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

Untitled design(74)

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

Untitled design(71)

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.

Anticipate the Ask

Untitled design(64)

When we moved from our home town to our current home, we moved several counties away.  We didn’t know anyone who lived here, we had no connections and started from scratch.  One of the first orders of business, for me, was to find a new church.  I knew this would be an endeavor that would take some time, we would visit a few different churches and hope that one would just “fit”.

Having access to the internet gave me a head start on the process.  A google search would help me identify the names and locations of our local churches.  It also pointed me to the websites of these churches, which allowed me to do some preliminary research and whittle down the list of churches we would actually visit.

If your church doesn’t have a website, we didn’t visit it.  I must admit that sounds strange to me even now, but it is the truth.  There were so many different churches to choose from, a church website made it so much easier on us.  Which means we may have skipped over some amazing churches, with amazing Pastor’s, with Gospel teaching, and shared beliefs simply because there was not a way for me to learn about your church before we walked through the doors.  If this was something we relied on 13 years ago, you can only imagine how much more important it is today.  With so many options out there today, there really is no reason to not have a basic informative website.  We visited churches that didn’t have fancy graphics, scrolling images, and live feeds.  The website doesn’t have to cost the church a lot of money to design and require a lot of upkeep.  If you don’t have a website, I highly suggest getting one.

If your church website was not easy to navigate, we didn’t visit it.  Having a website will do you no good unless it is easy to follow and use.  I should not have to struggle to find the church address, statement of faith, service times.  Within the last year, I have visited church websites in my city that do not contain that basic information… or, if they did, I couldn’t find it and I’m pretty internet savvy.   Something I always recommend is to ask someone who knows nothing about your church & has never visited your church before to check out your website for you.  See if they can find the most basic information (location, service times, statement of faith, etc.) as well as important information you want people to see (missions, study groups, etc.).   If we are involved in the design process, or doing the design work ourselves, what makes sense and even seems obvious to us may not be so to the first time visitor.  You need fresh eyes.

If your church didn’t have certain information, we didn’t visit it.  Knowing that we were searching for a new home church, we had certain criteria that was important to us.  We had children, so a Children’s Ministry was important to us… but so was finding a church with a decent or growing Youth Group.  We wanted a church our family would grow into long term.  People want to know if there is a Men’s or Women’s Ministry, study groups, recovery ministry, etc.  You do not need to have a highly detailed, dedicated, page to each of these ministries.  However, having even a single page that listed what types of ministries, service opportunities, and study groups were available was helpful.  Guests can always request further information when they visit & begin to connect.  Having just a basic list will alert guests to the culture of the church.   If a church website didn’t include anything about Women’s Ministry or Youth Ministry, we put that on the pass list.  This also means that if your church does have these ministries but they were not listed on your church site… we assumed you didn’t and moved on.

When you have been a part of a church for a long time, it may seem super obvious to you all of the wonderful things that you have to offer a person or family.  You may even believe that all a person needs to do is visit and they will see it for themselves.  We have left the days where first impressions are made in the first 30 seconds of meeting.  We are in a time where first impressions are gauged through internet searches before a person will even walk through the door.  

If we instead learn to anticipate the ask, the questions that matter to people who may be interested in attending our church, we can set up a website that steps ahead of us.  Conveying the basic information, with an invitation to inquire within.

Once people arrive to visit, make sure that you have informed people who volunteer as greeters, at the info desk, etc. that have also anticipated the ask.  Do they know when study groups meet?  Do they know what day the youth group meets, what time, and the location?  Are the familiar with the church calendar and upcoming events?  Do they at least know where to access the information or where to point guests for more information?

This same position, anticipating the ask, will also apply to your Women’s Ministry.  Begin to ask yourself what questions you would want to know about the Women’s Ministry at your church, if you were a guest considering joining?  Talk to your friends who do not attend your church, find out what questions would matter most to their decision making process.  Then create a plan for communicating that information to your guests.

Some considerations:

Make sure the church website has some basic information on Women’s Ministry, so that visitors will know the church has a Women’s Ministry & who to contact for more information.  This is very minimal information that takes up little space, but serves as a connection point.

Set up a Facebook page for the Women’s Ministry.  Ask the church to include it (even if only occasionally) in the church bulletin.  Also as you post to the WM page, share that to the church’s main page so that members will also learn that their is a FB page for communicating WM information directly.

Set up a place for sharing WM information with in the church lobby, welcome center, or other points of interest (including the Women’s Bathroom).  This could be as simple as having a WM brochure or info card on a table with other ministry information, or as extensive as a static WM table or bulletin board where information is shared regularly.

Use some or all of these avenues to promote your upcoming event, but consider even highlighting a “save the date” for the following event.  It helps our guests to know that if they missed an opportunity to register for an upcoming event, that there are other events to look forward to.

When displaying information, make sure you are answering the right questions.

  • When is it? (Date/time)
  • Where is it?  (Church or off campus, what building in the church)
  • Is there a cost?  Is registration required?
  • Will childcare be provided?  Can children attend?
  • Are the attendees expected to bring or contribute anything to the event?
  • If a women’s study & books need to be purchased, is the information on where to purchase and how much the book costs included on the announcement?
  • Who is speaking?  Or, what is the event about (or purpose)?
  • What is provided (will breakfast or lunch be served)?
  • Is this for members only or are guests welcome?

