Team Series: Hospitality

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Team Series:  Hospitality by Gena McCown

Hospitality is probably one of the most beautiful words in the English language, especially if you are a Southern Girl.  Hospitality smells of fresh brewed coffee on the other side of an unlocked door, where the mat says “Always Welcome”.  It reminds me of a time where friends just stopped by to shoot the breeze, and inviting people into our home was a regular occurrence.  Women gathered around the kitchen table or in the livingroom, bibles open and snacking on homemade lemon bars.  Sweet Tea on the back porch as we prayed over each other.  My Great Aunt’s perfumed powder wafting across the nose of every woman she greeted with a hug as they crossed her threshold.

Hospitality is what makes us feel welcomed into a space, warm and relaxed… at home. 

There are some women who are simply PRONE to hospitality, it is their genetic code.  They will look for ways to invite people into their home.  Quick to volunteer to host a luncheon or meeting.  There will always been enough food, and drinks.  The bathroom will smell of fresh dried lavender.  There will be a chocolate mint on every pillow at the retreat center.  She lives to make people feel special, and loved. 

This woman is important to your Women’s Ministry, this is a role to be on your top priority to fill. Why?

Hospitality Leaders are:

  • Women of influence.  Typically if they go to an event, they bring and encourage others to come too.  My Pastor’s wife calls them “connectors”.
  • Genuinely are excited to see every woman who enters the room, and make it a point of meeting the new faces.
  • Generous with their homes and time.
  • Quick to organize meals for the sick, new moms, new families, etc.
  • Find joy in the details of their tasks.
  • Have vast amounts of knowledge when it comes to finding locations for events from luncheons to weekend long retreats.
  • Are usually effective event planners, or at least great on event teams.
  • They have an eye for femininity that pragmatic leaders tend to lack, but those attending our events will appreciate.

Their Role in Ministry:

  • Event Planning Leader/Team – brunches, luncheons, retreats, teas, etc.
  • Meals Ministry Leader/Team – sick, new mom, etc.
  • Welcoming Committee Leader/Team – how do we welcome new women to our church?
  • Hosting Team Meetings or planning meetings (even if they are on the team)

A note of caution, women who have the gift of hospitality are often creative types.  Which means for events like retreats, you may do best to pair them with an A type personality.  One is in charge of the schedule, finding the speakers, planning the technical side of the event; the other is responsible for the meals, special touches, speaker gifts, etc.   It is important to know your women, their gifts and strengths… as well as their weaknesses.  Occasionally you have the blessing of a woman with the gift of hospitality and administration, and she’s the gal whom you can give the whole task and trust she’ll get it done. 

Women with the gift of hospitality are also typically generous and will have beautiful ideas to make women feel special and welcomed at events.  However, these special touches can impact your event budgets.  It is important to be clear with your hospitality leader the budget she has for her tasks.  I have known many of these women who would be happy to pay out of their own pockets to make up the difference, but I do generally ask them not to.  Simply because we need to keep up a budget that all team members present and future can work with.  If she supplements her budget, out of pocket, yes the event will be magnificent… but it may be hard for a future leader who replaces her to do the same.  Encourage these women to do the best they can within the agreed budget, but don’t be surprised if they “gift” a thing or two over time.

 

Team Series: Taking the Lead

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Taking the Lead, By Gena McCown

I think many of us would love to be apart of a Women’s Ministry Team in which everyone works together as a team, pulling their own weight, making decisions cohesively, and leading in turn with one another as a group effort.  However, I find that as ideal as that may sound… it is very rarely practical.  There are two reasons that have brought me to this conclusion:

  1. Every group needs that one person who can make the hard, final decision.  This is the person who has the tie breaker vote.  The person who can make decisions on behalf of the group when there is not enough time meet and discuss.
  2. As the church and ministry grow, clear distinct roles help avoid chaos and a team of women who have no idea who is responsible for what.

The conclusions came not from reading books on Women’s Ministry, but from years of personal leadership experience.  I’ve been on the “group effort” teams and also on the “structured” teams, and I assure you the latter is the one that works the most effectively and into the long term.

Sometimes, a team may start off small and so the “group effort” style seams to work well.  However, as a ministry grows that becomes less effective and even worse hard to change.  Therefore, I have always recommended that any ministry start off with the future in mind when it comes to their structure.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need a team of fifteen titled women when your small church has only 30 women in the whole congregation.  What it does mean is that from the very start everyone on the team understands that they have a specific roll to play that may become more defined and even divided as the ministry grows.

