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.

 

 

Back to School!

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It’s back to school season!  Women’s Ministry groups around the country are full of mothers who are navigating the waters of back to school.

Some are watching their children enter their school years for the first time, tear soaked tissues in hand.

Others are wrapping their heads around new teachers, dress codes, schedules, and shopping.

Then there are those who have their hands on a whole box of tissues as their children enter their senior years or head off to college.

How can we minister to our mothers?

  1.  Mentoring.   It is so valuable to any mother to have in her circle of friends and mentors the woman who has already walked this road.  We lean heavy into those who have gone through these days, learn from them about the beauty of what is to come.
  2. Calendars.  When you are planning your Women’s Ministry events, consider your local school calendars.  Find out important dates like school vacations and major events like Prom and Graduation.  Try your best to schedule events away from these times, as parents may be out of town on holiday or celebrating milestones with family who have traveled into town.  Be sure to consider private school schedules, which may differ from public.  If your church services more than one county, be sure to take into account the other county schedules as well.
  3. Clothing Swaps.  Back to school can be an expensive year, bring in all of your school clothes that the kids grew out of and swap with other moms.  Or, take those collected clothes and bring them to shelters for homeless women and children.
  4. Supply Drives.  Use your women’s ministry events as an opportunity to collect school supplies and take them to schools in need, or local children’s group home.  Bless the moms in your church who could use a hand offsetting back to school expenses.
  5. Connections.  Connect moms who have children in the same schools, so they can get to know each other better.  Help establish car pool groups, after school child care volunteers for working parents, etc.
  6. Volunteer.  Start a after school program for children in your local schools, teach them about Christ, friendships, character qualities, etc.  Moms would love to know their kids are being invested into vs. babysat at after school programs.
  7. Celebrate.  For the moms who are becoming empty nesters for the first time, meet up with them during these first weeks especially and celebrate!
  8. Small Groups.   Add a day time small group that meets when the kids are school, this is a great opportunity for our stay home parents.  They can meet with a local small group to study the word, without taking away valuable family time at nights and on the weekends.

Ministry Spotlight: One Child Matters

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This summer, at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference, I happened to come across a great ministry in the Exhibition Hall.  After spending quite a few minutes talking ministry with their representative Curtis Wilson, I fell head over for the work that One Child Matters is doing for children all over the world & the impact that they are having on communities.  What is beautiful about partnering up with a ministry like One Child Matters, is that there is a impact not only abroad but in our churches, communities, and in ourselves.

The very first time my family ever sponsored a child from another country, we specifically chose a child who was similar to age as our children.  It’s been beautiful to watch her grow up and turn into a young woman who is not only growing in her faith but dedicated to being a positive influence on her own community.  One of my most treasured possessions is a letter she wrote to us where she shared how she prays for us.  When I think of the difference in our lives and opportunities, to know that she is praying for us is a humbling reminder that we are all in this life together.  We are all family, brothers and sisters… sons and daughters… of the King.  Family cares for and prays for each other, regardless of the number of miles between us.

If your church or Women’s Ministry is looking for an organization to partner with… I am thrilled to recommend One Child Matters as a suggestion.  There are children available for sponsorship, as well as missions trip opportunities, and you can request a speaker from One Child Matters to speak at your church or next Women’s Ministry event. 

For more information, please visit their websiteOr, you can contact Curtis Wilson directly at 614.560.5742  and on Twitter @CurtisDWilson

If you are a local Women’s Ministry Leader or Pastor’s wife, in the Treasure Coast or South Florida, visit our facebook page.  Curtis Wilson will be traveling to our area to share One Child Matters with local churches, and there will be a special dinner event for Women’s Ministry Leaders/Pastor’s Wives. You can add your name & church name to our list & we will make sure you receive an invitation to the event.

Pray Top Down

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A standard protocol for any ministry is to pray for God’s protection and favor over their work.  At a Women’s Ministry team meeting, we may pray for each others’ personal requests, for the event we are planning, and the women in the church. How often do you make sure to include praying for your Pastor, Staff, Church, and the Community it is serving?

So often we are focused on our own ministry needs that we forget that we are part of a bigger ministry in our community.  We are focused on our own ministry, and our own church… and we may forget about the other ministries and churches that are serving in our areas as well.  We also may be so focused on our role in serving in our ministry area that we forget that we are part of a body larger that we serve as well.

