An Acts 2 Ministry Will Worship Together

WORSHIP

For most of us, we would define worshipping together with fellow believers as coming together and singing songs that praise God and honor Him.   I’m a big fan of including a short Worship session as part of a Women’s Ministry Brunch, or tying in Worship into the schedule for a conference.

There are other ways we can worship God.  We can encourage these as individual habits, as well as corporately as a ministry.

  1.  Prayer.  Prayer is a very active form of worship.  We worship God through our prayer and supplication, as we confess and repent, thank and praise, and even when we put our trust in Him with our petitions.  Individually we set an example for others as we pray and share how God has responded to our prayers.  As leaders, we can teach others how to pray and encourage them to challenge their prayer life to new heights.  Corporately, we can pray as an assembly of believers.
  2.  The Bible.  We honor and worship God as we get to know Him through His Word.  To know God is to love Him, trust Him, and glorify Him.  We make time to commune with God through His Word, it is an act of worship.  Individually, we set the example of the value and importance of regular time reading and studying.  As leaders, we step into the role of teacher and shepherd.  Corporately, we create avenues where the women can learn how to study the Bible for themselves and groups where they grow and challenge one another.
  3. Obedience.  If we are praying and committing to be in the Word, we can’t avoid His truths and His direction.  To worship God fully, we must also be in obedience to His call on our life and His commands.  Individually, we must set the standard of obedience… but I believe we also need to show how to respond when we recognize that we’ve been out of obedience.  Leading the women to do the same, and being obedient in His direction for the ministry.  Remember, this is HIS ministry not ours.
  4. Fellowship.  Hebrews tells us that we must not forget to meet with one another, it is important that we are not just having a potluck with our sisters in Christ ever other month.  We need to build deep relationships, getting to know others and challenging each other to become more deeply rooted.   Individually, this means that we are careful to not isolate our selves from the body but to embrace them; with healthy boundaries of course.  As Leaders, we must find the balance between our prayer and study offerings and opportunities to fellowship and have fun with one another.
  5. Service.  We worship God when we serve His people, the ones He knows by name… the least of these.  We worship God when we serve those who do not know Him, because we may be seed planters.  Individually, we need to be modeling service and missions.  As Leaders, we can plan projects or partner up with ministries and organizations to create service opportunities.  Corporately, not only can we serve in the capacities together but we can also help the women discover their spiritual gifts and then plug them into serving the church/community with those gifts.

These are just a few ways that we can worship God, as an Acts 2 Ministry.

Fishers of [Wo]men

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This weekend, I attended a workshop on the topic of branding.  As the leader of a ministry, and knowing the direction we are taking in the coming years it is important that I am learning about all aspects of ministry building.  The speaker, Faith James, said something that caught my attention.  She was giving an illustration related to fishing, and pointing out that to have a successful fishing trip you must know “what you are fishing for”. 

Do you know who your ministry is fishing for?

As a ministry leader, you may be tempted to give the most obvious answers…

Everyone.  Women.  The Lost.  The Unchurched.

I am going to challenge you to take that a bit deeper.

As Faith James continued her illustration she said, “You can’t boil the ocean”.  Her point rested in that we have to have a more focused vision of who we are trying to reach because everyone is a concept that is as big as the ocean.  This doesn’t mean that there is not an ocean of people who need help, but rather it is going to be impossible for us to help everyone with our resources and time.  We need to have focus.

Putting this in terms of Women’s Ministry, let’s explore the following questions.

If every Women’s Ministry started a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group, that meets during the week… who is serving our single mothers, or teen mothers?

If every Women’s Ministry was focused on serving homeless women and children… who is serving our women who have suffered the loss of miscarriage?

If every Women’s Ministry chose to stand with their local Crisis Pregnancy Center… who is supporting the women who chose life, or supporting the local foster/adoption agency to care for these children who were given this chance to thrive?

If your Women’s Ministry is spread thin trying to serve too many different organizations at once, are you really making an significant impact vs. making the choice to choose one and serve it at full capacity?

What if instead of each Women’s Ministry focusing on a broad scope of issues, we each chose one that we were going to give our full attention to?  We come together as leaders and identify the needs of the community of women we serve (in and outside of the church walls), then each Women’s Ministry leader picks one that will become their ministry focus?

