The Fellowship of Breaking Bread

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There is just something about sharing a good meal with another person.  I think, in part, it is because in this moment we are using all of our symptoms.  We are listening to good conversation, smelling savory aromas, tasting a scrumptious bite, looking at beautiful plated foods and into the eyes of a friend or loved one. Even our sense of touch is engaged regularly… as we embrace as we meet up, feel the texture of the napkin we set in our lap, engage with the various food items, etc.  I believe that when we are in moments where all of our senses are engaged simultaneously, and for a long period of time, it helps embed the moment into our memory.

In the Scriptures we see so many moments where people were breaking bread together as a community.   Two specific moments to consider is the feeding of the multitudes (Matthew 14) and when Jesus washed the disciples feet (John 13).

When We Feed the Many

In Matthew 14:13-21, Jesus had just found out about the death of John the Baptist and had withdrawn to a quiet place.  But, the crowds followed.  Even though he was mourning, he had compassion on the crowd.  When evening was approaching the disciples suggested that Jesus send the crowds away to the towns so that they may eat.  Jesus instead insisted they stay and that they would feed the crowd.  The disciples indicated they didn’t have nearly enough for the thousands of people who had gathered.  Jesus taking the humble amount of fish and loaves, raised them toward Heaven, giving thanks for the food, and instructed the disciples to distribute it among the people.  There was so much that even after everyone ate and was satisfied, twelve baskets of left over pieces were collected.

As a Ministry we often will host small brunches and large events.  Most often brunches are potluck where everyone brings a dish with them to share.  But, with large events… we often do not consider the meal (unless it’s a weekend long retreat).  I’ve been to conferences where meals were included, and to ones where we were dismissed to local restaurants.  While I can understand the logistics of sending people off premises, I think we forget a few key things that make offering an onsite meal a blessing that outweighs any inconvenience.

  1.  Single Guests – when a bunch of gal pals head off to an event together, they often don’t mind slipping away to a local café and having some girl time.  However, this can be an uncomfortable and lonely time for someone who is flying solo.  When there are tables set up and lunch provided on site, it is much easier for the single guests to mingle with others over a good meal.  This is a very compassionate stance to take as we care for the guests that God has brought to our events.
  2. Budget Friendly – larger events will generally have a cost associated, regardless of the size or wealth of the congregation.  If this is an event that is requiring travel, lodging, etc. then the budget for your attendee is affected.  First, purchasing in bulk is generally less per serving.  I’ve hosted events where lunch was just $5 per person due to the catering discount of a bulk purchase.  Had those guests gone off site, their meal with tip would have been at least $10 and up to $15 per person.  
  3. Warm & Welcoming – nothing says to people that they are welcomed into a space than allowing them to linger and connect with people.  The cliché saying “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” shouldn’t be part of our ministry playbook.  Just because an event ends before meal time, doesn’t mean you can’t provide a meal option.  A recent event I attended ended just before lunch.  Instead of ushering everyone home, they had an “after party” that included a free lunch and beverages and a fun market place we could walk through made up of local businesses.  There were plenty of places to sit and mingle.  

The example Christ sets for us in how we engage “the many” is exactly what we should be employing.  Jesus said “don’t send them away”.  If our event is at our church or under the banner of our church, do we really want people to feel unwanted or unwelcomed?  If we have the space to host events in our own buildings, do we really want to close those doors and send our guests elsewhere?  What if instead we invited them to sit down, rest, and break bread with us?

When We Feed the Few

In John 13:1-17, Jesus has gathered with the disciples for dinner.  He knew that the hour of his return to the Father was approaching.  It says that the evening meal was already in progress, when Jesus began washing the feet of the disciples.  It was here, that Jesus would instruct the disciples to do for others what Christ had done for them… in his absence. 

This meal, unlike a large event, is far more intimate.  There are times, the Lord calls us to serve many at one time… and then there are times He calls us to gather our closest to us and to serve them directly and humbly.  Who are our few?  What if we have multiple groups that are close in different ways?

  1. The Leadership Team – the people whom you are serving with on a team are connected by how/who we serve.  Getting together occasionally outside of serving others, to draw closer as a group will bless your ministry as a whole.
  2. Your Study Group – whether you make the meal part of your small group, or choose to spend an evening breaking away from the normal study and instead fellowshipping as a group, you are creating new connections.  This could also be a great option for a small group that is for couples.  What if the wife of the leader met with the women in the group for a meal, just the ladies?  What if the men did the same?  What deeper connections can be made as you break bread with one another.
  3. Your Mentors – there are those who are pouring into you, consider making a point to not only thank and honor them for investing in you but also connecting them to each other.  
  4. Those You Send – perhaps you have had the opportunity to be a Paul to a few Timothys that you are preparing to release out into the world, gather and serve them one last time to set the tone for the leadership you hope they will share with those the Lord puts under their charge.
  5. The New Girls – what a great way to welcome women into the church by making a point as a Women’s Ministry leader to get together with new members of the church.  Talk with your Pastors or Finance Committee about creating budget and space for a smaller monthly luncheon for new ladies.  Take them on a tour of the church, answer their questions, get to know them better, and most of all make them feel welcomed and valued.

