Working Together

Collaboration marries experience, willingness, innovation, and inspiration.

I have been leading in Women’s Ministry for just over twenty years.  While I know a lot about Women’s Ministry, I’d never dare say that I know everything.  For example, I’ve never had experience leading a Women’s Ministry in a multi-site campus capacity.  I know how to function within the singular local church, but when it comes to coordinating with multiple campuses and Women’s Ministry on a more global scale I am inexperienced.  I do have a history in retail management, working with multiples stores throughout a county.  I understand the mechanics of multi-site leadership but just not in a ministry capacity.

This was an area that I needed to learn more about, and I wanted to speak with someone who had been doing it for a bit of time and for 3 or more campuses.  Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting Women’s Ministry leaders from across the globe at a conference.  One of these women happened to be in driving distance, and was a Women’s Ministry leader in a multi-site church.  I dropped her a quick note and asked if she’d be up for a face to face meeting to talk shop.  Thankfully, she accepted.  It was a great afternoon and I walked away with plenty to chew on.

Collaboration between ministry leaders is HUGE in helping us all succeed.  Perhaps one leader at a local church is better at building up interest for Bible Studies, where another is great at planning retreats.  You could be a young leader who is given the opportunity to connect and learn from a more experienced leader.  Collaboration marries experience, willingness, innovation, and inspiration.

Experience:

A leader who has walked a few miles ahead of you knows the terrain you are going to encounter.  There is a level of wisdom that they have gained by going through the trenches, and witnessing the evolution of ministry in the church.  They recognize the fads, and know what will endure long term.  These women can speak into your role as a leader with understanding & guidance.

Willingness:

A collaborating leader is willing to share with you, so that you can learn from her successes and her failures.  She is willing to bring you under her wing, without fear of what you may be taking from her.  These leaders are happy to invite you to their events and attend yours, for support and crucial feedback.  This willingness to walk along side one another will help both of you through the thickets of ministry life.

Innovation:

A willing leader will happily share their new ideas and fresh perspectives because their view of ministry is all working for one purpose.  They don’t withhold their ideas but instead distribute it to others who make run with it, or even make it better when they add their own flair.  The more we collaborate with each other, the more we innovate with each other.

Inspiration:

Beyond just good idea, fun themes, decorating ideas, and even training materials; leaders can inspire other leaders.  We inspire one another to keep pushing forward, when the times get tough.  We add fuel to the fire of ministry that encourages us to go a little further, do more, dig deeper, and make an impact for the Kingdom in our community.

Collaborating leaders not only have each other to rely on, but everything within each other’s grasp.  We have books to recommend or loan, feedback on studies, leadership guidance, and so much more.  We open up our hands and generously give from the resources God has entrusted us with.  We are co-laborers for the Kingdom, let’s never forget that.

Practical Actions:

  • Share resources
  • Utilize speakers from each other’s ministries
  • Invite smaller churches to your events (studies, retreats, brunches, etc)
  • Meet to talk about ministry trends and ideas
  • Pass on décor or materials to ministries without or with low budgets
  • Pray for one another
  • Collaborate on written materials and studies
  • Co-host events open to the community at large
  • Educate one other based on your strengths

What Are the Numbers

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Throughout the past 8 years, I have had a more vested interest in understanding and helping other leaders.  As I connect with these leaders about their ministry work, a topic that comes up often is getting an increase in event attendance.   There is a connection between the number of people who attend and how we assess success.  The more people in attendance, the more successful the event.  While this success measurement works in some industries, such as entertainment, it is not the appropriate measure in others.  For example, we do not look at the success of a school based on the number of students who attend but rather the percentage of students that graduate or move on to college.

