The Women We Serve

The WomenWeServe

When speaking with Women’s Ministry Leaders, a very common concern is reaching a particular demographic of women.  In a church that has predominantly older women, they will desire to reach young mothers.  In a church that has a larger number of younger women (married, unmarried, kids, no kids), there is a desire to reach the older women.  More stay at home moms?  They are trying to reach the working moms.  There is a desire to be inclusive of all the women in the church, but not always the knowledge on how to do so.

The first practical change you can make begins by really knowing WHO are the women in your church, community.  Using a service like Survey Monkey or Facebook Polls in your Women’s Ministry Facebook Group (or the church page), you can put together a simple survey of less than 10 questions.  At this point it is about getting an overall picture, versus knowing each woman’s life details.   

You may want to include basic questions, such as:

  • Marriage Status:  single, married, divorced, widowed
  • Parenting Status:  single parent, co-parenting, married with kids, grandparents raising their grandchildren, foster parents, adoptive parents, step parent or blended family, military family, etc.
  • Employment Status:  full time, part time, work at home, unemployed
  • Age, either specific answer or within a range 18-29, 30-39, etc.

If you are a large church, where certain statistics are not as obvious, you may want to dig deeper.

  • Ethnicities represented in the church.
  • Education level, may be a good time to ask about formal biblical education.
  • Of the parents, how many use public school, private school, or homeschool.

In addition to this information there may be other specific questions you want to ask.  If you are a non-denominational church… you may be interested in knowing the denominational backgrounds of your women.  You may wish to know how many years they have been a Christian.  All of these questions give you a very broad overview of who you are serving, so that you can serve them better.

The second practical thing you can do, as a ministry leader, is to build a team that reflects the finding of your survey.   If you have a mixture of older and younger women in your church, so should your team.  If you have a mixture of ethnicities in your church, the ministry team should reflect that mixture.  Once you have added these women to your team you will benefit by:

  1.  Their perspective.  While certainly one woman can not speak for that entire demographic, having at least one person from that group helps key us in when planning on how our ideas impact each of the groups we serve.
  2. Their presence.  Not only does it send a message to the entire body that the ministry is inclusive, the presence of these differing women will help your leadership team broaden their own personal circles.
  3. Their influence.  When these differing women become a part of the planning process, they take ownership in the events.  Because of that ownership, especially if the event was their suggestion, they will want to ensure the success of the event.  This means the women are going to make sure to invite, and encourage to attend, the women in their circle of influence.

You cannot please all of the people, all of the time.  A healthy women’s ministry CAN please some of the people, some of the time.  A diverse ministry team, creates a diverse ministry calendar, that reaches the diverse group of women we serve in the church and the community.

A Treatise on Discipleship By Trish Jones

“Vestiges of Vestal” (Do I have to have big hair?)”

This comment is going to date me, big-time – to the point where some of you might not even know to whom I am referring. But – I always wanted to look like Vestal Goodman.

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Internationally known as the Queen of Gospel Music, Vestal was a bigger-than-life, this-is-who-I-am-take-me-or-leave-me Southern belle. At Southern Gospel concerts, she easily commanded center stage with her gravelly voice, her ever-present hanky, and her flamboyant and flowing pant suits.

I loved those pant suits. I loved her style. I wasn’t a huge fan of her music, but I used to wish I could be more like her, or at least who she appeared to be. Unashamed of her size or her larger-than-life personality, Vestal Goodman was a “presence.”

So, for awhile, I tried to be a Vestal mini-me; right down to the Texas-sized big hair, five inches high and lacquered stiff enough to hold its shape in a downpour. I searched high and low for big-legged, flowered pants suits with long tunics in vivid colors. Found a few, too. I didn’t go quite so far as the hanky, but I did start quite a collection of chunky costume jewelry – something I’m known for to this day.

I watched what she did, what she wore, and how she acted, and did my level best to copy her mannerisms and her style. I was naturally a shy, lonely, and fearful introvert – but if I could convince myself to take on the public persona of Vestal Goodman, I could pretend to be someone I wasn’t. I learned to act like her, at least some of the time.

What I couldn’t have told you then – and still couldn’t until I Googled the singer’s biography – were the details of her life. Where she was born (Alabama) – how many children she had (two) – when she died (2003) – and that she battled an addiction (to prescription pain-killers after a fight with cancer). In other words, I didn’t know many real facts about, or was a true student of Vestal Goodman – I just tried to copy what I saw.