Breaking bread with others is about creating a moment that stands in memory, fosters community, and serves others well.

How Do you Thank Your Team?

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I am always thankful for those who serve alongside me.  When they accomplish a task or pitch in when the going gets tough, I’m always certain to say thank you at the moment.  But, I think it is also important to recognize these women in a more tangible way.

Thanksgiving is coming up and then we will be in the full swing of Christmas.  Chances are you are having some sort of women’s event with either a Thanksgiving or Christmas theme, what a perfect time to publically recognize the women who have spent the year working hard to serve the women of the church.   A small trinket, devotion book, or even a small denomination gift cards is always appreciated.

There are other ways you can show the women you serve with that you appreciate them and recognize their efforts.  You may not even realize how much it means to them to receive some of these ideas.  Prayerfully consider how you can make a point to show appreciation all year long.

  • Order your team members official name tags w/ their position (if applicable) to wear at events.
  • If ministry budget allots, pay for your team members rooms or registrations for women’s conferences.  If funds are limited, see if you can pay for a room upgrade or a special gift basket to be left in their room upon arrival.
  • Take the women out to a special brunch for fellowship and bonding, no business!  You can do this all at one time with the entire team, or one woman at a time to get to know her better.
  • Give small gifts that are personalized to each woman’s personality/gifts letting her know that you see who she is versus getting every one on the team duplicate gifts.
  • Register the team for a special leadership conference, or even hire a speaker to come in and invest in their leadership skills.  Or, plan your own leadership retreat.
  • Plan a spa retreat day, mani pedi day, or craft day for the team.
  • Write a letter to each team member sharing how much she means to you and has blessed the team with her gifts.
  • Remember her birthday or the anniversary of her serving on the team, and celebrate it with a card or flowers.
  • If you have an area where you display Women’s Ministry event information, make sure to include a list of who the team members are.
  • Pray for the women specifically, and let them know you have prayed for them by dropping a card in the mail.
  • Make sure to schedule periods of rest for the team, especially have taxing events.  Giving the gift of rest recognizes how hard they worked, as well as your appreciation for a job well done.

The People We Need in Ministry Work

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I’ve always loved the hands in group huddle.  I believe what is most appealing about this type of encouragement is how no one person stands at the center.  Hands from every direction reach into the center, combining together to create a woven tapestry of people working together to accomplish a task.

Our lives as Christians are not meant to be lived alone, in solitude.  The Lord calls us into fellowship with our family of believers.

Leadership is not meant to be lonely either.  Jesus had his twelve.  The apostles traveled in groups, sometimes with one another or at minimum among their supporters.  They relied on one another to discuss the matters of faith.  When a lot of mixed messages were being sent out, they convened at the Council of Jerusalem in order to set things straight.

I would dig even deeper to point out that the twelve who followed Jesus were not mirrors of Christ, nor each other.  Each person had a different history and story to tell.  They had different personalities and roles to play in the every day work of the ministry.  We too, as leaders, need people who fulfill different roles in our inner circle.

We need a mentor, and we need someone we can teach.  We need an encourage, as much as we need the skeptic in our lives.  We need someone with wisdom and discernment, as well as someone who has the gift of prayer.  We need those who will walk along side us, willing to disagree with us, willing to discuss difficult matters with us.

And, as we build our Women’s Ministry teams… we should seek these same types of people to fulfill those roles.  We can’t have a team made up only those who encourage.  We need people who have passion for teaching and hospitality.  We need people who heed the call to pray for the church, the ministry, and the community.  Women who are fiscally gifted as just as important as they are good stewards with the ministry budget.

Over the next few weeks we are going to explore some of the roles of our leadership teams.  What is the role?  Why is it important?  What does the Bible say about it?  And, how do we find a person to fill that role?

Don’t forget to visit our EVENTS page and RSVP for upcoming events!

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.

 

 

Back to School!

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It’s back to school season!  Women’s Ministry groups around the country are full of mothers who are navigating the waters of back to school.

Some are watching their children enter their school years for the first time, tear soaked tissues in hand.

Others are wrapping their heads around new teachers, dress codes, schedules, and shopping.

Then there are those who have their hands on a whole box of tissues as their children enter their senior years or head off to college.

How can we minister to our mothers?