In ministry, more often than not, we are using the wrong measurement.  We determine our success rate by the number of seats being filled versus the impact/engagement of those who are in attendance.  A mantra that I have often relied on is that I trust God to bring to an event exactly who is meant to be there, whether it be 2 or 200.  We do have a responsibility of being a good steward with our time, finances, and resources.  That responsibility affirms that we can’t just ignore the numbers but that we use the data obtained to better plan for our future events.  Numbers do matter, but how we use the numbers matters the most.

For example, you are planning for a Women’s Brunch with an expenditure of $5 per woman to cover your speaker fees, decorations, and take home favor with an expectation 200 women will attend.   Your ministry has paid $1000 into this event, yet only 20 women show up.  You have essentially “lost” $900 preparing for the event.  You could see this as a failure, and vow to never hold this event again.  Or, you learn from the data and the next time you plan an event with a lower expectation on attendance.  Instead of seeing it as a failure, it becomes a learning experience.  However, it is also important to understand the numbers by not just analyzing the data after the fact but understanding the numbers out the gate.

Regardless of the industry, there is what is referred to as the 10% rule.  The 10% rule is pretty simple.  Whatever it is you are attempting to do, your response rate will be 10%.   If you attempt to sell bikes to 100 people, 10% will actually make the purchase.  You will sell 10 bikes.  Simple concept, simple math, and one we can use to plan for our desired results in advance.  Let’s put this into perspective of a ministry event.

If you have a church of 500 adults, approximately half being women, you are starting with 250 women that you will invite to your event.  Apply the 10% rule, you can expect 25 people to show up.   Since we do know that women tend to attend events in groups or if you are holding an event that encourages the women to invite a guest, it is reasonable to plan for 50.

If you have hosted events like this in the past, you will want to consider those numbers into to your planning.  If your church has grown or shrunk in attendance, that it going to affect your numbers.  If a church of 250 women normally has 25 attendees, and since the last event has grown to 500 women in attendance… you would want to adjust your planning to accommodate that growth and plan for 50 women.  If your church has remained at a steady size, but you notice that event to event there is a 15% growth in attending your events, you will want to use your previous attendance and plan for an additional 15%.

If you notice that your events are decreasing in attendance you will want to plan for that, but also try to understand why there has been a decrease.  Church calendar too busy, too many options competing, or is the event no longer something that is interesting to your members.

Another good example would be in the introduction of Small Groups.  If you currently offer 2 Bible Study/Small Groups, you will see a large attendance in these two groups.  However, if the following fall you expand your studies and now have 10 groups meeting… you may get more people from the church at large signing up for small groups.  You may also have women that move from one of the original groups to one of the new ones, due to more convenient meeting times or interest in the study topic.

Numbers are important, somewhat predictable, and subject to shifting.  This is why the numbers alone are not enough to be the sole basis of decisions.  Analyzing the data that accompanies the numbers is the key to understanding the full story.

If you want 10 women to volunteer to serve in the church, you will need to ask 100.  If you want 10 small groups with 5 women in each group (50 women) then you need to invite 500 women.

While these numbers may seem daunting, I want to share with you the release they also bring.  If you have 200 women and 20 show up, you are doing well.  If you have 40 women, and 4 attend your event, you are doing well.  Do not be discouraged!

This is so important and a reminder why we can’t compare our ministry work and success to someone another ministry.  If your church attendance numbers are varied, if your percentage of women attending vary, then you will see a variation in your attendance number.  Don’t get caught up in it, learn from it, grow from it.

Wise & Discerning

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Most ministry leaders look for new and fresh activities to offer there women.  I am in the camp that we can’t please all of the people all of the time, but we can please some of the people some of the time.  Meaning, by offering a wide variety of events and opportunities we can meet different women in different ways.  If the only thing you ever offer is a brunch with a devotion, or guest speaker, you will only interest the women who like brunches.  Add in service projects, you reach a whole new group of women who rather be the hands and feet in the community.  Variety is a good thing, when vetted appropriately.