Imagine a wheel with spokes.  The center of the wheel is the Cross, that is where we are trying to bring women… to Jesus.  The outer ring of the wheel is all of the women in our community.  The spokes are the individual Women’s Ministries.

thewheel

Quite simply, there are just too many needs in our communities (and within our church walls) for one ministry tackle it all.  However, if we work together and decide which needs each of our ministries will focus on… then we are working together to meet all the needs more effectively.

How do we do this?

  1. Collectively identify the needs in the community we serve.
  2. Check with other WM Leaders to determine which needs are already being served, need more help, or have not been addressed by the local church.
  3. Meet with your Pastor to determine if the church already has a focused need, that you can bring the WM under to address the women of that “need group”.
  4. If there isn’t a specific “need group” that your church is currently focused on, meet with your WM Team.  Pray that the Lord would help your team identify which need will become the WM focus.
  5. Connect to local ministries and organizations serving these need groups to determine how you can come along side their work.  Research online if there are national organizations already working in this area that you can partner with and introduce to your area.  Or, research online the ways you can begin to serve this need through your ministry directly.

 

 

Women’s & Men’s Ministries – Statistics

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In the past, I’ve spoken to the topic of successful Women’s Ministries are usually in churches that also have active/successful Men’s Ministries.  Over the last few weeks, several articles have crossed my desk about women leaving the church and what the impact of that exodus will have on the church.  I decided to do a little bit of research on the topic.

What we know, and research supports, is that post industrial revolution there was a shift in the home and thus in the church.  As the men went to work outside of the home, women began to take on a larger role in the spiritual development of their children.  They also began to take on a more prominent role in the church as leaders and volunteers.

What we know, currently is:

 

  • The typical U.S. Congregation draws an adult crowd that’s 61% female, 39% male. This gender gap shows up in all age categories.  (Some churches the % of female members can reach up to 70%)
  • On any given Sunday there are 13 million more adult women than men in America’s churches.
  • This Sunday almost 25 percent of married, churchgoing women will worship without their husbands. (Even if their husbands profess to be Christian)
  • Midweek activities often draw 70 to 80 percent female participants.

There are more women attending, and participating in the active life of the church.  This is why you may see that Women’s Bible Studies outnumber their male counterparts. Or, why Women’s Ministry is still a vital ministry in the church… but Men’s Ministries are waning.

Fewer than 10% of U.S. churches are able to establish

or maintain a vibrant men’s ministry.

 

As I try to discover the roadblocks and obstacles for Women’s Ministry, one of the first questions I have asked is in regards to the presence of a Men’s Ministry.  Until I began this research, I didn’t realize that Men’s Ministries had declined to such numbers.

But why?  We have less Men’s Ministries because we have less active men participating in the church.

 

  • Over 70 percent of the boys who are being raised in church will abandon it during their teens and twenties. Many of these boys will never return.
  • More than 90 percent of American men believe in God, and five out of six call themselves Christians. But only one out of six attend church on a given Sunday. The average man accepts the reality of Jesus Christ, but fails to see any value in going to church.

 

We have a realization now that in order to get the family to attend church on Sundays, we need to reach the women.  When the women come, they bring their husbands and families.  I’ve heard from several Pastors that they notice when the wives are not at church due to retreat, business, etc. that the men do not come and bring the children.  They take the weekend off too.  However a healthy church needs the men to attend… married or single, with the family or not.

When I was in MOPS Leadership, one of the most common complaints that I heard from these young mothers was a deep desire for their husband to return to the role of Spiritual Leader of their home.  They didn’t want this burden on their shoulders, and the Bible tells us this was never their burden to bear in the first place. 

A study from Hartford Seminary found “that the presence of involved men was statistically correlated with church growth, health, and harmony. Meanwhile, a lack of male participation is strongly associated with congregational decline.”

We must, as a church, begin to really understand WHY men have been on the decline in attendance and participation.  We must, as a Women’s Ministry, become advocates for Men’s Ministry in our church.  I have seen the effects of a waning Women’s Ministry on the church.  When a Women’s Ministry slows or stops functioning, we see the impact on the church as a whole.  Women’s small groups decline.  Women’s attendance and volunteerism in the church declines.  Women will begin going to parachurch events or events at churches which do have active Women’s Ministries.  This will often result in the matriarchs of the church moving to churches which do have active Women’s Ministries.

