The Starting Point


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.

Preach the Gospel to Yourself

PREACHTHEGOSPELTOYOURSELFDuring my trip to The Gospel Coalition Conference this year, I had an opportunity to meet with a mentor via .   This mentoring session was very fruitful for me personally, but I also wanted to share more about something that was repeated a few times throughout the conference.

It was a reminder to us as leaders that we must preach the Gospel to ourselves daily.  But why?

Through my mentor, I was introduced to the idea that leaders can get so caught up in the success and failure model in regards to ministry that we can forget the Gospel.

Have you ever said or thought:

Well, I must be doing a good job because God has blessed our ministry with success.

God must be blessing our work, because He has been providing for our needs.

The Lord’s blessing must be on our ministry, because we have seen an increase in numbers.

I must be doing something wrong, I just can’t seem to get any momentum on this project.

The Lord’s favor must not be on this ministry, because we are not growing… we are shrinking.

What is the problem with these thoughts?

They are works based, not faith based.  They imply that success or failure is a result of God being pleased or displeased with something we are doing.   Scripture says that the Lord’s favor falls on righteous and the unrighteous alike, that he raises the sun on the good and evil each day (Matt 5:45,46).

When we run our ministry under the measure of success and failure based on our perception of God’s favor; we are suggesting that we (individually, as a team, as a church) are doing something that God will reward, or God will withhold from.

There is no freedom when you are bound up measuring your ministry by success and failure.  That is a worldly measurement.  Instead our freedom lies in that we are adopted children of God, before we are leaders.  We have His favor because He has given it to us according to His goodness, regardless of how well we run our ministry.  He loves us.  Plain and simple.

When we love Him, and seek to do His will…

When our eyes are set on Him, and our Hearts are in tune to His heart…

When we become His hands and feet…

We serve and we serve well, whether we are serving one woman or one thousand.

When we allow ourselves to get trapped in the success failure model, when things are going well… we feel good.  We feel in God’s favor, we feel as if we are pleasing Him, we feel joy and hopeful.   On the other hand, when our ministry is in a valley and we feel like a failure, then we don’t feel good at all.  We feel like we have disappointed God, or that we are doing something wrong that He wouldn’t reward our work and ministry.  We can even take on guilt that others are not being blessed because of our failure.

We can get so buy sharing the Gospel to others, that we can forget the Gospel is meant for us.  The Freedom of the Cross is a gift for us, too.  So, as much as we need to share the Gospel with others and we can do this through our ministry (in fact, it should be our primary goal)…

… we must share the Gospel with ourselves every morning.

The success or failure of my ministry work has nothing to do with God’s love for me or approval.

His love for me existed before I was in my mother’s womb, and will exist through eternity.  Nothing can separate that.

Ministry work is the icing on the cake, where we celebrate the Gospel with others.

Women’s Ministry: Pastor Predicaments


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.