What is Your Focus?

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Not that long ago, I was speaking with a woman who serves on her church Women’s Ministry team.  She shared with me that at a previous planning meeting, she was frustrated as they spent over 30 minutes trying to decide on the color of the napkins.

As part of my attempts to stay abreast of what happens in Women’s Ministry, I’ve joined various social media groups for Women’s Ministry leaders.  In my observations I notice a lot of backwards planning.   It starts with a catchy theme or pinterest worthy decor plan, and then they begin searching for the verse or topic that fits the theme.  Speakers are lined up to deliver a topic, but no one knows what will be said.  

Instead of starting in the Word, in prayer, and with God… they are beginning with decorations and trying to figure out how to put God into it.  It should not be this way at all. 

We would never dare to make the icing and decorations without first having a cake in mind.  Yes, while the cake is baking, we can begin working on the frosting and planning out the details of how the cake will be finished.  BUT, all that work is for naught if we forget to bake the cake.  In fact, we can’t even decide what kind of icing we need without knowing the type of cake first.

What if we began the process with:

  1. Prayer – ask the Lord to put a message, topic, or verse on your heart for your next ministry event.
  2. The Word – take the time to go through the Scriptures related to the message or topic, or to study the verse the Lord gives you in context.  
  3. Topic – once you have a clear topic/verse, then create a name for your event (if needed) that expresses the topic so that women know what to expect.
  4. Details – finally, create the hospitality details that will accompany your topic/message.

A great Women’s Ministry event can deliver the message, while you are seated in the sanctuary.  The table cloths and centerpieces, favors and games, and the atmosphere are the icing on the cake.  It does convey a message to your guests that they are welcome and loved, so long as that message doesn’t overwhelm the true message… The Gospel.

Don’t forget to register for #LeadHer2018 !  Seating is limited and we anticipate the event will sell out.  $79 includes a continental breakfast at arrival, plated lunch, and all conference materials.  And, we have some amazing things in store thanks to some soon to be announced sponsors.

October 6, 2018 in Hobe Sound, FL.  Click through the graphic for more information:

Add _God is within her, she will not fall._Psalm 46_5(89)

Ministry Spotlight: MOPS International

 

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This month, across the country and in many parts of the word, mothers of presechoolers are gathering at local churches for fellowship, support, encouragement, resources, and relationships.  An exciting facet is that Jesus is always invited too.

When my husband and I relocated to a new city, over an hour away, we didn’t know a single person here.  At that time we had an 8 year old and a 4 year old… however within just a few months I found out our third was on the way.  We were still trying to find a church home, our neighborhood didn’t have any other families with young children, and I was so very alone.   My first thoughts were:  “I need to find a MOPS group”.

I was already familiar with MOPS from my previous city and I knew that finding a local group would be a great way for me to meet people in my community that were in the same stage of life.  I also knew that MOPS groups were made up of women from various churches, which gave me an opportunity to be a part of a group while we were still searching for our home church.  For me, MOPS was a way to plug into community.

Over the last 17 years, I have watched women come to MOPS for many reasons.  What I also saw was how much MOPS became an avenue that led women and their families into the church.  MOPS Moms would sign their kids up for VBS.  The next year they were signing up as VBS volunteers.  They would trickle into family or kids events at the church, and then you would begin to see them at church on Sunday mornings.

There were some moms who ended up staying in our MOPS group, but their families would attend a church closer to their home.  Some would even start MOPS groups in their new church home.  MOPS is a blessing to both the mothers who are served and the churches in which they become part of the community.

Many communities, like our own, have MOPS groups with waiting lists because they’ve reached maximum capacity.  MOPS is one of those ministries, that in my opinion, you simply can’t have enough of.  Staring a MOPS group is an easy process that begins with the desire to serve our mothers with preschool aged children.

If you are interested in starting up a MOPS group in your church and community, visit their website or speak with another local MOPS leader.

 

 

A Heart of Worship

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We are excited this weekend to have a new speaker at one of events.  Sheila Thomas is going to be sharing with our local leaders about the importance of having worship as part of our Women’s Ministry events.

Do you put much thought, as a Women’s Ministry Leader about incorporating worship into your events?  Whether you are choosing a formal worship event, that is all about singing songs of praise and thanksgiving, or having a few minutes dedicated to opening an event in worship… here are a few quick thoughts to consider.