I was an admirer; a copycat; and a hypocrite. What I wasn’t – was a disciple.

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Discipleship. That’s a buzz word in today’s church, and in our women’s ministries – but what does it really mean? Perhaps more importantly, what does the process of discipleship look like? How do we do it? Do we just find someone in our circle of friends and church family who looks like they may “have it all together” and try to mimic what they do?

Well, let’s see. They seem to be fairly regular in church attendance and they’re part of a Life Group. My life gets a little crazy at times, but I can probably do better at being more faithful in my church attendance. Check that box.

I know they study the Bible, I’ve heard them talk about their quiet time. I’ve not been very successful at that, but I’ll try harder. Go find a good devotional book for women, get up 15 minutes earlier, and spend time with God. Check that box.

They seem to be always smiling and know so many people! I don’t really know anyone here, and I’m too nervous to try and reach out to strangers. Well, some of us are just introverts and that’s okay. I’ll pass on that one.

I know she does some volunteer work with some ministry to the homeless, and I’ve heard her share the Gospel with a waitress when we were at the same restaurant. I’m not comfortable doing any of that, but maybe I can give a little more money to missions. Check.

Of course, I’m still struggling with my unsaved husband, and I’m terrified that my teen-aged daughter is having sex with her boyfriend, and I’m tired and depressed and frightened most of the time, but I don’t dare share that with anyone, they all seem like they can handle anything. I’ll just do what she does and try harder and maybe then God will give me what I need to get through this life.

Check. Out.

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So. “Discipleship.” What is it? Is it just observing someone and trying to copy what you see? That, by itself, would be a daunting task. Is that enough?

Go deeper. In Christianity, who is a disciple? Are there two (or more) levels in Christianity; the first being a simple convert who stops there, and the second being a stage two Christian who learns more; and perhaps the third being a disciple-maker? (By the way, the Biblical answer is “no!”)

In passages like Acts 11:26 and Acts 14:21, the Bible is clear: disciples are Christians. No stages, no levels. Anyone who is a Christian, who embraces Jesus as Lord and Savior, is a disciple.

In what is known as the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19,20 Jesus gave his followers clear commands: “Go therefore and make disciples.” How? “Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

John Piper comments: That is a very long process. That is like a lifetime of process. So get them converted. Baptize them. And then spend a lifetime teaching them to obey all that Jesus said. That is what the verb “disciple” in the New Testament would include. People need to become Christians and people need to be taught how to think and feel and act as a Christian.”

So the question rises again: “how?”

The Apostle Paul had a visitor while he was under house arrest in Rome. Epaphras, the teaching elder of the church at Colossae, was seeking Paul’s advice on how to steer his church clear of false teachings that were threatening to undermine their faith in the sufficiency of Jesus. Paul answered the pastor’s questions by writing a letter to the general body of believers and leaders of this church the apostle had neither founded nor visited.

He wanted to make it abundantly clear that Jesus was enough – in all circumstances, for all seasons of life, and in the face of all assaults, questions, and ridicule.

This is part of Paul’s answer – to them and to us:

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.  For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,  in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 1:27-2:3 ESV)

There’s so much in this passage, but the complete exegesis isn’t what I’m after right now. Paul has given us an outline of discipleship – what it is and how to do it – whether on a one-to-one mentoring basis, or in a group setting. The apostle concisely lays out the who, what, when, where, why and how of discipleship.

Who (are we disciples of): Jesus Christ. In us. The hope (certainty) of glory. The Treasure of all wisdom and knowledge.

What (are we to do):

1. We proclaim Jesus; we declare, announce, preach him publicly – who he is, why he has come.

2. As we preach Jesus, we also warn; we admonish, we caution everyone – he is the only Truth. Don’t be led astray by other teachings, false Messiahs, or difficult circumstances.

3. As we proclaim Jesus, we teach him; we impart instruction, instill doctrine, with all wisdom – in other words, how to apply what we teach about Jesus. What difference does knowing him make in our lives?

When (do we disciple): The verb tenses in the Greek in this passage make it abundantly clear; the process of proclaiming, warning and teaching is an ongoing, ever-present action. When do we disciple? All the time, at every opportunity.

