Small Group Series #4- When We Meet

sgseffective.jpg

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

We have plowed through some length portions for this series, and now that we have taken care of the behind the scenes topics… let’s move to the front side of things.  We can have all of the prep work in check and still fail at small groups because we can’t control the meeting itself.  Now, I am going to admit that no matter how much you try a meeting can get away from you.  None of us are perfect, but the point I am going to focus on is what you need to happen MOST of the time.  Then when there is an occasional slip up, you will be forgiven.

Let’s cover some basic points that we should ALL be doing, then we’ll move on to the things where we have some options.

  • Preview the Material – do not going into each meeting blind.  Either watch the video and go through the workbook earlier in the day (or week), or even consider going through the whole thing before the study begins.  You will have a clearer idea of how long the material is going to take to cover, if you think you are going to need more time for discussion.
  • If you are teaching expository studies yourself, you should be preparing throughout the week, not a last minute hurrah before study starts.
  • Your group should be bathed in prayer, as anything we do that draws people closer to God the enemy is going to work to stop.  I always pray for obstacles to be removed from the path of the women to the study each week.
  • Set a realistic expectation on how long the study should last, and stick to that timeframe.  Occasionally conversation may take you over that timeframe, but make that the exception not the rule.
  • If a study is 8 weeks long, I always recommend telling people to plan for 9-10 weeks.  Inevitably something will happen that will disrupt the schedule. If everything goes according to plan use that last meeting as a conversation night to recap the study, make up date for anyone who missed a segment from the video, service project night, or even a fellowship night out on the town.
  • If you are meeting at a local coffee shop either schedule extra time into your meeting for ordering food/coffee…. or remind your attendees to arrive early to place their orders.
  • If you are meeting at the church or host home, make arrangements for any snacks/refreshments for the evening.  You do not always need to provide refreshments, but if you do put together a volunteer sign up sheet for the first meeting.

RUNNING THE MEETING:

  • Start on Time – be sure to show up a few minutes early to set up your videos or other things needed for that nights study.  You should be ready to go on time, and arriving early gives you time to deal with any technical issues.
  • Open in Prayer – you can choose to do a general opening prayer, allow people to make prayer requests, or take turns praying.  It is not uncommon for prayer time in small groups to take a long time if we are not careful.  I have tried a few methods each working effectively for different groups.  1) Ask the women to think of their prayer requests while praying a general prayer, asking God to listen to the prayers on their hearts.  2) Ask the women to submit their prayer requests to you via email/text prior to the meeting, then you can not only list them in brevity as you pray but also provide a printed list for the members to take home & pray over during the week.  3) Allow each woman to verbally make her prayer request before or during the prayer, but set a limit for 1 min. per person.  Establish this at the start of the 1st meeting, and remind the women they are free to ask questions or give additional prayers and support when the meeting is over.
  • Establish the “House Rules” at the first meeting, which will include start and finish times, how prayer requests are being handled, reminding the women that what is said in small group stays in small group, etc.  Then in the 2nd meeting give a quick recap.  No need to repeat at every study night.  Revisit if new members join the group.
  • Watch the Video/Teach the Lesson – if you are watching a video, you know exactly how much time it will take (it is usually printed in the jacket sleeve of the DVD).  If you are teaching the materials, watch the clock to ensure you leave time for discussion.
  • Prompt the discussions, being mindful to not take over the time talking yourself (which can happen with teachers, ha!) or that others in the group do not monopolize the discussion time.  Ask specific people questions, make eye contact to feel out if someone has something to offer, and help guide the conversation along.
  • Close in Prayer – In the closing prayer I like to include asking for protection over our church, the women in attendance, and those who didn’t make it for that evening.

In between study group meetings, I like to send email reminders if there is something the women need to do before we meet up again.  You can also use this email to remind the snack volunteers, do the assigned “homework”, any immediate prayer requests that can’t wait until the next group meeting, church announcements that might be important, etc.