As we delve into the topic of Prayer & Worship in your Women’s Ministry at this weekends training event, we want to make sure that we don’t neglect to remind our leaders the importance of praying beyond your ministry.  We are grateful for The Good Book Company’s book “5 Things to Pray for Your Church”, which walks you through the ways you can be praying for your church, your role within it, and beyond your church walls.  The women attending our training event will be receiving a copy of this book courtesy of The Good Book Company.

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A posture of prayer needs to start from the top down.  As ministry workers who are part of a larger church body, before we begin praying for our own ministry needs and direction, we must begin with the church from the top down.  We pray for protection over the building, and we pray that our Pastors will be protected & have wisdom in shepherding the flock. We can even go a step further up, as we pray for our country and elected officials and how they will respond, represent, and protect the rights of the church.

As we lead the women in our church to a posture of prayer, and model the behavior and practice before them, we can also help them to foster a position of prayer over the church they call home.

Model the Prayer

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For some people prayer seems to come naturally, it pours off their lips like sweet nectar.  We can even be envious of another person’s ability to pray, as their heartfelt words sound like music to the soul.  For others, prayer is like walking through a room full of mouse traps with a raw egg on a spoon… hoping you can make it to the other side with out falling.  We can recognize the preciousness of what we are carrying (sweet words to the Lord), we understand the importance of our task (to honor and praise Him, to confess and surrender to Him), and yet the words just do not flow at all.

There are those whom the Lord has anointed the spiritual gift of intercessory prayer.  While we are not to covet or try and take a gift that was not intended of us, prayer is not an exclusive gift that only some of us get.   The scriptures give us multiple examples of people who cried out to the Lord, written prayers of the saints, and even Jesus himself was asked:  Lord, how do we pray?  He answered with The Lord’s Prayer.  Prayer is something that we are all called to participate in, and yet a common area new believers (and even some seasoned believers) stumble through.

Here is the GOOD NEWS… a prayer can be as simple as crying out the Lord… Oh, God!  For the Lord knows what is on our hearts and what burdens us.  He knows the trouble we face, He understands the words that we fail to utter in our despair.  The Lord is also patient, and He will listen as you unload every word running through your head… whether it is in eloquent sentences or broken up by sobs.  He mourns when we mourn, because He loves us so deeply.  He rejoices when we pray to Him in thankfulness and praise.  He hears the hushed tone Thank you, Lord as much as the loud Thank You JESUS for your blessings of which I do not deserve!

Yet, there is MORE good news.   When we want to understand more about how to pray, the scriptures are there to answer that need.  We will learn what TO DO and what NOT to do in our prayer life.  We have the example of The Lord’s Pray, and the prayers of others who have come before us.   In addition, we have books that can help us improve our prayer life.  Whether it is a book of sample prayers, books that have pulled out the prayers directly from the scriptures, and books that walk you through the process of praying from your own heart.

As Women’s Ministry Leaders we can help foster an attitude of prayer in our church by modeling prayer in our personal lives.  We can also help foster a posture of prayer in the lives of the women in our church by helping them develop prayer habits.  Prayer teams do not need to be made up of only those who excel in prayer.  They can be a great place to put women who desire to deepen their prayer life.  Prayer rooms can provide direction and resources, as well as women who are available to help model prayer to those who walk in those doors.

Another option is to begin an intentional step toward developing good prayer habits by adding Prayer to your Small Groups menu.  This weekend the women in attendance at our training event will be receiving a copy of Susan Hunt’s Prayers of the Bible study book and leader guide.  Not only is this a great opportunity to talk with your existing small group leaders, about having a small group focused on prayer… but it is a great introduction to get NEW small group leaders in place.  If you have a woman who is already a prayer warrior, but didn’t think she could be a small group leader… WHAT A GREAT WAY TO GET HER STARTED!  This would allow her to get her feet wet in the leader process while leading a subject that is already near and dear to her heart.

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Thank You P&R Publishing for your support in our upcoming Women’s Ministry Council training event on Prayer and Worship & their role in our Women’s Ministry programs!

