Whose Words Do You Believe? by Aimee Nelson

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Part of our ongoing contribution series:  Leading Ladies: Devotions for Leaders

Sitting at my kitchen table a few days ago, I hear my five year-old yell from the patio, “I am strong, I am big”. Hearing those words I stopped what I was doing and decided to listen in on the conversation he was having with his friend. I hear him say again “I am strong”, “I am big”, “I can do it”, “I can do anything”! This time I hear his voice quiver. As I continue to listen I no longer hear their voices but the stomping of little feet. Suddenly this five-year old ball of anger comes running in and stands in front of me. Arms folded, lips pursed and his eyes filling with tears. He says to me “mommy I’m not strong”.

I kneel down, scoop him up in my arms and give him a huge hug. He then proceeds to tell me how his little playmate was telling him he wasn’t strong, he wasn’t big and that he couldn’t do what they were doing. I immediately sense a teaching moment and it’s one that I don’t want to let slip by. I pull him closer and begin to tell him that he is big, he is strong and there is nothing that he can’t do. I tell him that he’s all of these things because God says he is. I let him know that he can accomplish anything because God’s word says that he can (Philip 4:13). He looks at me and smiles, sticks his chest out and walks away with a swagger that would make you think he just conquered the world.

As I was thanking the Lord for the opportunity to impart truth into my son, it was then that I felt the Lord ask me “what about you Aimee, who’s words are you believing”? I took a moment to reflect on the question. And in the honesty of the moment, I had to admit I too have not always believed God’s word. You see I have often fallen victim to the same words that tormented my five-year old. Many times I have stepped out to do something for the Lord but back tracked or failed to launch out because I believed the words of others.

Whether those words came from a well-meaning friend or have spewed from a heart of hurt I listened to them, I believed them. I believed their words over the words of my heavenly Father who commanded me to be bold, strong and courageous (Joshua 1:6). His word also says that “I am more than a conqueror” (Rom. 8:28). I have made a choice to start believing what He says about me.

Are there some negative words you have believed? Will you believe what God’s word says about you? Join me today as I choose to believe His word.

~Aimee

Three Years Later

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By Gena McCown

A little over three years ago, the first Women’s Ministry Council meeting was held.  I look at where we are today, I see where we are heading.  I sit in awe of what the Lord has done with an idea that was formed over two coffees and cheeseburgers at a McDonald’s late one Monday evening.

For those who do not know our history, let me take you back to that evening.  We had just wrapped up a Women’s Ministry meeting for our church.  Laura Masoner and I decided to meet over at the McDonalds and chat.  Laura and I can talk Women’s Ministry for hours without exhaustion.  It was during that conversation that the big “what if” question was posed.

What if we could get together with other Women’s Ministry Leaders/Teams and talk shop.  In our earliest inceptions we saw a networking group at best, conversing over coffee and pastries.  But then the Lord gave us the vision for something much bigger, a task that would require our faith and obedience to His will.  Not a move has been made in this ministry that was not laid in advance by God.  Not a step was taken at our pace, but rather we have been hustling to keep up with Him.

We knew that the majority of materials and websites that dealt with Women’s Ministry were either antiquated or still focused on the fellowship side of ministry with little focus on the practical.  We knew that Women’s Ministry was heading in a direction where the old programs were not working for women any more, and they were looking for something deeper and more meaningful.  Women’s Ministry needed to be renewed and refined.  It was time to take Women’s Ministry into a direction that was Gospel Centered, Disciple Making… SERIOUS MINISTRY.

In the three years since it’s inception, Women’s Ministry Council has been meeting the goals and mission consistently.

  • Providing FREE practical ministry training to local Women’s Ministry Leaders/Teams
  • Connecting Women’s Ministry Leaders/Teams to tools and resources to help build effective ministries, and encourage their gaze to ever be on Christ as their purpose.
  • Building relationships between Women’s Ministry Leaders/Teams so that they can help each other, when possible by sharing resources, materials, and experience.