So what makes the small group “effective”, since that sounds like any old meeting?  Being intentional.  I’ve been to many a meeting in the corporate world, spending 30+ minutes discussing something that could have been said in an email.  I’ve sat in small groups where so much time was spent talk about our prayers, that by the time we got to actually say them… we used up half of our meeting time.  I’ve led meetings where technical delays caused us to run behind, and I learned the hard way that I needed to arrive extra early.

What makes them effective is that everything goes so smoothly there is nothing to complain about, nothing to improve, and our goals are met.  It’s effective because it wasn’t defective.

When your small group meetings go awry, and are not effective it will be quite evident.  Word will get back to you that group thinks you are disorganized or always behind.  You will see your number of attendees drops, your regulars stop coming, or that you no longer get anyone signing up for your group.  You will see that more time is spent praying and talking than studying and you can’t finish in your allotted number of weeks.  You will run out of time, members, interest, and find yourself questioning “why do I even bother”.

If you are meeting your goals, if your group members stay put, if your group is growing in number, if your group is growing in their walk…. then you are running an effective meeting.

The final installment in this series will address some great questions that were emailed in about this topic, and will be posted on July 5th.  If you have a question and did not submit it yet, pop over to our series intro and submit your question now!

The Small Group Series #3 – Materials

sgsmaterials

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

Whether you are the Women’s Ministry Leader, or a Small Group Leader, the topic of small group and bible study materials is one worthy of serious consideration.  As a Women’s Ministry Leader, you may be charged with coming up with the Small Group plan for all of the women in your church.  Coming up with a list of approved choices or for your leaders or even selecting a church wide study for the women.  If you are a Small Group leader you may be seeking to take more charge in your own group, and select material on your own as the group progress.  Perhaps, you may be considering starting a small group with your friends outside of your church or a community group.

Whatever the reason you are shopping for study materials, it is good to have a guideline on how to wade through all of the options.  Years ago, it was much easier.  There were a handful of published women’s studies.  However, with the advances of technology, we are no longer confined to the studies on the shelves of our local Christian bookstore.  We have plenty of options through well known publishers to self published authors providing digital downloads.

In the sea of options how do we even begin to know which studies are biblically sound?  How do we even know what types of studies are appropriate for the women in our church?

WHAT TYPES OF STUDIES DO THE WOMEN NEED:

When I begin to look at materials for the women I lead in small groups, there are many things I take into consideration.  First, I have chosen to have groups that are open to new members coming in and out versus a closed group of women who are meeting together over a period of years.  This is a conscious decision on my part to make sure that new women in the church always have a study to jump into & to be able to cover a variety of topics.

Some things I take into consideration are:

  • Is there something going on in the world or even locally that requires exploring?  If we are seeing an increase of divorces in our community, perhaps it’s time to choose a study that helps build up marriages.  If your church is struggling with how to handle the topics of transgenderism or sexuality, maybe it’s time to take a bold step and start the conversation.
  • Will my group be comprised of women who are of similar age and stage as I am?  Or, do I have a group of women who vary in biblical knowledge or come from different stages of life?   If so, I’m not going to pick a parenting topical study if half of my group have never had kids.  I want to take into consideration the demographic of my group & their biblical knowledge.
  • Are there particular goals the church or the Women’s Ministry would like to see accomplished?  If the Pastor wants to have more small groups, then I want to have study options available that either train up more leaders or are easy ones for new leaders to step into.  If the church wants to see an increase in volunteerism in the church, we may want to look into more studies that explore using our gifts, community outreach, missions, etc.

WHAT IS THE BEST FORMAT FOR OUR CHURCH:

Your church may elect to have a small group menu that has a variety of topics, types of groups, availability, and frequency.   Or, your church may elect to have a very structured small group plan.  There are some churches that even have Small Group Pastors who oversee the groups. 

