaders may change over the years, you can hand off that account information to future leaders (or other team members) without compromising your own personal accounts.

Invite the women from your church to your Pinterest Account, follow others WM Groups or Churches, and Retailers and Organizations that interest you as  WM leaders.  If you find an individual person who is posting great WM information, you can follow just that particular pin board without following their entire account.

Shepherding Women In Crisis

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When I first stepped into leadership roles in the church, over 17 years ago, there were some things I was never prepared to encounter.  Even to this day I can be caught off guard by the phone calls that will come my way.  I don’t always know the right thing to say, but I am getting better at it.  This is an area where I think we are failing to prepare our leaders in any facet of ministry leadership.

What do you do when your phone rings at two in the morning, and a woman from your church is crying out for help?  What is the appropriate way to respond, when a woman approaches you after church on Sunday and confesses that her husband abuses her?  How do you counsel the woman who has just admitted to you, after small group, that she’s been having an affair?  How do you comfort the woman who just shared with you that she had an abortion?  Do you know what resources are available in your area for a woman who is struggling with addiction?  And, do you know what the laws are in your area for mandatory reporting?

If any of these questions have left you stumped, scratching your head, you are not alone.

The first step, begins in the Pastor’s office.  I find it is better to head things off before they are a real life problem.  Speak with your Pastor about what the laws are in your state for mandatory reporting (as a ministry leader you may not have the same privilege protections in place as a Pastor would).  Also, ask him for a list of services that he recommends to members who come to him for counseling.  What Christian counselors are in the area that he refers people to, and what local addiction services does he recommend?  If he is unaware of other services you may need (like help for a homeless mom), take to the internet and begin searching for resources in your area.  Or, ask on Facebook.  You’d be surprised what your friends may know about that you don’t.

The second step, is to share all of this information with your team (including small group leaders).  As the leader of the Women’s Ministry, you will get some calls.  However, I believe that the majority of the phone calls or personal confessions are going to come to the leaders you serve with.  It is important for them to understand how to address these calls too.

The third step, is to help the women on your team understand their role in responding to the women who are in crisis.

  • You are NOT a problem solver.  It is impossible for you to have all the answers to all of their questions, or solutions to all of their problems. 
  • You are NOT a licensed counselor. There are going to be issues that are too big for you, and you should not attempt to address them.
  • You are NOT responsible for their choices.  There will be people who don’t listen to your advice or guidance, and you can not take that personally.
  • You are NOT their Holy Spirit or their Savior.  Be wise in the role you take in there crisis, we can walk along side a person without stepping into a role not meant for you.
  • You are NOT always the right person.  Friends may seek your advice because you are loyal to them, and not potentially the other person involved.  This means you are biased, and it may be wiser for someone else to walk along side them during this time.
  • You are NOT always in the right space.  If you are currently going through your own crisis, now is not the time to try to help someone else. 

The fourth step, is to set up some ground rules for dealing with women in crisis.

