A Popular Identity

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Do you remember the popular kids in school?   They were popular because they were known by everyone (known doesn’t necessarily mean friends with everyone).  Some of the kids were just naturally likeable, they didn’t do anything in particular to be loved by everyone.  They were just good people, that seemed to get along well with anyone.  Then there were those who made strategic moves (good or bad) to work their way into notoriety.  When you think back to these people you were in school with, or if you were one of them…

What where you know for?  What made people gravitate to you?  What made people like you or want to be your friend?

Now let’s spin this to ministry.

There are churches and ministries that are incredibly popular, everyone knows who they are.  They may never have even walked through their doors or looked at their website… but you drop their name and everyone recognizes it immediately.  Some of these churches and ministries have gotten to that position naturally.  They just do what God called them to do, followed that vision, and the people came to them.  Others made strategic choices (good or bad) to elevate themselves into the world of being known.

But, what are they known for?  What made the people gravitate through their doors or into their cause?

What is Your Vision or Mission Statement?

If your church has a vision or mission statement, that is the most obvious answer.  THAT is what your church or ministry should be known for.  If your mission is to serve the homeless, then that should be the answer.  “Community Church is known for it’s outreach and service to the homeless in our community”.  If your mission is to support the orphans in your community, then that should be answer.  “Women’s Ministry of First Church is to share the gospel with our foster and adoptive families, by walking along life with them.”  If the church has a mission, then the Women’s Ministry should have a similar mission pin pointed toward women.

When asking the community about your church or ministry, you would hope that their answer would be representative of your vision/mission statement.  If it’s not, that needs to be addressed.

A few years ago, I attended an event with my sister.  At the end of the event I asked her opinion of what she experienced.  She replied:  “These are precious, godly women.”  That is great feedback.  Part of the mission of that church foremost connecting people to Christ, and based on what we witnessed their women’s ministry was doing just that.

I recently had a discussion with a local woman about her church, and I posed a similar question to her.  I wanted to know what her church was known for, and she replied “Well, people call it the popular church.”   I asked her what she meant by that, I wanted to understand more.  Why is it popular?  Do they love on people well?  Are they super active in the community?  As I pressed in further, she explained… “Everyone knows the church by name or at least someone who goes there.”  When I asked what the mission statement of the church was, she didn’t know it.  This is not so great feedback.  It’s not terrible, but I’m not certain our ministries simply want to be known for existing.

Get a Vision or Mission Statement

If your church or ministry doesn’t have a vision or mission statement, it’s time to get into prayer and ask God to put a calling on your heart for your church/ministry.  If you do have a vision/mission statement, ask people randomly if they know what it is.  If they can’t answer you, or can’t articulate it well, then revisit your vision/mission statement.  Perhaps it needs to be revised so that it is simpler and more clearly defined.  Or, you may just need to remind those who are in your church/ministry every so often what your mission/vision statement is.

Have Accountability to that Vision/Mission

Once your church/ministry has a clearly defined and easily explained vision/mission statement, ensure that you have people on staff or in your planning team that are going to hold you accountable to that vision/mission.  Weigh your plans, budget, events, outreach, trips, programs, and ministries against it.  If it doesn’t hold up to the vision/mission, let it go.  If you can’t let it go, if you really feel like God is calling you to something new… it may be a case of the Lord giving you a new vision/mission.  Those who serve for this accountability can join you in prayer seeking God’s direction and guidance to continue as you have been called or that it is time to carve a new pathway.

Keep a Finger on the Pulse of the Community

If you believe that your church/ministry has a significant calling and presence in your community, the best way to find out if that is being executed is by checking the heartbeat of the community.  Ask not just your church members or the women your ministry serve, but also the community.  When meeting people and striking up conversation, ask them if they’ve heard of your church or ministry.  What do they say, how do they respond?  This is an easy way to find out if you are living our your vision or if there needs to be course correction.

Being a popular church or ministry is NOT a bad thing.  What matters is WHAT you are popular for, what you are known for in the community.  The simplest answer come from Scripture in John 13:35, we will be known for our love for one another.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

What will distinguish us from each other, as churches and ministries, and define our vision/mission is in the way that we love.  How we serve, care, tend, lead, teach, and guide the flock we have been put in charge of and the communities we have been called to.

Growing in Godliness Together – Jenny Andrews

I was living in Los Angeles, California when I had met her.  I was new to the church I was attending and wasn’t sure what to expect from the mommy and me class. I just knew that I was lonely in motherhood and needed someone to say hi to me. She said hi and then invited me over to her house for burgers with the kids. My husband was getting ready to leave for war and I was so in need of support. I had been a Christian for about 1 year and was sure in need of godly women.

As we sat and chatted about who we were and how we came to be where we were now I told myself this woman is a safe person for me. I really love talking to her. That conversation was nearly 10 years ago and we have had hundreds of conversations since then.

I wasn’t always in a leadership role so when I took on a leadership role in the church after fighting with God about my skills and talents my sweet friend came with me on this journey. She lives in another state now but we talk regularly. She has heard my tears, joys, anger, and heart through many circumstances in ministry.

Leadership can be lonely, hard, and frustrating at times we all need a small handful of friends who can walk with us through some tough decisions in ministry. Leadership is not a journey that we walk on alone because God never intended us to be lone Christian rangers.  He created us to be relational. But how do you find that godly person to go to when times get tough or when you want to celebrate what the Lord is doing? Below are 3 important steps to take to finding the right person to walk through leadership with.

  1. Prayer for the Lord to send the right person to you. God cares about our relationships with others so He will gladly answer that prayer for the right person.
  2. After prayer, be intentional on educating yourself in what a good friend looks like and become one. We usually attract the type of people we want to be like. A great book called, “Safe People” by Henry Cloud is a great starting point to becoming a great friend and looking for healthy traits in other women.
  3. Look for woman who you can learn from and grow from with. Women who absolutely adore Jesus and will not compromise their relationship with the Lord for anyone. Women who will graciously call you out and hold you accountable.