Some format options include:

  • All of the women (or church) choose a study to go through together collectively but broken up into their small groups.  Everyone is working the same book, at the same pace, but may have groups broken up by age, gender, stage of life, and different schedules of availability.   When they finish one study, the whole church then moves to the next study.
  • Each year, the first study of the season is done collectively by the church or women in the church, as explained above.  Then upon completion of that study, the groups independently pick their next study option.
  • Season to season, each group or leader is responsible for selecting the study materials.  Groups may be closed groups that meet consistently over time, or open groups that allow people to fluidly move in and out as the topics interest them.

Each of these options has great benefit to the church.  The first format option keeps all the church members on an even playing field.  They can even discuss their study progress with others not in their specific group, creating conversation and fellowship among the body.  The second option allows for the community of learning while also allotting for individuals to also study topics that are less general and more specific to their needs and interests. The third option is one that allows variety throughout the year, and as people’s needs change they can find a group that better suits it.  Additionally, the fluid movement between groups allows us to get to know more people in the church.  And, ultimately, if you sign up for a group that just isn’t the right personality fit, you can move out of it without hurting feelings.

EVALUATING THE MATERIALS:

Once you know what TYPES of materials you are looking for, and what FORMAT of study is going to fit for your church or Women’s Ministry program… then you can begin to sort through your option of MATERIALS.  Not every church or Women’s Minsitry is going to select the same TYPE or FORMAT for study, but the important thing that we should all agree on is that the most important aspect is the quality of the materials.  You can have a great looking calendar of studies to choose from, but if they are lacking quality and credibility, you would be better offering nothing.

The book, Women’s Ministry in the Local Church, provides a great evaluation tool for determining if a study is the right fit for your ministry:

  • Is Scripture the authority of the materials? The best books are full of scripture quotations and are built around scriptural principles. Scripture is used to support/prove scripture. The scriptures should have more weight than the author’s personal opinions or experiences.

  • What is the doctrinal perspective? Does the book compromise any of the essentials of faith (creation, fall of man, virgin birth, sinless life of Christ, atonement, resurrection)?

  • Does the book teach salvation by grace through faith? Does the book support or compromise the need for repentance, reconciliation, and reliance on God? Does it confront sin, call for change, point us in the direction of sharing the gospel? Does it display total reliance on God as a lifestyle not “as needed”?

  • Who is the author? Do we know the author, their background, or reputation?

  • Who does the author quote? Authors quote who they read, and who they read influences them. It is important to know who the author looks to as a resource.

  • Is the book man-centered or God-centered? Is the emphasis on God and conforming to his image or to “be satisfied and happy”?

  • Is the book teachable and useful? We need to ensure our teachers are prepared and able to teach the materials. If it is delves into issues too deep for our teachers to understand, they won’t be able to communicate the lessons of the book. What will the book equip our women to know? Is there a workbook or lesson plan suggestion to help our teachers in the process?

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Sit down with your Women’s Ministry Team (and Small Groups Pastor, if you have one) and figure out what your guidelines for studies will consist of.  You can clarify the above to the specifics of your group.  Then as you start your process of selecting studies, use these guideless to help eliminate those that do not pass the test.  Present a list of approved studies to your leaders before small group season starts, of course leave an open door for women to make suggestions to your team for future studies.  Some Women’s Ministry Leaders have created a list of approved study authors, so that the women know that anything by that author is already approved.  These authors usually include Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Kathleen Neilsen, etc.  Widely known, respected teachers.  If it is a newer author, it is worth vetting the materials.  Even an author that has made the best sellers list may not be the right study for your church, we shouldn’t assume the publishing company has the same vetting standards we do. 

Finally, I want to remind all of our leaders that there are the studies that women WANT and then the studies that women NEED.  When we make sure to pray over these selections, letting the Lord prompt our decision making, we are more certain that the studies are what they truly need.  That is our responsibility as leaders.  If they want something else, they have full freedom to study any materials they want outside of the church/ministry.  Remember, as teachers, we are accountable for what we teach to those who sit under us.

