Learning

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Whether you meet in a café, church fellowship hall, or in someone’s home there are two purposes to this gathering.  Fellowshipping, as we addressed in our previous post, and Learning.

Leaders still need to learn about ministry work.  You can explore Biblical characteristics of leadership, as well as the practical functional side of ministry work.  Here are just some suggestions on topics that we have covered in the past of plan to cover in the future.

How to Write a Ministry Budget

Value of Worship and Prayer at your Events

Knowing Jesus Through His Word

Bible Literacy for Women

Leading Single Women

Leading Single Mothers

Being a Missions Minded Ministry

Community Outreach

United Body: Bridging the Racial Divide *

Mentoring and Discipleship Models

How to Share the Gospel Effectively

How to Plan a Women’s Retreat

Serving Teen Mothers

Serving Our Widows

Accommodating Special Needs Women, or Serving Special Needs Families

Praying for Your Church

First, speak with your leadership team and determine who is comfortable teaching on which topics (including ones not listed here).  Second reach out to the women attending and ask if there are any topics they feel qualified to teach, or if they know of anyone (in the church, community, non-profit, etc.) who might be a good teacher or speaker at a future meeting.  Take your list, and pray over it.  Pray that God would reveal which topics He would like you to teach on that year.  Pray that He would reveal to you anything that may not have been suggested.

We make it a point to give our women the entire year of meetings (for us it is just four) so that they can put them on the calendar to save the date.  However, you may find it easier to move one meeting at a time.

Another way we have developed our topics over the years is a byproduct of attending conferences.  Our leadership will walk through the Exhibition Areas or Sponsors Tables, while attending Christian Conferences, looking for topics that jump out at us.  You may even find free resources and tools from ministries that you can incorporate.  We’ve made wonderful connections with ministries that have sent us some of their left over conference giveaway/swag that we were able to distribute to our ladies attending with information about that ministry.

In our next piece in this series, we will share some of the amazing ministries that have sent us materials to share about their ministries with our attendees.  These materials have included ideas for service projects and missions trips, ministries they can start in their church to support various types of women in their communities, and so much more.

WMC and Fellowship

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When the WMC began our earlier meetings were packed full of content.  After the first or second year, we did a survey about the meeting format.  A common request was an opportunity to fellowship with one another, getting to know each other better.

Our first attempt to address this need was to create a separate event, for those who were interested in building relationships and not just training.   In the end, it just didn’t work for us.  Our ladies just didn’t have time to add another thing to the schedule.  We opted to change our meeting format to include a short time for fellowshipping.  Some of our ladies have left the meeting and then gone out to lunch together to continue fellowshipping.

Whether or not you make it part of the format, or if your ladies actually do have the time to carve out for special fellowship nights/lunches… it is an incredibly important consideration.

November and December seem to be the absolute worst times to add it in as an additional activity.  In fact we pretty much avoid December even for our quarterly meetings.  Most years the last WMC meeting of the year is the second Saturday of November.

Through fellowshipping, we have had an opportunity to speak with each other about our lives, families, ministries, churches, work, etc.   Not only getting to know one another at a personal level, but also learning about how we can pray for one another.

When creating your meeting agenda, or calendar year, consider factoring in fellowship opportunities at least occasionally.

When Our Women Grieve

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Even though Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month ended, the pain and journey of the mothers who are grieving and healing still continues through the rest of the year.  We are taking a break from our “How to Start at Women’s Ministry Council” series to reflect on the words of our courageous friend Kayla Pesce.

If you missed Part One, read it here.

Part Two:

You’re probably wondering how I continued to co-lead that retreat while mourning. I sometimes wonder how I did too. The simple answer is I was extended immense grace in taking time off and surrendering certain responsibilities. Instead of teaching a break out session as planned I was able to focus on writing the devotional that each woman would use while at the retreat and the week following. This gave me a chance to read Scripture and seek God’s wisdom in a private space where I could be alone yet still providing spiritually for our retreat without exerting the effort of teaching.

