ASK: Why Aren’t Scholarships 100% Covered

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If you have been in ministry leadership long enough you have planned an event or trip that has included scholarship opportunities.  Scholarships give us a chance to help someone attend the event/trip who otherwise would not be able to afford it.

It’s become even more common place that scholarships are no longer 100% covered but instead include some sort of a contribution from the person attending.  In the case of students, we may have workship opportunities where they can contribute volunteer hours to something happening at the church in exchange for monetary credit toward their registration cost.  For adults, however, it is usually a monetary contribution.

In speaking with different churches, there is not hard fast rule on how much.  Some require a percentage of the total cost, others have a flat amount regardless of the event cost, and some even begin the scholarship conversation with the question “what can you afford towards the cost?”.

But why?  Why do we ask someone in need of scholarship to contribute?  If they had the funds, they wouldn’t need the scholarship. Is this unfair?

After speaking with literally hundreds of leaders, in all areas of ministry, there is a very common reason given for seeking contribution in order to get scholarship funds.  Those who are given full scholarships are more likely to cancel at the last minute or not even show up.   This doesn’t seem to be impacted by the type of event, cost of the event, duration of the event, location of the event, or age of the person scholarshipped.

Why is this problematic?

  • The church/ministry has already paid for that person, which means they are not out of money that could have been spent elsewhere or saved.
  •  The last minute cancellation or no show prevent the scholarship funds being passed on to someone else who wanted to attend but couldn’t afford.

Why does contributing solve the problem?

  •  Evidence points to a much more consistent commitment to attend when a person has had to contribute time, energy, or money to attend.

When you spend hours working at the church to earn scholarship credit, you are more likely to attend the event.  When you have contributed even a small portion of the money, you are more likely to attend because you don’t want to just throw your money away.

While we can debate all day long about morals, ethics, responsibility, etc… the facts are the facts.  Evidence supports that a minimal buy in will result in commitment.  This has even been seen in the business world when it comes to direct sales companies, franchises, etc.  The more someone contributes to the start up, the harder they are going to work and more committed they will be to seeing the venture becomes successful.

As we learn more about how people operate, think, and behavior we can tailor our approach, even in ministry, in a manner that works more effectively

ASK: Why should I plan ahead?

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Some women’s ministries will have a meeting and plan out their entire year, others work quarterly, and some choose to move event to event.  Why is it important to plan ahead in Women’s Ministry?

In my twenty something years of Women’s Ministry, I’ve been a part of planning Women’s Ministry events every which way under the sun.  And, yes, I do believe that planning ahead is better than winging from month to month.  Whether you choose to do that in quarters, biannually, or annually… that I leave to personal preference.

But, why?

Vision.

Proverbs 29:18 reads “A people without vision will perish.”  Vision is incredibly important to ministry leaders.  We need to know where we are going, why we are going there, how we are going to get there, and who is going to be part of that journey.

The first step in ministry vision casting is to meet with your Pastor (or overseeing deacon/elder).  We are not too far into 2020 (especially with the impact of the Covid19 virus) to not take a moment and backtrack to this step if you missed it.  In fact, man of us are throwing our 2020 plans out the window & looking to start over.  Which may even aid to your argument about planning month by month because … “you never know what will happen.”   Just follow with me for a bit. 

First, we meet with the Pastor (or overseeing deacon/elder) to ensure that we as the Women’s Ministry leader understand what the vision for the church is.  This doesn’t not change because of crisis.  The vision, is the vision.  How we may execute that vision may change, but the vision will be consistent.   Then once we understand the vision for the church, the next part of the discussion is how does the Pastor (deacon/elder) see the Women’s Ministry supporting that vision.

Then the Women’s Ministry Leader takes the answers to those questions to their team & this is where we brainstorm.  How are we going to execute that vision?  What does that tangibly look like to meet the vision of the church AND also serve the women in our church/community.  

