This weekend, I attended a workshop on the topic of branding. As the leader of a ministry, and knowing the direction we are taking in the coming years it is important that I am learning about all aspects of ministry building. The speaker, Faith James, said something that caught my attention. She was giving an illustration related to fishing, and pointing out that to have a successful fishing trip you must know “what you are fishing for”.
Do you know who your ministry is fishing for?
As a ministry leader, you may be tempted to give the most obvious answers…
Everyone. Women. The Lost. The Unchurched.
I am going to challenge you to take that a bit deeper.
As Faith James continued her illustration she said, “You can’t boil the ocean”. Her point rested in that we have to have a more focused vision of who we are trying to reach because everyone is a concept that is as big as the ocean. This doesn’t mean that there is not an ocean of people who need help, but rather it is going to be impossible for us to help everyone with our resources and time. We need to have focus.
Putting this in terms of Women’s Ministry, let’s explore the following questions.
If every Women’s Ministry started a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group, that meets during the week… who is serving our single mothers, or teen mothers?
If every Women’s Ministry was focused on serving homeless women and children… who is serving our women who have suffered the loss of miscarriage?
If every Women’s Ministry chose to stand with their local Crisis Pregnancy Center… who is supporting the women who chose life, or supporting the local foster/adoption agency to care for these children who were given this chance to thrive?
If your Women’s Ministry is spread thin trying to serve too many different organizations at once, are you really making an significant impact vs. making the choice to choose one and serve it at full capacity?
What if instead of each Women’s Ministry focusing on a broad scope of issues, we each chose one that we were going to give our full attention to? We come together as leaders and identify the needs of the community of women we serve (in and outside of the church walls), then each Women’s Ministry leader picks one that will become their ministry focus?
Imagine a wheel with spokes. The center of the wheel is the Cross, that is where we are trying to bring women… to Jesus. The outer ring of the wheel is all of the women in our community. The spokes are the individual Women’s Ministries.
Quite simply, there are just too many needs in our communities (and within our church walls) for one ministry tackle it all. However, if we work together and decide which needs each of our ministries will focus on… then we are working together to meet all the needs more effectively.
How do we do this?
In the past, I’ve spoken to the topic of successful Women’s Ministries are usually in churches that also have active/successful Men’s Ministries. Over the last few weeks, several articles have crossed my desk about women leaving the church and what the impact of that exodus will have on the church. I decided to do a little bit of research on the topic.
What we know, and research supports, is that post industrial revolution there was a shift in the home and thus in the church. As the men went to work outside of the home, women began to take on a larger role in the spiritual development of their children. They also began to take on a more prominent role in the church as leaders and volunteers.
What we know, currently is:
There are more women attending, and participating in the active life of the church. This is why you may see that Women’s Bible Studies outnumber their male counterparts. Or, why Women’s Ministry is still a vital ministry in the church… but Men’s Ministries are waning.
Fewer than 10% of U.S. churches are able to establish
or maintain a vibrant men’s ministry.
As I try to discover the roadblocks and obstacles for Women’s Ministry, one of the first questions I have asked is in regards to the presence of a Men’s Ministry. Until I began this research, I didn’t realize that Men’s Ministries had declined to such numbers.
But why? We have less Men’s Ministries because we have less active men participating in the church.
We have a realization now that in order to get the family to attend church on Sundays, we need to reach the women. When the women come, they bring their husbands and families. I’ve heard from several Pastors that they notice when the wives are not at church due to retreat, business, etc. that the men do not come and bring the children. They take the weekend off too. However a healthy church needs the men to attend… married or single, with the family or not.
When I was in MOPS Leadership, one of the most common complaints that I heard from these young mothers was a deep desire for their husband to return to the role of Spiritual Leader of their home. They didn’t want this burden on their shoulders, and the Bible tells us this was never their burden to bear in the first place.