The first position we need to fill is that of the Leader, the head honcho, the decision maker, and the one whom all accountability for the ministry is going to fall upon.  This leader should have the following characteristics:

  • Genuine love and concern for the faith walk of the women in the church.
  • A heart for community outreach and service beyond the walls of the church.
  • Dedication to the church, personal study and prayer life.
  • Good standing with other church leaders.
  • Ability to balance her responsibilities (home, work, ministry).
  • Organized, punctual, detail oriented, able to delegate.
  • Eyes that see the big picture, a mind that dreams Kingdom sized dreams.

A leader stands in the gap between the Church Staff and the Women’s Ministry Team.  She should care about the Church’s vision, and be in communication with the Pastor or Elder that oversees the Women’s Ministry.  As the leader, she will need to understand when to put her own desires for the ministry aside when they do not align with the vision of the Church.   She needs to be able to encourage the team to do the same in a way that is positive and beneficial.

Depending on the size of your ministry, as a leader she may be very hands on.  This leader will be serving on committees and working along side the team in various ways.  She may pick up the slack when volunteers are lacking, or wrangle up more help when needed.  Or, she may be more of a coordinator who has delegated out duties to various team leaders. Her job is to manage those leaders for the end goal. 

The Women’s Ministry Leader should be seeking and developing new team members and even her own eventual replacement.  Her heart should be open to bringing in a diversity of women with varying gifts and experiences, not creating a team of women who are exactly like her.  Discernment will help her find the women, develop their skills, and when to begin giving them more responsibilities. 

Whether she is a volunteer or considered a member of the paid staff, she has the responsibilities of ensuring the ministry is a good steward of their budget.  She will research ministry trends, ideas, and resources to help the long term growth and development of the ministry.  And, she will recognize the responsibility she has taken on for the aiding in the spiritual development of the women in her charge.

As the leader, she should make an effort to get to know her team members more personally so that she can be on the look out for signs of ministry burn out, or when their gifts are not matched the tasks they have been assigned.  She should feel comfortable correcting women on her team, but engaged in equipping these women as leaders.  She sets the tone and the example the rest of the team will follow. 

Your Women’s Ministry Leader is the face of the ministry to the church, and she will be burned with their suggestions, criticisms, opinions, and requests.  Therefore it is imperative that the team members are praying for their leader’s heart and wellbeing. 

If your ministry currently doesn’t have an official leader, prayerfully consider making that decision.  You can do so as a group, taking nominations and letting everyone vote.  You could even ask for a volunteer.  However, I would suggest as a group to come to agreement with the need of a leader.  Writing down names of those who volunteer, and then handing that list to your overseeing Pastor/Elder to make the final decision.  This can eliminate hard feelings among the team members toward each other.

Women’s Ministry Leader, The First Tasks:

  • Talk with your Pastor about the vision for the church, and how the WM can support it.
  • Build your team by assessing spiritual gifts, allow the team input into the WM vision.
  • Finalize your WM Team vision, goals, and action steps to get there.
  • Start developing your future replacement, and encouraging your team members to do the same.

Women’s Ministry: Pastor Predicaments

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The following article is composed of highlights of the recent WMC Meeting: Pastoral Predicaments, presented by Gena McCown

In the last year, or so, I have had an opportunity to speak with Women’s Ministry leaders from all over the globe.  When asked what was their greatest obstacle to Women’s Ministry, many felt that they didn’t have the support of their Pastor, or the church Elders.   In 16 years of serving in ministries, I know that feeling.  What surprised me was the number of women who shared this feeling.  As I explored the topic more, I realized a few things:  this was not denomination specific, geographically specific, or even generationally specific.  There was no unifying thread as to why this was so common, I had even found instances where churches with WOMEN as Pastors didn’t support women’s ministry.    We needed to dig deeper, because it wasn’t going to be an easy answer.

Ultimately… when I got to the root of the issue… the answer was clear.

It is our own fault.  We did this to ourselves, and we are the ones who can change it.

First, we need to address Women’s Ministry from a biblical perspective.

  1.  It is  NOT biblical.  There are no instances, anywhere in the scriptures, that outline a FORMAL women’s ministry program in a church.  This is a modern invention, to meet a need.
  2. Women ARE instructed to teach/guide other women in the scriptures.  That IS biblical.

