When We Are Broken

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Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

Titus 2:7-8

By Gena McCown

The other day, my friend Aimee Nelson and I were having quite a long conversation.  We were talking about the importance of how leaders behave in the public arena.  I don’t just mean people with large platforms and social media accounts with countless followers.  I, also mean the every day leaders, like you and me.  The ones who are in the trenches, in the small neighborhood churches & community organizations.  The ones who are serving the least of these, the overlooked.  The leaders who volunteer for our organizations who represent us in our cities.

A few years ago, I was in a grocery store.  I heard a man berating another person, it was quite loud and genuinely rose concern in me enough to investigate.  As I turned the corner I saw a man in his 40’s/50’s berated his elderly mother who was in a wheel chair.  I was able to assess that she didn’t appear in any danger, and intervention other than making him aware that someone was paying attention to him was not necessary.  I also noticed the t-shirt he was wearing.  It was for a local ministry that serving in our community, and I happened to know the leader.

When I got home, I called my friend and explained that I saw one of their volunteers at the grocery and described his behavior toward his mother.  My friend was mortified and based on my description was able to identify exactly who the person was.  I assured there would be a conversation.

When you walk out of your door wearing your organization’s tshirt, place a Bible verse bumper sticker on your car, or hand out invitations to your next church event… you are acting as an ambassador for the Kingdom.  People will associate what you do, how you behave, the words you use with Christianity.   Which is why the Word takes the time to address leaders & our conduct.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

James 3:1

The larger your platform becomes, the more weight those words carry.  We live in an age where, thanks to technology, pretty much anything from our past could come back to haunt us.  We can be thrust in the public spotlight and within minutes the whole world would know about us.  This happens to every day people, who are losing their jobs over public rants and actions that get captured on video… sent into the social media realm, and the news goes viral.  Shared.  Retweeted.  Reposted.  Forwarded.  Hashtagged.

Unless you have been on a social media blackout, with your head buried in the sand, you won’t have missed the sweeping news that seems to be happening quite frequently over the last few years of high profile leaders who are having their sins exposed, splayed on the table for the world to judge.   In some instances we are seeing the bandaid being ripped from a festering wound.  Many of us knew there were issues, but maybe not how bad they really were until we had to face the stench of it.  Others, they catch us off guard.

How are we to respond?

First, I choose to live in a mindset that despite how much I love God, how often I serve in my church, my calling to share the Gospel with others, to encourage other leaders, and to walk upright…. NO ONE IS EXEMPT FROM TEMPTATION.   As Priscilla Shirer addresses in her study Armor of God, the enemy has a very specific plan or strategy for each one of us based on our known weaknesses.  He knows which buttons to push.  If I keep this in mind, I never allow myself to think so much of myself and my own ability that I could not be vulnerable to stumbling myself.

Second, I choose to not use the falling of a high profile leader to be an excuse for casting judgment, slander, or increasing my own platform.  God does not expose sin for the rest of us to gloat or condemn.  He exposes the sin so that we know who to pray for & how to pray for them.  These fallen leaders need our prayers, people standing in the gap as they are forced to face their sin and the consequences.  There are not only leaders affected, but their entire ministries.  Not to mention their employees and volunteers, their church members, and especially their spouses and children.  It is not for us to cast these people into a pit in which they can’t ever escape, but rather a call for those of us who are still standing to pray for those who have fallen in.

Third, I choose to recognize that the Lord didn’t expose the sin so that these leaders would be disqualified and buried under the trash heap.  Instead, sin was exposed so that these leaders can repent and return to the fold being remade in Him.  Whatever the consequences and whatever the lesson learned, if they truly and genuinely repent and seek reconciliation and reparation (if required) then restoration is possible.  Certainly they may never regain their original standing and position, but that doesn’t mean that God won’t use them as an example to others about how those who stray… who become lost… can be found.

Being a leader means that there will be attention and focus on us, no matter whether there are 100 eyes on you from your local congregation or 100,000 eyes on you from your television program, conference keynotes, or book sales…

How will you walk?

Gifts & Talents

Say Cheese!

As leaders, we can sometimes get hung up in seeking volunteers that fit the holes in the ministry which we feel need to be filled.  We may look for highly capacity leaders who have more than one gift, can multi-task, and work well under pressure and deadlines.  In looking for these leaders, we can easily overlook our women who have other gifts and talents that can fill needs we may not recognize exist.

For example, in a time where Social Media is a huge part of our promotion of events and connecting with one another between our Sunday services, have you ever considered looking for women to volunteer as photographers for events and gatherings?  Perhaps a young woman or two that have a natural gifting for using the various social media platforms with ease?  There could be a woman who is sitting across from you during Bible Study or that you passed by during a Brunch that has a gift for creating flyers and graphics that you can use for your event promotion.