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Lead Them to Pray

This week, in preparation for our Prayer & Worship Training Event , the Women’s Ministry Council invited member Jenny Andrews to contribute to the conversation.  Jenny is going to share with us practical tips for Starting a Prayer Team  in your Women’s Ministry. 
Before starting or agreeing to start either ministry in the church be sure to go before the Lord in prayer  about what it takes to start either or both. Both take time and both require diligence. Like any good steward we are called to count the cost of starting a ministry or team.
After you have done that if you are feeling called go see the Pastor who would be responsible for such ministry. My Senior Pastor was not over this particular ministry, the Associate Pastor was so I went to him. Or, connect with current prayer team leader and ask to how you can help.
I would ask a few important questions:
1. What is your vision for prayer in the church/women’s ministry?
          a. Most likely the pastor and other leaders are aware of the weak areas in the body of  Christ and they can help you be intentional on specific areas of prayer.  (i.e. prayer  chain, prayer team, prayer room, prayer night)
2. How can I help you in that vision?
Once you get those questions answered it is now time to pray about building a team for the prayer ministry.  Use the pastor’s vision as your guideline for the prayer vision for the year. Meet with them yearly around the same time the recast vision and assess prayer needs.
1. Start with key leadership and ask them if they are aware of any women who they would
consider women of prayer.
2. Begin looking for woman in your small group or in casual conversations who are desiring to pray with you and others.
3. Make a list of people and begin praying over them.
4. Make a list of responsibilities that would be required to be a part of the team.
          a. i.e. no gossiping, live life of godliness (not perfection), willing to learn.
          b. You can also look online fore prayer guidelines that will help you make up your list.
          c. Do a separate list of responsibilities for prayer team and for prayer room if you are   doing both.
 5. Send out personal invites to the potential team members for a meet and greet.
 6. Plan out a year of prayer events before meet and greet
          a. Have your dates in writing, you don’t have to have details of events or meetings       just that they are happening.
          b. Get on the church calendar schedule so they know you are having events.
 7. Pray for a potential assistant or co-leader for team they will help you tremendously.
8. At the meet and greet:
           a. Share the vision of the team/room.
          b. Share the responsibilities
          c. Allow them to have input on needs of prayer
           d. Share with them calendar
          e. Do brainstorm for prayer event ideas
          f. Look for potential leader to help you in this meeting
 9. Follow through with events
10. Keep team up to date on everything and encourage them often.
Remember this is not a to-do list it is a suggested list and can be tweaked to fit your particular church  body needs.
Study to show yourself approved. I would encourage you to study spiritual warfare as it  goes hand and hand with prayer. My encouragement would be David Platt’s series on Angels, demons and spiritual warfare. Pray for discernment and wisdom often as you will need it. Research praying scripture and praying God’s will in accordance with the bible.
It will be a slow process and it does take time but your efforts and diligence will pay off in the long run.  Remember to keep Christ as the center of you prayer team and never be afraid to ask for help in area unknown to you. Remain teachable and steadfast in prayer.
Prayer meetings can happen anywhere.   You can host them in the main sanctuary of your church, or even at a local park.  A popular trend is the establishing of a prayer room in your church.  This is usually a quite space, where women can come to pray alone or in groups.  Some are decorated and stocked with resources on prayers, and others are just a friendly space with some chairs.  A door that can close for privacy is recommended.   You may even choose to have a prayer garden or walk on your church property.  For some ideas on Prayer Rooms, visit our Pinterest Page.

Jenny Andrews is a wife of 14 yrs, a mother to 3 wonderful boys and a devoted followed of Jesus. She desires to encourage and equip women to be all that the Lord has called them be.  She enjoys speaking and teaching the Word of God. For more information you can find Jenny Andrews on her Facebook page.

Small Group Series #4- When We Meet

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By Gena McCown. Co-Founder Women’s Ministry Council

We have plowed through some length portions for this series, and now that we have taken care of the behind the scenes topics… let’s move to the front side of things.  We can have all of the prep work in check and still fail at small groups because we can’t control the meeting itself.  Now, I am going to admit that no matter how much you try a meeting can get away from you.  None of us are perfect, but the point I am going to focus on is what you need to happen MOST of the time.  Then when there is an occasional slip up, you will be forgiven.

Let’s cover some basic points that we should ALL be doing, then we’ll move on to the things where we have some options.