There are 2 installments left in the series. The last one will address the questions that have been submitted by our readers.  If you have not submitted your question yet, pop on over to our intro to the series and use the form today.

{Event Announcement}

PWTrainWMC.png

It is time for our next Women’s Ministry Council live training event!  Be sure to head over to our Facebook Page OR the Calendar Page to RSVP!

3 Speakers are going to share with us on the importance of fostering a posture of prayer in our Women’s Ministries and in the lives of the women in the church, as well as the joy of incorporating Worship into our events.

Our Prayer & Worship Training Event is Sponsored by:

The Small Group Series #2 – Obstacles

sgsobstacles

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

Small Groups are a beautiful part of a successful Women’s Ministry program, however it can take some effort to get a program rolling.   This week, we are going to look through some of the obstacles we face in trying to get small groups started, maintain them throughout the year, and encourage growth toward the future.

To start with, we need to establish clear goals for our small group.

  1. The purpose of the small group is to help women in our church and community deepen their knowledge of the Word, through group study and individual study time.
  2. As the women deepen their knowledge of the Word, we help demonstrate how to apply Biblical principals to our every day lives.
  3. Additionally, the small group should foster a sense of community and fellowship that leads us into a relationship of vulnerability, trust, and accountability.

We also need to establish boundaries for our small group.

  1. Small group is a place to share our vulnerable selves, not to spread gossip about others not in the group under the guise of prayer requests.
  2. Small group is a sacred space of communion and we agree to keep our small group conversations within the confines of the small group.
  3. Small group is exactly that, a small group.  50 women are not in a “small group”, that is a bible study or fellowship ministry.  We need to have an expectation that growth will result in the formation of a new small group, splitting the members among them.

Once we have these basic parameters in place, we can then begin to look at what obstacles may come our way and how to address them as they arise.  There are a few things I have noticed over the years that are pretty consistent obstacles that show up in the small groups.  These obstacles show up from the preparation stages through the last day of your study, and I’m going to address them in that order.

We Lack Small Group Leaders

A huge struggle for many Women’s Ministry Leaders is getting enough women to lead small groups.  I’d like to first address the first half of this obstacles which is defining what you are looking for in your small group leaders.  Are you looking for a facilitator, which is a woman who is happy to host the study in her home or willing to use prewritten curriculum that requires no actual teaching or preparation on her part.  Or, are you looking for a small group teacher, which is a woman who is a seasoned believer who is willing to dig deeper into the scriptures and serve as a discipler.

Once you know what type of leaders you are looking for, it becomes easier to find them.  Why?  Because, now when you start asking women in your church you have a clear expectation of what you want from small group leaders.  I would suggest that both facilitators and teachers have their place in small groups.  Facilitators will generally guide the group through written curriculum, and are learning alongside those in their group.  There are less expectations on them to “have all the answers” and it is a great group for new believers.  Teacher led small groups are perfect for the women in your church that are looking to challenge themselves by digging through the scriptures in an expository style or even seeking the wisdom of seasoned believers on tough topics from the scriptures.

Additionally, if you are developing small group leaders… facilitating is a GREAT first step.  It allows the leader to familiarize herself with the general format of how a small group runs before putting her in charge of developing her own materials.  Which leads me to the next obstacle for small groups, leadership development and support.

We Lack Small Group Support

It is really easy to find a small group leader if you tell her that her only responsibility is to hit the play button on the VCR.  It is also much easier to tackle tough subjects that no one wants to teach if they know they don’t have to come up with their material on their own.  I’m doing this now myself, leading a study as a facilitator because I know this is an area that I too need help in.   It is harder to find leaders who are ready to teach a group, where the bulk of the preparation lies on their shoulders.  I do not believe this is because God doesn’t have the women in the church already… I believe it is because they lack the confidence to do it.