Ephesians 4:11-13 explains that each of us serves a purpose in the body of believers and the ministry work we have been called to.  We are one body with many parts, and each of those parts has a function within the body unique to itself.   While the examples list in the verses do not include “social media influencer” and “graphic artist”, they certainly are not excluded either.  If there is a need in the body, a place for a member to function in their gifts and talents, we can certainly make room.

We do not want to just make space in our ministry for women to be physically present, we want to make a place for women in our ministry to be relationally connected and spiritually productive.

Better Together

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Over the years, the Women’s Ministry Council team members have met with women in various sized churches.  Some are small churches, meeting in shopping plazas or school auditoriums.  There are the mid sized churches who often have on going events for their women, will host simulcast events, etc.  Finally, there are the large churches who have the space and funds to host their own conferences and bring in high profile guest speakers.

The smaller churches, especially those who lack their own building, will often utilize local events and conferences to attend as a group in lieu of fellowship events.  Or, they may be limited to just a few opportunities per year to gather since using the space costs additional funds or may not be available.  Medium sized churches will usually host in house brunches.  Simulcast events or mini-conferences may be once a year, due to the cost and amount of work.  Larger churches will often have the funds, space, and the volunteers but due to the size and scope their events are often an annual occurrence.

So, what does that mean for the women in our churches and community who are looking to gather with one another and fellowship, dig deep in to the word, longing for encouragement or to be challenged in the months between?

If you were to do an internet search for women’s conferences, or Christian conferences, the good news is that you could probably find something to do every month of the year.  Authors and speakers will often speak at large conferences, those with large audiences may even tour the country.  Some have gone so far as to simulcast their conferences live for those who are not near a city where they can see the event live.  Ministry leaders may host their own conferences, ladies nights out, and workshops.  These options are just the tip of the iceberg.  Many other smaller ministries, authors/speakers, and others are hosting local and regional events.

There is no doubt, that as a ministry leader, you have not had someone share with you an upcoming conference or event.  “We should go to this together!” or “Maybe we could be a host site for this event in our city?”.

There are so many good events to consider, but as a leaders it is impossible for us to host everything or attend every event.  Events take a lot of preparation.  Some require fees that, even though they will be recouped when tickets are sold, still freeze up the ministry budget.  There is planning leading up to, preparing the space, attending to the speakers needs (if live), and then afterwards there may even be some follow up.

If we all try to do it on our own, it is too much for one church to bear the brunt of all the work.  But, what if we were all working together?

Imagine sitting at your local café.  Twelve Women’s Ministry leaders from different local churches are seated together.  Everyone has their calendar/planner opened, pens at the ready.  The meeting leader hands out a list of potential events that churches could host in the next year.  The list includes cost, specific dates when applicable, etc.  Month by month, they discuss the options.  One by one, each Women’s Ministry leader claims an event that their church will host.  At the end of this meeting, there are 12 churches, hosting 12 events, over 12 months.  Yet each is only responsible for ONE during the year.  Each has selected an event that works within their budget.

Perhaps if we worked together, we wouldn’t need to pick and choose.   We could share the load, many hands making light work.

The Graceful Exit

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The Women’s Ministry Council works on an standard calendar, our ministry year runs January through December.  Every December, as we draw closer to the end of the year, there are two important things that happen.  First, at our last meeting of the year, I will put a call out for anyone who is interested in serving as part of leadership in the coming year.  Second, I send an email to our existing team members and offer a graceful exit.

Life changes.  Commitment levels change.  Availability to serve will change.  It is incredibly important to us as a team that everyone who is serving is doing so out of a desire to serve vs. a feeling of obligation.  I will ask our leaders to examine their availability and pray for God’s guidance in serving the next year.  I give them a couple of weeks to consider it, and then follow up for an answer.

I love welcoming new members to our meetings and on our leadership team.  I also love the ability to release a woman from her obligation to serve where God is leading her.  It is a beautiful gift to allow a fellow leader a graceful exit.

This is something that we should also embrace within our ministry leadership at the church level.  Sometimes we take for granted that a woman who was called will stay for the long haul, and we are unable to recognize that her season has come to an end.   We may even find ourselves in an awkward scenario where she is waiting for you to release her from the ministry, and you are waiting for her to broach the subject.  She may fear that she will be letting you or the ministry down by leaving.

If we are doing our jobs as leaders correctly, we should always be seeking and developing new leaders so that as we say goodbye to an outgoing leader … we are also saying welcome to an incoming leader.

Whether your ministry term runs January through December, follows a liturgical calendar, or the school year calendar…. consider how you can allow your leaders who need rest or relocation a graceful exit.

Connected Community

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Over the years we have had an opportunity share with our leaders some amazing organizations and ministries that can be partnered with for service projects, outreach, and more.  Some are local ministries and organizations from our community, here is a brief list of some of the ministries we have shared that are national and international.

Authentic Intimacy

Operation Mobilization

No Place Left

International Missions Board

Christian Leaders Institute

Embrace Grace

Hope Mommies

YouMom

One Child Matters

Samaritan’s Purse Women’s Programs