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.

Team Series: Hospitality

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Team Series:  Hospitality by Gena McCown

Hospitality is probably one of the most beautiful words in the English language, especially if you are a Southern Girl.  Hospitality smells of fresh brewed coffee on the other side of an unlocked door, where the mat says “Always Welcome”.  It reminds me of a time where friends just stopped by to shoot the breeze, and inviting people into our home was a regular occurrence.  Women gathered around the kitchen table or in the livingroom, bibles open and snacking on homemade lemon bars.  Sweet Tea on the back porch as we prayed over each other.  My Great Aunt’s perfumed powder wafting across the nose of every woman she greeted with a hug as they crossed her threshold.

Hospitality is what makes us feel welcomed into a space, warm and relaxed… at home. 

There are some women who are simply PRONE to hospitality, it is their genetic code.  They will look for ways to invite people into their home.  Quick to volunteer to host a luncheon or meeting.  There will always been enough food, and drinks.  The bathroom will smell of fresh dried lavender.  There will be a chocolate mint on every pillow at the retreat center.  She lives to make people feel special, and loved. 

This woman is important to your Women’s Ministry, this is a role to be on your top priority to fill. Why?

Hospitality Leaders are:

  • Women of influence.  Typically if they go to an event, they bring and encourage others to come too.  My Pastor’s wife calls them “connectors”.
  • Genuinely are excited to see every woman who enters the room, and make it a point of meeting the new faces.
  • Generous with their homes and time.
  • Quick to organize meals for the sick, new moms, new families, etc.
  • Find joy in the details of their tasks.
  • Have vast amounts of knowledge when it comes to finding locations for events from luncheons to weekend long retreats.
  • Are usually effective event planners, or at least great on event teams.
  • They have an eye for femininity that pragmatic leaders tend to lack, but those attending our events will appreciate.

Their Role in Ministry:

  • Event Planning Leader/Team – brunches, luncheons, retreats, teas, etc.
  • Meals Ministry Leader/Team – sick, new mom, etc.
  • Welcoming Committee Leader/Team – how do we welcome new women to our church?
  • Hosting Team Meetings or planning meetings (even if they are on the team)

A note of caution, women who have the gift of hospitality are often creative types.  Which means for events like retreats, you may do best to pair them with an A type personality.  One is in charge of the schedule, finding the speakers, planning the technical side of the event; the other is responsible for the meals, special touches, speaker gifts, etc.   It is important to know your women, their gifts and strengths… as well as their weaknesses.  Occasionally you have the blessing of a woman with the gift of hospitality and administration, and she’s the gal whom you can give the whole task and trust she’ll get it done. 

Women with the gift of hospitality are also typically generous and will have beautiful ideas to make women feel special and welcomed at events.  However, these special touches can impact your event budgets.  It is important to be clear with your hospitality leader the budget she has for her tasks.  I have known many of these women who would be happy to pay out of their own pockets to make up the difference, but I do generally ask them not to.  Simply because we need to keep up a budget that all team members present and future can work with.  If she supplements her budget, out of pocket, yes the event will be magnificent… but it may be hard for a future leader who replaces her to do the same.  Encourage these women to do the best they can within the agreed budget, but don’t be surprised if they “gift” a thing or two over time.

 

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.

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.”