  • Preview the Material – do not going into each meeting blind.  Either watch the video and go through the workbook earlier in the day (or week), or even consider going through the whole thing before the study begins.  You will have a clearer idea of how long the material is going to take to cover, if you think you are going to need more time for discussion.
  • If you are teaching expository studies yourself, you should be preparing throughout the week, not a last minute hurrah before study starts.
  • Your group should be bathed in prayer, as anything we do that draws people closer to God the enemy is going to work to stop.  I always pray for obstacles to be removed from the path of the women to the study each week.
  • Set a realistic expectation on how long the study should last, and stick to that timeframe.  Occasionally conversation may take you over that timeframe, but make that the exception not the rule.
  • If a study is 8 weeks long, I always recommend telling people to plan for 9-10 weeks.  Inevitably something will happen that will disrupt the schedule. If everything goes according to plan use that last meeting as a conversation night to recap the study, make up date for anyone who missed a segment from the video, service project night, or even a fellowship night out on the town.
  • If you are meeting at a local coffee shop either schedule extra time into your meeting for ordering food/coffee…. or remind your attendees to arrive early to place their orders.
  • If you are meeting at the church or host home, make arrangements for any snacks/refreshments for the evening.  You do not always need to provide refreshments, but if you do put together a volunteer sign up sheet for the first meeting.

RUNNING THE MEETING:

  • Start on Time – be sure to show up a few minutes early to set up your videos or other things needed for that nights study.  You should be ready to go on time, and arriving early gives you time to deal with any technical issues.
  • Open in Prayer – you can choose to do a general opening prayer, allow people to make prayer requests, or take turns praying.  It is not uncommon for prayer time in small groups to take a long time if we are not careful.  I have tried a few methods each working effectively for different groups.  1) Ask the women to think of their prayer requests while praying a general prayer, asking God to listen to the prayers on their hearts.  2) Ask the women to submit their prayer requests to you via email/text prior to the meeting, then you can not only list them in brevity as you pray but also provide a printed list for the members to take home & pray over during the week.  3) Allow each woman to verbally make her prayer request before or during the prayer, but set a limit for 1 min. per person.  Establish this at the start of the 1st meeting, and remind the women they are free to ask questions or give additional prayers and support when the meeting is over.
  • Establish the “House Rules” at the first meeting, which will include start and finish times, how prayer requests are being handled, reminding the women that what is said in small group stays in small group, etc.  Then in the 2nd meeting give a quick recap.  No need to repeat at every study night.  Revisit if new members join the group.
  • Watch the Video/Teach the Lesson – if you are watching a video, you know exactly how much time it will take (it is usually printed in the jacket sleeve of the DVD).  If you are teaching the materials, watch the clock to ensure you leave time for discussion.
  • Prompt the discussions, being mindful to not take over the time talking yourself (which can happen with teachers, ha!) or that others in the group do not monopolize the discussion time.  Ask specific people questions, make eye contact to feel out if someone has something to offer, and help guide the conversation along.
  • Close in Prayer – In the closing prayer I like to include asking for protection over our church, the women in attendance, and those who didn’t make it for that evening.

In between study group meetings, I like to send email reminders if there is something the women need to do before we meet up again.  You can also use this email to remind the snack volunteers, do the assigned “homework”, any immediate prayer requests that can’t wait until the next group meeting, church announcements that might be important, etc.

So what makes the small group “effective”, since that sounds like any old meeting?  Being intentional.  I’ve been to many a meeting in the corporate world, spending 30+ minutes discussing something that could have been said in an email.  I’ve sat in small groups where so much time was spent talk about our prayers, that by the time we got to actually say them… we used up half of our meeting time.  I’ve led meetings where technical delays caused us to run behind, and I learned the hard way that I needed to arrive extra early.

What makes them effective is that everything goes so smoothly there is nothing to complain about, nothing to improve, and our goals are met.  It’s effective because it wasn’t defective.

When your small group meetings go awry, and are not effective it will be quite evident.  Word will get back to you that group thinks you are disorganized or always behind.  You will see your number of attendees drops, your regulars stop coming, or that you no longer get anyone signing up for your group.  You will see that more time is spent praying and talking than studying and you can’t finish in your allotted number of weeks.  You will run out of time, members, interest, and find yourself questioning “why do I even bother”.

If you are meeting your goals, if your group members stay put, if your group is growing in number, if your group is growing in their walk…. then you are running an effective meeting.

The final installment in this series will address some great questions that were emailed in about this topic, and will be posted on July 5th.  If you have a question and did not submit it yet, pop over to our series intro and submit your question now!