How often have you approached a women in your church to teach a small group and she replies that she doesn’t know enough about the Bible to lead a group.  How do you respond to it?  If you are like most leaders, you will ask for her to pray about it or give her the option of letting you know should she change her mind.  How many times have you followed her objection with the question:

Would you be interested in being trained to lead a small group?

If we never challenge our women to rise to the occasion, they may never do so.  If we have a plan in place to help them learn how to facilitate a small group, and then eventually teach a small group… we have opened up the potential of endless teachers.  Ask questions about why they don’t think they can lead.  You may find they feel Biblically illiterate, not certain how a meeting runs, concerned they can’t command the attention of the group, or they may think there are costs associated with the role which are not in their means. 

Solutions for this obstacle will begin with simply answering those objections.  Biblically illiterate, would they be willing to meet with you for 1:1 discipling?  Concerned about how to run a meeting or command attention, consider setting them up as a co-leader to an established leader you respect.   Concerned about material costs, then explain to them who is responsible for paying for the materials (the church, split among the participants evenly, everyone buys their own, or using materials the church already has in stock).

Support doesn’t stop after we have trained small group leaders, we need to continually develop them and encourage those leaders to also find and develop leaders in their group.  If you small groups take a break over the summer, use this time to put together a brief training for your leaders.  Find a book or develop your own material, if need be.  Check in with your leaders throughout the year to see if they are having any issues in their groups.  Consider having one of your Women’s Ministry Leader team dedicated to overseeing the small groups.

We Lack Interest in our Small Groups

It’s the week of small group sign ups and your group is filling up nicely.  Your first meeting goes off without a hitch, however by mid-study the number of women attending as decreased.  By the end of the study you are down to a few dedicated women.  Or, perhaps this scenario sounds more like your experience:  After weeks of promoting small groups, only a small percentage of the women in your church have signed up.  How can you have small groups if there are no women signing up?  Why continue them if the women are not committing to see it through until the end?

The first question we need to ask ourselves is a tough one, which is are the small groups important in this church at all?  I’ve noticed that there is a certain culture to churches where small groups are really successful.  The church is made up primarily of people who grew up in church and know how to “do church” without prompting.  The church is made up primarily of people who have a strong sense of community, and their church family is their biggest area of community.  In churches where I see small groups struggling, I notice these are churches with a larger percentage (not necessarily majority) of new believers.  I’ve also noticed that members of these churches are having their community needs met outside of the church.  They are involved in outside organizations, live in areas that are extremely busy offering a lot of options for socializing and fellowshipping, and may have a community of friends who either do not go to church at all -0r at least not all go to the same church. 

Another aspect affecting small groups, that I have begun to notice, is the attempt at churches to utilize technology to streamline sign ups.  I’ve had far more success getting women to sign up for ANYTHING when they can do it on the spot vs. online at home.  For no other reason than they forget, out of sight… out of mind.  Certain areas of the country are also populated with either older generations who are not computer savy or live in an area that is economically disadvantaged and those congregants lack access to computers to sign up digitally.  If you live in a major city, with lots of professionals and technology is common knowledge… online or app sign ups are perfect.  In other areas, if this is your goal, you are going to have to slowly transition to it.  Be sure to provide both options until you begin to see the change of habit.   This can including offering digital signs ups and old fashioned paper sign up forms.  Or, you can choose to set up some tablets in the church lobby for quick sign ups before they leave.  Have a volunteer there to help your older members with the process.

If you have made the sign up process simple, meaning everyone can see the details of the study (what it is about, when it meets, how much materials cost) and you have an easy way for them to sign up… and you still lack interest?  Then you may need to face the reality that Small Groups are simply not the method in which you are going to best disciple your women.  Perhaps they are more interested in workshops, retreats, conferences, and other events of this nature than long term group studies.  You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t force it to drink. 

