Misconnected

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By Gena McCown

In a day and time where we are more connected than other digitally, our communities are responding with an increasing level of feeling alone.  When we look to the scriptures we see that community was a vital aspect of the local church.  Not only did they worship together, but they cared about one another on a personal level.  They tended to one another and carried each other’s burdens.  Communities worked together for the common good and because they were connected they were aware of what was happening in the lives those they called neighbor.

This led me to come to the very recent conclusion that we are not disconnected, we are just misconnected.  Experts have suggested that the problem with social media connections is that when one feels alone in their real life, they may turn to social media to connect and feel that void, and when that feeling of isolation doesn’t go away they dig deeper into social media to create more connections.  They are still seeking and looking for their tribe.  On the other hand, these experts have also suggested that once we are connected virtually the fear of missing out on what is being posted/shared may chain us to our devices verses going out and living life among others.

Disconnected seems so firm and final, like someone who has gone off grid or cut themselves off from society.  Disconnection happens when effort has left the equation of human relationship.  We have either made the decision to disconnect with another, or we have accepted their decision to connect with us.  I can’t believe a person who continually is seeking their tribe on social media outlets is seeking or accepting disconnection.  Instead they are trying to connect but in a different way, for whatever reason, and thus they are misconnected.  They are making connections but not the ones they need, which leaves the void they can’t fill.

What Can Women’s Ministry Do To Connect the Misconnected?

  • Connect the Women to Jesus – helping our women to understand who Jesus creates a foundation of self value and worth.  We connect them to Jesus through the Word which opens their eyes to a God who knows, hears, sees, and loves them… but who is also always with them.  We are never alone, when we are in God.
  • Connect the Women to Women in the Church – connecting women to other women who are also believers builds the foundations of community.  We have identified something we share in common, our faith, and embrace our connection as sisters in Christ.  As they begin to realize that they are not only walking this life with Jesus on their side but also a family of believers, the isolation will begin to dissipate.
  • Connect the Women to Community – through connecting the women to our community we begin to introduce purpose into their lives.  The more we connect with Jesus and our family of believers, the deeper our desire is to reach into our communities and serve others.  By connecting into our community we extend our community beyond what we could ever imagine.

How Do We Connect Women to Jesus: Bible studies, small groups, conferences, guest speakers, Sunday services, women’s brunches, retreats, workshops, etc.  It comes as we connect them directly to His Word via study, or as we share our testimonies via events.  

How Do We Connect Women to Women in the Church:  Ladies night/day out, women’s trips, retreats, brunches, fellowship events, concerts, movies, lunch dates.  Whether we start building connections through high attendance events or small intimate coffee dates, we are putting the building blocks in place for relationship.

How Do We Connect Women to Community:  Service projects within the church, local community, volunteering with local organizations and non-profits, local and international missions projects, etc. are all great ways to bring the women out of the church and into the community to serve.  By serving others, we often get to know them on a deeper level because we are meeting them where they are at.