The Small Group Series #1- Benefits

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

There is a subtle difference between a Bible Study and a Small Group.  Bible Studies, whether they are expository or working through a book, are generally public groups.  This means that participants can come and go as they please.  Whereas Small Groups are a bit more intentional, regardless of the material they are choosing to study.  Small Groups are usually a close knit group of people who have committed to studying with each other long term.

If you finish a study and the group disbands, and you find yourself looking for a new study to plug into, you are most likely in a Bible Study group.  You like the fluidity to move into the studies that interest you, your intentions are pointed toward learning and possibly meeting new people. As a Bible Study teacher, you are selecting the material you are interested in learning, and happy to take others along for the ride.  What the group looks like in regard to membership vacillates from study period to study period.

If you finish a study, and the whole group talks through what book you are all going to study next, you are most likely in a Small Group.  You like the commitment to meeting regularly with this particular group of people, your intentions are pointed toward learning and building deeper relationships with this group specifically.  As a Small Group leader, you discuss the options for the next study and take the groups opinions into consideration.  Small Group members are also more likely to meet outside of their regular group time, for fun and fellowship.    Small Group membership will remain steady over the course of time with little membership change.

There are some groups that do bridge between the two, it might be a Small Group that is always open to having new members join the group.  Or, you may be a part of a Bible Study group that does fellowship every now and again.  So, these are not hard fast rules… but I do believe there is a distinction between the two, and both are valuable to your Women’s Ministry.  Today we are focusing on Small Groups, although some of these benefits are also gleaned from Bible Studies too.

How Does a Small Group Benefit the Women’s Ministry:

  • Brunches are a great way to meet new women, but Small Groups are a beautiful way to begin building relationships.
  • Small Groups are a great next step in your discipleship plan for women in the church.
  • Small Groups for women specifically are welcoming for your single women, or women who are married to nonbelievers.
  • Committed Small Group participants end up becoming committed Small Group leaders.  We unknowingly are investing in and modeling leadership skills to those who attend our groups.
  • Small Groups are an opportunity to find future Women’s Ministry team members.
  • Women feel more comfortable asking questions and sharing in a Small Group, whom they have grown to trust.
  • Small Groups offer a less intimidating invitation to a nonbelieving friend or family member, than inviting them to church.
  • Small Groups tend to support their members during times of need and crisis.  This is especially important for larger churches who may not be aware of families who are struggling.  Group members minister to each other.
  • Small Groups provide an opportunity to teach others studying techniques, how to pray, and other lessons that may not make it into Sunday Services.
  • Small Groups encourage accountability among it’s members.

“They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Every day they continued to meet together… they broke bread in their homes and ate together… and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42, 44, 46-47

 You can support the Women’s Ministry Council when you order any of these lovely bracelets or other accessories from our Bravelets Fundraising Account.  $10 from each purchase helps the Women’s Ministry Council continue to offer FREE training and resources to the Women’s Ministry Leaders in our area and beyond.   We appreciate your support & prayerful consideration.

To purchase, click on the image below or HERE

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Social Media Series- #3 Instagram

insta3.pngBy Gena McCown, Women’s Ministry Council Co-Founder

Instagram is a pretty popular form of Social Media, you would be hard pressed to find someone who has never heard of it.  They may not use it, but they know about it.  However, you may not have realized the beauty of Instagram as a resource for your Women’s Ministry.

Just like Twitter, when you set up your Instagram account you can choose to set it as Public or Private.  Public is a great way to get the word out about your ministry, but Private is going to protect your content from unwelcomed eyes.  When you set up your account, make sure to include in the profile description important information such as the name of the church, website, and city you are located in.  As well, there are options in the account settings that will allow you to link your Instagram account with your Facebook Group, Twitter Account, and other social media platforms.  This means you can post to Instagram and automatically it will show up in your other social media platforms.  That my friend is a time saving win.

One of the aspects I love about Instagram is the photo heavy sharing, which is a benefit to Women’s Ministry events where everyone is taking pictures.  The women can post their pictures on their own Instagram account and then tag (or hashtag, we’ll get to that next) the ministry or event.  This allows us to share our experiences, photos, opinions, and even live quotes from events.  Unlike Twitter, Instagram doesn’t have a character limit… you can post as much as you want.  Or, you can even post video clips you take at the event.