I would suggest the same could be said for Men’s Ministries.  As men’s ministries declined, the community connection or family connection of church went with it.  The men feeling less connected to their church and more connected to the people they spend 40+ hours a week with in their workplace, or people they have connected with over hobbies have taken precedence.   With their free hours, they would rather be actively doing something than seated in the pews.

New statistics are showing that one of the major reasons people are leaving the church is due to their desire to not be passive participants in church but active members.  Church has become a spectator sport for the majority as churches seek volunteers to fill the holes they need vs. allowing people in the body to use their gifts and talents as God has called them to.  They want discipleship, mentoring, and spiritual growth more than entertainment.

What can we do about it?

  1. We should engage the women who are already attending.  We are starting to see the exodus of women, and we need to stop that in it’s tracks.  Create and support Women’s Ministries that are discipleship focused, out reaching into the community with the purpose of bringing women to Christ.  Encourage the women to attend regularly and support their husbands attendance and participation.
  2. We need to encourage the creation and development of a Men’s Ministry.  This may begin with a conversation with our own husbands.  Just because they start the ministry doesn’t mean they have to stay in the leadership.  I’ve seen women take over or begin a ministry with the goal of finding and developing the eventual leader… Pauls finding their Timothys.  If your husband is willing to help get if off the ground, you can offer up your ministry skills & experience to help him.  This is not only an investment into the Men’s Ministry but the Women’s Ministry… and the church.
  3. Think ahead and work directly with your Pastors on the occasions that your women will be absent from church.  If you are taking your women to a weekend long Women’s Retreat or Conference, have a plan in place with your Pastor and Children’s Pastor about ensuring that weekend has something special for the men and children.  A post church barbeque, special kids program, special speaker for the men, etc. are all ways to entice the men to attend in the women’s absence.
  4. Begin a movement of spiritual gifts testing in your church, where you are actively helping people to identify what their spiritual gift is and figure out where they can be plugged in to the church.  The statistics suggest that men need a reason to attend church, so let’s give them one.  The same for our women who may have one foot out the door, lets find a place to help them connect to the church in tangible ways.

If the Women’s Ministry is supposed to be a ministry that supports the vision of the church, then that means the whole church.  While our focus may be on taking the vision to the women in our church, our leaders need to connect back into the church by supporting the other ministries and our Pastors.

Aimee Nelson once told me that “where the women go, so goes society”.  So, where do we want our men and children to go?  Let’s set the bar and encourage them to rise to it.  Let our Women’s Ministries be known to love women well, and the men too.

  • Our married women want their husbands to attend services.
  • Our children want their fathers to attend services.
  • Our single ladies want the single men in our community to be active members.
  • Our widowers need other men in the church that they can have community with.
  • Our older men need younger men in the church that they can mentor.

* All statistics are from http://churchformen.com/men-and-church/where-are-the-men/

The Starting Point

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It can be hard to come to terms with a subject that is just completely outside of your scope of understanding.  To have someone think less of you for nothing more than the color of your skin, or your country of origin.  To be treated as less than, to have lower expectations on your ability, or marginalized by how you look before someone even takes the time to get to know you.

Something else that is also hard is a willingness to call out sin for what it is, especially when it a sin you don’t want to admit is still present.  Even more so when that sin is being committed by yourself or others you know, particularly when you know that they are a good person.  From tasteless jokes to out right discrimination, we must come to terms with the fact that racism still exists in our country.  Yes, there are areas in the country that are more progressive than others.  There are people who have fought for civil rights in the past, and those who are still doing so today, because they believe in equality for all people.

Yet, there are still places where racism exists in very blatant ways.  Many more where racism is far more subtle.  If we call racism what it is, SIN… then we know exactly what we are supposed to do with that sin.  Which is tackle it head on.  It can be far easier to justify someone’s sin, by pointing out a persons checkered past or giving a good person a pass for an inappropriate joke.  Jesus never gave sin a pass.  Nor should we.

