A Common Identity, Our Unique Calling

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When we speak of Spiritual Gifts, we are talking about those unique gifts and talents that the Lord gives to us to use for His purpose and glory.  For some it is teaching, shepherding, and leading.  Others may be gifted in prayer, hospitality, and service.  There are many gifts, just as there are many parts of the body.  While together we represent the body, our individual gifts are like the body parts working in accordance to their gifts.  The eye doesn’t do the work of the heart, each must do it’s part:

1 Corinthians 12:12-27 (NIRV)

One Body but Many Parts

12 There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ. 13 We were all baptized by one Holy Spirit. And so we are formed into one body. It didn’t matter whether we were Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free people. We were all given the same Spirit to drink. 14 So the body is not made up of just one part. It has many parts.

15 Suppose the foot says, “I am not a hand. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. 16 And suppose the ear says, “I am not an eye. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell? 18 God has placed each part in the body just as he wanted it to be. 19 If all the parts were the same, how could there be a body? 20 As it is, there are many parts. But there is only one body.

21 The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 In fact, it is just the opposite. The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can’t do without. 23 The parts that we think are less important we treat with special honor. The private parts aren’t shown. But they are treated with special care. 24 The parts that can be shown don’t need special care. But God has put together all the parts of the body. And he has given more honor to the parts that didn’t have any. 25 In that way, the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of one another. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy.

27 You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it.

What does this mean for our ministries?

Imagine what would happen in your city, if every Women’s Ministry (or Church) decided it would focus on helping the homeless.  That is a noble cause!  But, what about the orphans?  The widows?  The disabled?  What about the kids who need to hear those VBS lessons?  What about the unexpected pregnancies?  Or, the women who are in recovery?

If we all focused on just one particular group, the results for that group would be amazing.  However, the impact on the other groups would be devastating.

As ministries, when we embrace our unique calling as a collective group, we divide the load.  Many hands do make light work, but many hands also reach more people… different people… in different ways.

How do we know our calling and live it out as a ministry?

Seek the Lord – begin your search for understanding by coming to the Lord in prayer.  Ask Him to reveal to you the needs in your community, your place in the church and community, and how he would have you serve.

Speak to Your Pastor –  it is important to understand that if your ministry is underneath the authority of the church that you should be supporting the vision/calling of your church.  If your church is called to reaching the community for Christ, then your mission as a ministry is to reach women for Christ.  If your church has a heart for those who are orphaned, in foster care, etc. then so should your ministry.  If your ministry is not under the authority of the church, seek God for further clarity.

Test the Women – if you have not done it yet, have your women take a spiritual gifts test.  By identifying their individual gifting you can see how they can fit within the existing ministry or expand the reach of your ministry.

Connect with Other Leaders –  make it a point to get to know other ministry leaders in your area.  If you see that multiple ministries are already serving one group of people well, you can look at other groups that need service.  If a need presents itself in the community that is too big for one group to handle alone, partner up.

There are some churches and organizations that have the means (resources and people) to have a vision/mission/calling that has a broader casting.  That is ok!  Perhaps it is time for a NEW ministry to be apart of your church, or a new group to be served.  The point is that we are intentional about how we serve in our community by seeking the Lord and through communication between our Pastors and community leaders.

 

Leadership Begins In Me

Woman Looking at ReflectionI don’t know any leader who doesn’t actively seek to improve their skill set.  We dig into books, internet articles, and discussion with other leaders to better ourselves.  Hours can be spent looking at ministry trends, taking leadership assessments, and digging through the scriptures to identify what a good leader is and does.  We invest in our time in conferences and workshops, we seek to the best with the job God has assigned for us.

One of the things I have been focusing on lately, however isn’t the stuff I add into my leadership repertoire but instead the foundations I began with.  As leaders we are to be an example to those we lead, and sometimes we can get so wrapped up in our ministry work we can begin to drop the ball. It’s easy to excuse those moments because we have all of this leadership work to do, right?

If I want to lead well, I must begin within.  I must lead myself, well.

I must lead myself to church each weekend.

I must lead myself to spend time in the Word, regularly.

I must lead myself to talk with God through prayer.

I must lead myself to relationships with other believers that will strengthen me.

I must lead myself to still waters, quietness where I can HEAR the Lord.

I must lead myself to tend to my household, my husband, and my children.