A study from Hartford Seminary found “that the presence of involved men was statistically correlated with church growth, health, and harmony. Meanwhile, a lack of male participation is strongly associated with congregational decline.”
We must, as a church, begin to really understand WHY men have been on the decline in attendance and participation. We must, as a Women’s Ministry, become advocates for Men’s Ministry in our church. I have seen the effects of a waning Women’s Ministry on the church. When a Women’s Ministry slows or stops functioning, we see the impact on the church as a whole. Women’s small groups decline. Women’s attendance and volunteerism in the church declines. Women will begin going to parachurch events or events at churches which do have active Women’s Ministries. This will often result in the matriarchs of the church moving to churches which do have active Women’s Ministries.
I would suggest the same could be said for Men’s Ministries. As men’s ministries declined, the community connection or family connection of church went with it. The men feeling less connected to their church and more connected to the people they spend 40+ hours a week with in their workplace, or people they have connected with over hobbies have taken precedence. With their free hours, they would rather be actively doing something than seated in the pews.
New statistics are showing that one of the major reasons people are leaving the church is due to their desire to not be passive participants in church but active members. Church has become a spectator sport for the majority as churches seek volunteers to fill the holes they need vs. allowing people in the body to use their gifts and talents as God has called them to. They want discipleship, mentoring, and spiritual growth more than entertainment.
What can we do about it?
If the Women’s Ministry is supposed to be a ministry that supports the vision of the church, then that means the whole church. While our focus may be on taking the vision to the women in our church, our leaders need to connect back into the church by supporting the other ministries and our Pastors.
Aimee Nelson once told me that “where the women go, so goes society”. So, where do we want our men and children to go? Let’s set the bar and encourage them to rise to it. Let our Women’s Ministries be known to love women well, and the men too.
* All statistics are from http://churchformen.com/men-and-church/where-are-the-men/
Women are inherently emotional creation, emotional in how we connect with others and respond to the situations we are in. Men work on a different level, entirely. It’s why you can meet for your women’s study group every week and wish you could meet more often; yet your husband might be content with meeting once a month to check in with the guys. It is for this reason, emotional connection, the Women’s Ministry Council has a heart for building up a broad view of Women’s Ministry.
Brunches are great, as they fulfil our need to connect personally with others. Yet, they often lack deep instruction. Bible Studies are a great way to find instruction and wisdom. Yet, they often have a changing of attendees that prevents real relationships from forming. Small Groups, of set members who change study materials, may create a community; but too often those community groups can close out new people who bring their own wisdom and value.
A Women’s Ministry that solely relies on monthly brunches is not going to a have a long term deep impact on the spiritual growth of women in their church.
A Women’s Ministry that solely relies on Bible Studies and Small Groups is not going to connect the women in corporate worship and instruction.
We must strike balance.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
~ Hebrews 10:23-25
The same can be said about how diverse our ministries are. A Women’s Ministry that sits in the safety of the programs and offerings it has always provided is going to continue bringing like minded women. However, it will be a near impossibility to diversify that ministry program to include a broader representation of your church or community.
During the last WMC meeting, one point that both Aimee Nelson and Jenny Andrews was made is our common identity. Before all things we are Christian women, daughters of the King. This is our common unity.
I can eat, drink, and remember how Christ changed my life… regardless of what food is on my plate or drink fills my cup. I can do this at a table in a local café, or the home of a new friend. To sit and break bread with a fellow believer sharing our testimonies with one another is a blessing beyond measure. Regardless of our skin color or backgrounds, we love the same God.
It can be difficult to facilitate change in a ministry where many area already accustomed to certain events. We cannot facilitate change if we do things the same way we have always done. Yet, if you change everything you may bring in new faces and your women already invested may leave, which doesn’t help bring people together either. Change is hard. However we can begin to implement change in smaller measures.
What if I invited a worship singer from a local African American church to sing for the worship portion of our brunch?
What if I went to a local, family owned, ethnic restaurant and catered in dinner for our next guest speaker?