WMC Meeting 3/31 Recap: Hospitality

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In a time where we are the most connected by devices and social media platforms, overwhelmingly people are feeling more alone.  Current studies are correlating that the higher the person’s social media usage, the more prone they are to feeling isolated.
Why?
1.  We feel excluded or rejected.   We are now very much aware to what we have not been invited to, or excluded from.  In the past, before social media, you literally may never know that you were not invited to a lunch date, or girls night out.  Now, not only does it stare us in the face… but we see it repeatedly as photos and videos are shared by all those who were present.
2.  We feel inadequate.  As we are able to see in to the lives of others… their homes, cars, vacations, etc. we begin to feel that we are not good enough.  We may hesitate to invite someone into our home because we don’t feel our home is as nice as their home.  We may not invite someone to a coffee date because they are always at Starbucks and we can only afford Dunkin.  In addition to feeling inadequate, we may create false personas in order to virtually “keep up with the Jones”.  We will pull ourselves away in order to protect that persona.
3.  We experience jealousy.  Jealousy and inadequacy are very different things.  Inadequacy is how we feel about ourselves, and jealousy is how we feel about others.  Jealousy builds up bitter feelings towards others, and will cause us to push people away.  
4.  We fear missing out.  If we disconnect from social media, we fear that we may miss what others are sharing and doing in their lives.  We can get so wrapped up in keeping tabs on others that we actually disconnect from opportunities in our real life.
* Note that none of the four point above even begin to address actual addiction.
* There is an evidenced cycle that loneliness will drive people online, yet will only make them feel more alone and disconnected, and can actually cause them to dive even further into social media to connect.
Of 2000 people who were polled, that used social media regularly, 72% reported feeling alone.  Of the 72%, one third reported feeling this way at least once a week.
With these numbers we must expect that this will have an impact on the church.  We have women who are walking through our doors every Sunday, who feel alone.  Women sitting at our brunch tables, who feel disconnected.  Women who live in our neighborhoods who are deeply looking for real community.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to spur one another on to love and good deeds.  Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
The Bible has the answer to what research is showing us, that real life … face to face connection is necessary for community.   In Act 2 when is speaks of the early church, it is noted that they added to their number daily.  Not because they met occasionally but because community was part of their daily life.  They grew because they were present with one another.
Research is indicating that digital community is not the same as real community. 
Experts suggest having a social media cleanse, where you break the habit of social media dependence.  Whether you cut it out completely, cut back the number of hours, or cut back from the “groups” that are keeping you from real life relationships, something has to give in order to allow you to embrace community in the form of personal relationship with people you see face to face.
What does this mean to our church and ministries?
1.  We must acknowledge that our women in our church and communities are overwhelmingly feeling alone.  Even when they live in a house full of people, are volunteers in the church, work in larger offices… they FEEL alone.
2.  We must do a better job of making sure that all of our women feel included and welcome.    This means making sure we have done our best effort to invite not just our friends and family members, but our neighbors and co-workers.  That we are extending invitations to strangers and visitors.   Practically this means not giving up on traditional methods of announcing events (personal invitations, handing out flyers in the church lobby, etc.).  We can’t rely on digital/social media announcements and registration alone.  (Read Luke 14:12-14)
3.  How we present our ministry will matter, to battle the feeling of inadequacy.  If all our social media shows the perfectly polished church ladies, we may put a wall between ourselves some of the women we want to reach.  We need to have a willingness to show the raw and rough edges too. 
We’ve said before that you can’t please all the people all of the time, but we can please some of the people some of the time.  This means having a Women’s Ministry program that has a diverse offering that meets the different women in our church.  One way to ensure this is to have a Women’s Ministry Team that has the same diversity as the church.  When you are thinking of the various women you serve, and accommodating to their situations… that is hospitality.  They will feel cared for because you considered them.
Additionally, hospitality is making sure that all women feel wanted at our events.  Often we take for granted that our guests will know where everything is or how we do things in our space.  We must always plan and prep with the guest in mind.  Having clear signage and volunteers to help direct people on where they need to be. Keeping guests in mind also means to always plan for new members/guests that may start attending just before you event.  If your space holds 50, and it’s an event where you are selling tickets, sell only up to 40 or 45.   This buffer allows you the flexibility to accommodate new members instead of having to tell them that the event is full and they need to wait to the next one. 
As leaders, we model hospitality by being aware.  We watch the for the table that just has 1 person sitting at it.  Volunteers keep an eye out for the person who walks in alone or seem lost.  We take the time to meet people individually and connect them to others as we go.  Be willing to give up your seat, your meal, your book, your ticket, etc. if it means you can invite one more to the table to be apart of the community of women in your church.
Surely, on a ministry level we are creating warm and inviting spaces.  Our teams put a lot of work into the details.  Make sure that the details don’t take more attention and time than your guests.    Don’t forget to also extend hospitality on more personal levels.  If you are texting back and forth, just chatting away… invite her for coffee to continue the conversation.   If you and another women in the church send jokes and funny videos back and forth, recognizing you have a similar sense of humor invite her to a funny movie or to see a comedian.  
Stop the face book stalking, and go back to face to face talking.
For more thoughts on hospitality, check out this document we gave to the attendees at the meeting.  Print off copies for yourself, your team, or your hospitality coordinator. 

Hospitality

We also had a great drawing prize, and two lucky winners took a copy of Kristin Schell’s book The Turquoise Table home.  (Congrats Trina and Nicole)

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Hospitality to Pastors & their Families

Naima

If you have been a member of a church for any length of time, you will have experienced the welcoming of a new Pastor or staff member to your church.   A Pastor search is such a process that for many of us we are as relieved as we are excited about welcoming this new person or family into our body of believers.  For the incoming Pastor and family, this could have been a long road too, waiting for God to guide their steps to your door.  Excitement and anxiousness combined, they are walking into a family of believers that they barely know.

My sister in Christ, co-laborer in the faith, Naima Johnston-Bush and her husband answered such a call.  They packed up their house in Florida and set off for Leesville First Assembly of God, in Kingdom service.  To my joy, on a Monday morning, I woke up to this picture and her words:

Naima

Our first Sunday at our new church and the ladies Ministry gave me an old fashioned “pounding”. They pounded me with God’s love and blessed our home with lots of great cleaning supplies, canned goods and boxed items. I won’t need cleaning supplies for the next six months.   ~Naima Johnston-Bush

First, I just want to shout out to the Women’s Ministry at Leesville for welcoming a family so beautifully.  Thank you for the love you showered on my friend.