As our eyes become more open to the wounds that have not healed, we feel conviction over our thoughts and words.  We make the effort to change ourselves, to influence those around us.  For others, and for any number of reasons, their eyes are still covered by scales.  They can not see the sin, and as leaders we have a responsibility to not allow sin to go unchecked.

What are some practical ways you can be apart of change in your life, Women’s Ministry, Church, and community?  To confront sin, we must identify it and then actively work against it.

  1.  Take the time to understand the feelings of others by choosing to be quiet and listen.  Ask people who come from other cultures and ethnicities to share their experiences with you, and do not interject your opinions.  Allow them to speak, listen to what is being said, and take time to reflect on that conversation before you respond with more questions.
  2. Read.  There are plenty of books on the subject of racism and also on racial reconciliation.  You can watch interviews online, panel discussions, and more.  Google “Race and the Church” or “Racial Reconciliation and the Church” and you’ll find a trove of useful information.  I recommend “UNITED” by Trillia Newbell.
  3. Challenge your Women’s Ministry team (or church leaders) to go through “The Bridge to Racial Unity” Bible Study as a team.   You can access this through the ministry Be The BridgeEnter this study with humbleness, willingness to listen, and as the leader of the ministry set the tone of respect.  If you do not have any women of color serving on your ministry team, considering inviting a few willing women to go through this study with your team.  Women who are willing to field your questions with grace and mercy.
  4. PRAY for your own life to become open to diversity, that the Lord will bring the women to add to your Women’s Ministry team, and convict the heart of your church leaders to create a space that is welcoming to all of God’s people (even when it means getting out of our comfort zones in how we worship) including bringing people of color onto staff positions.

Change Begins Within

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Leaders from Women’s Ministries in St Lucie, Martin, and Palm Beach Counties gathered for a special Women’s Ministry Council event.  We began a conversation about race, diversity, and unifying our ministries and churches.  This conversation is just the beginning, and we are going to continue working through this topic through articles and future meetings.

One of the overwhelming themes from this event was that if we want to be a part of a movement of change in our ministries, we must being within our own life.  As ministry leaders, the practical steps are more obvious.  Broaden the authors of your Bible studies to women from various ethnicities, as well as the speakers you hire for your brunches or retreats.  Make sure you invite women to serve on the Women’s Ministry team that represent all the cultures in your church.  Partner up with churches of other cultures for events or come together for a fellowship event.

Making changes in our personal life is a bit harder.  It means stepping out of our own comfort zone.   Have you invited someone of another ethnicity to your home for dinner or coffee?  Are you reading authors or following influential speakers who are from another culture than you are?   Have you made an effort to learn more about the other cultures who make up the community you live in?

Some suggestions:

  • PERSONAL:  Go to a women’s event at a local church that is a different culture/ethnicity than your own.  LEADER:  Go as a WM Team.
  • PERSONAL:  Read Bible Studies, books, or attend an event where the speaker is from another culture/ethnicity than your own.  LEADER:  Use these materials in your church.  (I recommend Kristie Anyabwile, Trilla Newbell, Priscilla Shirer)
  • PERSONAL:  Attend local cultural festivals in your community.  LEADER:  Host a multi-cultural event at your church or in conjunction with other local churches.
  • PERSONAL:  Invite a woman from another culture out for coffee or to your home for lunch/dinner.  LEADER:  Invite a WM Leader from that church for lunch to talk shop, and see how you can partner together.
  • PERSONAL:  Intentionally build relationships with women of other cultures.  LEADER:  Intentionally build a women’s ministry team that is as diverse as your church.
  • PERSONAL:  Volunteer at a local culture church’s fundraiser or drop items off for their charity drives.  LEADER:  As a team, volunteer.
  • PERSONAL:  When a new friend of another ethnicity celebrates a birthday, send a birthday card and take the time to translate it into their native language (if they are fluent).  LEADER:  Send cards of encouragement or prayer to leaders at local churches, taking the time to translate it into their native language.  Google translate is a help, but I bet you can find a friend online/facebook that can help too.

If you have made efforts to build bridges between the various cultures in your community, we’d love to hear what you have done!

Before the Conversation

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In the past, the Monday after our Women’s Ministry Council meeting, we will usually publish to the site a recap of the events.  This particular meeting was probably one of our hardest subjects to date, and a conversation we know that we are not done with.  Before we even attempt to put into words what happened at our Diversity and Unification meeting, I would like to thank those who contributed to the success of equipping women leaders on an important subject.