Yes, this role shift was helpful, but the most practical help came from my sisters. The leader, our pastor’s wife, never put a single expectation on me in the sense that I had the freedom to say no and the freedom to fail without consequence. She allowed me to back out of responsibilities when they became too much, simply allowed me to grieve (however that looked that day), and most of all she grieved alongside me. The others (including all my friends) allowed me to struggle through what it looked like to continue my “normal” life with this new title of bereaved mother, and they too grieved with me.

These same women that cried with us in the hospital were now there to just do life with me again. Yes, there were stressful moments of the retreat that were hard to manage because of my grief, but there were also moments of rest and refreshment. I had the chance to share my story with a new woman I met, and I also cried with a friend while sharing a hammock by a lake. We danced our hearts out to 80’s music in neon pink tights and high pony tails, and we worshiped God together.

I did not fully realize the depth of their support during that time until recently when we began to plan our 2019 retreat. Again a core group gathered together to plan, and as I started to list the responsibilities I would take on I was caught off guard by the mama-bear style protection the other leaders approached me with. “Is this too much for you?” “Are you sure you can do this?” “Last year….” My immediate flesh reaction was defensiveness, because well, they must think I was a failure last year, right? I was hurt in that moment, and I responded rashly by saying, “but last year MY BABY DIED!” Almost immediately the Holy Spirit gently reminded me, “yes she did die, and that was hard, but you can trust them now because they were there with you then.”

I had to apologize to them, because it truly was never just MY trial to carry- this was OUR trial that we labored together and honestly, we are still laboring its after affects. As a women’s ministry team, as friends, and as sisters in Christ I think we all learned from this tragedy, our story, because we walked it together. Sometimes it was hard because grief is messy, but it was a beautiful picture of what God intended for our relationships on earth.

How can we learn to be leaders who support our women in times of tragedy and trial? I’d say start by taking advice from my friend’s actions: listen, empathize, cry with, help, extend grace, remove expectations, hold her up when she cannot stand, and remember to walk alongside her. And when Satan tries to intervene remain unified through the solid Rock on which you all stand.

“But Moses’ hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.” Exodus 17:12

This was written in memory of Anna Joy Pesce, born into Heaven on October 7th 2017. May her life and memory always point to Jesus as Creator, Savior, and Sustainer.

For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. THEREFORE, I also have lent {her} to the Lord; as long as {she} lives {she} shall be lent to the Lord.” So they worshiped the Lord there. -1 Samuel 1:27-28

Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness

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October is Pregnancy & Infant Awareness Month, perhaps you have seen someone mention it on their Facebook page, or social media.  While many may share their experience of loss, there are others who are grieving in silence.  October may be the awareness month, but the feeling of loss doesn’t leave the hearts of these families on November 1st.  

We are going to take a break from our series on starting your own Women’s Ministry Council, to hear from our dear friend Kayla Pesce.  For the next couple of installments, Kayla is going to share her heart, experience, and advice for how we can walk alongside grieving women in our churches, community, and even family.

Why Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month Matters

While in the throes of planning our church’s 2018 women’s retreat as co-leader, I unexpectedly lost my first child to extremely pre-term birth. Our retreat theme was “Our story for God’s Glory,” and the irony of that still brings tears to my eyes. Frankly, I thought it was kind of a cheesy theme, but I believed in its purpose and vision. I went into planning with the confidence in the completed story God already gave me; a broken sexual past, marriage struggles, and His redemptive healing of it all. I had come to love this testimony and I openly share that with other women because I am comfortable with its details and the truths about God that brought such healing. I had resources, books, scriptures, friends who I related to, and podcasts. You name it, intimacy and sexuality were my know-how (still are)…..but THIS? Loss, death, grief, anger, sorrow, pain, jealousy, sadness. This was not the story I was ready to HAVE much less share, but I knew that in His Sovereignty God could use even this tragedy for His glorification. I clung to that knowledge as we proceeded with planning.

I had a miscarriage. I am a mother to a child in Heaven. My baby died.

While these statements appear harsh they sadly remain the latest headlines to my life’s story; and although my experience seems tragic and rare you should know that I share this narrative with an estimated 1 in 4 women. Yes, 25% of the women in your church’s women’s ministry are mothers to babies in Heaven too (not including those who experienced abortion). If we could all say in unison, “my baby died,” its sound would pierce the silence. Not because of its volume, but because of its profound declaration of vulnerable truth that is often grieved discreetly. The statistics don’t lie, but they are merely that: a number. Behind each number is a grieving woman and with that I know I am not alone, and if this is your story please know neither are you.