In mid 2016 we realized that we had created a space that was unlike anything we had ever experienced.  Women gathered, from many denominations and even unaffiliated, putting aside denominational differences UNIFIED in the goal to bring women to the Cross.  It has been a tender place, where we have been able to share our vulnerabilities.  It has been a brave place, where we have dared to tackle heavy topics with grace and love.  It has been a place of healing, where we have had our hearts broken as our eyes were opened … YET the hope of coming together as one body to make a difference in our world.

When I prepare for our upcoming meetings, I am filled with excitement and joy.  I know that four Saturdays, each year, I am surrounded by women who are different than me in many ways but are filled with the HOPE of Jesus.  Women who sacrifice to serve their church and community well, who strive to be and do better.  Women who are willing to listen with soft hearts, embracing one another, learning from one another.  It is a glimpse of Heaven for me.

I see what we have done here among a group of leaders, and I pray that is what is also happening in our individual churches.  Creating community, building relationships, spurring one another on to good, lifting up those who stumble, equipping each other… and preaching the Gospel to one another.  Talking of His goodness.  Sharing your testimonies.  Interceding for each other. 

2018 is going to be a big year for Women’s Ministry Council, and we can’t wait to see what the Lord is going to do in our lives, churches, community, and beyond.

Thank you for a great three years. 

Eat, Drink, and Remember.

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Women are inherently emotional creation, emotional in how we connect with others and respond to the situations we are in.  Men work on a different level, entirely.  It’s why you can meet for your women’s study group every week and wish you could meet more often; yet your husband might be content with meeting once a month to check in with the guys.  It is for this reason, emotional connection, the Women’s Ministry Council has a heart for building up a broad view of Women’s Ministry.

Brunches are great, as they fulfil our need to connect personally with others.  Yet, they often lack deep instruction.  Bible Studies are a great way to find instruction and wisdom.  Yet, they often have a changing of attendees that prevents real relationships from forming.  Small Groups, of set members who change study materials, may create a community;  but too often those community groups can close out new people who bring their own wisdom and value.

A Women’s Ministry that solely relies on monthly brunches is not going to a have a long term deep impact on the spiritual growth of women in their church.

A Women’s Ministry that solely relies on Bible Studies and Small Groups is not going to connect the women in corporate worship and instruction.

We must strike balance.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

~ Hebrews 10:23-25

The same can be said about how diverse our ministries are.  A Women’s Ministry that sits in the safety of the programs and offerings it has always provided is going to continue bringing like minded women.  However, it will be a near impossibility to diversify that ministry program to include a broader representation of your church or community.

During the last WMC meeting, one point that both Aimee Nelson and Jenny Andrews was made is our common identity.  Before all things we are Christian women, daughters of the King.  This is our common unity.

I can eat, drink, and remember how Christ changed my life… regardless of what food is on my plate or drink fills my cup.  I can do this at a table in a local café, or the home of a new friend.  To sit and break bread with a fellow believer sharing our testimonies with one another is a blessing beyond measure.  Regardless of our skin color or backgrounds, we love the same God.

It can be difficult to facilitate change in a ministry where many area already accustomed to certain events. We cannot facilitate change if we do things the same way we have always done.  Yet, if you change everything you may bring in new faces and your women already invested may leave, which doesn’t help bring people together either.  Change is hard.   However we can begin to implement change in smaller measures.

What if…

What if I invited a worship singer from a local African American church to sing for the worship portion of our brunch?

What if I went to a local, family owned, ethnic restaurant and catered in dinner for our next guest speaker?

What if our next speaker was born in another country?

What if our next keynote speaker at our retreat was a woman rescued from sex trafficking?

What if our next Bible Study was written by an African American author or a woman from another country?

What if we began a series of events where we brought in women from various ethnic churches in our community to learn more about who they are, what their ministry goals are, and how we can help?

You don’t have to dismantle and rebuild a ministry to bring change via a total overhaul.  You can begin to take small steps, over time.

Eat, drink, and remember…

we are all precious in His sight.

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 Serge.org .   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 Serge.org 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.

