Ministering to Women – Part 3

For those who were unable to attend the Mentoring and Ministering training event, we are ending our recap from our speakers.  Today, we are going to share some of Aimee Nelson’s talking points about ministering to our mothers of unexpected pregnancies.  Aimee is a Senior Pastor’s wife, speaker, author, and founder of YouMom YouMom is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization formed for the purpose of providing emotional, practical and spiritual support for single, young girls who find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy

It is incredibly important for us, the leaders of the Women’s Ministry Council, to not only work on providing quality training for Women’s Ministry leaders and their team members; but also connect them to resources and encourage how their ministries will impact our community.  Therefore we ended this year, and will be focusing the better part of next year on intentional discipleship.   When Jenny Andrews spoke the group, she hit a very key point… mentoring is an intentional act.  As leaders we need to be positioning seasoned women in our churches into positions where they can mentor the new believers.  However, our reach doesn’t stop there.

I can’t think of a single church that hasn’t been impacted by an unexpected pregnancy.  The truth is that every single Christian church was founded on the ministry of a baby born unexpectedly.  When Aimee Nelson shared her heart for women who face unexpected pregnancies, she said two things that jumped out at me and I keep finding myself returning to.

  1.  When Mary found out she was pregnant, she went to her cousin Elizabeth.  Mary had a woman who would walk alongside her in this pregnancy.  She didn’t go this journey alone.
  2. We must not forget that teen moms are not the only unexpected pregnancies that will happen in our church.  Think of that mom, with adult children, who finds out she is pregnant.  Married or not, this too is an unexpected pregnancy and she will need women to walk alongside her.  A lot may have changed in the world since she was last parenting a baby.

Aimee Neslon didn’t waste one second to get right to the point, when she posed this question:

We would all agree that mentoring is necessary and pertinent, and in most churches we do it well.  However, I want to pose a question.  If a teen mother walked into your church, would there be a place for her to go and be ministered to?

Aimee Nelson, Founder of YouMom

Aimee pointed out that churches have conveyed strong messages about not having an abortion, and celebrating those who walk away from the abortion clinic. Yet, she hit us all right in the heart when she asked who from the church was going to walk alongside her now that she has chosen life?  Strongly encouraging us to see this as an opportunity to share the love of Christ.

“On her Facebook Page, Aimee referred to these young mothers as the “Modern Day Widows” and that has struck a cord for me.   These are young women who, regardless of the reason, are left alone to raise their children without a spouse at their side.  If we are called in the scripture to help the widow, the orphan, and the alien… it includes our teen and single mothers”

Gena McCown

Aimee shared about the work her ministry, YouMom, does within their community.  This includes and intentional mentoring program where the mothers earn “bucks” to spend in their “store”.  The community supplies things from diapers, clothes, formula, etc. for the “store” and the women can spend the “bucks” they earn by attending mentoring sessions and group meetings.  These meetings cover prenatal counseling and birth coaching through helping the moms after the babies have been born.  Mixed in with the practical mothering advice, these young moms are introduced to Jesus.  They have celebrated many of these girls accepting Christ into their lives and being baptized.  Aimee’s group is creating a legacy in her community.

A few months ago, I met a woman who shared the following story with me.  She had been invited as a teen to attend youth group with one of her Christian friends.  Her family didn’t attend church and she enjoyed the youth group and fellowship.  Then, she found out she was pregnant.  Afraid that she would set a bad example for the other teens, the Youth Pastor asked her not to return.  She walked her pregnancy alone, and became a teen mom.  A few months after her child was born, tragically the baby died.  She not only had to endure the pregnancy alone, but also her grief and mourning.  When the church eventually learned what happened, suddenly they wanted to rally around her.  She declined their offer and has never stepped foot in a church again. 

We need to do better as a church, and the Women’s Ministry can be a driving force in making this happen.  We can reach out to our single moms in the church and in the community, in a positive and helpful way. 