My sweet sister in Christ has been through this leadership journey with me since day one; and continues to encourage me and challenge me in my walk with Jesus. She has prayed with me and for me on numerous occasions. We are growing in godliness together. We aren’t perfect but we are in love with Jesus and His word.

We are living in the last days where people will turn to their own ways and not acknowledge who God is.  But, one thing I know for sure about our Father He always leaves a remnant of people behind to stand glorify Him and His holy name. It may get harder to find those who hearts are set on God, but when you pray and seek Him He will send the people your way.

Remember you can’t do it alone friend you need others to help you lift your hands up like Moses had in Exodus 17:13 NLT:

Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So, Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So, his hands held steady until sunset.”

Those friendships are invaluable and you will not regret having them when you them the most.

Fishers of [Wo]men

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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.

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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.

 

 

The Starting Point

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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.

  1.  Take the time to understand the feelings of others by choosing to be quiet and listen.  Ask people who come from other cultures and ethnicities to share their experiences with you, and do not interject your opinions.  Allow them to speak, listen to what is being said, and take time to reflect on that conversation before you respond with more questions.
  2. Read.  There are plenty of books on the subject of racism and also on racial reconciliation.  You can watch interviews online, panel discussions, and more.  Google “Race and the Church” or “Racial Reconciliation and the Church” and you’ll find a trove of useful information.  I recommend “UNITED” by Trillia Newbell.
  3. Challenge your Women’s Ministry team (or church leaders) to go through “The Bridge to Racial Unity” Bible Study as a team.   You can access this through the ministry Be The BridgeEnter this study with humbleness, willingness to listen, and as the leader of the ministry set the tone of respect.  If you do not have any women of color serving on your ministry team, considering inviting a few willing women to go through this study with your team.  Women who are willing to field your questions with grace and mercy.
  4. PRAY for your own life to become open to diversity, that the Lord will bring the women to add to your Women’s Ministry team, and convict the heart of your church leaders to create a space that is welcoming to all of God’s people (even when it means getting out of our comfort zones in how we worship) including bringing people of color onto staff positions.

Change Begins Within

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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!

Before the Conversation

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In the past, the Monday after our Women’s Ministry Council meeting, we will usually publish to the site a recap of the events.  This particular meeting was probably one of our hardest subjects to date, and a conversation we know that we are not done with.  Before we even attempt to put into words what happened at our Diversity and Unification meeting, I would like to thank those who contributed to the success of equipping women leaders on an important subject.

Thank you to Moody Publishers, who donated a copy of Trillia Newbell’s book UNITED:  Captured By God’s Vision for Diversity for each of the women in attendance.    We pray that each leader is able to use this resource not only for her own benefit but also to share with her team and church.

Thank you to International Missions Board, who donated their Limitless material and the Gospel in Henna Tattoo and Explanation Card sets.  To be diversified in the church requires a diversity in how we reach out to other cultures.

Thank you to MOPS International for the donation of these awesome tote bags, MOPS groups are a great way to open our church doors to the community at large and bring many different people to the table.

Thank you to Be the Bridge, who created the Bridge to Racial Unity Bible Study materials.  Also thank you to the donors from the community who provided the funds to print the study, allowing each woman to take home a physical copy.

Please pray with us that all of these materials will be a blessing to the churches in which they make their way back to.

Additionally we announced a few exciting pieces of news:

  • 2018 We will begin to roll out WMC groups in other cities!
  • 2018 the WMC will offer our first full day event for women leading in the church, LeadHer Conference.  The 2018 theme is: LeadHer with Wisdom

Please pray along with us over these next steps, as we remain faithful and obedient to do as God asks us in HIS timing not our own.

Over the next several articles, we will begin to break down the content from the training, point our readers to resources, and share the ways we are going to keep this conversation going.

Ministry Spotlight: HOPE MOMMIES

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Recently, an acquaintance of mine shared that a young woman in her church had a miscarriage.  I was reminded of this wonderful ministry, Hope Mommies.  We’ve shared this ministry with our local leaders, and I wanted to take a moment to revisit it here.

From their website:

Hope Mommies™ is a 501(c)3 non-profit Christian organization who sole purpose is to come alongside moms and families who have experienced infant loss, bringing comfort, encouragement, companionship, and hope as they continue to walk this side of eternity without their beloved son or daughter.

Hope Mommies helps these mothers and families through various methods:

Directly:  A mother who has experienced loss is gifted a Hope Box, which contains personal gifts items, book, journal, and more.  It’s not just a sweet gesture to let her know you are thinking about her, but the contents are tools that can help her cope with the loss.   You can pay to have a Hope Box sent directly to a woman you know, who has experienced loss.  Or, you can donate a box that Hope Mommies will distribute on your behalf.

Community:  You can direct moms who have experienced loss to their online community, or as a leader you can lean into this community to learn how you can better serve the women in your church who have lost an infant or young child.  Or, you can host a Community Group in your church; providing a safe place for women in your church or in your local community to find others who have walked this road.  A place to heal, lean, and love.

Annual Retreat:  You can sponsor a woman in your community to attend the Hope Mommies Annual Retreat, or as a Women’s Ministry take on this as a cause that your ministry will financially support.

Ministry Cause:  Consider hosting a gathering event at your church, where your Women’s Ministry team or women in the church assemble Hope Boxes to deliver to your local hospitals to distribute when a woman in your community loses a child.   You may also build connections with your local OBGYN and Pediatrician offices and distribute boxes through their facilities as well.

Prayerfully consider if Hope Mommies is a needed ministry in your area.