 

 

Hunting for Leaders

Hunting for Leaders

If you take some time to speak with hunters, you will learn a few things:

  1. Hunters are purposeful.  They do not just step out in to the wild haphazardly.  They know what they are hunting, where they are hunting, and why they are hunting.
  2. Hunters know what weapon is required for each individual hunt.  Not every arrow, spear, trap, snare, or net is created for universal use.
  3. Hunters learn about what they are hunting.  They take the time to understand their prey. Where does it live, what does it eat, how does it move about the landscape, what does it sound like, what will scare it off, and what will draw it closer?

When we are on the hunt of new leaders, we need to apply a modified version of these points.

Be Purposeful.   Understand why you are searching for this new leader.  Are you looking for your replacement?  An assistant?  Building up a new ministry team?  Responding to new growth or need?  If you know the why behind your search, it will help you identify the right places to seek new leaders.  Understanding the why, will also help you spot the who!

Know Your Tools.  In other words, understand what is going to secure new leaders.  Is this a paying position?  Will you be providing tools and resources for their spiritual and leadership development?  What are you going to use the seal the deal, once you identify the leader?

Learn About Leaders.  Hunting for new leaders does not consist of putting a call out for just anyone who wants to join the team, or putting up a sign up sheet in the lobby, and taking anyone who signs up.  Take the time to learn about the potential leader.  What are her strengths and weaknesses, what does her spiritual walk look like, talk with her about what gifts and talents she possesses, pray for God to reveal how she would fit as a solution to your leadership needs, and what type of development does she already have or would need to step into leadership?

Hunters will lie in wait observing, sometimes for weeks ahead of their actual hunt.  They do this to understand the habits of the game they are hunting, and to make the animals more familiar with their scent and presence so that they are comfortable on hunting day.

A good leader is also watching and waiting, paying attention to the people in their ministry or organization.  As we watch and take in the information we learn about a potential leader, we will be able to determine if and when they are ready for the next step.  We also want our leaders to become comfortable with our presence so that when they are leading and we pop in to check things out, we don’t make them nervous.

A tribe that celebrates a successful hunt, is not just celebrating the prize of food they are bringing home to their families.  They are also celebrating the culmination of all the work that went into preparing for the hunt.  In fact, many will tell you most of the work when into the preparation before the hunt.  A tribe foresees a need to replenish the food stores, prepares the tools, trains the new hunters, and when the time is right they set out to put all the preparation into motion.  If the tribe waits until they are out of food, their hunters may not have the strength needed to endure the hunt.  Or, if the hunt fails, the entire tribe will suffer.

A good leadership team should not wait until a moment of desperation to seek out a new leader.  Waiting until a vacancy appears could mean that the team is running out of time and energy to get their work done.  In desperation and exhaustion we can give up, give in, or make poor choices.  If we put effort into preparing future leaders that have already been identified, prepared and developed; then we are just waiting for the moment all of that preparation is put into motion.

Don’t hunt for leaders when your team or ministry is starving.    Put the time and effort into preparing future leaders.  Do this, your tribe will be healthy and strong.

Leading in the Storm

Leading in the Storm

There have been a few times in my life where something major was going on in my personal life in tandem with active ministry responsibilities.  One of the first responses from others is the desire to take away my burden by giving me time off from ministry, canceling ministry plans for a future date, etc.  The intentions are good hearted, out of a desire to make my life easier during a difficult season.  However, as leaders, we must be careful to not to assume that is the right course of action.

Yes, with most certainty, there are going to be women who need a grace filled pass to let things go, or step down for a season or even forever.  However, there are women like myself who find that our responsibilities (work, school, or ministry) help to take our mind off the circumstances we are facing.

When Another Leader is Facing a Storm:

  • Don’t make assumptions.  Ask if she needs time off, or would like to continue in her role/capacity.
  • Inquire how you can support her personally (meals, running errands, etc.) as well as in her ministry work (assistance, volunteers, etc.)
  • Check in with her occasionally to see how things are going, if she needs help, or resources.

Unleashed

Hillary Clinton

Whether it is the women on your leadership team, or the women sitting in the pews each week… they are waiting.

I don’t know if you can sense it, but I can.  When I slip into a local women’s event hosted by one of the local churches or sit in during conversations with other leaders… there is a pulse.

Our women are feeling called to move, but many are not sure what for.  They are signing up for studies, starting prayer groups, reading more, talking more, finding places to serve, and for those who don’t have the opportunity to do any of these thing… they feel a longing they can’t understand.

Your women are waiting to be unleashed.

So, what can we do?

  1. Connect your women to one another, in relationships & community.
  2. Encourage your women to dig into the Word on a deeper level.
  3. Foster solid prayer habits in your women.
  4. Engage the women in opportunities to serve.

Connect Women:  Host events at your own church, go as a group to other women’s events, encourage the women to have lunch or coffee with one another, and as a leader help set the precedent by being an example of this.

Women in the Word:  Offer not only topical Bible study groups, but find ways to help the women dig deeper.  Look into curriculum for study groups that will take them to the next level, consider hosting or attending a workshop on study techniques, create a discipleship plan, and help the women discover resources that can help with their personal study.

Praying Women:  Prayer habits can make for a great brunch topic, group study, or workshop.  There are great books and resources on the value of prayer, and how to pray.  Create a prayer room in your church building, develop a women’s prayer group, utilize prayer chains, and set the example by employing prayer in your women’s events.

Women who Serving:  Find opportunities to serve in your community on your own or with your leader team.  Share testimonials from these service opportunities with your women, and then invite them to join you in future service project.  Encourage the women to share their ideas or organizations that are close to their own hearts with you.  As they make suggestions, they will also help generate excitement from other women in the church to participate.

The women are ready to be unleashed, engage them & equip them… then watch them flourish for the Kingdom.