Where (do we disciple): Everywhere we may be (for example, in a Roman prison) and to everyone we can reach by any means – even those who have not seen us face-to-face. Wherever God has given us a sphere of influence; there we make disciples.

Why (do we disciple): To present (bring near into fellowship) every believer mature and fully complete in Christ; so that their hearts may be encouraged (in the midst of a dark and confusing world), bound together in love; richly assured in understanding and knowing Jesus Christ – in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

How (do we disciple): We labor to the point of weariness; we work hard; we struggle; in fact, we agonize in the entire process of discipleship – but – with his dynamic energy which so powerfully works within us!

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Let’s go back to the Vestal mini-me. Or to those women you catch sight of at church every so often, who smile nervously at you as they hurry past after service, or stand against a wall in the crowded lobby before church service, looking vaguely uncomfortable. Take it from one who has been there, done that: they are longing for, looking for, connection and community. While they may not use the word or even know what it means – they are searching for a disciple-maker. A friend, a sister, to come alongside them and teach them about Jesus; teach them (in Piper’s words) “how to think and feel and act as a Christian.”

And that difficult, challenging, sometimes agonizing process is God’s calling on every believer’s life – no exceptions. That’s discipleship. And that’s our purpose as women of God and daughters of the King.

“For this (we) toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within (us).” (Colossians 1:29).

As in everything else in our walk with our Lord, he supplies all things needed to fulfill his plans and purposes in and through our lives – for the glory of his Name and the expansion of His Kingdom.

Let’s get to it.

In the Beginning

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Mankind, made in the image of God.  Not some, but the first man… and all that have come after him.  Image bearers.  

Not made in image of one another.  Not made in lesser quality duplicates down the line.  Each precious to the potter who formed us in the womb, knitting us together, numbering our hairs, calling us by name before we were even a thought.

These image bearers made to rule over creation, not each other.  Oh sin, how you slithered your way into garden… setting up a wave of destruction that would fall upon generations to come.  

Woman made in His image, she the helpmeet and partner… not less than.

Blessed, commissioned to multiply.  Not some, but all.  There was no limit set on who could multiply, it was a blessing to His image bearers.  Oh sin, how you tainted that union and how to try to diminish His children.

Great Protector,

There has been a war on your creation since the beginning.  The moment the apple was bitten, there was enmity in the world.  Lord, we ask for your protection from all the forces that divide.  The lies that tell us that our worth, value, identity is found in anything other than you.  The lies that try and convince us that some have greater value, worth, or purpose than others.  For Your word assures us that in Christ there is neither Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female… but all are one.  Each given gifts, callings, and blessings appointed to them by the Holy Spirit to use in your service.  None greater, all yours.  Protect us, Lord.  From those who seek to harm us.  Protect us, from the schemes of the Devil.  Surround us on all sides, going before us and coming behind us; as we walk in your justice, grace, and righteousness.

We stand in victory, and pray these things in Your precious name.

Amen.

Has Much Really Changed?

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Ecclesiastes tells us that there is nothing new under the sun.  So true.  Hate, prejudice, bigotry, racism… it is not new.  Sin is not new.  Ecclesiastes also tells us that was has been done, will be done again.  We should bear not surprise that these sins still run rampant.

This picture, was taken in 1992.  Twenty five years ago.  I look at it and I see Charlottesville 2017.  Things really haven’t changed that much, not in the heart.  But the boldness, perhaps has displayed itself in unprecedented ways.  The hoods, cloaks, and shadows are withdrawn, sin is exposed.

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For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. ~Luke 8:17 

Sin is out in the open, and with it has come a reckoning.   Parents and friends are seeing faces splashed across the news, their children and loved ones displaying their hate for the world to see.  Those secret things hidden in hearts are being confirmed as sin stares us in the face, desiring to make us meek and hide in response.  But let us not be meek, but BOLD as we stand up for what it good, honorable, holy, and righteous.

Creator God,

We pray that these wearisome things, that weigh us down… that seem too big or frightening to tackle down, let us see them diminished in to the shadow of your greatness.  Your word is true, that which has will be again.  We cling to that as a promise that Jesus will come again and overcome sin and death, destruction and division; standing victorious over his foe.  Lord, we ask for you to protect the eyes, ears, and hearts of the little children so that they may not be turned by the words of hate that others teach them.  Let them find joy, peace, love, and goodness in You.  May they have eyes to see, the way you see.  May they look upon all of your people, regardless of the color of their skin as sister and brother, created in the imagine of our Precious Father.  Bind the serpent that hisses in their ears, for he will be crushed once again.  Sin was here before my time, our time… but our future remains.  For you know the plans you have made for us, that is the future we await… waiting and yet praying LORD JESUS COME!