Second, when I saw this picture… knowing we were heading into the topic of hospitality… I immediately asked permission to share.  THIS is such a wonderful way to display hospitality to new Pastors, Staff Members, and their families.

In all of my years in the church, I’ve seen plenty of people showered with gifts as they were leaving.  Moves, retirements, volunteers called into fulltime ministry or missions elsewhere, etc. have been opportunities to thank people for dedicated service to our church body and an encouragement and provision for those stepping out in faith.

I am not sure I’ve ever seen this kind of outpouring on someone who was coming into the body.  It may be possible things like this were done quietly among the existing staff members, gift cards and helping unpack.  In this occasion, it was the Women’s Ministry who stepped up and said how can we bless this new home?

It brought me to question how do we as Women’s Ministries let the women who are leading in our churches know that we appreciate them?  But also, ask myself, are we doing a good job welcoming in the wives and children that packed up everything and walked away from their friends and family in order to follow their husband’s call in to ministry?

For the last several years, I have participated in a group of Pastor’s wives (even though I am not one) in order to have a better understanding of how ministry affects the wives and family of Pastors.  I’m so thankful that the group welcomed me in, even though I’m not a PW… because it has been eye opening.

When I hear their stories, the good… bad… and the ugly… I just know that we could be doing a better job.

So, whether you want to share here … or talk among your Women’s Ministry teams, let’s ask and discuss the following questions:

  1.  Are we showing hospitality to our Pastor and Staff wives?
  2. How do we welcome in a new Pastor and his family?  What could we do, if we are not currently doing anything?
  3. What does hospitality for these women look like long term, once they are settled or have been in the fold for years?

Good hospitality makes a person not only feel welcomed through the doors, but that we are wanted to stay for the long term.  It shows a person they are seen, loved, and makes them feel cared for.  We minister to their spirit, their hearts, their minds, and even their households when we love well.

WMC Meetings

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The WMC is preparing for our March 31st local meeting in the Treasure Coast, FL.  Occasionally, we receive an email or notification asking if there is a WMC in other cities.  We’d love to see this as a reality.

If you would like to start up a WMC in your area, we are happy to help you do so.  Please visit our “Start a Group” page to request more information.

And don’t forget to register for the WMC’s 1st annual women’s leadership conference!

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The Turquoise Table by Kristin Schell

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At this month’s live Women’s Ministry Council event, in the Treasure Coast FL, we will be giving away two copies of Kristin Schell’s book “The Turquoise Table”.

Quite simply, author Kristin Schell set out to foster community within her neighborhood by putting a turquoise painted picnic table in her front yard.  It became a place to meet and connect with her neighbors and community.

A simple step on her part became a movement as turquoise tables started popping up in yards in other communities and neighborhoods.

It compelled me to think not only about putting a turquoise picnic table in my own yard, but I thought about all of those churches that are nestled in the middle of neighborhoods and communities where people walk by.  What if these houses of worship had picnic tables in their front yards?  What if the Pastors and staff popped out there for lunch instead of eating in their offices?

Just a thought.

If you would like to learn more about Kristin Schell, or the Turquoise Table, check out her website.  You can order the book, print a getting started checklist, and more.

The Welcome Wagon

Struedel, scones, even apple pandowdy!

Once upon a time, when a person would move into a neighborhood they would be met by the Welcome Wagon.  Usually a few neighbors would whip up some dishes and pop on by to meet the new family.  The food was an olive branch, a gift to help ease the moving in process by eliminating the need to make meals for the first few days.  Eventually meals became a cake, plate of cookies, or a cute little house plant.  The sentiment was the same, the gift was merely an excuse to meet the new family and welcome them to the neighborhood.

Just as much as the family wanted to make a good impression as they moved into their new house… the neighborhood was equally as concerned with making a good impression too.  The neighbors wanted to make sure that the new residents found the neighborhood to be more than just suitable but instead an enjoyable place to live and raise a family.

As time as passed, in many areas the Welcome Wagon is a thing of history.  In the six times I can remember moving during my lifetime, I’ve never actually experienced a Welcome Wagon.  In fact, in many cases months passed before I properly met neighbors.  This includes the generation who would have grown up with Welcome Wagons and neighbors being neighborly.  That’s not to say that we haven’t gotten to know our neighbors, but it certainly wasn’t as intentional or immediate.

Times changed.

When I watch movies or television and I see a group of neighbors eagerly welcoming the new residents to the neighborhood… to be entirely honest… I feel jilted.  Like I missed out on some great opportunity of friendliness and neighborly ritual.  When I find out that it still happens in some cities, I’m in full jealousy mode.  And yet, I must admit, I’ve not made the attempt to BE THAT NEIGHBOR either.  When someone new moved in to our neighborhood… I was not baking up a tray of cookies or putting together a casserole.

In some regards, we have lost our way when it comes to hospitality.