The second question you will need to ask, when you see declining numbers, is whether or not the materials you are providing are of interest to the women in the church.  A church that is made up of 80% young families will definitely have success offering Parenting and Marriage related topics in their small groups.  However if the majority of your studies are taught by your older women, on the topic of Empty Nesters… you just won’t see the numbers you want.  We must be intentional about how many, and what types of groups we are offering.   If every study you offer is a video series from a major publisher, and your numbers are in decline, perhaps it is time to add in some expository groups or topical groups.  If every study group is held on weekday mornings, you are neglecting your working women.  Variety and diversity in the topics & scheduling will help increase the number of women attending.

We Lack Returning Participants

If you have noticed that your small groups are a revolving door in regards to attendance there are few immediate considerations.  First, women may be looking for their right fit.  Don’t take it personally if they leave and join up another group.  Be glad they are still in a group, and praise God that He will be sending someone else to fill that spot.  Second, women in our current generations are busier than ever before.  Perhaps your group was the perfect fit in the fall, but their spring season runs on an entirely different schedule.  Another group may be more convenient for spring, and you may see the women return to their original groups the following fall.  Third, women may be hopping groups based on the topics.  If you jumped from a Galatians study to one on parenting, don’t be surprised if the single ladies without kids jump ship to another study.  To combat this include your group members in choosing the next subject/topic for the group instead of selecting material that you are interested in and hoping they are too.

Something else to consider is this… these women may be seeking.  They know that they want to dig deeper into the word, but they are not sure what or how.  They may not even be able to articulate that they are searching or even what they are searching for.  However this study is just not “doing it” for them, and they drop out mid way.  In some respects we do need to allow our women the freedom to keep seeking, however our leaders need some sort of consistency for their group (especially if people are sharing personal details).  It is perfectly acceptable to either have the small group leader inquire as to why a member left, or if you have a Women’s Ministry Team member who oversees small groups to check into it.  Do so without judgement, but with the hopes of helping to guide them into a group that might meet their needs better.  This also may be a perfect candidate for 1:1 mentoring vs. joining a small group.

Ultimately the greatest solution to our Small Group Obstacles is COMMUNICATION.

  • Ask why someone is not willing to lead, facilitate, or teach a small group.  Offer a solution, by having a training plan in place.
  • Ask why a group member has left, and offer guidance into finding a small group or mentor relationship that is a better fit.
  • Ask your small group members for suggestions on what they would like to study as a group.
  • Ask yourselves honestly if Small Groups are the right fit for the church you are serving, or develop a plan to cultivate Small Group culture over time.
  • Ask yourselves about the quality, variety, and diversity of the materials, groups, and availabilities you are offering.  Seek to create a menu of Small Groups that fit the climate of your church.

***** In our fourth installment, we will cover obstacles that occur IN or DURING the course of small groups that are more individually based. *****

The Small Group Series #1- Benefits

sgsbene

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

There is a subtle difference between a Bible Study and a Small Group.  Bible Studies, whether they are expository or working through a book, are generally public groups.  This means that participants can come and go as they please.  Whereas Small Groups are a bit more intentional, regardless of the material they are choosing to study.  Small Groups are usually a close knit group of people who have committed to studying with each other long term.

If you finish a study and the group disbands, and you find yourself looking for a new study to plug into, you are most likely in a Bible Study group.  You like the fluidity to move into the studies that interest you, your intentions are pointed toward learning and possibly meeting new people. As a Bible Study teacher, you are selecting the material you are interested in learning, and happy to take others along for the ride.  What the group looks like in regard to membership vacillates from study period to study period.

If you finish a study, and the whole group talks through what book you are all going to study next, you are most likely in a Small Group.  You like the commitment to meeting regularly with this particular group of people, your intentions are pointed toward learning and building deeper relationships with this group specifically.  As a Small Group leader, you discuss the options for the next study and take the groups opinions into consideration.  Small Group members are also more likely to meet outside of their regular group time, for fun and fellowship.    Small Group membership will remain steady over the course of time with little membership change.

