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.

 

Team Series: Second In Command

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Team Series:  The 2nd in Command by Gena McCown

One of the first tasks any good leader should do is to find, appoint, equip, and build up second in command.  A President has a Vice President, executives have junior executives, even Pastors have Associate Pastors or Elders they can call on.  Why is this an important role to fill on your ministry team? 

What if the Lord removed you from your Women’s Ministry right this second?  What would happen?

A family emergency takes you unexpectedly out of town.  One of your children become hospitalized.  Your spouse gets reassigned and you have to move this weekend.  You are threatened with a health crisis of your own.

Any number of things can happen that will unexpectedly pull us away from our ministry work, sometimes it is temporary and other times it is not.  Could your team function in your absence?  I’ve always felt the mark of a good leader is that their absence is not noticed. 

I have been on a team where this happened, and we were left scrambling.  It wasn’t that she was a bad leader, in many ways she was a great leader.  However, she had never taken any one under her wing to serve as a second in command.   When she left, we had a lot of plans on the calendars but none of us knew all the background info that she had been working on.   There we many decisions that needed to be made and a weight of uncertainty in the air.  Had there been someone working directly under her, who had knowledge of these details… it would have been a much easier process.

There are primary two ways you can work with a second in command, the first is similar to a hierarchy structure. This leader in training is kept up to date with the details of the ministry, but doesn’t have any more power than other members of the team.  You will walk them through the ropes of running the ministry, but you hold all executive power in the final decision making.  Their purpose is to be ready to take over the reigns of the ministry, should the time come.  

The second way is as a Co-Leader, this woman will have a bit more power/pull/weight to her opinion than other team members.  She may not have the ultimate say when it comes to the ministry decisions, but her opinion carries greater influence.  Her role is to slip in and out of leading the group as needed.  This is the woman who can fill in while the leader is on vacation, or take over for a matter of few months when a leader is going through a crisis.  In a large ministry, you may even have more than 1 co-leader and even give them particular team members that they oversee. 

In both cases the Women’s Ministry Leader is responsible for developing these future leaders to take over her job.  However in the case of a Leader in Training, this is your ace in your back pocket that you bring out only when you need to.  Whereas a Co-Leader has a far more active role in the ongoing ministry work.

A Second in Command Leader Should:

  • Have a heart for women’s ministry in the church and community.
  • Dedicated to the church, and exhibit a solid relationship with Christ.
  • She should be trainable, you don’t need a person with experience.
  • Dependable, showing up to meetings regularly and completes her tasks.
  • Shares ideas that will help the ministry function better.
  • Excited by serving others.

What She Should Know:

  • Keep her up to date on the ministry finances.
  • Location of important documents, passwords, keys, codes, etc.
  • Contact information and details associated with event planning.
  • Overview of information pertinent to the Women’s Ministry from staff meetings or the Pastor (only information pertinent to WM, please).
  • Access to team members contact information.
  • Overview of meeting agendas in advance, and what are her meeting responsibilities.

In the past, Women’s Ministry Leaders have created binders full of important ministry information that could be passed like a baton to incoming leaders.  Now, we can share documents online via google documents (if you have a gmail account).  This helps leaders stay connected, work and update tasks between meetings, etc.  If you are interested in starting a Women’s Ministry Binder… check out Pinterest for GREAT suggestions, printable worksheets, and more.

I love to see these developing leaders active versus people I siphon information into.  So, intermittently as part of training, allow her to completely lead a meeting from start to finish.  You can work her up to this by giving her small responsibilities and increasing them over time.  Give her a larger task to oversee, like planning a brunch or finding new small group leaders.  See if she has a passion for something to add into the ministry that you can put her at the helm, like a prayer ministry or mentoring program.

While it is great to have a second in command who has a similar ministry vision as you, it’s also great to bring someone along side you that has new ideas to bring to the table.  You may wish to strategically develop a younger woman, select a woman who is transitioning out of another ministry leadership role (previous MOPS Leaders are great for future Women’s Ministry Leaders), or you could find someone that just has a HUGE heart for women.  While experience isn’t necessary, their level of experience will determine how much time you need to spend developing their skills.

We can predict when a changing of the guard is going to happen, but when it is within our ability we should make sure this woman is fully ready to assume command of the ministry before we retire or voluntarily step down.  You can begin by steadily increasing her leadership, while culling your leadership back.  This also makes for an easier transition for your team members who have served loyally with you over the past years.  Give your team members advanced notice that you are planning to step down in a few months and that you are transitioning the new leader into place.  When they come to you with questions or concerns  funnel them toward the new leader instead of dealing with it yourself.  You are not only training a new leader, but the team to trust her leadership.

If you plan on still serving with the Women’s Ministry after stepping down form leadership, I recommend taking a few months off.  Allow the women to get accustomed to serving under the new leadership, and then ease yourself back in.  Leaders leave a legacy even when they don’t intend to, and it can take time for members to adjust to a different leadership style and new ideas.  Change is hard, even in ministry service.

