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: The Men’s Ministry Connection

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Recently, a group of Women’s Ministry leaders sat around a table in a Panera Bread.  We were talking about some of the difficulties that Women’s Ministry faces in the pursuit of ministry work.  Several of the women identified that they didn’t feel Women’s Ministry was supported in their church.  In the course of discussion we realized that all of those churches shared something in common, they also didn’t have a Men’s Ministry.  Could it be as simple as that?  Could it be that the reason Women’s Ministry is not being supported in some churches, simply be because the church doesn’t see gender based ministry important?

That began a quest.  I reached out to women all over the country who are Women’s Ministry leaders, and began asking two straight forward questions:

Do you feel your Women’s Ministry is well supported by your church?

Does your church have a Men’s Ministry?

The results were confirming my suspicions.  In the churches where Women’s Ministry was thriving and growing, there was also a SOLID Men’s Ministry that was doing the same.  In the churches where the Women’s Ministry was struggling, there was either no Men’s Ministry or the ministry was not functioning well.

Then I reached out to a few women who were involved in Women’s Ministry on a higher level.  These are women who are running websites that are resources for Women’s Ministry, involved in planning conferences for women in ministry, etc.   And the response was overwhelmingly in agreement.  In fact, many of the women shared that they were just talking about this within their own ministry/organization.

Ladies, this is a LIGHT BULB moment for Women’s Ministry.   In most churches in the United States the staff members of the church are going to be predominantly men.  If the men who are leading the church do not see a necessity for a Men’s Ministry, it will be very difficult for them to fully comprehend why Women’s Ministry is important.

In speaking with a group of men, I have learned that some of them have a notion that men are not interested in a formal “Men’s Ministry” program.  They believe that men are not wanting to gather up with other men the same way women do.  Lunches, Conferences, and other types of events are just too mushy, touchy, feely for men.  Others like to have men’s activities, but that usually revolves around doing man type things, a church basketball team, going to a shooting range, or doing community service projects like Habitat for Humanity where they are building together.

To an extent this is true.  Men can bond as brothers in Christ through manual labor, shared interests, etc.  A group of guys can sit in a room together, watching sports, speaking less than 10 words to each other… and yet that will be the best night of their week.  They are wired differently than women.

Or, are they?  I spoke to my husband about this and was quite surprised by his response.  He actually disagreed with this mentality altogether.  He said that he can watch sports, or work with other men any time he wants.  Simply go out in your driveway and start working on your car and the neighborhood men start showing up.  Call up any group of guys to come over and watch the game, and they will usually show up.  However, having intentional opportunities to bond with his brothers in Christ…. in a gospel centered, Christ centered way is something much harder for him to do on his own.

In many churches, if you look at the menu of small groups / bible studies / peer groups, you will find that the women’s groups outnumber the men’s groups.   Of the men’s groups (and I am specifically not including couples groups), they are often planned around the average work schedule.    There may be one or two in the morning, for the pre-work group.  There may be one or two around lunch time, where you can plug in during your lunch break.   And, then you may have one or two in the post-work hour where the guys stop in before they head home for the evening.

While these are great options, none of these fit for the guy who has to commute to work.  He leaves long before the first group meets, and gets home after the last group is done.  He’s not in town to plug into the lunch group.  Week to week, he is pushing through life without that support of his brothers in Christ.  None of these fit for the guy who is in town, but his work schedule varies… and he never knows when his lunch hour will come.  Because he can’t commit to the regular meeting schedule, he doesn’t join in.  Week to week, he is disconnected from his church brotherhood.

These men, they are the ones who thrive on a Men’s Ministry that is more than just a few bible study or accountability groups.  They can make a workshop on a Saturday, or sit through a Men’s Luncheon.  They won’t even mind chipping in for Pizza or having Chik-fil-a cater the event versus having to bring a dish from home (like the ladies do).  These are the men who utilize conferences and men’s retreats as a way to connect with the other men in the church in away that goes deeper than the Sunday morning meet and greets in the pews.  When they can’t connect in small groups, they can connect here.

I believe the greatest thing we can do for our Women’s Ministry is to encourage the development of a Men’s Ministry in our church.  However, it may be a big task ahead of us.  We are going to be challenging the thought processes of our male leadership on how men see ministry in the church.  We may be breaking molds.  We can’t plan and lead it ourselves, we have to find the man within the body that sees this as valuable and has the willingness to lead the ministry.

As Women’s Ministry leaders, we can start with our own husbands.  Perhaps, this can be a ministry co-led by couples…. where the wife leads the women’s ministry and the husband leads the men’s ministry.  Approaching the Pastor and staff in this manner, will lend credibility to the plan if you are already seen in good favor as the Women’s Ministry Leader.  They know you will be a help and support to your husband as he begins to lead.

You may find him as the husband of one of your Women’s Ministry team members or a woman in the church.  Start planting seeds in the women you are regularly invested in Women’s Ministry events, that a Men’s Ministry would be a blessing to the men of the church.

As a Men’s Ministry develops, have the Women’s Ministry take a strong stand publically in support of it.  If they are having a lunch, get women from your team or in the church to volunteer to provide the food for the lunch.  Or, if you have the funds in your budget, sponsor their first luncheon by catering in the food.  We want the men to know that we support their ministry, we want to help intentionally funnel the men toward it by helping their wives to see the value in it.

You may have to start smaller.  It might not be realistic in your church to step right up to the staff and present a full fledged Men’s Ministry program.  Start with a simple step, like having your husband (or the guy in the church you have recruited to lead) present a men’s conference that he would be willing to spearhead the planning.  If the Pastor’s see that men really are interested in these types of events, it may change their view of Men’s Ministry.

Most importantly, during this process with promoting a Men’s Ministry (or Women’s Ministry) remember that your Pastors are responsible for shepherding the church.  They are running every decision they make through the responsibility the Lord put upon their shoulders when they stepped in to lead our churches.  They are not our enemy, they just have a different vision than we do at times.  Any ministry should be a blessing to the church.  It should support the overall vision of the church.  It should not be a ministry unto itself, isolated from the church and doing it’s own thing.

Before presenting the Men’s Ministry to the church, really spend some time identifying the blessings that the ministry would bring to the church.  Look at your church’s mission statement or vision, identify the ways in which this ministry will support that vision or mission.  There are many Pastors and staff members that do not see the need for gender based ministry, because they see both sexes as equally capable of learning and serving.  We need to be able to identify to the staff the reasons why gender based ministry can be a blessing not only to the church, but to the men and women who are a part of it.   Next Friday, we are going to explore the benefits of gender based ministry in more depth.