A Common Identity

A CommonIdentity

This past weekend, at a women’s event, one of the Ice Breakers was all about our identity in Christ and how we introduce ourselves to the world.  The Women’s Ministry Leader selected Paul’s introduction of himself from Romans 1:1…

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God

It reminded me of something I read about our identity in Christ, as women.  First and foremost, we connect as a family of believers… sisters in Christ.  When we introduce ourselves based on this identity, we are Christian women.  Secondly, once Paul identified himself as a servant of Christ, he identified his purpose.  Which was an apostle who was called to share the gospel.   Once we know WHO we are, daughters of the King, we can then begin to share the rest of the details of our life.

Now, let’s apply this to our ministry.  What is our common identity?

We are Local Community Church, servants of God in our community.

We are The Women’s Ministry, servants of God to women in our church and community.

We are Community Non-Profit, a Christian agency that serves our community’s needs.

  • Common Identity #1 = WE.  We establishes a community, family.
  • Common Identity #2 = Church / Ministry.  These words establish that the community we are part of is faith based.  For an organization, once you have stated your name you can move into including that it is a Christian agency/group.

How we introduce ourselves as a group creates a clear identification of who we are collectively, what our community is, and through this people we encounter should feel like it is a welcoming community.  Body language, the words we use, the way we speak will make a difference.

We are essentially repeating what Paul said in Romans 1:1.  We’ve just replaced Paul’s name with our church, ministry, or organization’s name.

The rest of our introduction will help the person identify what our purpose is, and this is where the descriptions begin to vary.

Thursday, we will discuss how the ways in which we differ are also valuable in our Kingdom purpose.

Ministry Identity

What Is YourMinistry Known For_

Branding expert, Faith James, says that “your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room”.  While in context she is speaking about businesses, have you ever wondered what people say about your ministry when you are not present?  Have you ever given consideration to what you would want people to say about your ministry?

Years ago, when teaching a Bible Study on the Proverbs 31 Woman, the book suggested an exercise.  We were instructed to read the obituaries from the newspaper and selected one or a few that really stood out to us as something we hoped people would say about us when we have gone glory.  Have you ever given consideration to what people say about you when you are not in the room, or what you would hope that they would say?

The reality is that when we are walking through our every day life, we are ambassadors for the Kingdom.  We are His workers out in the field, representing our King.  How do we represent Him?  Because of our interactions with people, what do they say about God when we leave the room?  Have you ever considered the impression you leave on people or what you would hope they would take away from your time together.

If my every day actions, interactions, responses, conversations, behaviors, and thoughts are reflecting back upon myself, my ministry, my church, and my God… what do what to see in that reflection?

Over the next two weeks we are going to spend some time unpacking these thoughts with the Scriptures.  I hope you will join us, share you thoughts, and that something beneficial comes from tackling this topic together.  Lord knows, we can all do better.

 

Misconnected

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By Gena McCown

In a day and time where we are more connected than other digitally, our communities are responding with an increasing level of feeling alone.  When we look to the scriptures we see that community was a vital aspect of the local church.  Not only did they worship together, but they cared about one another on a personal level.  They tended to one another and carried each other’s burdens.  Communities worked together for the common good and because they were connected they were aware of what was happening in the lives those they called neighbor.

This led me to come to the very recent conclusion that we are not disconnected, we are just misconnected.  Experts have suggested that the problem with social media connections is that when one feels alone in their real life, they may turn to social media to connect and feel that void, and when that feeling of isolation doesn’t go away they dig deeper into social media to create more connections.  They are still seeking and looking for their tribe.  On the other hand, these experts have also suggested that once we are connected virtually the fear of missing out on what is being posted/shared may chain us to our devices verses going out and living life among others.

Disconnected seems so firm and final, like someone who has gone off grid or cut themselves off from society.  Disconnection happens when effort has left the equation of human relationship.  We have either made the decision to disconnect with another, or we have accepted their decision to connect with us.  I can’t believe a person who continually is seeking their tribe on social media outlets is seeking or accepting disconnection.  Instead they are trying to connect but in a different way, for whatever reason, and thus they are misconnected.  They are making connections but not the ones they need, which leaves the void they can’t fill.