  1.  Mentoring.   It is so valuable to any mother to have in her circle of friends and mentors the woman who has already walked this road.  We lean heavy into those who have gone through these days, learn from them about the beauty of what is to come.
  2. Calendars.  When you are planning your Women’s Ministry events, consider your local school calendars.  Find out important dates like school vacations and major events like Prom and Graduation.  Try your best to schedule events away from these times, as parents may be out of town on holiday or celebrating milestones with family who have traveled into town.  Be sure to consider private school schedules, which may differ from public.  If your church services more than one county, be sure to take into account the other county schedules as well.
  3. Clothing Swaps.  Back to school can be an expensive year, bring in all of your school clothes that the kids grew out of and swap with other moms.  Or, take those collected clothes and bring them to shelters for homeless women and children.
  4. Supply Drives.  Use your women’s ministry events as an opportunity to collect school supplies and take them to schools in need, or local children’s group home.  Bless the moms in your church who could use a hand offsetting back to school expenses.
  5. Connections.  Connect moms who have children in the same schools, so they can get to know each other better.  Help establish car pool groups, after school child care volunteers for working parents, etc.
  6. Volunteer.  Start a after school program for children in your local schools, teach them about Christ, friendships, character qualities, etc.  Moms would love to know their kids are being invested into vs. babysat at after school programs.
  7. Celebrate.  For the moms who are becoming empty nesters for the first time, meet up with them during these first weeks especially and celebrate!
  8. Small Groups.   Add a day time small group that meets when the kids are school, this is a great opportunity for our stay home parents.  They can meet with a local small group to study the word, without taking away valuable family time at nights and on the weekends.

Prayer & Worship, Training Event Recap

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The Women’s Ministry Council had another great training event on the value and importance of integrating Prayer and Worship into your Women’s Ministry Programs.

We would like to thank P&R Publishing for their donation of Susan Hunt’s Prayers of the Bible Study and Leader Guide, for each woman in attendance.  Additional thanks to The Good Book Company, who donated copies of 5 Things to Pray for Your Church.  Table Talk Magazine (from Lingonier Ministries) also donated copies of their back issue on Worship MattersMoody Publishing provided our women with sample chapters from two newly released studies I am Found and An Unexplainable LifeCrossway sent our women sample chapters from their book Praying Together .   Talk about a great group of resources for our leaders and their teams!

If your Women’s Ministry is looking to partner up with some ministries, for the first time at a council meeting we highlighted two ministries that are doing great things in the world!  The first is The Freedom Challenge, which works to free women and children from sex trafficking, sex slave industry.  If you have women in your ministry who love physical challenges and have a heart for these women, be sure to look into this great ministry.    However, if your women have a heart for children in impoverished nations… One Child Matters is a ministry  that opens up the doors to sponsor children, have missions trips to their development centers, and impacts the communities abroad as well as in our church.    Both of these ministries were featured in our July and August Ministry Spotlight articles.

Now for the meeting recap, in case you missed it….

Worship Matters

Our first speaker, Sheila Thompson, addressed the importance of including Worship as an intentional part of our Women’s Ministry events.  While worship can be defined in various ways, Sheila (who has a music background and credentials) talked specifically about the musical forms of worship.  Highlighting scriptures that reference of song and musical instruments as worship, Sheila was able to provide us with the biblical foundations of this style of worship.  However, Sheila dug deeper and covered the physical, mental, and health benefits of singing.  The Lord is so good to give us an act of worship that helps us in not only spiritual ways… but our bodies and minds.

Sheila shared how in the scriptures (and it is referenced over 63 times) that music is a posture of worship to the Lord, a weapon in battle, invites the power of the Lord into our lives as we praise, and that the Lord even sings over us (Zephaniah 3:17).  We discovered how many of our worship songs are rooted and sometimes directly quoted from the scriptures to provide us strength, encouragement, hope, and trust in the Lord … as well as, songs of praise and thanksgiving.

In our Women’s Ministry events, Sheila pointed out that by starting out our events with a few praise songs… we are setting the tone for the event.  Women are able to surrender and let go of all the junk they came in with.  They are preparing their hearts and minds to receive the word the Lord has for them.  They are in a better mood going out than they were coming in.  These songs stick with us as we move through the day, and we find ourselves returning to them.  Additionally, there are times where despite the troubles and the trials we are going through, we can choose to sing in victory!

Integrating worship into your Women’s Ministry program can start with simple steps… such as including Worship songs as part of your Women’s Brunch or even at the beginning of your small group sessions with a song or two.  One of our council women spoke up and shared how they conclude their meetings with a song, so the women leave on a note of praise & hope.  As a Women’s Ministry Leader, you can take this even a step further by planning Christian Concerts into your calendar by either attending local concert events OR by hosting a night of Worship at your own church.