There were seven specific things that Aimee shared that we can do as a Women’s Ministry, and church, as we come up along side these young moms.  We are going to highlight these points.  If you would like more information, I would encourage you to reach out to Aimee Nelson via YouMom or find her on Facebook.

  1. Acceptance – They need to know that they are welcomed and loved. 
  2. Affirmation – We can affirm her, as we affirm the choice she made FOR LIFE.
  3. Accountability – Connect her to a mentor, to help her set and accomplish goals.
  4. Respect – Teen pregnancy often results in the girl being disrespected by friends, family, and strangers.  When she is shown respect, it solidifies her choice of life was the right one.
  5. Support – She is under a load of stress and emotions, she needs to know she’s not walking alone.
  6. Grace & Compassion – When she realizes she deserves grace, she will not only extend it to others but will begin to walk in that grace.
  7. Knowledge that Her Life Is Not Over –  Teen moms often feel that their dreams are over because of the pregnancy (education, career, marriage, etc).  She needs to know that this too is now a season of her life, and there is more ahead.  Remind her of her value and worth, and that God is a redeeming God.

How can our Women’s Minsitries create this space?  Aimee suggests the following:

Pray, and ask God to open your eyes.  Are there any teen moms in your church or in your community?  What are their needs?  Do we have valuable resources that might assist them?  Pray over what your church can do (starting a support group, financially supporting a community support group, collecting goods for a pregnancy closet, volunteering at a pregnancy crisis center).  Pray for these girls, their babies, and that they will see their value in God.

Be an advocate for these girls.  When you see someone speaking down to them, be a voice and stand up for them.  Proverbs 31:7-8 says, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”  And, Psalm 82:3-4 reads “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and destitute.  Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

Aimee Nelson, YouMom

Aimee closed by reminding us that one girl’s yes, 2000 years ago, changed the universe.  What could your yes change?  When the church partners together and we walk alongside a young woman, we are letting her know that hope is in front of her.   We empower and equip her, having an impact on two lives at one time.

Mentoring Women – Part 2

For those who were unable to attend the Mentoring and Ministering training event, we’d love to recap some highlights from our speakers.  Today, we are going to share some of Jenny Andrew’s talking points about intentional mentoring.  Jenny Andrews was mentored under the One to One Discipling materials when she first became a Christian.  For nearly five years she has been mentoring others under that same curriculum.

Mentoring needs to intentional.

  • Sometimes we assume that people naturally understand what we mean when we give them instructions.   Jenny sited an example of instructing her toddler son on a task, only to find him in a hysterical predicament.  She assumed he understood his instructions, but since no one had ever taught him a particular term… well, he used his toddler logic to fill the gap.  We teach them, because we love them.
  • When we start a new job, we don’t show up on the first day understanding everything expected of us.  We require training and time.  Someone had to show us how to do the job.   Someone was intentional in teaching you, whether out of love or because they were paid to.
  • Jesus intentionally pour into his disciples, and the people He would encounter.  Jenny shared with us the scripture, Luke 6:12-16.  Jesus selected Judas Iscariot as a disciple, even though He knew that Judas would betray Him.  Jesus still poured into Judas, teaching him and guiding him.

I really thought this was a fantastic point, that Christ knew that Judas would ultimately betray Him… and yet that didn’t stop Jesus from investing in Judas.  Especially in Women’s Ministry, we can be hurt by the women we serve along with.  A friend once said “even sheep will bite”.  If Jesus can love and invest in Judas, then I can serve or serve alongside those who may have hurt me.  This doesn’t mean we become doormats, it is healthy to establish boundaries, we can love and pray for them from a safe distance. 

Jenny Andrews continued, by sharing that it isn’t enough to see the example made by Jesus, but that we need to put that into practice too.  If we are to be Christ-like, we must do Christ-like things.   We start in prayer and then more forward into intentional disciple making.