  • You will NOT talk or counsel the person while they are currently under the influence.  You have taken the call, heard what the person said, and verified that they are currently safe.  That is the most important thing you can do in that moment.  Set a time that you are going to call them the next day.  How they respond the next day will shed light on how serious they are about getting help.  If the person is not safe, then you can proceed with asking where they are & what you can do to get them to a safe location for the evening. You may want to bring your spouse or an elder along with you, for your safety (depending on the answer you get).
  • You will NOT make a promise you are not able to keep.  Do not tell a person they can call you at all times of the night, unless you are really ok with that.  You can answer the call, and instruct them to call the next day after a certain time. 
  • You CAN set expectations on how you will counsel the person.  It is absolutely okay to come to an agreement on biblical counseling that puts the load on the person in crisis.  If she admitted to having an affair, you can tell her that you will walk with her once she has ended the affair.  If there is a confession of addiction, you can tell the person you will not help them until they have told their spouse first… and you are happy to be there when they do for support.  You can suggest scripture readings to take place between meetings with the woman, and if she fails to keep her end of the bargain… your meetings will stop.  Clear expectations keep this relationship safe, structured, and nothing is a surprise.  There may be more practical boundaries as well, such as willingness to buy groceries but not give cash; or to help them create a budget plan without paying off their debts.
  • You will NOT “fight the fight” for the person in crisis.  If she continues to cancel meetings with you, doesn’t answer your calls when you set an appointed time to talk, didn’t call the resources you recommended, always has an excuse, etc… then she is not ready.  You can’t make her be ready to receive help, and you will need to know when to walk away.
  • REMEMBER that you are probably not getting the whole truth.  A person in crisis may not be telling you all of the facts.  It may be worse than you think, they may place blame on someone who is innocent, there will be plenty of reasons and excuses for their situation, etc.  Stay objective.  If you lose your objectivity, you need to walk away and recommend her to someone who can.
  • Don’t be SURPRISED if after counseling the person along, things get better, and then you find her in the same situation again.  Some forms of crisis, like addiction, are cyclical and take several attempts before recovery is possible.   Only you can decide how long you will be apart of that ride, before you trust them to the professionals.  You may also find out that you are not the first person to receive this type of call.  This behavior could have been happening for years, and you are just the next person on the list. The first person who answered their phone that night, the new face that doesn’t know her history, etc.
  • You WILL NOT feel guilty for mandatory reporting.  When a woman confesses to you that she (or her spouse/boyfriend) is abusing their child… and you have to make that phone call… you will NOT feel guilty.  At this point, the safety of the child is your priority and getting her help is the second one.  If someone confesses to you that they are suicidal, you will not feel guilty for calling their spouse or parent (if a minor) in order to get the help they need.  At this point, their safety is priority. 
  • You WILL NOT allow yourself to be a secret vault where people dump their burdens on you.  If you are going to allow yourself to take on this type of role in a person’s life, you need to be able to not carry their load for them.  Some people will dump and dump their issues into your head.  You can be weighted down by their problems.  Learn how to listen and lead without carrying.  Additionally, you are not helping them by keeping it a secret.  One tool that I use is asking:  “Do I have your permission to research some resources for you?”.  If the person gives me permission, since this is a woman in the church, my first stop is usually to call our Pastor’s wife.  She is actively involved in the leadership of the church.  Through her, I am able to discern if this is an issue the church is aware of and already helping with.  If not, then she can help point me in the right direction of resources that I may be unaware of.  If the church is already helping, then she can bring me into the fold (remember the woman invited me into the situation).

There is SO MUCH MORE on this subject than I could fit into a single post, especially with the various types of crisis women face.  However, this is a good starting point to get conversation happening between your leaders.

How Do I Reach – fill in the blank –

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Have you ever found yourself sitting in a Women’s Ministry team meeting and the words “I wish we could reach….” roll off your tongue?

Maybe you are try to reach the millennial women in your church, or it is the elder women you would like to engage in to Women’s Ministry… either way, whomever it is you want is not coming to your events.

Here are some thoughts to consider:

* Are you trying to reach a group, that does not want to be reached?  It is possible that the group you are working so hard to involve in your ministry has no interested in being a part of it.  For example, are you trying to get the young moms from your church to attend your Women’s Brunches and they never seem to show up.  If your church has an active and thriving MOPS ministry, then the women are already plugged into a “women’s ministry” that fits their needs better.  Your college aged women may find their needs are being suited in the Young Adult ministry, than in the Women’s Ministry.  If we can begin to consider this as a factor in why they are not coming, we can then stop chasing a group of people who are not interested, allowing us to focus on those who are. 

*  Are you scheduling events during a time that is less accessible to the group you are trying to reach?   If you have chosen to plan all of your Women’s Events on a Friday evening, you may alienate your elder women who perhaps can’t drive at night.  If you plan all of your events during the day on weekdays, you will alienate your working women.  One year, we were planning a women’s retreat.  None of the planning team had children who were in high school at the time.  Unbeknown to us, we had planned the retreat the same weekend as prom.  Many mom’s didn’t want to NOT be there for their child’s first prom night.  Consider that not only are there certain days or times that are bad in a general week, but there are also certain times of the year that are busier than others.

