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.

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.

Ministry Spotlight: HOPE MOMMIES

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Recently, an acquaintance of mine shared that a young woman in her church had a miscarriage.  I was reminded of this wonderful ministry, Hope Mommies.  We’ve shared this ministry with our local leaders, and I wanted to take a moment to revisit it here.

From their website:

Hope Mommies™ is a 501(c)3 non-profit Christian organization who sole purpose is to come alongside moms and families who have experienced infant loss, bringing comfort, encouragement, companionship, and hope as they continue to walk this side of eternity without their beloved son or daughter.

Hope Mommies helps these mothers and families through various methods:

Directly:  A mother who has experienced loss is gifted a Hope Box, which contains personal gifts items, book, journal, and more.  It’s not just a sweet gesture to let her know you are thinking about her, but the contents are tools that can help her cope with the loss.   You can pay to have a Hope Box sent directly to a woman you know, who has experienced loss.  Or, you can donate a box that Hope Mommies will distribute on your behalf.

Community:  You can direct moms who have experienced loss to their online community, or as a leader you can lean into this community to learn how you can better serve the women in your church who have lost an infant or young child.  Or, you can host a Community Group in your church; providing a safe place for women in your church or in your local community to find others who have walked this road.  A place to heal, lean, and love.

Annual Retreat:  You can sponsor a woman in your community to attend the Hope Mommies Annual Retreat, or as a Women’s Ministry take on this as a cause that your ministry will financially support.

Ministry Cause:  Consider hosting a gathering event at your church, where your Women’s Ministry team or women in the church assemble Hope Boxes to deliver to your local hospitals to distribute when a woman in your community loses a child.   You may also build connections with your local OBGYN and Pediatrician offices and distribute boxes through their facilities as well.

Prayerfully consider if Hope Mommies is a needed ministry in your area.

The Pitcher is Filled

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Leaders are consistently pouring out into others, it is what we have been called to do.  To teach, lead, support, encourage, help one another, and whatever else the Lord calls us to.  As we pour out into others, it is important that we are being poured into by others.

In the past, when we have discussed mentoring and discipleship at our live meetings, we have shared with the leaders that mentors also need mentors.  This is one way in which we can be poured into.  But, there are also other ways that leaders can take intentional steps to ensure they are being poured into.  Empty pitchers need to be filled.  If they are not refilled, they can no longer pour into the cups they serve.

Here Are Some Suggestions to Fill Up Your Empty Pitcher:

  • Regular Church Attendance.   If you are not attending somewhere, regularly, you miss the fuel of corporate worship.  If you can’t attend your home church, find a church you can visit in the interim.
  • Regular Bible Study.  Making sure that you are connecting with God’s word, either in a community study or your own personal study provides you with a constant flow of His wisdom and guidance.
  • Dedicated Prayer Life.  Our prayers put us in direct communication with God, sharing our hearts and being open to His answer.  He can fuel us directly with the presence of His Spirit in these moments of intimacy with Him.
  • Pump in the Worship Music.  On a run.  In the car.  Around the house. Filling yourself with music that glorifies Him, lyrics that share His Word and affection can boost the emotional tank.
  • Attend an Event.  Whether it is a conference, retreat, workshop, simulcast, live speaking event, etc. make sure to attend events at other churches or locations that YOU are not planning.  Allowing yourself to be served helps refuel your servants heart. 
  • Get Away with God.  Schedule a time where you can take a break from all the things distracting you and set aside a lengthy period where you spend one on one time with God.  We will speak about this more in November, but planning a personal retreat of 24 hours or longer can help you shake off the dust and prepare your heart for what He will have you doing next.  Letitia Suk’s book “Getaway with God” is an excellent source for planning a personal retreat.

 

Be Still and Know

BeStillHe says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  

– Psalm 46:10 NIV

Quite often in leadership we find ourselves always on the go, moving forward, advance our Kingdom work.  We can spend hours scouring the internet tracking the trends of Women’s Ministries across the country.  We can invest our time and money in books to better ourselves as leaders.  We can even meet quarterly with Women’s Ministry leaders in our community to create a council of leaders who share their wisdom and experience.  Movement, growth, and study is a beautiful thing.  It’s not always the best thing.  There are times, even we as leaders, need to find stillness and listen to the voice of God.

We may need to stop the online searches, put down the books, and pick up the Word and let it speak life into our personal walk, families, and our ministry.  What if the Lord doesn’t want your ministry to follow the ministry trends but instead innovate a new way to minister to women?  Have you considered that the Lord may be trying to take your ministry focus off solely serving the women in your church and instead opening the doors to the women in your community?  Or, has your ministry taken priority in your life over your family commitments and relationships; and it’s time to add more people to the team or reevaluate your ministry goals?

If we are too busy listening to other voices, we can disrupt our ability to hear the Holy Spirit speaking.  There is a season to work and toil, but there is also a season to be still and listen. A time to be still and know that He is God, and He will order our steps.

Who Is In Your Community?

networkingHave you ever wondered what is happening in your community?  What businesses exist?  Which ministries are working alongside the community?  Who are people of influence in your area?  I have.  So, this week I stepped out on faith and attended a local business “branding” event.

I don’t have a business, I actually know a bit about branding, and yet I just knew that I had to give this luncheon an opportunity.  I learned about it through a sponsored post that was on my Facebook page.  I knew absolutely no one attending, and I had no idea what I was walking into but hey… I like lunch.  That’s a win, right?

By the time I walked out of there, I learned of three local ministries in our area that I could connect our Women’s Ministry leaders to.  I also was able to help another ministry with a resource that could help her cause.  Another ministry offered me a few solution ideas that I had not considered as we grow our ministry.  I even learned a tidbit about branding that I am going to be employing with the Women’s Ministry Council.

Talk about a win!  If you are trying to find ministries or organizations that your Women’s Ministry can work with, consider a networking event.  Or, if you are a ministry or organization in need of support from local businesses… consider a networking event.  Ask around, search on Facebook, and I’m certain you will find one in your area.

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.