How does this fact apply to you as a leader in your women’s ministry?

My personal prayer and desire is that my transparency on this topic would in turn inspire other women, especially leaders, to notice and grieve with their sisters that have experienced the loss of a child they never knew. This includes miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, still birth, fatal diagnosis’, and early infant death. I see this variety of tragedy and sorrow, like any, as an opportunity to encourage a sister in her obedience to the Lord, but also a chance for you to practice obedience to Him as well. It is an opportunity for you to uniquely care and pray for, grieve, share truth, long suffer, and show the love of Jesus with a fellow woman who is in desperate need of support.

October was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Is there someone you need to be aware of that has grieved or is grieving this type of loss within your church and women’s ministry? If not, pray and ask the Lord to reveal a chance to love on someone in this way in the coming months if the opportunity is available. Remember our grief is not limited to one month of the year nor a year alone, but a lifetime lived without someone we love.

In a later submission I will share ways to practically help this woman and her family, but in the mean time I hope this brings the awareness to your mind to acknowledge this great heartache in your midst. I believe it will allow you to grow nearer to the women you lead, and more importantly provide a chance to serve our Lord in a new way.While we “the 1 in 4” are often grieving in silence, I want to write out loud on our behalf and welcome you, our fellow sisters, to be aware of our losses and join us in the grieving journey as women whose babies are in Heaven. You too are part of our story for God’s perfect Glory.

This was written in memory of Anna Joy Pesce, born into Heaven on October 7th 2018. May her life and memory always point to Jesus as Creator, Savior, and Sustainer.

For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. THEREFORE, I also have lent {her} to the Lord; as long as {she} lives {she} shall be lent to the Lord.” So they worshiped the Lord there. -1 Samuel 1:27-28

Get Connected

Get Connected

Whether you are trying to find speakers, partner with community organizations, or invite women to participate in your meetings, you will need to get connected.  There are several ways to connect in your community with others.

Speakers:  Not only will you be able to eventually pull from the various leaders who are attending your local meetings, but you can extend that out to other women and even men in your community.  Reach out to Pastors to come and speak about Women’s Ministry from their perspective, how they consider budget requests, etc.   As you meet with Women’s Ministry leaders (or other leaders in the community), ask for referrals to women who have spoken at their events before.  Be willing to start off presenting the material yourself, but also have a plan to help/encourage the women attending who want to become more comfortable speaking in front of groups.   As of date, we have never advertised for speakers.   The more involved we have become in local events, speakers have come across our paths and we definitely take note.  A firm recommendation, from our experience, take the time to vet the speaker before you ask them to speak at your group.  Follow their social media accounts, have a few lunch dates, and learn as much as you can about who they are and what they believe.

Community Organizations:  There are a few ways to get to know the organizations that are serving your community.  Google searches and even Facebook searches can help connect you to the larger more common organizations in your community.  This could include foster agencies, crisis pregnancy centers, food banks, etc.  For the smaller, more personal, ministries and organizations attend local fairs, festivals, rallies, and events.  Specifically, you are looking for ones related to causes or that allow non-profits to set up a vendor booth.  As you walk through these events, pick up business cards and literature from the organizations to research when you get home (or to share with your planning team).   Ask for referrals from your attendees or friends in other churches, who may have worked with local organizations.  Keep an eye out for advertisements related to special events or fundraisers that organizations are hosting, and pull their contact information from the notice.

Attendees:  In order to invite women to begin attending your meetings, the internet is a great place to start.  Create a group on Facebook for your Women’s Ministry Council group, and share the link on your own Facebook page asking for Women’s Ministry leaders to join for more information about this new ministry.  Also consider if Women’s Ministry is confined to those who are leading formal Women’s Ministry programs, or if that includes any ministry where women are leading other women.  If it does extend to those other ministries, you can look up local MOPS groups, BSF groups, etc. online and reach out to their leadership with an invitation to attend.  Place a flyer on community notice boards (restaurants, cafes, libraries, community centers, stores) about the group and how the reader can find out more information.  Reach out directly to churches via their email or regular mail with a quick intro and invitation for their women in ministry leadership.