Praying Matters

Our second speaker, Gena McCown, addressed the importance of having a posture of prayer and fostering a solid prayer life among the women in our churches.  Gena began by pointing out the relationship between singing and praying.  As we look to the Psalms and other areas of scriptures we see many prayers were lifted up by the body in the form of song.  There are numerous references in the scriptures about our call to prayer, why we pray, what we pray for, and how we are to pray. 

The call to pray is marked as something we are to do continuously, without ceasing.  Prayer is not an occasional thing we do when we need something from God, but a regular habit.  As ministry leaders we model this posture of prayer for the women in our churches, but we are also put into a position to teach people how to pray.  Some are gifted by the Holy Spirit with the gift of prayer, others need to be helped along the way.  Even the disciples asked Jesus, “How do we pray?”.

The scriptures tell us that men ought always to pray (Luke 18:1) with thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2), without fear or doubting (1 Timothy 2:8) and calling on Him in truth (Psalm 145:18).    We pray to seek Him, in our distress, to seek provision, for healing, in confession, seeking forgiveness, and in thanksgiving and praise.  It is part of our daily habit, without ceasing (Luke 6:12, Colossians 4:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:17).

How do we pray?  We can use the scriptures, such as The Lord’s Prayer or the Psalms.  We can allow the scriptures to inspire our personal prayers, use our own words voiced outloud or written down, and we pray even when we can’t find the words.  Romans 8:26 reminds us that through the Holy Spirit the Lord hears our groaning.  We are praying in our lengthy conversation with the Lord, or when we simply cry out “Oh, God!”.

As leaders we model prayer when we use it at the start, ending, or even in the midst of our events and small group studies.  We model it when we stop what we are doing to pray for someone on the spot vs. telling them we will pray for them later and adding it to our list.  We pray and share those prayers within notes of encouragements, a quick text that says the Lord put you on my heart today and I wanted you to know I was praying for you, and when we specifically ask people how we can pray for them. 

We foster prayer life among our women, when they hear our prayers.  When we start off our leadership meetings praying for the church leaders and our communities.  We set the example, but we also teach.  Include a small group on how to pray, or invite one of your prayer warrior women to lead a prayer ministry in your church.  Have a workshop series on different prayer methods and habits, invite a speaker for your next brunch that will guide your women to a posture of prayer.    As it becomes a more common practice in your Women’s Ministry leadership team, it will spread to the women in the church, and into our communities.

We must also be willing to share our testimony on prayers, so that women not only understand how we pray… but how the Lord responds to those prayers.  We share our answered prayers, praising God.  We share our unanswered prayers, trusting God.  We share the prayers that were not answered how we expected or hoped, acknowledging His ways being better than our own. 

Finally, it is important to create an environment of trust and authenticity among the women.  As we share our prayer requests, they begin to see that we as leaders have struggles to.  We have unanswered prayers, we seek His will and favor, we pray without ceasing for our prodigals to return… our husbands to find Jesus… our addictions to be healed… and our good news too!  In our vulnerability, they will find authenticity… and then our anonymous prayer requests will begin to disappear and a community of sisters walking in faith, praying for one another will begin to form.

Ministry Spotlight: One Child Matters

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This summer, at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference, I happened to come across a great ministry in the Exhibition Hall.  After spending quite a few minutes talking ministry with their representative Curtis Wilson, I fell head over for the work that One Child Matters is doing for children all over the world & the impact that they are having on communities.  What is beautiful about partnering up with a ministry like One Child Matters, is that there is a impact not only abroad but in our churches, communities, and in ourselves.

The very first time my family ever sponsored a child from another country, we specifically chose a child who was similar to age as our children.  It’s been beautiful to watch her grow up and turn into a young woman who is not only growing in her faith but dedicated to being a positive influence on her own community.  One of my most treasured possessions is a letter she wrote to us where she shared how she prays for us.  When I think of the difference in our lives and opportunities, to know that she is praying for us is a humbling reminder that we are all in this life together.  We are all family, brothers and sisters… sons and daughters… of the King.  Family cares for and prays for each other, regardless of the number of miles between us.

If your church or Women’s Ministry is looking for an organization to partner with… I am thrilled to recommend One Child Matters as a suggestion.  There are children available for sponsorship, as well as missions trip opportunities, and you can request a speaker from One Child Matters to speak at your church or next Women’s Ministry event. 

For more information, please visit their websiteOr, you can contact Curtis Wilson directly at 614.560.5742  and on Twitter @CurtisDWilson

If you are a local Women’s Ministry Leader or Pastor’s wife, in the Treasure Coast or South Florida, visit our facebook page.  Curtis Wilson will be traveling to our area to share One Child Matters with local churches, and there will be a special dinner event for Women’s Ministry Leaders/Pastor’s Wives. You can add your name & church name to our list & we will make sure you receive an invitation to the event.