Events tend to be a place where we feel very comfortable inviting guests.  These guests may not be familiar with old hymnals, your church’s go-to song list, or even what is being played on local Christian stations.  Therefore:

  • Look for songs that are easy and do not have complex melodies that are hard to follow.
  • Select songs that use more common vocab words vs. “Christianese”, so that our guests understand what it is they are singing.
  • Print out the lyrics or have the lyrics displayed on a projection screen for those who are unfamiliar, never assume people have memorized the lyrics to a common song or can follow along.
  • Even though women do tend to naturally sing at a higher octave than men, consider the untrained voice may have difficulty with high notes and use them sparingly.
  • Consider the theme of your event, the emotion you want to evoke from the women, and select songs that fit the theme or desired response well.
  • Don’t be afraid to bring in a male worship leader for a women’s event.
  • If your church worship team is taxed for time already, consider using someone from the body who has this gift but can’t commit to the regular schedule of the worship team.  There may also be someone from your youth group that could lead worship.
  • Contact local Christian Colleges with music programs for potential worship leaders.   Many of these colleges require volunteer hours of their students, and leading worship may count.  This is a win for the student, to gain more hours.  It’s a win for the ministry too, as it helps offset budget concerns.  Make sure to ask the college if you are allowed to compensate the student for travel time/expenses or give a monetary thank you gift even though they are volunteering.
  • Consider balance in the planning stages regarding how much time you want to allot for worship songs, where in the course of the program do you want to utilize them (beginning, throughout, ending).

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Many thanks to Ligonier Ministries and their magazine “Table Talk“, for gifting the women in attendance this weekend a copy of their back issue Worship Matters“.  It is a great addition to our speakers thoughts on why we need to incorporate worship in to our programs.  It’s a valuable resource on a beautiful topic.

Small Group Series – Q & A

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By Gena McCown, Co-Founder Women’s Ministry Council

We’ve come to the end of our series, however this series couldn’t possibly answer or address every question or need on the subject.  We are going to close this series by answering questions that were submitted earlier in the series, and hopefully in doing so … we’ll fill the gaps.

Q:  What is the difference between a Small Group, Life Group, Adult Sunday School, and Bible Study?  Do we need them all, and if so why?

A:   To a certain extent, it really is semantics.  In many churches these terms are interchangeable,   Small Groups and Life Groups are especially.  Generally speaking, Small Groups and Life Groups are intentional groups of church members (usually under 12 people) that are “going through life” together.  They may study the bible, a helpful book, or even weekly topical studies together.  The purpose of the group is spiritual growth, relationship building, and accountability.  Bible Studies and Adult Sunday School, are more akin to traditional models of group study.  They are generally larger, and stick to scriptural study.  This may be in the way of expository (line by line exploration of the scriptures) or using printed Bible Study curriculum.    Over the years, the lines have smudged a bit and Bible Study Groups may elect to study a helpful book, or a small group may grow into a “large group”.   I believe they all share the same goal for spiritual growth, although small groups and life groups create more relationships building opportunities.

Q:  How do I get people to sign up for my Small Group?

A:  There are a few ways to get interest built in your small group.  First, I think we need to do a better job of talking up our small groups before the official sign up period.  This also includes making sure that we are clear about the details, date… time… place… number of weeks… childcare… cost… etc.  Bring it up among your friends, post it on your facebook page, etc.  In the churches we should also make a purpose to highlight small groups leading up to the signs ups with intro videos playing between services, information in the church lobby, etc.   

Second, personal invitation is a great way to bring people into the fold, it tells the women you encounter that you want to get to know them better or would like to share this experience of growing in faith with them.  One thing that can happen (it’s happen to me personally) is that as life groups grow and leaders are developed your personal circle of friends may become life group leaders.  You can actually run out of women to invite, because you don’t know them.  This means you need to get intentional about meeting new women in the church.  

Third, we have to remember the saying “out of sight, out of mind”.  Many people have the intention of signing up for small groups & will forget.  It is important that when we are announcing small groups at church or a women’s event that we have a way for them to sign up immediately.  A kiosk in the lobby that directs to a digital sign up or an old fashioned table with clipboards set up in the lobby, either are great ways to get the women to sign up before they get home and life gets in the way.  Another option is a Small Groups Kick-off Brunch.

Q:  How do we fund our small groups?

A:  If small groups are part of the church vision, then when it comes to the purchasing of leader materials (video, leader guide, etc) this is an investment the church or Women’s Ministry makes.  Then, each participant can purchase their own workbook.  Many publishers off bulk discounts on materials that could save the participants money, but this requires collecting the $ in advance or the church purchasing materials that may go unused if the sign up is less than expected.  I suggest picking a publisher that has a good array of materials, so that you can build an account and relationship with that publisher. 