Planning ahead for a year doesn’t mean that we have ever detail ironed out and accounted for in that initial planning meeting.  It simply means that we are setting a path or establishing direction.  We know what the end goal is for the year and we are ordering our steps, like an outline, on how we plan to get there.  Outlines afford adjustments for crisis and the unexpected.

Then as you regularly meet with your team, you will take each of those events, activities, plans and work out the finite details as needed.  

For example, our WM had a goal of adding in more Women’s Studies in our small group menu for 2020.  Now, our adjustment due to Covid19 is taking those studies online.  We didn’t change the vision, just the execution.

When you plan ahead, not only does it make it easier for you to know where you are going, how you are getting there, and who is responsible for what… but it also gives you a starting point for adjusting to crisis and the unexpected.

Instead of throwing your hands up in the air and saying “now what?”, you have an actionable plan.

Your team can evaluate what you had planned for the immediate future and determine what simply needs to be cancelled, what can be modified for online, and what can be added.  However, those long term plans are a beacon of hope to your women about what is to come once the crisis has passed.

Serving in ministry, in South Florida, for over twenty years has taught me to adjust to emergency.  Hurricanes don’t really care about our ministry plans.  Having to move to online church services, temporarily, is nothing new to us.  We trust and believe that the Lord is not boxed in by church walls but can still actively reach and change the hearts of people through streamed services, pre-recorded messages, facebook lives, etc.  He is able. 

So, for us, making minor and even major adjustments to our plans for the summer is par for the course.  It is so much easier to make those adjustments when you are starting off with a skeleton outline or general direction than from a blank slate.

Have vision.  Execute the vision.  Adjust as needed.

Plan ahead for what you can, and don’t worry about making changes along the way.  Planning ahead creates a foundation to work from.

ASK: Why do I need to RSVP for a FREE event?

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In our new series, ASK, Women’s Ministry Leaders will be answering common questions from not only other leaders… but also the women in which we serve.

Q:  Why do I need to RSVP for a FREE event?

It’s Sunday, as you scan through the church bulletin, or listen to the announcements, you hear the good news… there is an upcoming Women’s Ministry event!  You note the date and time, uncertain at this exact moment if you can attend.  As part of the announcement you are directed to RSVP through a website link or sign up sheet located in the lobby.  The event is free, why do I need to RSVP?  Can’t I just show up?

Some Women’s Ministries are funded by their church, others are funded directly through the women who serve on the ministry team, or costs are covered by taking up an offering or charging a small fee.  Whether the event has a fee or is free, RSVPing is incredibly important.  Why?

  •  Your ministry team needs to know how many people to prepare for.  It is our job as the leadership team to prepare for the attendees.  This means we need to have enough tables and seats set out for our guests, plates & utensils for the meal, enough food, print materials, and take home favors.   When we have no idea how many women are attending, we end up either underprepared or overprepared.  RSVPing gives the team the ability to plan accordingly.
  • We are called to be good stewards.  Whether the funding is from the church or from our own pockets, we are still called to be good stewards with the money.  If we over spend due to too many supplies for an event with a lower than anticipated attendance, we have wasted money.   We may have wasted supplies, wasted food, etc.  By RSVPing, we can budget responsibly.
  •  We may be responsible for providing information to other parties.  Occasionally, we have a Women’s Ministry event off campus at a local golf club.  It’s a really nice event, not very expensive, and a treat for our women.  However, the Golf Club requires us to give them our attendance numbers two weeks ahead of the event.  Sometimes our women visit other locations that are hosting a live simulcast, special conference, etc.  By knowing how many of our women are coming, we can save seating so that our group can sit together.  There are also occasions where we are partnering with another organization or ministry, that will be providing information or gifts to our attendees.  We need to provide them with an approximate number so that they too are prepared for the event.

It is also important that if you have RSVP’d for an event (free, paid, or scholarship) and you are unable to attend that you notify the team AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!

