Team Series: Second In Command

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Team Series:  The 2nd in Command by Gena McCown

One of the first tasks any good leader should do is to find, appoint, equip, and build up second in command.  A President has a Vice President, executives have junior executives, even Pastors have Associate Pastors or Elders they can call on.  Why is this an important role to fill on your ministry team? 

What if the Lord removed you from your Women’s Ministry right this second?  What would happen?

A family emergency takes you unexpectedly out of town.  One of your children become hospitalized.  Your spouse gets reassigned and you have to move this weekend.  You are threatened with a health crisis of your own.

Any number of things can happen that will unexpectedly pull us away from our ministry work, sometimes it is temporary and other times it is not.  Could your team function in your absence?  I’ve always felt the mark of a good leader is that their absence is not noticed. 

I have been on a team where this happened, and we were left scrambling.  It wasn’t that she was a bad leader, in many ways she was a great leader.  However, she had never taken any one under her wing to serve as a second in command.   When she left, we had a lot of plans on the calendars but none of us knew all the background info that she had been working on.   There we many decisions that needed to be made and a weight of uncertainty in the air.  Had there been someone working directly under her, who had knowledge of these details… it would have been a much easier process.

There are primary two ways you can work with a second in command, the first is similar to a hierarchy structure. This leader in training is kept up to date with the details of the ministry, but doesn’t have any more power than other members of the team.  You will walk them through the ropes of running the ministry, but you hold all executive power in the final decision making.  Their purpose is to be ready to take over the reigns of the ministry, should the time come.  

The second way is as a Co-Leader, this woman will have a bit more power/pull/weight to her opinion than other team members.  She may not have the ultimate say when it comes to the ministry decisions, but her opinion carries greater influence.  Her role is to slip in and out of leading the group as needed.  This is the woman who can fill in while the leader is on vacation, or take over for a matter of few months when a leader is going through a crisis.  In a large ministry, you may even have more than 1 co-leader and even give them particular team members that they oversee. 

In both cases the Women’s Ministry Leader is responsible for developing these future leaders to take over her job.  However in the case of a Leader in Training, this is your ace in your back pocket that you bring out only when you need to.  Whereas a Co-Leader has a far more active role in the ongoing ministry work.

A Second in Command Leader Should:

  • Have a heart for women’s ministry in the church and community.
  • Dedicated to the church, and exhibit a solid relationship with Christ.
  • She should be trainable, you don’t need a person with experience.
  • Dependable, showing up to meetings regularly and completes her tasks.
  • Shares ideas that will help the ministry function better.
  • Excited by serving others.

What She Should Know:

  • Keep her up to date on the ministry finances.
  • Location of important documents, passwords, keys, codes, etc.
  • Contact information and details associated with event planning.
  • Overview of information pertinent to the Women’s Ministry from staff meetings or the Pastor (only information pertinent to WM, please).
  • Access to team members contact information.
  • Overview of meeting agendas in advance, and what are her meeting responsibilities.

In the past, Women’s Ministry Leaders have created binders full of important ministry information that could be passed like a baton to incoming leaders.  Now, we can share documents online via google documents (if you have a gmail account).  This helps leaders stay connected, work and update tasks between meetings, etc.  If you are interested in starting a Women’s Ministry Binder… check out Pinterest for GREAT suggestions, printable worksheets, and more.

I love to see these developing leaders active versus people I siphon information into.  So, intermittently as part of training, allow her to completely lead a meeting from start to finish.  You can work her up to this by giving her small responsibilities and increasing them over time.  Give her a larger task to oversee, like planning a brunch or finding new small group leaders.  See if she has a passion for something to add into the ministry that you can put her at the helm, like a prayer ministry or mentoring program.

While it is great to have a second in command who has a similar ministry vision as you, it’s also great to bring someone along side you that has new ideas to bring to the table.  You may wish to strategically develop a younger woman, select a woman who is transitioning out of another ministry leadership role (previous MOPS Leaders are great for future Women’s Ministry Leaders), or you could find someone that just has a HUGE heart for women.  While experience isn’t necessary, their level of experience will determine how much time you need to spend developing their skills.

We can predict when a changing of the guard is going to happen, but when it is within our ability we should make sure this woman is fully ready to assume command of the ministry before we retire or voluntarily step down.  You can begin by steadily increasing her leadership, while culling your leadership back.  This also makes for an easier transition for your team members who have served loyally with you over the past years.  Give your team members advanced notice that you are planning to step down in a few months and that you are transitioning the new leader into place.  When they come to you with questions or concerns  funnel them toward the new leader instead of dealing with it yourself.  You are not only training a new leader, but the team to trust her leadership.

If you plan on still serving with the Women’s Ministry after stepping down form leadership, I recommend taking a few months off.  Allow the women to get accustomed to serving under the new leadership, and then ease yourself back in.  Leaders leave a legacy even when they don’t intend to, and it can take time for members to adjust to a different leadership style and new ideas.  Change is hard, even in ministry service.

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.