Throughout the year, I’m often approached with ideas for events, suggestions for new studies, or opportunities to attend an event with a hot new speaker.  As a ministry leader, I am responsible for the women I am leading.  It is important that I vet everything that comes across my path vs. assuming that because the word “Christian” is applied that it must be so.  I take the time to research speakers, events, books, and studies.  If I don’t have the time, I table it until I do.  I’m accountable.  I want to be deemed trustworthy.

Years ago, when serving on a ministry team vs. leading it, we scheduled an event that seemed like a great idea.  We were burnt out on the same old, same old.  We hired in an expert in a health field to teach a workshop that would benefit the women.  It was recommended by a woman on the team, the leader had approved of it.   I assumed that meant the leadership had vetted the speaker.  In the expert’s attempt to take a perfectly ok subject on a secular level appeal to us a “church group”… things went awry.  When the event was over, the leadership team called an immediate follow up meeting at a nearby café.  The leader apologized for her oversight.  She had not vetted as she should have.  I apologized for not asking.  We needed to figure out how we were going to address this with our women.  When you mess up, you have to own it.  You also learn from it.

Recently, I was volunteering with national ministry that would be in my city hosting a public event.  As part of the local volunteer team, we were tasked with going to local churches and promoting the event.  We spoke on Sunday mornings briefly before service, we attended women’s ministry events and mom’s group events and made a quick announcement about the event.  We were paving the way.  It was at one of these women’s events that I was caught by surprise.  This was a very well respected group, one that I had known in the past to have very high standards for their speakers.  I opted to attend the full meeting vs. slipping in and out after delivering my 5 minute advert.  As I listened to speaker, my jaw hung agape.  The speaker was attempting to spiritualize her topic and clearly had no idea what she was talking about.  Sixty women sat in that room taking copious notes.  I addressed the leaders about it later and they had no idea that she was going to say what she did.  This was a recommended speaker, they didn’t vet her, they assumed based on the person who made the recommendation that she was biblically sound.

Let me quickly state this caveat… there is NO reason you can’t have a fun event for women with a speaker on important topics that must be masked with Christianity.  If you want to invite a doctor to speak to your women’s group in October about breast health and even how to properly conduct a self exam… DO IT.   Let your speakers understand that you are ok with them staying in their wheelhouse & if you want to add a Scriptural element to the topic, you will provide the person who will handle that.  There are many different ways that we can invite Jesus in to our events, we don’t always have to rely on the speaker if the subject doesn’t demand it.

What we learn from these experiences is how important it is for us as leaders to make sure we take the time to investigate these speakers before setting them in front of the captive audience that is our women.

A woman does not need to be a theologian in order to share her testimony, but you can ask her to write it out and share it with you first.  This gives you an opportunity to ensure the Scripture she references is in correct context.  A speaker doesn’t have to have a seminary degree to teach on Scripture, but she needs to have a proven track record of teaching and references that you can access.  If there is not any video or audio clips of past speaking engagements, ask if there are any upcoming ones that you can attend to learn more about her before booking.

When inviting speaker, whether a professional or from within your community, you have to feel confident that the words that come from her mouth will reflect accuracy to the Scriptures.  You owe this to your women, you are called to do this by God.  Acts 17 specifically references being like the Bereans because they didn’t just take someone’s word, but rather they tested it against the Scriptures to see if it is true.  As leaders, we get the advance look at the speaker in consideration, test her words against the Scriptures, and see if it passes the litmus.   Our Pastors would not turn over the pulpit to just anyone, we shouldn’t turn the podium over to just anyone either.

Practical Suggestions:

  • Visit the speakers social media accounts.
  • Review content on their website or blog.
  • Read a sampling of books she has written.
  • Attend other events she is speaking at.
  • Ask for referrals, recommendations.
  • Search for recordings (video/audio) from other events.
  • Meet with her to review the topic and her outline.
  • Be clear with a speaker about your denominational beliefs.
  • Excuse secular speakers from spiritualizing their topics.