Present your small group menu well in advance for your church members to sign up, and take payment when they sign up.  This allows you to only order the materials you need.  People who have paid at the time they sign up are more likely to stick through the commitment as well.  Then, when the Small Group meets for the first time, you can distribute their books.    This also helps your leaders know exactly how many people to plan for.   When we allow people to sign up, and then purchase their own workbook… we have no clue on who is actually going to follow through & show up.   When we require our Small Group leaders to fund the group themselves, we lessen the number of leaders who are going to volunteer to lead. 

If you are a small church, church plant, or a ministry independent of a church… funding the study may not be in the budget.  Then, as a Small Group leader consider dispersing the cost of the materials among everyone in the group.  $100 leader kid, $10 workbook… 10 women in the group, everyone pays $20.  Or if the church can budget $50 towards the leader kit, each woman pays just $15.    Also consider, if you are on a tight budget, video series where you don’t need the workbooks (or vice versa).  Share materials with other Small Group Leaders, or find a larger church you can establish a relationship with and borrow materials.  Or, teach an expository or weekly topical study that doesn’t require anything more than your bible.

Q:  How can I lead good discussions in our group vs. asking “what does this scripture say”? 

A:  I think discussion questions are a huge trip up for some small group leaders, which is why they like to purchase curriculum versus writing/teaching their own.  In this case, the leader guide generally has discussion question prompts in place and you are following a script.  I believe this is a great option for new leaders, because they can get their feet wet in the process of small group leading.  For seasoned leaders, what I suggest is to begin with the purpose you chose this particular study.  What is the goal, what do you hope the women achieve by completing this study independently and as a group.  Once you identify your goal for the study, you can then create questions that are going to move the women toward that goal.  Creating questions that gently guide them to the “ah-ha” moment.  In fact, this is why I strongly suggest having your goal in place before you even pick the study.  If you are picking a study because it’s popular, or “looks good”, there isn’t a goal in place.  Without a goal, you will struggle to come up with engaging questions.  With a goal first, you will find your questions are in place, and you select a study that helps answer those questions.

If you questions are not your thing, you can always ask someone else in your group to lead that portion.  I must admit, some people are just better at it than others.  You could even assign that task to multiple women in the study, each week a different person is tasked with writing the discussion questions.  Also, when you preview the material ahead of the group vs. watching it for the first time with them… take notes.  The points you thought were worth writing down can become the launching point of the questions you ask.

Q:  When should a Small Group be “OPEN”, “CLOSED”, or “DROP IN” in regards to attendance/members.

A:   There are only two Small Groups in which I think “DROP IN” is appropriate.  1st, is the very first week.  If someone isn’t certain if this particular study is something they want to commit to, allow them to drop in for the first session and view the introduction with the group.  2nd, is if your Small Group is a topical study that changes from week to week.  This allows the women to drop in only on the topics that interest them.  I love this option for seasoned believers or busy women who are trying to plug in but their schedule doesn’t allow for a long term commitment. 

Open Groups are great for big topics.  For example if you church offers Dave Ramsey Financial Peace as a Small Group, this is a perfect for Open Groups.  Expository or Book By Book Study Groups are also appropriate for Open Groups, as they are working through the scriptures.  Open Groups are great for new leaders who are leading their first small group, or leaders who are more interested in getting to know other women in the church.  Open Groups are important to have so that the women who attend your church have an opportunity to find their fit within a group of women vs. being thrust into a group where they can’t connect.

Equally, Closed Groups are also important to have in the church because these are the groups where deeper fellowship and accountability occur.  Most Closed Groups start that way, a group of women who decided to meet together as a Small Group.  However they are not advertising their group to the church, but letting you as the WM Leader know that they are part of a group.  Other Closed Groups start off as Drop In or Open Groups, that over time relationships began to form and they make the conscious decision to continue close the group to new members.  Closed Groups are important because the relationships that develop are deeper, there is accountability in this group, personal information begins to be shared, etc.  At this point it is important to protect that group by closing the group.  Then it is up to the leader and group to determine if, when, and who is added to the group. 

It is my belief that all three of these types of groups should be happening in your church.  Open Groups and Drop In Groups are the first stop usually for new members in the church, guests, etc.  This is where they can test the waters, get introduced to how small groups work, and find their fit.  Closed Groups are the ones where real relationships are developed, and I believe the long term goal for each woman in your church should be to move from an Open/Drop In Group to a Closed Group.  Our Small Group menus should be very intentional.