Second, we need to address the history of “women’s ministry”.

  1. In the early church, we didn’t need a formal program for women’s ministry because ministry among women was apart of their daily life.  They worshiped together, fellowshipped together, and served Him together.  Christian communities were tight knitted, and their relationship with God was part of their daily lives.
  2. As technology made advances, and the agricultural societies diminished, we were pulled away from community and became insulated into our homes.  Things we would work on together, were now automated and we could do alone.  Things we would have to go out to the community to acquire, are now being delivered to our homes.
  3. Women’s Ministry programs were created to fill the void that was a result of this loss of community.  Initially they would be prayer groups, bible studies, and community service opportunities.  However as women became busier, these ministries also began to include events that were a one time commitments.
  4. As Women’s Ministry programs evolved they became a church within a church, often having their own mission/cause.  Women’s Ministries separated themselves from the church, and in some cases women were more apt to attend the WM event that was tailored to their interests than Sunday morning services.

As a result of this historical shift, a few things happened.

  • We lost focus on our events, they became topics and cultural vs. gospel or Christ centered.
  • We lost focus on our bible studies, opting for book studies that were topical instead of dedicated scriptural study.
  • We lost focus on our purpose in the church, becoming our own entity versus supporting the overall mission of the church.
In addition, because of this separation we created a legacy of less than stellar Women’s Ministry Leaders.  We have the leader who didn’t get her way, and just left the ministry in a bind… that now the Pastor has to contend with.  We have the women’s ministry leader who didn’t get her way, and created division as she tried to rally her troops… and now the Pastor has to contend with it.  Or, we have the Women’s Ministry leader who tried to usurp authority over the Pastor to make the ministry what SHE envisioned it to be… either through direct confrontation or subtle subterfuge.  Again, creating a mess the Pastor has to deal with in the end.
This is not to say that ALL women’s ministry leaders are like this, but I’ve seen it happen.  I have known the women who marched in the Pastor’s office demanding to get their way.  I have personally experienced the chaos of being in a ministry who’s leader suddenly walks away.  I have personally fallen into the trap of a person’s attempt to create division within a ministry, and stunned that I didn’t see what was happening.
So, the truth is… and it hurts… that we created this ourselves.   It is going to be up to us to fix it.  Now, ideally we could just walk into our Pastor’s office for a meeting, tell him that we recognize all of these issues, and we want to rebrand the WM into something new.  He may be really excited to hear you say that too, but we also are going to have to be patient.  We are on proving grounds, and we need to earn back the trust of our Pastors.
  • Pray for a change in YOUR perspective as leader, changing your heart and the ministry.
  • Be patient, taking small steps in order to regain the trust of the church as you change the direction of the ministry 
To Facilitate Change in Women’s Ministry
  1. Pray, pray, pray.
  2. Humble yourself before the Pastor, and admit that WM needs to change.  You may even need to seek his forgiveness if you have been undermining his authority or pushing against him.
  3. Ask him how the WM can support the vision of the church, unifying the WM back into the fold and honoring him as the shepherd of your church.
  4. When planning WM events, ask yourself how this event fits into the vision of the church.  God has given your Pastor a vision for this church, how to lead it, and where it is going.   This is not your ministry, it is God’s.
  5. Remember that Women’s Ministry should be a blessing to the church.  If we are failing to bless the church (aka creating too much drama for the Pastor, or neglecting to support the vision of the church), then what is the point of our ministry?

Have the Right Goal in Mind:

In addition to supporting the vision of the church, we need to be intentionally turning women toward Christ.  This is what the Bible commands us to do, as women.  Women’s Ministry is merely a vehicle or tool to accomplish this command.