I felt the need to share with others about the One to One Program because I went through it myself and it taught me a lot.  The One to One Discipling ministry that I co-lead at my church has ministered to at least 100 women in the last 5 years since it started.

Jenny Andrews, Connect Church

Jenny co-leads a team that averages fifteen mentors at any given time, and each mentor will have just a small handful of women they mentor to.  Using the One to One Discipling program, these mentors use the materials with sixth graders on up.  Jenny shared that they adjust the materials to the specific dynamics of their church and the ages they are mentoring.  Which means the curriculum allows flexibility.  The program is designed for nine weeks, but you can adjust it to the frequency that your mentors and mentees have available.  In some cases, women have chosen to go through the materials repetitively.
Every time I do it, I learn something new.
Jenny Andrews, Connect Church
Their mentoring program is used for mature women who want a deeper understanding of the scriptures, or for newly baptized women.  The goal is to create solid believers who have a basic understanding of the faith, using scripturally based materials.  While it may seem intimidating, a structured curriculum like this makes it possible for any of us to mentor another woman.  We are not walking through it alone, either.  We are all in this together.
What if each woman here took on one women in our church’s and being to
pour into them what we know?  We would have solid believing Christian
women because we believed in them.
Jenny Andrews, Connect Church
Jenny left us with the follow challenge:
Can I encourage you to set a goal whether you use this tool or another to be intentional on mentoring at least one woman this year?  Ladies, we are in
this together.  We need women who will mentor us in new areas and season
of our lives.  We also need to be those women.
Jenny Andrews, Connect Church

You can connect with Jenny Andrews via her Facebook page or Blog, or at an upcoming Women’s Ministry Council meeting.  Thank you Jenny, for sharing your heart for mentoring.  We are blessed by your words and challenged as leaders to be intentional!

Monday, we will finish up our recap with speaker Aimee Nelson.

Mentoring & Ministering to Women

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Mentoring & Ministering to Women, Part 1 by Gena McCown

This Saturday, twenty five women’s ministry leaders attended a special training event on Mentoring and Ministering to women.  Author Gloria Furman once defined “Women’s Ministry” as any act of ministering to the needs of women.  Each church is comprised of women with a variety of needs, and areas where we can serve, leaving no two ministries identical.  Yet, the methodology is the same.  We are women who are rooted in scripture, dedicated to prayer, faithfully living out our calling to build a Women’s Ministry that is gospel centered and disciple making.

Later this week, in Part 2 of this series, we are going to recap some of the speakers points and talk a little more in depth about mentoring and discipling of women.  However, today I would like to share our gratitude with the supporters who walk alongside of the work we are doing here in S. Florida.  We couldn’t do this without their support and prayers.  If you attended, we’d love for you to give some social media love.  If you didn’t get to attend, check out these great resources!

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First, we’d like to thank NavPress for their donation of “The Gentle Art of Discipling Women” by Dana Yeakley.   Discipleship needs to be an intentional focus for Women’s Ministry, and each our leaders in attendance received a copy to share with her ministry team.

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When discipling women, it is great to have a reference resource to help navigate through questions we may not have all the answers for.  FaithWords donated a copy of “ABC’s of Christianity” by Terdema Ussery for each Women’s Ministry Leader in attendance.

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If you are looking for a straightforward structured system for discipline, check out Multiplication Ministries mentoring curriculum, “One to One Discipling for Women”.  They also have a version for men.  Our speaker, Jenny Andrews, spoke on her experiences with the materials and how they have incorporated them into their church.  (We’ll cover this a bit more in part 2).   Ten ministry leaders brought home a copy of “One to One Discipling for Women”.

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For those look for a less structured mentoring program, you may want to look at “Organic Mentoring” by Sue Edwards and Barbara Neumann.  Eight of our ministry leaders received a copy of this book at our event, but all of our women can read the first three chapters on our Facebook page.  Thanks Kregel Publications!