Q:  How Do I Refresh Interest After A Year?

A:  When interest starts to wane, the first question we need to really understand is WHY that happened.  Was the study too intense?  Too long?  Did we notice interest started to drop about half way through?  Or, did women disengage almost at the beginning?  Then we can move onto examining other possibilities.

If a study is too long, or too intense, it could just mean that the women need a break.  Either a literal break, taking a few weeks or months off.  Or, a break in the material itself and as a leader I need to find something a little bit lighter for our next round.   If we notice that somewhere between the beginning and middle, women were already disengaging… that is generally a good indicator that the study materials were lacking in some way.  Maybe the speaker on the video was not engaging, wasn’t understood, or the content seemed very dated.  It could be that the video was great, but the homework in between was monotonous or unchallenging.  On the other hand it could be that the homework was overwhelming.  I’ve experienced both.  This is why I stand firm on intentional small group study selections, we need to not just grab an interesting title off the shelf, but walk through it ourselves or seek suggestions from others.  You just never know what you are going to get.

If none of the above seems to be the case, my next suggestion is to ask the group.  Maybe their needs have changed, or it’s time to reevaluate the goal for the group.  If your goal as leader was to strengthen the marriages of your group members, and you have done six studies on a row relating to relationship building… maybe it’s time to mix it up.  Move to a study that actually is willing to talk about the physical aspects of marriage.  Has your group moved from young married couples to married couples with children.  Then it may be time to switch from studies on marriage to studies on parenting.  Talk to the group members and see what they want to study next.  If you’ve been leading expository studies on the Old Testament, maybe it’s time to take a jump forward to the Gospels for a bit.    Or, it may be time to bring in fresh faces and invite some new women to your closed group.  You may also need to consider that your group is ready to split, and begin leading their own groups.  Finally, you need to prayerfully consider if the Lord is prompting you to take a break.  It could be that you are entering a season of life where you are called to be the student. 

When interest wanes, something in the dynamic of the group isn’t working.  Once you have explored all of the questions about the form and function of the group, there are only technical questions left.  Such as… has our groups availability changed and we need to set a new day/time, has this group just met it’s purpose and it is time to disband entirely. 

Decor: One Time Investment, Long Term Return

 

 

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Many Women’s Ministries exist on a very small budget, and some are supported by the donations of the women who attend events or the leadership team.  It is very important to ensure that our limited funds are spent in a way that makes the most sense.  One area that can drain our ministry budget is decorating for ministry events.

When decorating tables for luncheons, many women’s ministries will use disposable plastic table cloths.  This option is favorable because the table cloths are inexpensive and do not require cleaning.  However, over a long term, this cost will add up.  Instead consider investing in white banquet table cloths that are made of cotton or linen.  They can be purchased inexpensively online via catering sites, at local membership club stores, ebay, and often you can find ones for sale on sites like craigslist that were purchased for a wedding and now they are unloading them.  To make the cloths last longer, white cloths allow for bleaching when stains arise.  Generally speaking these cloths only need to be laundered if there has been a spill.   You can also buy smaller table squares or plastic overlays to protect the larger portion of the white cloth.

For centerpieces consider a reusable base that you can customize inexpensively for each event theme.   Mason jars can be decorated with twine or ribbon, then used to hold candles, fresh flowers, and other decoratives.  Mason jars are inexpensive when bought new, and even less if you can find them at local second hand stores, garage sales, or you may find women in your church have some stowed away in cabinets.  A white candle in a glass hurricane is universal because it will go with any décor or theme.   My church purchased gold chargers from the local dollar tree, a small glass hurricane, and a white unscented candle for each table.  These are used for every event.  To help the centerpiece work with our theme, we will use decorations around the base of the hurricane.  Small Christmas ornaments, also from the dollar tree, were perfect for Christmas brunches.  In the fall, we have a bag of fabric leaves, pinecones, and small plastic pumpkins.  In the spring, the candle is exchanged out for fresh flowers.

Other considerations, if you have the storage space and facilities, would be to purchase plates, cups, and silverware that can be washed versus using disposable.  You can order them in bulk from restaurant supply stores.  A fun option is to purchase sets from local second hand stores, where each table has it’s own pattern, or mix and match for a shabby chic feel.

If you have women in the church who sew, you can enlist their help in sewing table cloths, runners, or table squares.  This is a great way to involve some of the older women in your church who may be unable to serve in other areas.   Providing the material and thread may be a lot less expensive than purchasing the items already made.  Pay attention for sales, clearance items, and closeouts.   This is also a great time to utilize store coupons!  Ask the women in the church if they are not going to use the coupon from a recent mailer to donate it to the ministry.