In this darkness, let us be light.  In a sea of hate, let us be love.  In a crowd of fists, let us be an embrace.  Let our churches and homes become a city on a hill, refuge for those who need safety, a fortress against oppressors, and a battle ground of prayer.

In Christ’s holy name we pray,

Amen.

 

Pause to Pray

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As a ministry, our core mission is rooted in unity among leaders… churches… community.  We take unity, a value, incredibly seriously.  It is threaded into every decision we make, direction we step.

As a ministry, we stand against any form of racism and hatred.  As one can not be united when racism divides, when hatred divides.

As a ministry, we do not support any movement or organization that would cause division among people or results in a threat to life, welfare, or wellbeing of those whom God loves.  His Word tells us, in John 3:16 that God so loved the WORLD.  Not part of the world.  Not some people in the world.  But the world, in its entirety.  All nations, tribes, and tongues.

As a ministry, we are on bended knee praying for the Lord’s protection and provision over those who find themselves in the wake of hatred, bigotry, and racism.  For our women who are affected by these images, know that we are praying for you and your family as you come to terms with the events of this weekend.

We will not stand for this.  We will use our voice in any way we can to help you, defend you, love on you.  Tell us how we can be FOR you and stand AGAINST this atrocious sin.

Budgeting Event Recap #2 of 3

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Wouldn’t it be lovely if we received an email tomorrow morning from the finance committee that the church was granting our ministries and unlimited budget?  Oh the things we could do, the Kingdom work we could accomplish!  However, that is highly unlikely to happen.  Funds are limited, there are many ministries that need financial support, and plenty of people in need.

What do you do when your budget is zero (or not enough)?

You have a couple of options.

  1. Request a budget.  You can request a flat budget amount from the church, to work within.  Or, you can type up a formal budget request which details your ministry plans and the costs to accomplish those plans.
  2. Request a budget increase.  If you already have a budget to work with, but you need an increase, you must request additional funds by identifying your needs for these additional funds (amount, purpose, etc).
  3. Fundraise the gap.  If you have zero budget from the church, or need an increase, and the Finance Committee doesn’t approve your request you can fundraise the needed funds (or the difference) in order to ensure your ministry plans move forward.

Ministry budgets are one of the reasons why I am personally a fan of having a ministry vision and plan.  You need to know what your ministry is doing, and what the costs will be, in order to request funds from the church.

Start with What You Have

A zero dollar budget may not seem like much to start out with, but you would be surprised by the assets you have in the church.  If you can use the space, tables, chairs… that is a start.  Can your borrow seasonal décor to decorate the tables with?  Can you utilize a woman in the church to share her testimony versus paying a speaker?  Do you really need a sweet little gift to send home with each woman.  Are there women in the church who don’t mind using their gifts to sew table runners for you or craft centerpieces?  What do your women have sitting in their garages and hall closets that could be donated to the ministry?  If you don’t have a plan, you don’t know what you need, and if you don’t know what you need… you will never know what you actually have.

Practical Tip:  Come up with a list of things you need or want for the ministry and post it onto your facebook page (personal, church, or ministry) and see what people have lying around.

Track Measurable Growth

Finance Committees or the Pastors who oversee the budget are charged with being good stewards with the church funds.  Therefore they want to see that the ministry is a value to the church and community and worthy of support.  This means that not only do they need to know what you are spending money on, and how much, but also the why.  Why are you having this event, what is the outcome.  They also want to know the who.  Who is growing from these events.  Are we seeing numerical growth as women transition from guests at events to Sunday morning attendees, and plugging into small groups?  Are we seeing spiritual growth, as the women in the church are being baptized or becoming small group/ministry leaders?

Practical Tip:  At the services following brunches or fellowship events, make sure to have a booth set up for your ministry.  Instruct guests at the event to stop by the booth that weekend if they come to services.  You’ll have a free gift for them.  Whether the gift is a .25 cent scripture bracelet or a $2 devotional booklet, you now have trackable inventory.  You can report to whomever oversees your ministry the number of guests who ended up at services too.  Instruct your small group leaders to inquire our new members found out about their group.