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Quite often when we talk about mentoring, we think of the scriptures in Titus 2.  Crossway Publishers donated two copies of “Spiritual Mothering:  The Titus 2 Model for Women Mentoring Women” by Susan Hunt.  Crossway also sent a sample chapter of “Parenting” by Paul David Tripp for each woman in attendance.  Mentoring and discipling isn’t just limited to those who attend our Women’s Ministry events, but most importantly our own children.

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Finally, we were able to connect our Women’s Ministry Leaders to a great ministry “Embrace Grace”.  This ministry reaches out to our unexpected mothers to be, giving them encouragement, support, and most of all Jesus!  We already have one local church who has started an “Embrace Grace” group, and Lord knows we could use more in our area and throughout the country.  Each leader went home with a complete information pack on how they could bring Embrace Grace to their church and community.

Thank you so much for your generosity, prayers, and support.

Team Series: Discipleship Leader

Women Bow And Pray

Team Series:  Discipleship Leader, by Gena McCown

Many churches have a program of people meeting together to study the Word.  These groups can go by many names:  bible study, small group, or life group are the most common.  There may be a group of people within the church that are meeting to pray together.  Or, you may even have some mentoring relationships going on.   There are churches that have a structured program in place for what types of materials they study, when, and how often the groups meet.  Others allow leaders to naturally step up to the plate, and the church really serves as a conduit of information; connecting the people to the groups.

When the church has a system in place, whether structured or organic, the Women’s Ministry will often focus on other areas they can serve the women of the church.   However, what would happen if we placed a member of our team in charge of taking that system a step further?  What if we were more purposeful in how we disciple and mentor the women under our care?

Characteristics of this Leader:

  • Spiritual gift of Leadership and Teaching
  • Dedicated student of the Word
  • Organized, may also have the spiritual gift of administration
  • Sincere desire to develop people, encourages women into the Word
How this Role Serves the Women (and church):
  • Researches and vets new study materials to ensure they are theologically and doctrinally sound.
  • Looks for new small groups leaders, and helps develop their leadership skills.
  • Develops a step by step program that disciples new believers from their first steps into accepting Christ and beyond.
  • Helps connect new believers to seasoned believers for mentoring relationships.
When you bring a leader on to the team that has a heart for discipleship, your Women’s Ministry can take a turn toward not only the Cross but the Great Commission, to go out and make not just converts but disciples.  This creates in the Women’s Ministry a very intentional direction and purpose, and quite often our fellowship and social events are geared toward funneling the women into the church and into these disciple making processes.
What that may look like in your church will vary, based on the needs of the church/community and the availability of those willing to step into the roles of teacher or mentor.  It may take time to develop your program into the full vision, but each year you can move a step closer to that end goal.
For myself, I like to walk women first through and overall understanding of the scriptures (Angie Smith’s study “Seamless”), then I want the women to learn how to study the scriptures for themselves (Jen Wilkin’s book “Women of the Word”).  I follow these two books up with walking the women through prayer (Don Whitney’s book “Praying the Bible”).  After these three steps, then the women can plug into study groups on topics that are more applicable to their season of life or circumstances.  Some women would prefer a small mentoring relationship with an older wiser woman over a group study.
Just a note:  Remember that in a mentoring relationship “older and wiser” doesn’t always mean older in age, sometimes it is older in regards to experience.     A 40 year old new Christian can sit under a 28 year old life long, seasoned believer.    A woman who is 50 and a newly wed in her first marriage can sit under a woman who is 30 and married for 12 years. 

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.

 

 

A Heart of Worship

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We are excited this weekend to have a new speaker at one of events.  Sheila Thomas is going to be sharing with our local leaders about the importance of having worship as part of our Women’s Ministry events.

Do you put much thought, as a Women’s Ministry Leader about incorporating worship into your events?  Whether you are choosing a formal worship event, that is all about singing songs of praise and thanksgiving, or having a few minutes dedicated to opening an event in worship… here are a few quick thoughts to consider.