Women’s Ministry: Pastor Predicaments

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The following article is composed of highlights of the recent WMC Meeting: Pastoral Predicaments, presented by Gena McCown

In the last year, or so, I have had an opportunity to speak with Women’s Ministry leaders from all over the globe.  When asked what was their greatest obstacle to Women’s Ministry, many felt that they didn’t have the support of their Pastor, or the church Elders.   In 16 years of serving in ministries, I know that feeling.  What surprised me was the number of women who shared this feeling.  As I explored the topic more, I realized a few things:  this was not denomination specific, geographically specific, or even generationally specific.  There was no unifying thread as to why this was so common, I had even found instances where churches with WOMEN as Pastors didn’t support women’s ministry.    We needed to dig deeper, because it wasn’t going to be an easy answer.

Ultimately… when I got to the root of the issue… the answer was clear.

It is our own fault.  We did this to ourselves, and we are the ones who can change it.

First, we need to address Women’s Ministry from a biblical perspective.

  1.  It is  NOT biblical.  There are no instances, anywhere in the scriptures, that outline a FORMAL women’s ministry program in a church.  This is a modern invention, to meet a need.
  2. Women ARE instructed to teach/guide other women in the scriptures.  That IS biblical.

Second, we need to address the history of “women’s ministry”.

  1. In the early church, we didn’t need a formal program for women’s ministry because ministry among women was apart of their daily life.  They worshiped together, fellowshipped together, and served Him together.  Christian communities were tight knitted, and their relationship with God was part of their daily lives.
  2. As technology made advances, and the agricultural societies diminished, we were pulled away from community and became insulated into our homes.  Things we would work on together, were now automated and we could do alone.  Things we would have to go out to the community to acquire, are now being delivered to our homes.
  3. Women’s Ministry programs were created to fill the void that was a result of this loss of community.  Initially they would be prayer groups, bible studies, and community service opportunities.  However as women became busier, these ministries also began to include events that were a one time commitments.
  4. As Women’s Ministry programs evolved they became a church within a church, often having their own mission/cause.  Women’s Ministries separated themselves from the church, and in some cases women were more apt to attend the WM event that was tailored to their interests than Sunday morning services.

As a result of this historical shift, a few things happened.

  • We lost focus on our events, they became topics and cultural vs. gospel or Christ centered.
  • We lost focus on our bible studies, opting for book studies that were topical instead of dedicated scriptural study.
  • We lost focus on our purpose in the church, becoming our own entity versus supporting the overall mission of the church.
In addition, because of this separation we created a legacy of less than stellar Women’s Ministry Leaders.  We have the leader who didn’t get her way, and just left the ministry in a bind… that now the Pastor has to contend with.  We have the women’s ministry leader who didn’t get her way, and created division as she tried to rally her troops… and now the Pastor has to contend with it.  Or, we have the Women’s Ministry leader who tried to usurp authority over the Pastor to make the ministry what SHE envisioned it to be… either through direct confrontation or subtle subterfuge.  Again, creating a mess the Pastor has to deal with in the end.
This is not to say that ALL women’s ministry leaders are like this, but I’ve seen it happen.  I have known the women who marched in the Pastor’s office demanding to get their way.  I have personally experienced the chaos of being in a ministry who’s leader suddenly walks away.  I have personally fallen into the trap of a person’s attempt to create division within a ministry, and stunned that I didn’t see what was happening.
So, the truth is… and it hurts… that we created this ourselves.   It is going to be up to us to fix it.  Now, ideally we could just walk into our Pastor’s office for a meeting, tell him that we recognize all of these issues, and we want to rebrand the WM into something new.  He may be really excited to hear you say that too, but we also are going to have to be patient.  We are on proving grounds, and we need to earn back the trust of our Pastors.
  • Pray for a change in YOUR perspective as leader, changing your heart and the ministry.
  • Be patient, taking small steps in order to regain the trust of the church as you change the direction of the ministry 
To Facilitate Change in Women’s Ministry
  1. Pray, pray, pray.
  2. Humble yourself before the Pastor, and admit that WM needs to change.  You may even need to seek his forgiveness if you have been undermining his authority or pushing against him.
  3. Ask him how the WM can support the vision of the church, unifying the WM back into the fold and honoring him as the shepherd of your church.
  4. When planning WM events, ask yourself how this event fits into the vision of the church.  God has given your Pastor a vision for this church, how to lead it, and where it is going.   This is not your ministry, it is God’s.
  5. Remember that Women’s Ministry should be a blessing to the church.  If we are failing to bless the church (aka creating too much drama for the Pastor, or neglecting to support the vision of the church), then what is the point of our ministry?

Have the Right Goal in Mind:

In addition to supporting the vision of the church, we need to be intentionally turning women toward Christ.  This is what the Bible commands us to do, as women.  Women’s Ministry is merely a vehicle or tool to accomplish this command.