Thank you to Moody Publishers, who donated a copy of Trillia Newbell’s book UNITED:  Captured By God’s Vision for Diversity for each of the women in attendance.    We pray that each leader is able to use this resource not only for her own benefit but also to share with her team and church.

Thank you to International Missions Board, who donated their Limitless material and the Gospel in Henna Tattoo and Explanation Card sets.  To be diversified in the church requires a diversity in how we reach out to other cultures.

Thank you to MOPS International for the donation of these awesome tote bags, MOPS groups are a great way to open our church doors to the community at large and bring many different people to the table.

Thank you to Be the Bridge, who created the Bridge to Racial Unity Bible Study materials.  Also thank you to the donors from the community who provided the funds to print the study, allowing each woman to take home a physical copy.

Please pray with us that all of these materials will be a blessing to the churches in which they make their way back to.

Additionally we announced a few exciting pieces of news:

  • 2018 We will begin to roll out WMC groups in other cities!
  • 2018 the WMC will offer our first full day event for women leading in the church, LeadHer Conference.  The 2018 theme is: LeadHer with Wisdom

Please pray along with us over these next steps, as we remain faithful and obedient to do as God asks us in HIS timing not our own.

Over the next several articles, we will begin to break down the content from the training, point our readers to resources, and share the ways we are going to keep this conversation going.

Preach the Gospel to Yourself

PREACHTHEGOSPELTOYOURSELFDuring my trip to The Gospel Coalition Conference this year, I had an opportunity to meet with a mentor via Serge.org .   This mentoring session was very fruitful for me personally, but I also wanted to share more about something that was repeated a few times throughout the conference.

It was a reminder to us as leaders that we must preach the Gospel to ourselves daily.  But why?

Through my Serge.org mentor, I was introduced to the idea that leaders can get so caught up in the success and failure model in regards to ministry that we can forget the Gospel.

Have you ever said or thought:

Well, I must be doing a good job because God has blessed our ministry with success.

God must be blessing our work, because He has been providing for our needs.

The Lord’s blessing must be on our ministry, because we have seen an increase in numbers.

I must be doing something wrong, I just can’t seem to get any momentum on this project.

The Lord’s favor must not be on this ministry, because we are not growing… we are shrinking.

What is the problem with these thoughts?

They are works based, not faith based.  They imply that success or failure is a result of God being pleased or displeased with something we are doing.   Scripture says that the Lord’s favor falls on righteous and the unrighteous alike, that he raises the sun on the good and evil each day (Matt 5:45,46).

When we run our ministry under the measure of success and failure based on our perception of God’s favor; we are suggesting that we (individually, as a team, as a church) are doing something that God will reward, or God will withhold from.

There is no freedom when you are bound up measuring your ministry by success and failure.  That is a worldly measurement.  Instead our freedom lies in that we are adopted children of God, before we are leaders.  We have His favor because He has given it to us according to His goodness, regardless of how well we run our ministry.  He loves us.  Plain and simple.

When we love Him, and seek to do His will…

When our eyes are set on Him, and our Hearts are in tune to His heart…

When we become His hands and feet…

We serve and we serve well, whether we are serving one woman or one thousand.

When we allow ourselves to get trapped in the success failure model, when things are going well… we feel good.  We feel in God’s favor, we feel as if we are pleasing Him, we feel joy and hopeful.   On the other hand, when our ministry is in a valley and we feel like a failure, then we don’t feel good at all.  We feel like we have disappointed God, or that we are doing something wrong that He wouldn’t reward our work and ministry.  We can even take on guilt that others are not being blessed because of our failure.

We can get so buy sharing the Gospel to others, that we can forget the Gospel is meant for us.  The Freedom of the Cross is a gift for us, too.  So, as much as we need to share the Gospel with others and we can do this through our ministry (in fact, it should be our primary goal)…

… we must share the Gospel with ourselves every morning.

The success or failure of my ministry work has nothing to do with God’s love for me or approval.

His love for me existed before I was in my mother’s womb, and will exist through eternity.  Nothing can separate that.

Ministry work is the icing on the cake, where we celebrate the Gospel with others.