Events tend to be a place where we feel very comfortable inviting guests.  These guests may not be familiar with old hymnals, your church’s go-to song list, or even what is being played on local Christian stations.  Therefore:

  • Look for songs that are easy and do not have complex melodies that are hard to follow.
  • Select songs that use more common vocab words vs. “Christianese”, so that our guests understand what it is they are singing.
  • Print out the lyrics or have the lyrics displayed on a projection screen for those who are unfamiliar, never assume people have memorized the lyrics to a common song or can follow along.
  • Even though women do tend to naturally sing at a higher octave than men, consider the untrained voice may have difficulty with high notes and use them sparingly.
  • Consider the theme of your event, the emotion you want to evoke from the women, and select songs that fit the theme or desired response well.
  • Don’t be afraid to bring in a male worship leader for a women’s event.
  • If your church worship team is taxed for time already, consider using someone from the body who has this gift but can’t commit to the regular schedule of the worship team.  There may also be someone from your youth group that could lead worship.
  • Contact local Christian Colleges with music programs for potential worship leaders.   Many of these colleges require volunteer hours of their students, and leading worship may count.  This is a win for the student, to gain more hours.  It’s a win for the ministry too, as it helps offset budget concerns.  Make sure to ask the college if you are allowed to compensate the student for travel time/expenses or give a monetary thank you gift even though they are volunteering.
  • Consider balance in the planning stages regarding how much time you want to allot for worship songs, where in the course of the program do you want to utilize them (beginning, throughout, ending).

worship

Many thanks to Ligonier Ministries and their magazine “Table Talk“, for gifting the women in attendance this weekend a copy of their back issue Worship Matters“.  It is a great addition to our speakers thoughts on why we need to incorporate worship in to our programs.  It’s a valuable resource on a beautiful topic.

The Small Group Series #2 – Obstacles

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Written By:  Gena McCown, Women’s Ministry Council Co-Founder

Small Groups are a beautiful part of a successful Women’s Ministry program, however it can take some effort to get a program rolling.   This week, we are going to look through some of the obstacles we face in trying to get small groups started, maintain them throughout the year, and encourage growth toward the future.

To start with, we need to establish clear goals for our small group.

  1. The purpose of the small group is to help women in our church and community deepen their knowledge of the Word, through group study and individual study time.
  2. As the women deepen their knowledge of the Word, we help demonstrate how to apply Biblical principals to our every day lives.
  3. Additionally, the small group should foster a sense of community and fellowship that leads us into a relationship of vulnerability, trust, and accountability.

We also need to establish boundaries for our small group.

  1. Small group is a place to share our vulnerable selves, not to spread gossip about others not in the group under the guise of prayer requests.
  2. Small group is a sacred space of communion and we agree to keep our small group conversations within the confines of the small group.
  3. Small group is exactly that, a small group.  50 women are not in a “small group”, that is a bible study or fellowship ministry.  We need to have an expectation that growth will result in the formation of a new small group, splitting the members among them.

Once we have these basic parameters in place, we can then begin to look at what obstacles may come our way and how to address them as they arise.  There are a few things I have noticed over the years that are pretty consistent obstacles that show up in the small groups.  These obstacles show up from the preparation stages through the last day of your study, and I’m going to address them in that order.

We Lack Small Group Leaders

A huge struggle for many Women’s Ministry Leaders is getting enough women to lead small groups.  I’d like to first address the first half of this obstacles which is defining what you are looking for in your small group leaders.  Are you looking for a facilitator, which is a woman who is happy to host the study in her home or willing to use prewritten curriculum that requires no actual teaching or preparation on her part.  Or, are you looking for a small group teacher, which is a woman who is a seasoned believer who is willing to dig deeper into the scriptures and serve as a discipler.