  1. We have a responsibility to teach other women, in a local church context.
  2. We have a responsibility to reach other women, in a local community context.
Women’s Ministry is an amazing evangelistic tool if we are using it correctly.  It is a bridge that brings the unchurched into the church.  But, we must have a plan from there.  When they come to a brunch or fellowship event… How are we connecting them to the church next?  How are we moving them toward engaging in a Bible Study or Small Group?  How are we connecting them to Christ?
Know How to Speak to Your Pastor:
God created men and women differently, we complete each other because of where our strengths and weaknesses lay.   Men are generally of little words, getting right to the point.  Whereas women are gifted in the ability to recognize the importance of details.  Men tend to see things factually, black and white.  Women are more apt to catch the nuances of the gray areas in between.  When we use the gifts together they create a beautiful completion of God’s work in mankind.  However, it seems communication is also the area that causes the most trouble for us.
As a woman, knowing HOW to speak to your Pastor is going to change everything… and it really isn’t that complicated.
  1. Put Your Emotions on the Back Burner.   It is imperative that we realize as a ministry leader that when the Pastor says NO… it’s not personal.  It is not that he doesn’t think your idea is good, or that you are not capable.  It is not a rejection of you, at all.  However, this seems to be a boiling point for women.  When we are told no, we feel rejected and we get frustrated.  If it happens too often, we may quit the ministry.  Or, we may stop asking and instead do it anyway; taking the position of it being easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.  The other option is that we stay in the ministry and it stagnates because we won’t ask anymore and so we’ll keep doing the same things over and over again…. until the women in the church get bored of it, and then the ministry dies.
  2. Recognize it isn’t Just the Women’s Ministry.  Your Pastor is accountable for stewarding all of the church resources.  This includes time, money, resources, and even the overall church members.  He has seen what burnout looks like when volunteers are overworked.  He recognizes that everything has a cost.  The use of the building means that there is a cost of electricity and water, and an opportunity cost that means another ministry can’t use the space.  He also knows about many things that are happening the background, that the church may not be aware of.  Your request is being weighed against a lot of factors.
  3. Respond appropriately.  When you submit a request to the Pastor and he turns it down, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification.  Keep in mind that seeking clarification is not the same as whining or trying to petition him to change his mind.  What you are looking for is the ability to understand his decision.  Ask questions like:  Is your NO to the idea or the timing?  Chances are his “no” is really “no, not now”.  Then you can follow up with questions like:  “Can we revisit this in 6 months?”  or if the no is because it’s not in the church budget,  “Could we fundraise for the project/event?”.  Should your Pastor’s no be related to the idea itself you can ask for clarification too.  What is it that he has a problem with, would he be willing to reconsider it if you made some changes?  There will be times where his no, is a no and it’s not going to change.  How you respond to this kind of no, is going to make or break your relationship with your Pastor.  If you take the no with stride, and move on.. you are an easy ministry leader to work with.  He may give you a lot more leeway in the future.  However, if you respond in a way that casts a shadow on him as the Pastor, become divisive, or threaten to quit as leader…that is a different story.  Not only are you hurting your own self, but you are damaging the women’s ministry as a whole.

How to Propose Ministry Events to your Pastor, and keep your emotions in check.

Most women’s ministries plan events in detail, then they go to the Pastor for permission.  This is because our minds work this way, we are trying to sell him the vision.  When we pitch an idea to the Pastor, we are already invested in the idea.   We think the details (down to decorations) are going to be what reels him in.  This is part of the reason why we are so devastated when he turns us down, we are already too invested in the idea.

From my years of corporate management, I learned that as a woman I am better off pitching the idea before I become too invested in it.

When you are in your Women’s Ministry meeting and someone pitches a great idea, keep it simple.  Ask yourself these important questions… Who, What, Where, When, and Why (or what is the Goal).  If there is a cost, include the estimated cost and how you plan to cover that (from the budget, sell tickets, etc).  Then stop, don’t allow yourself or your team to invest any further time on the subject (unless this is an event that doesn’t require Pastor’s approval).

THIS is the information you want to pitch to your Pastor.  Don’t worry about the decorations, party favors, and menu.  Your Pastor gets so many emails, phone calls, and now text messages.  He has a church full of ministries to coordinate and oversee, by giving him the brass tacks you are also respecting his time, and in extension honoring his family time too.  Pastor’s are not working a 9-5 schedule, and ministry often impedes into family time.

Once you get the approval, now is the time to invest yourself in the details and move forward.  If you don’t get the approval, you can ask for some clarification as to why not.  Then, you can respond accordingly.

Finally, if you are looking to revamp your entire Women’s Ministry, this too is an important conversation to have  with your Pastor.  First, you want his support in the changes.  Second, you want to make sure your changes are in line with the church.  Set up a meeting, and instead of starting from a list of ways you want to change the ministry… start with this:

Pastor, I think our Women’s Ministry could support the church better.  What changes you would you like to see in the Women’s Ministry?  How can we support the church’s mission?

Then, you can build your ministry changes and rebranding around his answers.