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.

 

 

Is Your Ministry Visible?

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On a Saturday morning, when your women’s ministry gathers to serve… who are you serving?   Is it the women of your church?  Their friends, family, and coworkers whom they invited to share in the day.  Or, are your tables filled with unfamiliar faces?  Faces that wear the marks of pain, struggle, loneliness, and longing for something they can’t put their finger on.

On a Saturday morning, when your women’s ministry gathers to serve… where are you serving?   In the comfort of your sanctuary, singing praise music, taking an offering, listening to a speaker?  Are you in the banquet area of your church, detailed centerpieces, a spread of homemade foods to feed an army, watching a bible study video, and having table discussions?  Or, are you out being the hands and the feet to those who are living on the streets, struggling to pay their bills, pulling weeds, painting houses, reading to the blind, shopping for the invalid, and serving the “least of these”?

Let me assure you that there is absolutely nothing wrong with serving the women of our church.  The women in our churches need encouragement, accountability, opportunities for growth, mentorship, and in their times of need we have a responsibility to minister to those needs.  However, this can not be the extent of how we serve our community.  We need to be willing to step out of our comfort zones and church walls.

When we serve the community, we serve like Christ.   When we serve those who are overlooked or outcasts, we serve like Christ.  When we serve others who serve, we serve like Christ.  Look to your community and ask yourself… if I was looking for Christ, where would I find him?  Who would He be talking to, who would He be serving.  Then go, and serve.  I guarantee that He is serving along side you… as you serve the body, He touches their spirit.

What are some tangible ideas for serving your community?

  • Host a luncheon for those who are serving the community in your area, to thank them for their service and to help them refuel their bodies for their work.  I would not limit yourself to only “ministries” either.  For example, you could contact a local food bank and offer to host a thank you luncheon for their volunteers.   Treat the teachers who work in the most troubled schools to a breakfast treat or catered lunch.
  • Host a baby shower for the local crisis pregnancy center to restock their inventory of goods they distribute to their clients.
  • Pack up bags for the homeless that contain a snack, hygiene items, etc. and plan a date to hit the streets and distribute them.  Pinterest has a ton of great suggestions for this project.
  • Host a luncheon for women who are being freed from the local prison, as part of their transition process.  Feed them, pray over them, find out what needs they have for reentering society, and then see what you can drum up.  Coordinate with a local salon to host a day of free haircuts for the women, a local thrift store to give each woman a certificate for 1 complete outfit for interviews.  Find out what items they can take ba the prison with them, and make gift bags filled with those items to bring back with them.  Or, find volunteers willing to go to the prisons and pray/minister to the women.
  • Volunteer at local soup kitchens, women’s shelters, etc.  Give time, or even begin a regular process of collecting donations for their needs.  Include bringing those needed items as part of your admission to an event.
  • Find local speakers for your events who are willing to donate their time, while the money from the tickets goes to organizations in need within the community.  Use your brunches as an avenue to collect money or goods.
  • Hold your next brunch somewhere in the community, a local restaurant or park.  Post signs that the community is welcome.
  • Find empty nesters in your church who love children, and pair them up with young teen or single mothers for mentoring.  These are women who need childcare in order to go to work. Foster a real relationship building opportunity.
  • Partner with other churches and create a support group for our Female Combat Veterans.
  • Create a tutoring center for single mothers who are trying to earn their college degree (or high school).  Or, a workshop that teaches English to speakers of other languages.
  • Bring gift baskets to the local strip club for the women who work their, remind them of their value.
  • Host bible studies in community centers, retirement homes, nursing/rehab facilities.
  • Find a neighboring church and host a lunch for their ministry leaders (Pastors, staff, study leaders, ministry leaders).

These are just a few ideas on what you can do in your community to let them know they are seen, known, and cared for.  Just close your eyes and pray… “Lord, give me your eyes to see the needs.  Give me courage to step out of my comfort zone in order to serve those whom you love.  Point me in the direction in which you want me to go.  Here I am Lord, send me.  Amen.”