There are some groups that do bridge between the two, it might be a Small Group that is always open to having new members join the group.  Or, you may be a part of a Bible Study group that does fellowship every now and again.  So, these are not hard fast rules… but I do believe there is a distinction between the two, and both are valuable to your Women’s Ministry.  Today we are focusing on Small Groups, although some of these benefits are also gleaned from Bible Studies too.

How Does a Small Group Benefit the Women’s Ministry:

  • Brunches are a great way to meet new women, but Small Groups are a beautiful way to begin building relationships.
  • Small Groups are a great next step in your discipleship plan for women in the church.
  • Small Groups for women specifically are welcoming for your single women, or women who are married to nonbelievers.
  • Committed Small Group participants end up becoming committed Small Group leaders.  We unknowingly are investing in and modeling leadership skills to those who attend our groups.
  • Small Groups are an opportunity to find future Women’s Ministry team members.
  • Women feel more comfortable asking questions and sharing in a Small Group, whom they have grown to trust.
  • Small Groups offer a less intimidating invitation to a nonbelieving friend or family member, than inviting them to church.
  • Small Groups tend to support their members during times of need and crisis.  This is especially important for larger churches who may not be aware of families who are struggling.  Group members minister to each other.
  • Small Groups provide an opportunity to teach others studying techniques, how to pray, and other lessons that may not make it into Sunday Services.
  • Small Groups encourage accountability among it’s members.

“They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Every day they continued to meet together… they broke bread in their homes and ate together… and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42, 44, 46-47

 You can support the Women’s Ministry Council when you order any of these lovely bracelets or other accessories from our Bravelets Fundraising Account.  $10 from each purchase helps the Women’s Ministry Council continue to offer FREE training and resources to the Women’s Ministry Leaders in our area and beyond.   We appreciate your support & prayerful consideration.

To purchase, click on the image below or HERE

bravelets

The Small Group Series

sgs3.png

By Gena McCown, Women’s Ministry Co-Founder

During all of the years I have served on Women’s Ministry teams, the one area I always found the most difficult to recruit women to serve is in Small Groups.  In this series, we are going to explore:

  • Benefits of Small Groups in Your Women’s Ministry
  • Common Obstacles to Small Groups & How to Overcome Them
  • Selecting Small Group Material
  • Running An Effective Small Group

I’d also like the opportunity to address specific questions leaders may have about their small groups and experience in small groups.  We’ll end the series with a Question & Answer session on Small Groups, and you can submit your questions using this form!  I don’t promise to know the answer to every question, so to ensure enough time to research answers and reach out to other sources, please submit your questions by June 19, 2016.

Your questions will NOT be published, but sent to the WMC team directly.

 

Social Media Series – #4 Facebook

fbbanner

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

I have purposely chosen to leave Facebook for a bit later in the series, because there is frankly a lot to say about something we already know a lot about.  Truth is, you probably have a Facebook page.  Your church probably has a Facebook page too.  And… I don’t think I would be stretching things to suggest that your Women’s Ministry has a Facebook page as well.

Familiarity with Facebook indicates I don’t really need to spend a lot of time explaining the benefits of using it to help promote your Women’s Ministry.  Just like other social media formats you have the option to make your Facebook group private or public, you have no character limitations, you can not only post and share photos … but you can organize them into albums too.  You can control the interactions too, by requiring posts to be approved or even setting your page for only approved members to post at all.  There is also the ability to control how new members are added to the page.  Facebook can be linked to other social media platforms to enable features that allow one post to be shown across various media formats.

One of it’s greatest benefits is that Facebook most likely has the majority of the women in your church.

Because this is very much common knowledge, I wanted to utilize this part of the series to identify the differences between a “Facebook Group” and a “Facebook Public Page”.