What Can Women’s Ministry Do To Connect the Misconnected?

  • Connect the Women to Jesus – helping our women to understand who Jesus creates a foundation of self value and worth.  We connect them to Jesus through the Word which opens their eyes to a God who knows, hears, sees, and loves them… but who is also always with them.  We are never alone, when we are in God.
  • Connect the Women to Women in the Church – connecting women to other women who are also believers builds the foundations of community.  We have identified something we share in common, our faith, and embrace our connection as sisters in Christ.  As they begin to realize that they are not only walking this life with Jesus on their side but also a family of believers, the isolation will begin to dissipate.
  • Connect the Women to Community – through connecting the women to our community we begin to introduce purpose into their lives.  The more we connect with Jesus and our family of believers, the deeper our desire is to reach into our communities and serve others.  By connecting into our community we extend our community beyond what we could ever imagine.

How Do We Connect Women to Jesus: Bible studies, small groups, conferences, guest speakers, Sunday services, women’s brunches, retreats, workshops, etc.  It comes as we connect them directly to His Word via study, or as we share our testimonies via events.  

How Do We Connect Women to Women in the Church:  Ladies night/day out, women’s trips, retreats, brunches, fellowship events, concerts, movies, lunch dates.  Whether we start building connections through high attendance events or small intimate coffee dates, we are putting the building blocks in place for relationship.

How Do We Connect Women to Community:  Service projects within the church, local community, volunteering with local organizations and non-profits, local and international missions projects, etc. are all great ways to bring the women out of the church and into the community to serve.  By serving others, we often get to know them on a deeper level because we are meeting them where they are at.