Another avenue, to connect with any of the above, is to connect in some sort of a networking group.  There are many types of networking groups that meeting throughout your city.  Some meet on weekdays, weekday evenings, or the weekend.  There are ones that are for Christian Business Owners, and then there are secular ones.  Christian Business Owner networking groups will introduce you to community groups, and potential speakers.  Also, as Christians, most are regularly attending a church where they can bring your information back to their Women’s Ministry leaders.  In the secular groups, you will have an opportunity to meet with community groups, and while not everyone attending are Christians… some are.  You may find attendees and speakers there as well.   Participants in those groups may not even want the information for themselves, but may have a friend that they would want you to connect with.

Finding Speakers

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During our first year of Women’s Ministry Council meetings, which was just four meetings, the speakers were limited to the co-founders.  However, we quickly added a third leader to our team, and had her speak on areas she was experienced and passionate about.

After that it became a bit easier to build up our guest list.  First, I must share that we do not pay our speakers for our local meetings.  We are clear about that, it’s a no-profit, no-budget ministry.  However, we do provide them with a little gift of appreciation and a opportunities.

  • Get to know the attendees.  Find out their ministry strengths, and invite them to speak about those strengths to the group.  Group sharing is a great way to invest in each other, as a community of leaders.
  • Ask for recommendations.  Surely the leaders have heard of other local leaders (even if not in Women’s Ministry) who might be a good speaker for a meeting.
  • Network in the community.  Meet up with non-profit organizations in your community, and invite their team to present information about their ministry and how Women’s Ministries (or churches) can support their work. I always recommend they share financial and tangible (goods, volunteering, etc.) options.

We have gifted speakers small gifts as a token of our appreciation.  If the speaker is not part of our group, but from the outside, we also allow the group to bring promotional materials to share with the women and bring back to their churches.

We never share the contact information of our attendees with these organizations, but will allow them to pass around a sign up sheet to collect contact information from those who are interested.

Past and future speaking invitations have been extended to:

  • Crisis Pregnancy Center, Post Abortive Counseling Services
  • Foster Advocacy and Placement
  • Hospital Hospitality House for family, patients receiving treatment that are not local residents.
  • Missionaries
  • Evangelism Training Ministry
  • Homeless Advocacy Group
  • Child Sponsorship Organization
  • Teen Pregnancy Program
  • Hunger & Poverty Organizations

 

Budget Matters

BUDGET

Starting a new ministry may intimidate you with concerns about budget, who pays for what… where does the money come from… what do we need money for.  Here’s a quite low down of how we have spent money in starting the ministry.  We have learned our lesson, and some things have been cut back or out completely.

Printing, Mailing, & Postage – in the beginning we needed to get the word out.  One of the easiest ways to do this was to print out an introduction letter about what we were doing.  We found churches online in our area, that indicated they had a Women’s Ministry, and mailed the letters to them.  We included a self addressed, stamped envelope, for them to respond to us with.  The letter included a tear off portion that they could add their contact information to and send back.   Save the money of the return envelope and postage.  Create a Facebook group.  When you send the letter or post card, include the link to the group on the card.  If they are interested, they will join the group.  You can then build a mailing list through there.  Share links to the FB group in social groups for your area, your own FB page, and ask those who join to share it with other leaders.  Make the group closed but not secret, so that all interested in joining must be approved.  FB groups now have a 3 question feature that you can ask questions of those interested in being a member of the group.  You can ask interested people Q1) What is the name of your church or ministry, or who referred you to this group?   Q2)  What is your position in the church or ministry?    Q3)  Please include your email so that we can add you to our mailing list.

Signs & Wonders –   You may benefit from signs so that people don’t wonder who you are, what they are doing, or if you are in the right place.   We purchased a simple vertical banner and stand from Vistaprint when there was a 50% off sale.  Using their templates, we were able to create a simple sign that gets the message across.  Over the years, we have ordered different types of signs, fancy name tags for the leaders, etc.  In retrospect, one good sign is more than enough.  And, you can hold of that until you have some budget money to spend on it.  Simple DIY lanyard style name badge can be picked up at an local office supply store or online.  Make them yourself, save some money.

