Fishers of [Wo]men

fisherofmen

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.

thewheel

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?

  1. Collectively identify the needs in the community we serve.
  2. Check with other WM Leaders to determine which needs are already being served, need more help, or have not been addressed by the local church.
  3. Meet with your Pastor to determine if the church already has a focused need, that you can bring the WM under to address the women of that “need group”.
  4. If there isn’t a specific “need group” that your church is currently focused on, meet with your WM Team.  Pray that the Lord would help your team identify which need will become the WM focus.
  5. Connect to local ministries and organizations serving these need groups to determine how you can come along side their work.  Research online if there are national organizations already working in this area that you can partner with and introduce to your area.  Or, research online the ways you can begin to serve this need through your ministry directly.

 

 

Women’s & Men’s Ministries – Statistics

womenmensministry

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:

 

  • The typical U.S. Congregation draws an adult crowd that’s 61% female, 39% male. This gender gap shows up in all age categories.  (Some churches the % of female members can reach up to 70%)
  • On any given Sunday there are 13 million more adult women than men in America’s churches.
  • This Sunday almost 25 percent of married, churchgoing women will worship without their husbands. (Even if their husbands profess to be Christian)
  • Midweek activities often draw 70 to 80 percent female participants.

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.

 

  • Over 70 percent of the boys who are being raised in church will abandon it during their teens and twenties. Many of these boys will never return.
  • More than 90 percent of American men believe in God, and five out of six call themselves Christians. But only one out of six attend church on a given Sunday. The average man accepts the reality of Jesus Christ, but fails to see any value in going to 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?

  1. We should engage the women who are already attending.  We are starting to see the exodus of women, and we need to stop that in it’s tracks.  Create and support Women’s Ministries that are discipleship focused, out reaching into the community with the purpose of bringing women to Christ.  Encourage the women to attend regularly and support their husbands attendance and participation.
  2. We need to encourage the creation and development of a Men’s Ministry.  This may begin with a conversation with our own husbands.  Just because they start the ministry doesn’t mean they have to stay in the leadership.  I’ve seen women take over or begin a ministry with the goal of finding and developing the eventual leader… Pauls finding their Timothys.  If your husband is willing to help get if off the ground, you can offer up your ministry skills & experience to help him.  This is not only an investment into the Men’s Ministry but the Women’s Ministry… and the church.
  3. Think ahead and work directly with your Pastors on the occasions that your women will be absent from church.  If you are taking your women to a weekend long Women’s Retreat or Conference, have a plan in place with your Pastor and Children’s Pastor about ensuring that weekend has something special for the men and children.  A post church barbeque, special kids program, special speaker for the men, etc. are all ways to entice the men to attend in the women’s absence.
  4. Begin a movement of spiritual gifts testing in your church, where you are actively helping people to identify what their spiritual gift is and figure out where they can be plugged in to the church.  The statistics suggest that men need a reason to attend church, so let’s give them one.  The same for our women who may have one foot out the door, lets find a place to help them connect to the church in tangible ways.

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.

  • Our married women want their husbands to attend services.
  • Our children want their fathers to attend services.
  • Our single ladies want the single men in our community to be active members.
  • Our widowers need other men in the church that they can have community with.
  • Our older men need younger men in the church that they can mentor.

* All statistics are from http://churchformen.com/men-and-church/where-are-the-men/

Change Begins Within

dupanelpic3

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?

Some suggestions:

  • PERSONAL:  Go to a women’s event at a local church that is a different culture/ethnicity than your own.  LEADER:  Go as a WM Team.
  • PERSONAL:  Read Bible Studies, books, or attend an event where the speaker is from another culture/ethnicity than your own.  LEADER:  Use these materials in your church.  (I recommend Kristie Anyabwile, Trilla Newbell, Priscilla Shirer)
  • PERSONAL:  Attend local cultural festivals in your community.  LEADER:  Host a multi-cultural event at your church or in conjunction with other local churches.
  • PERSONAL:  Invite a woman from another culture out for coffee or to your home for lunch/dinner.  LEADER:  Invite a WM Leader from that church for lunch to talk shop, and see how you can partner together.
  • PERSONAL:  Intentionally build relationships with women of other cultures.  LEADER:  Intentionally build a women’s ministry team that is as diverse as your church.
  • PERSONAL:  Volunteer at a local culture church’s fundraiser or drop items off for their charity drives.  LEADER:  As a team, volunteer.
  • PERSONAL:  When a new friend of another ethnicity celebrates a birthday, send a birthday card and take the time to translate it into their native language (if they are fluent).  LEADER:  Send cards of encouragement or prayer to leaders at local churches, taking the time to translate it into their native language.  Google translate is a help, but I bet you can find a friend online/facebook that can help too.

If you have made efforts to build bridges between the various cultures in your community, we’d love to hear what you have done!

How Do I Reach – fill in the blank –

missing.jpg

Have you ever found yourself sitting in a Women’s Ministry team meeting and the words “I wish we could reach….” roll off your tongue?

Maybe you are try to reach the millennial women in your church, or it is the elder women you would like to engage in to Women’s Ministry… either way, whomever it is you want is not coming to your events.