WMC Meeting 3/31 Recap: Hospitality

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In a time where we are the most connected by devices and social media platforms, overwhelmingly people are feeling more alone.  Current studies are correlating that the higher the person’s social media usage, the more prone they are to feeling isolated.
Why?
1.  We feel excluded or rejected.   We are now very much aware to what we have not been invited to, or excluded from.  In the past, before social media, you literally may never know that you were not invited to a lunch date, or girls night out.  Now, not only does it stare us in the face… but we see it repeatedly as photos and videos are shared by all those who were present.
2.  We feel inadequate.  As we are able to see in to the lives of others… their homes, cars, vacations, etc. we begin to feel that we are not good enough.  We may hesitate to invite someone into our home because we don’t feel our home is as nice as their home.  We may not invite someone to a coffee date because they are always at Starbucks and we can only afford Dunkin.  In addition to feeling inadequate, we may create false personas in order to virtually “keep up with the Jones”.  We will pull ourselves away in order to protect that persona.
3.  We experience jealousy.  Jealousy and inadequacy are very different things.  Inadequacy is how we feel about ourselves, and jealousy is how we feel about others.  Jealousy builds up bitter feelings towards others, and will cause us to push people away.  
4.  We fear missing out.  If we disconnect from social media, we fear that we may miss what others are sharing and doing in their lives.  We can get so wrapped up in keeping tabs on others that we actually disconnect from opportunities in our real life.
* Note that none of the four point above even begin to address actual addiction.
* There is an evidenced cycle that loneliness will drive people online, yet will only make them feel more alone and disconnected, and can actually cause them to dive even further into social media to connect.
Of 2000 people who were polled, that used social media regularly, 72% reported feeling alone.  Of the 72%, one third reported feeling this way at least once a week.
With these numbers we must expect that this will have an impact on the church.  We have women who are walking through our doors every Sunday, who feel alone.  Women sitting at our brunch tables, who feel disconnected.  Women who live in our neighborhoods who are deeply looking for real community.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to spur one another on to love and good deeds.  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.”
The Bible has the answer to what research is showing us, that real life … face to face connection is necessary for community.   In Act 2 when is speaks of the early church, it is noted that they added to their number daily.  Not because they met occasionally but because community was part of their daily life.  They grew because they were present with one another.
Research is indicating that digital community is not the same as real community. 
Experts suggest having a social media cleanse, where you break the habit of social media dependence.  Whether you cut it out completely, cut back the number of hours, or cut back from the “groups” that are keeping you from real life relationships, something has to give in order to allow you to embrace community in the form of personal relationship with people you see face to face.
What does this mean to our church and ministries?
1.  We must acknowledge that our women in our church and communities are overwhelmingly feeling alone.  Even when they live in a house full of people, are volunteers in the church, work in larger offices… they FEEL alone.
2.  We must do a better job of making sure that all of our women feel included and welcome.    This means making sure we have done our best effort to invite not just our friends and family members, but our neighbors and co-workers.  That we are extending invitations to strangers and visitors.   Practically this means not giving up on traditional methods of announcing events (personal invitations, handing out flyers in the church lobby, etc.).  We can’t rely on digital/social media announcements and registration alone.  (Read Luke 14:12-14)
3.  How we present our ministry will matter, to battle the feeling of inadequacy.  If all our social media shows the perfectly polished church ladies, we may put a wall between ourselves some of the women we want to reach.  We need to have a willingness to show the raw and rough edges too. 
We’ve said before that you can’t please all the people all of the time, but we can please some of the people some of the time.  This means having a Women’s Ministry program that has a diverse offering that meets the different women in our church.  One way to ensure this is to have a Women’s Ministry Team that has the same diversity as the church.  When you are thinking of the various women you serve, and accommodating to their situations… that is hospitality.  They will feel cared for because you considered them.
Additionally, hospitality is making sure that all women feel wanted at our events.  Often we take for granted that our guests will know where everything is or how we do things in our space.  We must always plan and prep with the guest in mind.  Having clear signage and volunteers to help direct people on where they need to be. Keeping guests in mind also means to always plan for new members/guests that may start attending just before you event.  If your space holds 50, and it’s an event where you are selling tickets, sell only up to 40 or 45.   This buffer allows you the flexibility to accommodate new members instead of having to tell them that the event is full and they need to wait to the next one. 
As leaders, we model hospitality by being aware.  We watch the for the table that just has 1 person sitting at it.  Volunteers keep an eye out for the person who walks in alone or seem lost.  We take the time to meet people individually and connect them to others as we go.  Be willing to give up your seat, your meal, your book, your ticket, etc. if it means you can invite one more to the table to be apart of the community of women in your church.
Surely, on a ministry level we are creating warm and inviting spaces.  Our teams put a lot of work into the details.  Make sure that the details don’t take more attention and time than your guests.    Don’t forget to also extend hospitality on more personal levels.  If you are texting back and forth, just chatting away… invite her for coffee to continue the conversation.   If you and another women in the church send jokes and funny videos back and forth, recognizing you have a similar sense of humor invite her to a funny movie or to see a comedian.  
Stop the face book stalking, and go back to face to face talking.
For more thoughts on hospitality, check out this document we gave to the attendees at the meeting.  Print off copies for yourself, your team, or your hospitality coordinator. 

Hospitality

We also had a great drawing prize, and two lucky winners took a copy of Kristin Schell’s book The Turquoise Table home.  (Congrats Trina and Nicole)

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Hospitality to Pastors & their Families

Naima

If you have been a member of a church for any length of time, you will have experienced the welcoming of a new Pastor or staff member to your church.   A Pastor search is such a process that for many of us we are as relieved as we are excited about welcoming this new person or family into our body of believers.  For the incoming Pastor and family, this could have been a long road too, waiting for God to guide their steps to your door.  Excitement and anxiousness combined, they are walking into a family of believers that they barely know.