To begin we need to clarify official Facebook terms.  The Personal Profile is actually what most of us refer to as our Facebook page.  It is the one that is identified by our name, we post pictures of our children,  share recipes, and have watercooler conversations about the weather, politics, and product recommendations.  These pages are specifically intended to individual people, not businesses or organizations.

Now then, when it comes to organizations and businesses…. if you set it up as a Personal Profile page, it could be shut down by Facebook.  I know people who have learned this lesson the hard way.  I’m going to quote directly from Facebook’s help/faq page about how organizations and businesses can be represented on Facebook:

Pages allow real organizations, businesses, celebrities and brands to communicate broadly with people who like them. Pages may only be created and managed by official representatives.

Groups provide a space for people to communicate about shared interests. Groups can be created by anyone.

Other differences include:

Pages

  • Privacy: Page information and posts are public and generally available to everyone on Facebook.
  • Audience: Anyone can like a Page to connect with it and get News Feed updates. There is no limit to how many people can like a Page.
  • Communication: People who help manage a Page can publish posts as the Page. Page posts can appear in the News Feeds of people who like the Page. Page owners can also create customized apps for their Page and check Page Insights to track the Page’s growth and activity.

Groups

  • Privacy: In addition to a public setting, more privacy settings are available for groups. In secret and closed groups, posts are only visible to group members.
  • Audience: You can adjust group privacy to require members to be approved or added by admins. When a group reaches a certain size, some features are limited. The most useful groups tend to be the ones you create with small groups of people you know.
  • Communication: In groups, members receive notifications by default when any member posts in the group. Group members can participate in chats, upload photos to shared albums, collaborate on group docs and invite members who are friends to group events.

Currently, we use a Facebook Group.  However, over the years of running my own personal blog and Facebook Group… I’ve realized groups only get you so far.  And, unfortunately you can not just upgrade from a Group to a Page.  Which means you are going to start from the beginning, including bringing your followers into the new format.  With Groups you are able add people from your contact/friends list directly as it is associated with your Personal Profile.  When you set up a page, you can share it and invite people… but you can’t automatically add people in (even if they are friends or part of your existing group).

I am hoping that one day, Facebook makes it easier to move from a Group to a Page.  But, until then … this is something you are going to need to decide upon as a WM Leader.  Would a Group be sufficient or would it be better to have a Page?  A Group may work perfectly today, but what about over time as your church and ministry grow?   If you move to a page, you lose a lot of your privacy features.

How does one decide?  In this case, with Facebook, you are going to have to discuss as a team how you want to use Facebook in your ministry.

If you are intending to use it just for making announcements, sharing information, and promoting your ministry to the church and community… A Public Page is a great fit, and has a lot less limitations on it for reach and communication.

If your WM wants to use Facebook for building and fostering community among the women in your church, including sharing prayer requests … A Group would be a better fit, as it protects privacy and gives the administrators of the Group a lot more control.

One aspect of Facebook that I like above all the other social media platforms is that whether you are running it as a Page or Group, it functions a lot more like a personal website.  Plus, if you follow certain ministry pages it is really easy to share their articles, blogs, and devotions with the click of a button.

Not only can you post your announcements, pictures, create event invitations, communicate with each other, post videos, etc… there is now the new feature of Facebook Live where you can literally speak to the women at your church LIVE… like your own miniature live simulcast!  The women can type in questions for you to answer, or just sit back and enjoy the show.  What a great way to introduce the women in the church to the various leaders on your Women’s Ministry team.  You could schedule an Ask the Pastor night, feature testimonies from various women in the church, promote upcoming Women’s Bible Study Groups with a Q&A session, bring in women to answer questions for the different women in the church on parenting/marriage/work/etc, and you could even hold a LIVE Bible Study!

Those who got a chance to test the Facebook Live feature early are absolutely in love with it!  This could be a HUGE benefit to our Women’s Ministries to provide connection events online between our live events at the church or in the community.