What if our next speaker was born in another country?
What if our next keynote speaker at our retreat was a woman rescued from sex trafficking?
What if our next Bible Study was written by an African American author or a woman from another country?
What if we began a series of events where we brought in women from various ethnic churches in our community to learn more about who they are, what their ministry goals are, and how we can help?
You don’t have to dismantle and rebuild a ministry to bring change via a total overhaul. You can begin to take small steps, over time.
Eat, drink, and remember…
we are all precious in His sight.
Panel Moderator: Gena McCown Panel Contributors: Jenny Andrews, Aimee Nelson
PLEASE NOTE: We allowed questions to be submitted anonymously. We made the decision to read the question as it was written, we were not going to adjust the questions at all. This kept our session authentic. We all agreed to receive the questions with grace, and good intentions. However, the answers may have been adjusted as this is a learning opportunity.
The first question was missed, which was what is the correct terms to refer to people of other races/ethnicities. The answer begins with the uniqueness we have in S. FL as we are an entry point and home to many first generation immigrants. In S. FL. African American does not apply to everyone who has dark skin. The audio carries on the answer defining the various ethnicities we encounter in S. FL and the rest of the questions.
Unfortunately we were moved outside for the meeting, which inhibited our ability to video the panel, and hit the audio with some unexpected noises. Praise God we have this to share with those who couldn’t attend.
We have decided that this subject is going to be continued in future discussions.
It can be hard to come to terms with a subject that is just completely outside of your scope of understanding. To have someone think less of you for nothing more than the color of your skin, or your country of origin. To be treated as less than, to have lower expectations on your ability, or marginalized by how you look before someone even takes the time to get to know you.
Something else that is also hard is a willingness to call out sin for what it is, especially when it a sin you don’t want to admit is still present. Even more so when that sin is being committed by yourself or others you know, particularly when you know that they are a good person. From tasteless jokes to out right discrimination, we must come to terms with the fact that racism still exists in our country. Yes, there are areas in the country that are more progressive than others. There are people who have fought for civil rights in the past, and those who are still doing so today, because they believe in equality for all people.
Yet, there are still places where racism exists in very blatant ways. Many more where racism is far more subtle. If we call racism what it is, SIN… then we know exactly what we are supposed to do with that sin. Which is tackle it head on. It can be far easier to justify someone’s sin, by pointing out a persons checkered past or giving a good person a pass for an inappropriate joke. Jesus never gave sin a pass. Nor should we.
As our eyes become more open to the wounds that have not healed, we feel conviction over our thoughts and words. We make the effort to change ourselves, to influence those around us. For others, and for any number of reasons, their eyes are still covered by scales. They can not see the sin, and as leaders we have a responsibility to not allow sin to go unchecked.
What are some practical ways you can be apart of change in your life, Women’s Ministry, Church, and community? To confront sin, we must identify it and then actively work against it.
Leaders from Women’s Ministries in St Lucie, Martin, and Palm Beach Counties gathered for a special Women’s Ministry Council event. We began a conversation about race, diversity, and unifying our ministries and churches. This conversation is just the beginning, and we are going to continue working through this topic through articles and future meetings.
One of the overwhelming themes from this event was that if we want to be a part of a movement of change in our ministries, we must being within our own life. As ministry leaders, the practical steps are more obvious. Broaden the authors of your Bible studies to women from various ethnicities, as well as the speakers you hire for your brunches or retreats. Make sure you invite women to serve on the Women’s Ministry team that represent all the cultures in your church. Partner up with churches of other cultures for events or come together for a fellowship event.
Making changes in our personal life is a bit harder. It means stepping out of our own comfort zone. Have you invited someone of another ethnicity to your home for dinner or coffee? Are you reading authors or following influential speakers who are from another culture than you are? Have you made an effort to learn more about the other cultures who make up the community you live in?
If you have made efforts to build bridges between the various cultures in your community, we’d love to hear what you have done!