My sister in Christ, co-laborer in the faith, Naima Johnston-Bush and her husband answered such a call.  They packed up their house in Florida and set off for Leesville First Assembly of God, in Kingdom service.  To my joy, on a Monday morning, I woke up to this picture and her words:

Naima

Our first Sunday at our new church and the ladies Ministry gave me an old fashioned “pounding”. They pounded me with God’s love and blessed our home with lots of great cleaning supplies, canned goods and boxed items. I won’t need cleaning supplies for the next six months.   ~Naima Johnston-Bush

First, I just want to shout out to the Women’s Ministry at Leesville for welcoming a family so beautifully.  Thank you for the love you showered on my friend.

Second, when I saw this picture… knowing we were heading into the topic of hospitality… I immediately asked permission to share.  THIS is such a wonderful way to display hospitality to new Pastors, Staff Members, and their families.

In all of my years in the church, I’ve seen plenty of people showered with gifts as they were leaving.  Moves, retirements, volunteers called into fulltime ministry or missions elsewhere, etc. have been opportunities to thank people for dedicated service to our church body and an encouragement and provision for those stepping out in faith.

I am not sure I’ve ever seen this kind of outpouring on someone who was coming into the body.  It may be possible things like this were done quietly among the existing staff members, gift cards and helping unpack.  In this occasion, it was the Women’s Ministry who stepped up and said how can we bless this new home?

It brought me to question how do we as Women’s Ministries let the women who are leading in our churches know that we appreciate them?  But also, ask myself, are we doing a good job welcoming in the wives and children that packed up everything and walked away from their friends and family in order to follow their husband’s call in to ministry?

For the last several years, I have participated in a group of Pastor’s wives (even though I am not one) in order to have a better understanding of how ministry affects the wives and family of Pastors.  I’m so thankful that the group welcomed me in, even though I’m not a PW… because it has been eye opening.

When I hear their stories, the good… bad… and the ugly… I just know that we could be doing a better job.

So, whether you want to share here … or talk among your Women’s Ministry teams, let’s ask and discuss the following questions:

  1.  Are we showing hospitality to our Pastor and Staff wives?
  2. How do we welcome in a new Pastor and his family?  What could we do, if we are not currently doing anything?
  3. What does hospitality for these women look like long term, once they are settled or have been in the fold for years?

Good hospitality makes a person not only feel welcomed through the doors, but that we are wanted to stay for the long term.  It shows a person they are seen, loved, and makes them feel cared for.  We minister to their spirit, their hearts, their minds, and even their households when we love well.

LeadHer Conference, Are You the One?

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For the first time ever, we are planning a conference geared for women who are serving in ministry leadership.  These are small group leaders, MOPS group leaders, Women’s Ministry leaders, and more.

Statistically these are women who are volunteering to serve their churches, they are not paid staff members.  Additionally, in most cases these are ministries that receive very small budgets if any.

When we decided to host this conference, it was our goal to create an event that would:

1.  Let these leaders know that their work and efforts are appreciated, and do not go unnoticed.

2.  To put on an educational event that would not only refresh their spirits, but also educate them with information and tools that they can bring back to their ministry work.

3.  To create an event that would connect ministry leaders across denominational lines, where we all rise up together as co-laborers.

4.  Consist of a speaking team that was as diverse at the women we serve.

Recognizing that many of these women would be paying out of their own pockets, we also committed to make the event as affordable as possible.   Within the price range we set, $69 we secured our location… basic event materials… simple decor… and lunch included.  Our speaker team has generously donated their time.

However there are special things we would like these leaders to take back to their churches and ministry that will help them in to the long term.  We have negotiated special prices with vendors (60% off!) but we still need to raise the funds to cover those discounted costs.

If you are a supporter of women who serve in the church, have been a woman who led in the church and wishes you would have had access to such an event, or you have a business/organization that would like to officially support our event at a level you can afford… please consider giving to this campaign.

We will be sure to acknowledge any one who supported this event publicly, unless you choose to give anonymously.  At which point we will still acknowledge our anonymous givers collectively.

REGISTER:   www.LeadHerConference.com

SPONSOR:  https://leadherconference.com/sponsorship/

SUPPORT:  https://www.gofundme.com/leadher-conference-supporters