*  Are you in tune to what the needs and wants of the group you are seeking actually are?  If you have a Women’s Ministry Leader Team that looks just like you, same age, same stage of life, same interests… then all of your WM events are going to be inline with your likes and dislikes.  However, if you can build a WM Team that includes women from various age groups or stages in life a whole new world will open for you.  Instead of assuming they will find a particular activity interesting, or topic worth listening to, you have a person sitting there in the meeting who can give perspective.  If you can’t find any women of that group who are interested in being on the leader team, you can always ask if they wouldn’t mind being a sounding board or jotting down some ideas for you to work off of.

*  Are you, as a ministry team, clear on WHY you are trying to reach these women in the first place?  Are you pursuing them simply because they are never present?  Or, do you have a reason you want them at the events?  If you are seeking the elder women in your church because you want to start a mentoring program, fill the women in on this desire.  Perhaps if they understood you WANT them to come because they have a PURPOSE to be there… you’ll get a better turnout.

*  Have you been doing WM the same way for so long, that you haven’t accounted for new needs or desires by the women in the church?  Maybe it is time to retire your stand by activities and programs, and try something new.  Perhaps the women are not interested in 16 week Bible Study Small Groups, but would prefer full day retreats every couple of months?  Could they want less of the fluff and tradition of the past events and studies, because they really just want to get the point and the meat of the topic?  You may even find these newer generations of women are more interested in talking about the deeper things of God.

*  Have you considered it may be time to rethink HOW you are doing Women’s Ministry in your church?  Most WM have a fairly similar structure, a leader followed by someone who keeps track of finances, event planners, bible study leaders, etc.  Even if the titles in your ministry are a bit different, it is usually an assigned position based on a role they play or job that they do well.   Yet, that may not be what your church needs, as Women’s Ministry evolves. 

Today, I’d like to introduce you to a new structure concept some Women’s Ministries have adopted.  This ministry format has a main leader who oversees the whole ministry functions, and she should have a co-leader to assist her.   From there, the rest of the leaders are in charge of a particular age group.  The exact grouping of ages, I find, will be different based on your demographic.  Each age group will have a leader, assistant leader, and a few volunteers to help plan events for their age group.  Then throughout the year, there will be opportunities for all of the women to come together.

This new structure is helpful for large churches, as well as churches who have different needs.  When there is a WM Leadership meeting, the main leader and co-leader of the ministry overall will meet with the leaders of the age groups.  This is an opportunity to check in with the leaders, develop their leadership skills, and to plan the larger ministry wide events.  The age group leaders will have their own meetings with their own volunteers on an as needed basis.

This could mean that one age group is more active than another, or that they types of functions they are interested in will be very different from each other.  However it allows each group leader to help meet the needs of those specific age groups.  Instead of trying to plug a group into a large one where they just don’t feel like they fit… they are given an opportunity to fellowship with their peers. 

Some possible titles/groupings could include:  (and we’d love to hear your suggestions too)

Women’s Ministry of —- Church

  • Women’s Ministry Leader
  • WM Co Leader
  • Young Women’s Ministry (18-29, singles)   – LEADER/CO-LEADER
  • Titus 2 Women’s Ministry (18-40?, married… with/out kids)   – LEADER/CO-LEADER
  • Women Elders Ministry (50-???, retirees, empty nesters)  – LEADER/CO-LEADER

Women’s Ministry of —– Church

  • Women’s Ministry Leader
  • WM Co Leader
  • WM2.0 (20’s)  – LEADER/CO-LEADER
  • WM3.0 (30’s) – LEADER/CO-LEADER
  • WM4.0 (40’s) – LEADER/CO-LEADER
  • etc.

Sometimes the most difficult obstacles have an obvious answer staring us in the face!  Spend time with your Women’s Ministry in prayer, talk through these issues, talk to the people who are missing from your events, and consider it may be time to change the way you have been thinking or focusing the ministry.