Once you know what type of leaders you are looking for, it becomes easier to find them.  Why?  Because, now when you start asking women in your church you have a clear expectation of what you want from small group leaders.  I would suggest that both facilitators and teachers have their place in small groups.  Facilitators will generally guide the group through written curriculum, and are learning alongside those in their group.  There are less expectations on them to “have all the answers” and it is a great group for new believers.  Teacher led small groups are perfect for the women in your church that are looking to challenge themselves by digging through the scriptures in an expository style or even seeking the wisdom of seasoned believers on tough topics from the scriptures.

Additionally, if you are developing small group leaders… facilitating is a GREAT first step.  It allows the leader to familiarize herself with the general format of how a small group runs before putting her in charge of developing her own materials.  Which leads me to the next obstacle for small groups, leadership development and support.

We Lack Small Group Support

It is really easy to find a small group leader if you tell her that her only responsibility is to hit the play button on the VCR.  It is also much easier to tackle tough subjects that no one wants to teach if they know they don’t have to come up with their material on their own.  I’m doing this now myself, leading a study as a facilitator because I know this is an area that I too need help in.   It is harder to find leaders who are ready to teach a group, where the bulk of the preparation lies on their shoulders.  I do not believe this is because God doesn’t have the women in the church already… I believe it is because they lack the confidence to do it.

How often have you approached a women in your church to teach a small group and she replies that she doesn’t know enough about the Bible to lead a group.  How do you respond to it?  If you are like most leaders, you will ask for her to pray about it or give her the option of letting you know should she change her mind.  How many times have you followed her objection with the question:

Would you be interested in being trained to lead a small group?

If we never challenge our women to rise to the occasion, they may never do so.  If we have a plan in place to help them learn how to facilitate a small group, and then eventually teach a small group… we have opened up the potential of endless teachers.  Ask questions about why they don’t think they can lead.  You may find they feel Biblically illiterate, not certain how a meeting runs, concerned they can’t command the attention of the group, or they may think there are costs associated with the role which are not in their means. 

Solutions for this obstacle will begin with simply answering those objections.  Biblically illiterate, would they be willing to meet with you for 1:1 discipling?  Concerned about how to run a meeting or command attention, consider setting them up as a co-leader to an established leader you respect.   Concerned about material costs, then explain to them who is responsible for paying for the materials (the church, split among the participants evenly, everyone buys their own, or using materials the church already has in stock).

Support doesn’t stop after we have trained small group leaders, we need to continually develop them and encourage those leaders to also find and develop leaders in their group.  If you small groups take a break over the summer, use this time to put together a brief training for your leaders.  Find a book or develop your own material, if need be.  Check in with your leaders throughout the year to see if they are having any issues in their groups.  Consider having one of your Women’s Ministry Leader team dedicated to overseeing the small groups.

We Lack Interest in our Small Groups

It’s the week of small group sign ups and your group is filling up nicely.  Your first meeting goes off without a hitch, however by mid-study the number of women attending as decreased.  By the end of the study you are down to a few dedicated women.  Or, perhaps this scenario sounds more like your experience:  After weeks of promoting small groups, only a small percentage of the women in your church have signed up.  How can you have small groups if there are no women signing up?  Why continue them if the women are not committing to see it through until the end?

The first question we need to ask ourselves is a tough one, which is are the small groups important in this church at all?  I’ve noticed that there is a certain culture to churches where small groups are really successful.  The church is made up primarily of people who grew up in church and know how to “do church” without prompting.  The church is made up primarily of people who have a strong sense of community, and their church family is their biggest area of community.  In churches where I see small groups struggling, I notice these are churches with a larger percentage (not necessarily majority) of new believers.  I’ve also noticed that members of these churches are having their community needs met outside of the church.  They are involved in outside organizations, live in areas that are extremely busy offering a lot of options for socializing and fellowshipping, and may have a community of friends who either do not go to church at all -0r at least not all go to the same church. 