Two years ago, on New Years Eve, something shifted.  We have a family tradition for the holiday that includes an all day food smorgasbord.  It’s all our favorite junk and snack foods, and the one time of year where we put our “healthy eating” aside and indulge.  We look forward to it each year, and there is always more food than we could ever eat.  In recent years we began inviting our friends to join us, kind of an open house.  Two years ago, we stepped outside to watch the New Years Eve fireworks and our neighbors had family visiting from out of town.  This couple had brought fireworks of their own, and seeing my kids empty handed and watching from our driveway… they extended the olive branch.  As our kids ran around with sparklers and my husband lit off a few of the bigger fireworks they gave to us… I headed in the house to bring out some food to share.  We put up a folding table and the two households laughed at our kids running around … and admired the lights in the sky.

Last summer, it was 4th of July, and a new family was in the process of moving in.  They unloaded the moving truck until it was too dark.  Instead of heading inside to start unpacking, they set out some chairs to watch the fireworks, and waited for the pizza delivery guy to show up.  My youngest noticed they had two little girls, oohing and aahing over the light show.  She asked if she could take some of our sparklers and bring them to the family.  Of course I let her, remembering the kindness of our neighbors the previous year.  The little girls ran around with those sparklers as if we had given them the best gifts in the world.

Now, we have children in the neighborhood that I spoil with little gifts and trinkets.  It brings me joy to see their driveway covered in the sidewalk chalk we gave them at the start of spring break.  A neighbor down the way had a bicycle she didn’t need any longer and walked it down, offering it to my daughter.  A subtle shift has happened in our neighborhood, where neighborly hospitality is being revived.  It’s absolutely beautiful.

Maybe you too have felt like hospitality has been waning.  The great news is that all is not lost.  At any given time, any given one of us, can make the choice to bring hospitality back into our lives, neighborhoods, cities, and churches.

  1.  Evaluate Your Hospitality –  Is there any plan for welcoming new faces?   If so, how is that plan working out?  Is it time to revamp it?  If there is not one, what could be done to start being more intentional about how we welcome new people into our lives or ministry?
  2. Employ the Spiritual Gifts of Hospitality – Find the people within your church who have the spiritual gift of hospitality.  Let them lead the charge in how we welcome guests, new members, families, etc.  
  3. Put Out the Welcome Mat – Ensure that your church, ministry, or organization is giving the impression that guests are welcome.  When someone comes knocking at the door, who is going to invite them in?  Do you have a welcome committee who can direct them on where to go, or how to find information?
  4. Seek Out the Community – Hospitality isn’t only about serving those who are knocking on our doors, but also extending an invitation to the community.  We do this by reaching out and serving in the community, outside of our church walls.  Meeting people, learning about those who live around us, and inviting them to visit.
  5. Create Comfort – Hospitality is a welcoming invitation to the stranger, a welcome mat for the visitor, and creating a safe place for the resident.  Once a guest becomes a member we need to ensure they feel as welcome and valued as they did when they first arrived.

Have a Welcome Wagon or Committee for your church, ministry, or organization.  Let them use their gifts in this area to help create, foster, and build a solid plan for making sure people feel welcome and cared for in your space.

Proverbs 31 Hospitality

the sparks between us will

In the Proverbs 31 “Virtuous Woman” verses (10-31) we witness several examples of hospitality.

If we limit our thinking of hospitality to serving strangers, we are only recognizing a fraction of what it means to be hospitable.  One definition of the word is to be friendly and welcoming of strangers and guests.  However, the second part of the definition is an environment that is pleasant and favorable for living in.

Hospitable to Her Husband (Proverbs 31:11,12)

She has created and fostered and environment where her husband feels safe, cared for, and happy.  He has complete trust in her, and therefore can relax in her presence.

Hospitable to Her Household (Proverbs 31:14,15)

She provides good, choice foods for her household (husband, children) and this includes her servants.  She is caring for all of them, making anyone who is in her household feel welcomed and valued.

Hospitable to the Less Fortunate (Proverbs 31:20)

Whether they are needy in spirit, health, or wealth… she extends her arms out to them.  The wording implies that she seeks them out by stretching out her arms or reaching out her hands.  She doesn’t wait until they show up on her door step and ask for her help, but instead she seeks these people out.

Hospitable with Her Words (Proverbs 31:26)

The Proverbs 31 woman speaks with wisdom AND kindness.  She is not boastful or cold, but those who know her welcome what she has to say because of her reputation.  

A virtuous woman knows the value of being hospitable not only to the people who she meets in the community or in her church, but foremost to her own family.  She creates a safe landing place for her husband and children to retreat to.  She has built a reputation and a home that has an open door to those who are in need.  It is a foundation in her life that begins within the walls of her own house and then extends out into the community from there.