  •  Notifying the leadership that you will no longer attend a free event, allows us to adjust our numbers so that we steward budget/planning of the event well.
  •  If the event is sold out or at max capacity, even free events can fill up, we can let people who are interested in attending but missed the initial RSVP an opportunity to attend.
  •  If the event has a cost, by notifying the leadership you will be unable to attend, you may be able to receive a refund.  Or, it gives you the opportunity to scholarship your ticket to someone who wanted to attend but couldn’t afford.
  •  If you accepted a scholarship, and didn’t show… that means the church paid for your materials/meal… and it went to waste.  It also means that someone else who needed scholarship couldn’t attend.  By notifying the team as soon as possible, it allows them to extend the scholarship to another person.

LeadHer 2020

#LeadHer2020 was amazing, and our team is catching up on life since.  The Lord is working out some amazing opportunities for LeadHer 2021 & Women’s Ministry Council.

We will return to our regularly scheduled week Feb 17.  Until then, here is quick highlight of our speakers, more to come!

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Big and Little Sisters

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Many of us are familiar with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.  Basically an “older” person is partnered with a “younger” person to serve as a mentor, positive influence in their life, etc.   They are not related by blood, but the idea is for the person serve in the same role as a big brother or sister would.  Usually the older sibling is close enough to relate, but old enough to bring some levity.

What makes these relationships so wonder is that both sides learn from each other, benefit from one another, and really complement one another.  We can learn from these types of organizations when it comes to our ministries.

Who is the Big Sister, who is the Little Sister?

The Big Sister is a ministry that comes from a church with means, and helps support one that does not.  Maybe, like sisters share clothing, we share our decorating supplies or study packages we have purchased.

The Big Sister has the room, when the Little Sister does not.  Women’s Ministries in churches that have space for women’s events can extend an invitation to the ones who are meeting in spaces that don’t.  Invite the house churches, ones meeting in public schools, and the women’s ministries from churches meeting in shopping centers.

The Big Sister is the ministry that has been thriving for many years, who comes along the side the Little Sister… the ministry that is just starting.  Helping her to find her way, navigate processes, and put together a ministry plan.

Just like the Big Brother Big Sister program, here is the exciting news.  We don’t have to be exactly the same.  We can be a Big Sister to a Little Sister ministry from another denomination, in another city, in a different neighborhood, a different culture or language.

So, are you a Big Sister looking for a Little Sister?

Or, a Little Sister praying for a Big Sister?

How Can You Connect:

  1.  Look for a Women’s Ministry that is the exact opposite of yours.  If you are a big and thriving, look for a new church that has just planted.  If you are a brand new women’s ministry, find a church that’s well known in the community for their women’s event.
  2.  Have a cup of coffee.  Contact their ministry leader and invite her out for coffee, lunch, or something fun like ice cream.  Share with her how you think the two ministries could partner with one another.
  3.  Share with others in your community about your new sisterhood, and encourage them to do the same.  If you are the Big Sister, maybe host a gathering at your church for women’s ministry leaders/teams to get to know one another.  Or, start is as a formal Big Sister Ministry outreach.

The Benefits:

Little Sisters will have an opportunity to partner with a Big Sister ministry that can help them pass on savings when buying group tickets for events.  Little Sisters will learn how to budget, plan events, fundraise, and grow in leadership mentoring.

Big Sisters will have an opportunity to steward how they have been blessed to help others get off the ground.  Forming friendships and relationships that can blossom into a long future.  Big Sisters will be reminded of their own humble beginnings, and will learn ways to stretch a budget or hold an event for little or no cost.

What other benefits can you think of?

Speakers for Women’s Events

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When I (Gena) tweet things on my personal account, it tends to be random thoughts I have at the moment.  Maybe not enough to write out a full blog post, or facebook quip about.  I wasn’t expecting the response I received to a tweet from a few days ago.