If your ministry budget doesn’t have the capacity to afford these investment pieces all at once time, don’t worry!  You can begin to purchase pieces slowly over time, utilizing the disposable items until you have built up your inventory.  Or, consider sharing your plan with women in the church & fundraise for it or just ask for the specific items.

 

 

Women’s Ministry: The Childcare Conundrum

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Whether you have a formal program for mother’s like Mother’s of Preschoolers, a variety of Bible Study groups, or your Women’s Ministry likes to host brunches … inevitably childcare becomes an issue.

  • Not enough volunteers.
  • Not enough budget to pay childcare workers.
  • Background checks are expensive.
  • Limited space in Sunday School rooms.
  • To feed or not to feed the children.
I have yet to speak with a Women’s Ministry team where this hasn’t been an issue at some point, if not currently.  Growing churches will often outgrow their Sunday School rooms or nurseries if there is a surge in births.  The more kids you have, the more childcare workers you are going to need.  For the safety of the children and for the church, more and more churches are requiring background checks of anyone working with children over the age of 16 -18.  This is an expense that the ministry may not be able to afford.  Many women’s ministries will share stories of volunteers who don’t show up at the last minute, leaving members of the ministry team to miss the event in order to properly care for the children.  However, paying for childcare workers (especially on top of paying for background checks) might eat up the entire event budget.
What do you do?
There are many churches that have opted to NOT offer childcare because it causes so many issues, and would prefer to avoid the headache.  However, this will virtually eliminate any of the single moms or women who have husbands who work odd hours from attending your events.  Yet, these are quite often the women who need to be reached the most.  Fellowship events may be the only time they get to mingle with other women who are believers.
  • Paid childcare workers are more reliable than volunteers.  If paying a childcare worker isn’t in your budget, consider charging or taking donations for childcare services for women’s events.
  • Offer childcare only to those who are truly in need.  To do this you can opt to not include it in the event publicity, but direct those who may have childcare concerns to speak with a WM team member.
  • To offset costs of childcare workers’ background checks, pool with other ministries in the church or neighboring churches.  You can split the costs of the background checks and share the approved list of workers.
  • Cut childcare expenses in half by utilizing paid childcare workers and volunteers.  Many churches have teens who need volunteer service hours for high school graduation or college applications.  Or, you may have a group of teens who receive funds for youth trips in exchanging for volunteering at the church.
  • If you know some of the women attending have teens that can serve as childcare workers, or tweens you can help your workers, ask mom to bring them along.  I find directly asking mom is far more effective than going directly to the teen.    (Volunteer or Paid)
Some other suggestions:
Partner with another Women’s Ministry team that has a schedule similar to your ministry.  If you always have a brunch on the 1st Saturday, and they have theirs on the 2nd Saturday…. your team could provide childcare for their event, and they could provide childcare at your event.
There are many different online services for babysitters that include background checks for their sitters as part of their service.  Baby sitters will list their experience, availability, and their rate of pay under their profile.  This may be an option, if you are comfortable hiring childcare workers that are not from within the church or personally recommended.
Another facet of childcare that can prove to be difficult is estimating how many childcare workers you need.  Consider having your mothers pre-register their children, even if the childcare service is free.  Then you are only securing the amount of childcare workers you actually need, but do be prepared for the couple of moms who didn’t know or forgot to register.
If the brunch is a potluck, considering having a few of the women’s ministry team members prepare dishes for the children instead of the brunch/luncheon itself.  Be sure to skip things that are known allergens, or to ask moms when they pre-register.
A final thought, for women’s ministries who have chosen NOT to offer any childcare for their events.  There are times where it just isn’t feasible to have childcare available, or despite our best efforts we just can’t get the workers (such as during holiday seasons).  If you are not going to provide childcare:
  • Give plenty of notice about the event.  Even if all the details are not secure yet, a simple “Save the Date” is enough to allow moms to begin planning for childcare needs on their own.
  • Provide a list of known baby sitters, and suggest moms’ pool together and hire two sitters, for one house, and the group brings their kids to that home for the duration of the event.
  • Plan women’s events during the same time the kids events are happening at church.  If the kids are having an Awanas meeting, you could have a special event nearby.
  • Some nearby churches may sponsor “Mom’s Days Out” programs periodically.  You can schedule your activity during this time frame, and only suggest these locations to the single moms.