  1. We have a responsibility to teach other women, in a local church context.
  2. We have a responsibility to reach other women, in a local community context.
Women’s Ministry is an amazing evangelistic tool if we are using it correctly.  It is a bridge that brings the unchurched into the church.  But, we must have a plan from there.  When they come to a brunch or fellowship event… How are we connecting them to the church next?  How are we moving them toward engaging in a Bible Study or Small Group?  How are we connecting them to Christ?
Know How to Speak to Your Pastor:
God created men and women differently, we complete each other because of where our strengths and weaknesses lay.   Men are generally of little words, getting right to the point.  Whereas women are gifted in the ability to recognize the importance of details.  Men tend to see things factually, black and white.  Women are more apt to catch the nuances of the gray areas in between.  When we use the gifts together they create a beautiful completion of God’s work in mankind.  However, it seems communication is also the area that causes the most trouble for us.
As a woman, knowing HOW to speak to your Pastor is going to change everything… and it really isn’t that complicated.
  1. Put Your Emotions on the Back Burner.   It is imperative that we realize as a ministry leader that when the Pastor says NO… it’s not personal.  It is not that he doesn’t think your idea is good, or that you are not capable.  It is not a rejection of you, at all.  However, this seems to be a boiling point for women.  When we are told no, we feel rejected and we get frustrated.  If it happens too often, we may quit the ministry.  Or, we may stop asking and instead do it anyway; taking the position of it being easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.  The other option is that we stay in the ministry and it stagnates because we won’t ask anymore and so we’ll keep doing the same things over and over again…. until the women in the church get bored of it, and then the ministry dies.
  2. Recognize it isn’t Just the Women’s Ministry.  Your Pastor is accountable for stewarding all of the church resources.  This includes time, money, resources, and even the overall church members.  He has seen what burnout looks like when volunteers are overworked.  He recognizes that everything has a cost.  The use of the building means that there is a cost of electricity and water, and an opportunity cost that means another ministry can’t use the space.  He also knows about many things that are happening the background, that the church may not be aware of.  Your request is being weighed against a lot of factors.
  3. Respond appropriately.  When you submit a request to the Pastor and he turns it down, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification.  Keep in mind that seeking clarification is not the same as whining or trying to petition him to change his mind.  What you are looking for is the ability to understand his decision.  Ask questions like:  Is your NO to the idea or the timing?  Chances are his “no” is really “no, not now”.  Then you can follow up with questions like:  “Can we revisit this in 6 months?”  or if the no is because it’s not in the church budget,  “Could we fundraise for the project/event?”.  Should your Pastor’s no be related to the idea itself you can ask for clarification too.  What is it that he has a problem with, would he be willing to reconsider it if you made some changes?  There will be times where his no, is a no and it’s not going to change.  How you respond to this kind of no, is going to make or break your relationship with your Pastor.  If you take the no with stride, and move on.. you are an easy ministry leader to work with.  He may give you a lot more leeway in the future.  However, if you respond in a way that casts a shadow on him as the Pastor, become divisive, or threaten to quit as leader…that is a different story.  Not only are you hurting your own self, but you are damaging the women’s ministry as a whole.

How to Propose Ministry Events to your Pastor, and keep your emotions in check.

Most women’s ministries plan events in detail, then they go to the Pastor for permission.  This is because our minds work this way, we are trying to sell him the vision.  When we pitch an idea to the Pastor, we are already invested in the idea.   We think the details (down to decorations) are going to be what reels him in.  This is part of the reason why we are so devastated when he turns us down, we are already too invested in the idea.

From my years of corporate management, I learned that as a woman I am better off pitching the idea before I become too invested in it.

When you are in your Women’s Ministry meeting and someone pitches a great idea, keep it simple.  Ask yourself these important questions… Who, What, Where, When, and Why (or what is the Goal).  If there is a cost, include the estimated cost and how you plan to cover that (from the budget, sell tickets, etc).  Then stop, don’t allow yourself or your team to invest any further time on the subject (unless this is an event that doesn’t require Pastor’s approval).

THIS is the information you want to pitch to your Pastor.  Don’t worry about the decorations, party favors, and menu.  Your Pastor gets so many emails, phone calls, and now text messages.  He has a church full of ministries to coordinate and oversee, by giving him the brass tacks you are also respecting his time, and in extension honoring his family time too.  Pastor’s are not working a 9-5 schedule, and ministry often impedes into family time.

Once you get the approval, now is the time to invest yourself in the details and move forward.  If you don’t get the approval, you can ask for some clarification as to why not.  Then, you can respond accordingly.

Finally, if you are looking to revamp your entire Women’s Ministry, this too is an important conversation to have  with your Pastor.  First, you want his support in the changes.  Second, you want to make sure your changes are in line with the church.  Set up a meeting, and instead of starting from a list of ways you want to change the ministry… start with this:

Pastor, I think our Women’s Ministry could support the church better.  What changes you would you like to see in the Women’s Ministry?  How can we support the church’s mission?

Then, you can build your ministry changes and rebranding around his answers.