Here are some thoughts to consider:

* Are you trying to reach a group, that does not want to be reached?  It is possible that the group you are working so hard to involve in your ministry has no interested in being a part of it.  For example, are you trying to get the young moms from your church to attend your Women’s Brunches and they never seem to show up.  If your church has an active and thriving MOPS ministry, then the women are already plugged into a “women’s ministry” that fits their needs better.  Your college aged women may find their needs are being suited in the Young Adult ministry, than in the Women’s Ministry.  If we can begin to consider this as a factor in why they are not coming, we can then stop chasing a group of people who are not interested, allowing us to focus on those who are. 

*  Are you scheduling events during a time that is less accessible to the group you are trying to reach?   If you have chosen to plan all of your Women’s Events on a Friday evening, you may alienate your elder women who perhaps can’t drive at night.  If you plan all of your events during the day on weekdays, you will alienate your working women.  One year, we were planning a women’s retreat.  None of the planning team had children who were in high school at the time.  Unbeknown to us, we had planned the retreat the same weekend as prom.  Many mom’s didn’t want to NOT be there for their child’s first prom night.  Consider that not only are there certain days or times that are bad in a general week, but there are also certain times of the year that are busier than others.

*  Are you in tune to what the needs and wants of the group you are seeking actually are?  If you have a Women’s Ministry Leader Team that looks just like you, same age, same stage of life, same interests… then all of your WM events are going to be inline with your likes and dislikes.  However, if you can build a WM Team that includes women from various age groups or stages in life a whole new world will open for you.  Instead of assuming they will find a particular activity interesting, or topic worth listening to, you have a person sitting there in the meeting who can give perspective.  If you can’t find any women of that group who are interested in being on the leader team, you can always ask if they wouldn’t mind being a sounding board or jotting down some ideas for you to work off of.

*  Are you, as a ministry team, clear on WHY you are trying to reach these women in the first place?  Are you pursuing them simply because they are never present?  Or, do you have a reason you want them at the events?  If you are seeking the elder women in your church because you want to start a mentoring program, fill the women in on this desire.  Perhaps if they understood you WANT them to come because they have a PURPOSE to be there… you’ll get a better turnout.

*  Have you been doing WM the same way for so long, that you haven’t accounted for new needs or desires by the women in the church?  Maybe it is time to retire your stand by activities and programs, and try something new.  Perhaps the women are not interested in 16 week Bible Study Small Groups, but would prefer full day retreats every couple of months?  Could they want less of the fluff and tradition of the past events and studies, because they really just want to get the point and the meat of the topic?  You may even find these newer generations of women are more interested in talking about the deeper things of God.

*  Have you considered it may be time to rethink HOW you are doing Women’s Ministry in your church?  Most WM have a fairly similar structure, a leader followed by someone who keeps track of finances, event planners, bible study leaders, etc.  Even if the titles in your ministry are a bit different, it is usually an assigned position based on a role they play or job that they do well.   Yet, that may not be what your church needs, as Women’s Ministry evolves. 

Today, I’d like to introduce you to a new structure concept some Women’s Ministries have adopted.  This ministry format has a main leader who oversees the whole ministry functions, and she should have a co-leader to assist her.   From there, the rest of the leaders are in charge of a particular age group.  The exact grouping of ages, I find, will be different based on your demographic.  Each age group will have a leader, assistant leader, and a few volunteers to help plan events for their age group.  Then throughout the year, there will be opportunities for all of the women to come together.

This new structure is helpful for large churches, as well as churches who have different needs.  When there is a WM Leadership meeting, the main leader and co-leader of the ministry overall will meet with the leaders of the age groups.  This is an opportunity to check in with the leaders, develop their leadership skills, and to plan the larger ministry wide events.  The age group leaders will have their own meetings with their own volunteers on an as needed basis.

This could mean that one age group is more active than another, or that they types of functions they are interested in will be very different from each other.  However it allows each group leader to help meet the needs of those specific age groups.  Instead of trying to plug a group into a large one where they just don’t feel like they fit… they are given an opportunity to fellowship with their peers. 

Some possible titles/groupings could include:  (and we’d love to hear your suggestions too)

Women’s Ministry of —- Church

  • Women’s Ministry Leader
  • WM Co Leader
  • Young Women’s Ministry (18-29, singles)   – LEADER/CO-LEADER
  • Titus 2 Women’s Ministry (18-40?, married… with/out kids)   – LEADER/CO-LEADER
  • Women Elders Ministry (50-???, retirees, empty nesters)  – LEADER/CO-LEADER

Women’s Ministry of —– Church

  • Women’s Ministry Leader
  • WM Co Leader
  • WM2.0 (20’s)  – LEADER/CO-LEADER
  • WM3.0 (30’s) – LEADER/CO-LEADER
  • WM4.0 (40’s) – LEADER/CO-LEADER
  • etc.

Sometimes the most difficult obstacles have an obvious answer staring us in the face!  Spend time with your Women’s Ministry in prayer, talk through these issues, talk to the people who are missing from your events, and consider it may be time to change the way you have been thinking or focusing the ministry.