Another aspect affecting small groups, that I have begun to notice, is the attempt at churches to utilize technology to streamline sign ups.  I’ve had far more success getting women to sign up for ANYTHING when they can do it on the spot vs. online at home.  For no other reason than they forget, out of sight… out of mind.  Certain areas of the country are also populated with either older generations who are not computer savy or live in an area that is economically disadvantaged and those congregants lack access to computers to sign up digitally.  If you live in a major city, with lots of professionals and technology is common knowledge… online or app sign ups are perfect.  In other areas, if this is your goal, you are going to have to slowly transition to it.  Be sure to provide both options until you begin to see the change of habit.   This can including offering digital signs ups and old fashioned paper sign up forms.  Or, you can choose to set up some tablets in the church lobby for quick sign ups before they leave.  Have a volunteer there to help your older members with the process.

If you have made the sign up process simple, meaning everyone can see the details of the study (what it is about, when it meets, how much materials cost) and you have an easy way for them to sign up… and you still lack interest?  Then you may need to face the reality that Small Groups are simply not the method in which you are going to best disciple your women.  Perhaps they are more interested in workshops, retreats, conferences, and other events of this nature than long term group studies.  You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t force it to drink. 

The second question you will need to ask, when you see declining numbers, is whether or not the materials you are providing are of interest to the women in the church.  A church that is made up of 80% young families will definitely have success offering Parenting and Marriage related topics in their small groups.  However if the majority of your studies are taught by your older women, on the topic of Empty Nesters… you just won’t see the numbers you want.  We must be intentional about how many, and what types of groups we are offering.   If every study you offer is a video series from a major publisher, and your numbers are in decline, perhaps it is time to add in some expository groups or topical groups.  If every study group is held on weekday mornings, you are neglecting your working women.  Variety and diversity in the topics & scheduling will help increase the number of women attending.

We Lack Returning Participants

If you have noticed that your small groups are a revolving door in regards to attendance there are few immediate considerations.  First, women may be looking for their right fit.  Don’t take it personally if they leave and join up another group.  Be glad they are still in a group, and praise God that He will be sending someone else to fill that spot.  Second, women in our current generations are busier than ever before.  Perhaps your group was the perfect fit in the fall, but their spring season runs on an entirely different schedule.  Another group may be more convenient for spring, and you may see the women return to their original groups the following fall.  Third, women may be hopping groups based on the topics.  If you jumped from a Galatians study to one on parenting, don’t be surprised if the single ladies without kids jump ship to another study.  To combat this include your group members in choosing the next subject/topic for the group instead of selecting material that you are interested in and hoping they are too.

Something else to consider is this… these women may be seeking.  They know that they want to dig deeper into the word, but they are not sure what or how.  They may not even be able to articulate that they are searching or even what they are searching for.  However this study is just not “doing it” for them, and they drop out mid way.  In some respects we do need to allow our women the freedom to keep seeking, however our leaders need some sort of consistency for their group (especially if people are sharing personal details).  It is perfectly acceptable to either have the small group leader inquire as to why a member left, or if you have a Women’s Ministry Team member who oversees small groups to check into it.  Do so without judgement, but with the hopes of helping to guide them into a group that might meet their needs better.  This also may be a perfect candidate for 1:1 mentoring vs. joining a small group.

Ultimately the greatest solution to our Small Group Obstacles is COMMUNICATION.

  • Ask why someone is not willing to lead, facilitate, or teach a small group.  Offer a solution, by having a training plan in place.
  • Ask why a group member has left, and offer guidance into finding a small group or mentor relationship that is a better fit.
  • Ask your small group members for suggestions on what they would like to study as a group.
  • Ask yourselves honestly if Small Groups are the right fit for the church you are serving, or develop a plan to cultivate Small Group culture over time.
  • Ask yourselves about the quality, variety, and diversity of the materials, groups, and availabilities you are offering.  Seek to create a menu of Small Groups that fit the climate of your church.

***** In our fourth installment, we will cover obstacles that occur IN or DURING the course of small groups that are more individually based. *****