Zero Budget Does Not Equal Zero Money

There may not be enough money in the church budget to create a line on the annual budget for your ministry.  But that doesn’t mean there are no funds available to be used by your ministry.  If you are planning an outreach event, your church may already have a budget for outreach programs you can draw from.  Ask.  If you are hosting an event (like a retreat) and you will be taking payments, but need a down payment… ask.  The church may have available funds to provide the deposit so long as you reimburse the budget once the tickets are sold.  If you already have an approved budget and an unexpected opportunity presents itself, ask.  There may be funds that can be shifted from another area in the budget, or you may be able to receive a special one time increase.

Practical Tip:  If you need a budget to start with, or just additional funds, don’t forget to ask about fundraising.  Can you fundraise?  What restrictions or boundaries are on those fundraisers?  

Thursday, we’ll finish up this recap on our Budgets and Fundraising event with some practical tips on how you can stretch your ministry budget.

Event Recap – Budgets & Fundraising

 

Would you believe me if I told you we had a great meeting in July on budgets and fundraising?  That we could talk money is good and practical ways, getting in a laugh or two, and even benefitted from those who also had ideas to share in regards to ministry budget?

If you can’t believe it, you should… because it was an amazing meeting.  Thanks to Crossway Publishers, all of our women brought home a sample chapter of Chasing Contentment, and BH Publishing provided beautiful scripture magnets featuring Romans 14:19.  I loved this scripture because it speaks to exactly what we do as a ministry.

Peace.  Unity.  Building up one another.

Over the last few years we have given away some great books to our leaders, and we had a small stash of leftovers.  We used this as an opportunity to let the women grab a title they may have missed in the past.

Over the next few days, we’ll recap the highlights from this training event.

piggybanksWe’re going to begin with identifying some of the most common mistakes we make in regards to budgeting.  These are most common mistakes among ministries that are self funding versus receiving any budget from the church.  It is important to recognize these mistakes, understand why they are considered mistakes; so that we can move forward into the future with a better grasp on the importance tracking our spending.

5 Common Ministry Budget Mistakes:

  1. Failure to Keep Track of Ministry Spending:  If you hope to have a ministry budget in the future, you need to know what you are spending today.  Whether the money comes from a church budget or through donations made by the ministry team, we must keep track of our current spending in order to prepare for future spending.  
  2. Plan Events Without Considering the Budget:  Quite often as we plan events, someone will volunteer to purchase that item and count it as an offering to the church.  This is problematic for several reasons.  First, we can exceed our intended budgets without even realizing it.  Second, we can get too comfortable assuming that others will fill the gaps in our budget needs.  Third, as leaders of a ministry we are called to be good stewards of the funds we have been trusted with.  
  3. Not Reporting Ministry Expenses to Pastor/Finance Committee:  Many Pastors or Finance Committees may be entirely unaware of the cost of running your ministry.  They may not be aware that potluck luncheons still have expenses from childcare, speakers, and to materials distributed.  Just because you have not been given an official budget, or have raised the funds to fill in the gaps, doesn’t mean you don’t need to share these expenses with your overseers.  A quick report on your annual ministry expenses may open up the conversation for a budget or budget increase in the future.  If your spending exceeded the given budget, make sure to include how you filled the funding gap (fundraiser, anonymous patron, etc.).
  4. Assuming that No Budget Means No Money:  Just because you are not given an annual budget doesn’t automatically mean that there are no available funds.  You may be able to make a special request for specific events, purposes.  Additionally, your need may cross over into another budgeted area.  If you were planning a community outreach event, the church may have funds available in their outreach budget that can be funneled toward your event.
  5. Your Ministry Lacks Vision/Direction:  It can be tempting to plan your events month by month, however that is counter productive to budgeting.  Churches budget for an entire year, if you want to be included in the budget there must be a plan for the ministry.  You are more likely to get your ministry budget approved if you have planned for how you are going to spend it.  It is especially important to show that your ministry plans are part of the vision of the church versus working independently.  A planning session for budgeting should include determining the number and types of events you will have over the course of the year and what your anticipated costs are.

On Monday, we are going to dive into the budget topic more specifically.  Be sure to check back in!