This quick comment quickly resulted in hearts, replies, and retweets.  Ultimately the conversation (which has been amazing) expanded into a “how to list”.  I’m going to share that with you in just a bit, but first I want to put a little context around that tweet.

I am a speaker, I’m not trying to tweet myself out of a job.  I’ve just noticed a few things over my two decades of Women’s Ministry.  I have at a monthly women’s brunch to hear the same speaker, every single time.  I’ve heard team members tell us the only the way the women will pay for a ticket to attend (even at $5) is if it’s a speaker from outside the church.  I’ve heard amazing testimonies from women that have been brought in as a conference key note.  I’ve witnessed testimonies first hand with women who I have shared a cup of coffee with.

There are times for speakers.  If you are trying to raise funds for a large project, as a non profit, etc.  Then you may want/need to hire in a professional in order to get the attention, sell the tickets, etc.  You may have a very specific message you are trying to convey to the women in your church, and a professional speaker may be the one who has already done the work.  It just makes your life easier.  I get it.  For me, personally, the bulk of my speaking is on leadership to other (and incoming) leaders.  But, I still will happily speak at a women’s brunch or tea… if I am the person they want/need.

However, there are also times when the very person that has the story that needs to be told has been sitting in the pews with you for years.

To THAT woman, who has been waiting for someone to ask… please don’t wait.  Talk to your Women’s Ministry leader.  Send her an email, text, or even print out a brief outline, and let her know that if she ever needs or would want for you to share your testimony… just to ask.  Don’t assume we know your story, or that we know that you are willing to talk about your story.

To THE LEADERS:

Here are some practical ways to help the women in your church share their stories:

  1.  Get to Know Your Women.  If you don’t know your women, you have no idea what their stores are, or how God could use them to move the women in your church.  Divide the women in the church up, amongst your team members, and intentional begin to meet with the women & just listen.
  2.   Pray for the Women.  They may be fearful about speaking in general, or intimidated to share their story.  Pray that the Lord would help them walk through their fear, so that their story can help others.
  3. Help Craft the Message.  Maybe she has a great story, but has trouble articulating it.  Help her write out the message.  Teach her how to edit it, about speaking points, using illustrations, etc.  With guidance, she can do it.
  4. Use It in Other Ways.  Perhaps she isn’t quite ready to speak about it, but doesn’t mind writing about it.  She could write her story out as a devotion or hand out that you include on your Women’s Ministry facebook page, a bulletin insert, or just printing out copies and leaving them at the church info desk might be a start.
  5.   Interview Her.  Instead of setting her on the stage, alone, with a mic in her hand, and a spotlight on her face… go with her.  Sit down across a table, and interview her.  In this way you can guide her through the important parts of the story, pull her back if she gets off track, and help her feel more confident because she can look at you and not everyone else in the room.
  6. Record Her Testimony.  You can record her testimony, giving her as many takes as she needs, edit it, and then play it as part of the event.
  7.  Use a Panel.  There are certain subjects that you may have more than one woman that contribute.  Women do generally feel more comfortable in groups, being on stage or in front of a group together with women who share a similar story can be far less intimidating.
  8.  Stand with Her.  You may not ever say a word, but being present is enough.  Hold her hand if she needs it.  Or, let her know she can invite anyone on stage with her that she likes to make her feel more comfortable.
  9.  Work with Her Comfort.  If she speaks multiple languages, let her share her story in the one that is the easiest for her. Provide translation (live, closed captioning, etc.).  It may help her to convey her thoughts more clearly if she is not having to also translate it in her own head first.
  10.  Reach as Far as You Can.  If she speakers multiple languages comfortably, encourage her to share in message in those other languages.  It could be that she speaks live in one language, but records in the others and those videos are made sharable.  If she is comfortable speaking/translating on the spot, go for it.
  11.   Help Her Start Small.  Start with her telling you her story, then move on to where she shares her story in front of your team.  Then move to a larger small group setting, working your way up to the larger events.

There are many ways to tell a story.  Just make sure that it gets told.