Print Materials –   In the beginning, we started with a 3 fold brochure.  Then we started making rack cards with our annual calendar printed on it.  In the first year, I would print out invitations and mailing them to churches. I was very mindful to watch for sales and specials.   Whether you print it yourself or use a printing service, there is a cost.  Add in postage, and it goes up even more.  In the end we found that the majority of what we mailed to churches was very rarely passed on from whomever intercepted the mail and the Women’s Ministry leader.  I can’t tell you how many new attendees will tell me that they had never heard of our ministry.  After speaking with them and learning what church they attended, I knew for a fact I had mailed invitations to that church (on more than one occasion).  Now, we have reduced our print material to just a single rack card.  On one side is our annual calendar, on the back side is brief information about our ministry.  Easy, peasy, and inexpensive.

Meeting Materials –   Having sharpie markers and labels for nametags is a blessing.  When we first began meeting, I had a small basket for each table that included pens, small notepads, etc.  Sometimes we would print out notes related to the training topics.  We would purchase cute giveaway items.  I would solicit item donations from companies, and sometimes they would ask us just to cover the cost of shipping.  When we stopped having the cute giveaways and gifts, we did notice a drop in attendance.  That was okay, as you really only want women attending because they want the community and training.  The extra pens and paper, was pretty much unnecessary as most women came prepared to take notes. 

Meeting Location –  Our first few years of meeting, we met at a public restaurant.  In the beginning we could meet there free, but eventually they added a caveat to use their party/meeting room.  To use the space we needed $75 in catering.  For the number of women meeting, we could actually accommodate that cost.  It was cheaper for the women too, versus having to buy their own individual meals.  We also would run into women from churches at the restaurant and many new attendees came from those encounters.   We would probably still meet there, but it was becoming increasingly harder to use their space.  We ended up moving to the building of a local ministry that graciously hosts us, and now we don’t have to pay to use the space.  We take a collection of goods for their ministry at each meeting as a thank you.   In addition to meeting in public spaces, ministry venues, you may even be able to save funds by meeting at a local church or perhaps someone 

Food & Refreshments –  When we were meeting at the restaurant, initially everyone was for themselves.  Buy what you want, buy nothing.  When it shifted to having to pay $75 in catering, we could make that stretch to accommodate up to about forty of us.  Now that we are meeting at our new location, they graciously provide the coffee.  We provide the coffee fixings, paper goods, and bites to snack on.    You could probably save money by taking turns on bringing snacks and drinks each meeting.  We intentionally provide these things because it is a way to serve those who are always serving.  However, do what works for you and your budget.

Now that we have addressed all the spending, you probably wonder where the money comes from.  At the very beginning it was an investment of love by those of us who started the group.  We pitched money out of our own pockets to get things up and running.  Which is why I wanted to detail out all of the above.  Learn from where we spent unnecessarily.

At every meeting, we do take an offering to offset our expenses.   We also would occasional have small fundraisers that would bring in additional funds to the budget, which allowed us to cover print materials and expenses.  To date, we have never been in the negative.  Sometimes, we squeeze just in to break even.  There have been times where we fell short on a single meeting, but the next meeting made up for it.  At the end of each year, we break even, almost to the dime.

If you can start your ministry up under the umbrella of one of the local churches, you can process the offering through the church and run the ministry under their tax umbrella.  If you are going to run it independently of a church, you will need to consider running it as a 501c3 (nonprofit) or 501c7 (social group/club, also nonprofit).    If you are NOT collecting any funds from those attending, then you can totally disregard those two previous sentences.  

I think it is fair to say that in some ways we complicated things from the beginning.  I may be an old dog learning new tricks, but with the ease of the internet and social media, it is getting easier to communication information to people.  Use that to your advantage.   Not every meeting needs to have cute décor and favors, remember you are all leaders who deal with enough of that in your own ministries (and personal lives).  It is ok to keep things simple.