Recently, a leader shared this statement with me:

You can not lead where you do not go, you cannot lead in what you do not know.

Leadership Qualities

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When it comes to understanding our role as leaders, there are so many great books I could recommend.  But, let’s be cautious that we do not rely merely on the words of man to define what a Christian leaders should look/behave like.  What does God say?

When you are leading a group of people, from a pulpit or a seat on the ministry team; consider the following:

1 Timothy 3:1-7

  • It’s a noble task.   (Don’t take your position lightly.)
  • Be above reproach.
  • Spouse to one.
  • Sober minded.
  • Self Controlled.  (That’s a fruit of the Spirit.)
  • Respectable.
  • Hospitable.
  • Able to Teach.
  • Not a Drunkard.
  • Not violent, but gentle.  (Another fruit of the Spirit, gentleness.)
  • Not quarrelsome.
  • Not a lover of money.
  • Manage your household well.

Exodus 18:21

  • Able.
  • Fear God.
  • Trustworthy
  • Hate bribes.

Deuteronomy 1:13

  • Wise.
  • Understanding.
  • Experienced.

1 Timothy 3:8-13

  • Dignified.
  • Honest.
  • Not greedy.
  • Not addicted.
  • Blameless.
  • Faithful.  (Another fruit of the Spirit!)

As we come toward the last month of 2016, perhaps we should spend some time in the Word exploring these descriptions.  Ask the Lord to reveal areas you need to strength yourself in, make right any areas where you have slacked, ask for forgiveness where necessary.

We enter December with our hearts cast on the birth of Christ, who came to reconcile God’s people back unto Him.  A birth, life, and death foretold in the Old Testament that came to fruition in the New Testament.  Before Christ left to prepare His Father’s house for us, we were left with a charge.  Kingdom leaders that would go out and share the gospel, making disciples of the nations.  To lead in such a way, we must constantly be aware of our character, course correct when need be.

Head to the scriptures, do your own research on characteristics of Christian leaders.  Then test yourself.  Pray before you start, for open eyes, heart, and mind.  Pray through each verse you find, asking for the Spirit to convict your heart if this is an area you need to improve.  Pray at the end for the Lord to protect your role as leader, giving you wisdom… guidance…and discernment.

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.”

Back to School!

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It’s back to school season!  Women’s Ministry groups around the country are full of mothers who are navigating the waters of back to school.

Some are watching their children enter their school years for the first time, tear soaked tissues in hand.

Others are wrapping their heads around new teachers, dress codes, schedules, and shopping.

Then there are those who have their hands on a whole box of tissues as their children enter their senior years or head off to college.

How can we minister to our mothers?

  1.  Mentoring.   It is so valuable to any mother to have in her circle of friends and mentors the woman who has already walked this road.  We lean heavy into those who have gone through these days, learn from them about the beauty of what is to come.
  2. Calendars.  When you are planning your Women’s Ministry events, consider your local school calendars.  Find out important dates like school vacations and major events like Prom and Graduation.  Try your best to schedule events away from these times, as parents may be out of town on holiday or celebrating milestones with family who have traveled into town.  Be sure to consider private school schedules, which may differ from public.  If your church services more than one county, be sure to take into account the other county schedules as well.
  3. Clothing Swaps.  Back to school can be an expensive year, bring in all of your school clothes that the kids grew out of and swap with other moms.  Or, take those collected clothes and bring them to shelters for homeless women and children.
  4. Supply Drives.  Use your women’s ministry events as an opportunity to collect school supplies and take them to schools in need, or local children’s group home.  Bless the moms in your church who could use a hand offsetting back to school expenses.
  5. Connections.  Connect moms who have children in the same schools, so they can get to know each other better.  Help establish car pool groups, after school child care volunteers for working parents, etc.
  6. Volunteer.  Start a after school program for children in your local schools, teach them about Christ, friendships, character qualities, etc.  Moms would love to know their kids are being invested into vs. babysat at after school programs.
  7. Celebrate.  For the moms who are becoming empty nesters for the first time, meet up with them during these first weeks especially and celebrate!
  8. Small Groups.   Add a day time small group that meets when the kids are school, this is a great opportunity for our stay home parents.  They can meet with a local small group to study the word, without taking away valuable family time at nights and on the weekends.