What is a “hashtag” it is the combination of the pound symbol ( # ) and a word/phrase/title.  They are used to categorize your Instagram photos, and can be used to search for related content.  For example, if you were looking for ideas for a women’s beach retreat you could search ” #beachretreat ” and Instagram would provide you with a slew of photos taken by people related to that term.  People are now beginning to use hashtags in very intentional ways, like hashtags for their children… businesses… and events.

A very common Instagram hashtag use is for weddings, where all the guests are given a “hashtag” to use for their wedding photos.  If you want to see photos, just click the hashtag and you’ll see all the photos associated with it… whether you took the photos or not.  This is also a common practice for Women’s Conferences too.  You’ll notice if you have attended Living Proof Live with Beth Moore, she has a hashtag for that event. It’s a quick way to find information associated with her events.

Some hashtag concepts for Women’s Ministries ….

#YourWomensMinistryName — if you have a unique name for your ministry, simply hashtagging the name might be enough.     IE:  HolyRollersForHim

#ChurchWomensMinistry — if your name isn’t super unique, couple it with the church name and/or city to help distinguish it from ministries of similar names.    IE:FBCPSLWomesMinistry or #ChristCommunityStuartWM

#TC3WMRetreat2016 — if you are having a special retreat, you can use a common hashtag combining the church name, women’s ministry reference, what the event is, and the year.  If this is something you do from year to year, then in future years you only need to change out the year to update it.

#SheIsHis2016 — If you have a theme to your event, you can couple that theme with the year.  However, this is only going to work well if you are the only ones who have used such an event name and theme.  If it’s not a unique name, tuck in the name of your church or city to help differentiate.

So, all that out of the way… what are some ways you can use an Instagram to benefit the Women’s Ministry at your church?

An important thing to note about Instagram is that it is primarily designed for use with smartphones and tablets, not table top PCs and laptops.  You can VIEW and even COMMENT on Instagram posts via your PC and laptop.  However any new photos or content you want to post to your Instagram account must be done via your phone or tablet.  If you are like me, and HATE typing out lengthy messages on my tiny phone screen or even tablet screen… there is a work around.  Use your phone/table to make the initial post.  Then from your PC or laptop, you can comment on your own post and type away.

* Scripture Sharing – you can post a scripture of the day (or week) for memorization.

* Devotions – type out a devotion coupled with a picture, or make a short video devotion.

* Service Recaps – share video from the last Sermon or a clip of a worship song to help the women in reflecting on the message throughout the week.

* Live Event Posting – if you are at an event like a conference or your own women’s retreat, just like you can live tweet… you can live Instagram.  Share photos with quotes from speakers, or of the women fellowshipping.  It’s a fantastic way to include the women who couldn’t come, and as I suggested in the Twitter post… it also may help you get the women in your church who have a hard time committing to see what they missed out on.  This could improve your attendence at future events.

* Dedicated Days – Utilize specific days of the week for specific tasks.  Meditative Mondays, might be the day you post scriptures to memorize or meditate on.  Worship Wedensdays, that could be the day you share your clips from the worship during past services.  Word-Filled Wednesdays, would make a great day were you walk the women through a weekly bible reading plan.  Fellowship Fridays, can be how you keep track of your weekly Friday Fellowship (small group, bible study, women’s minsitry meetings).   Not evey dedicated day needs a catchy name.  Mondays could be dedicated for scriptures, Tuesdays for prayer requests, Wednesdays for community needs, etc.

* Announcements & Information – Instagram is a great resource for making quick announcements about the happenings in the church and upcoming Women’s Ministry events.  You can even include direct links to places to register/pay for larger events.

* Last Minute Updates – Just like Twitter, most people access Instagram from their phones.  This makes it a great place to announce last minute changes or details.

* Bible Study and Small Groups – Not only can you use Instagram to share about the bible studies and small groups you are offering, you can post video clips promoting the material.  Additionally, if your participants need to purchase their study book online… you can put a direct link in the post.  Easy, peasy.  You can even tag the group leader with their Instagram account so that interested women can contact her directly through the Direct Message feature.

Finally, as another quick suggestion… for your WM Leader Team…

You can now have more than 1 instagram account.  Consider setting one up for just the leader team.  Make it private, and use this a quick communication source.   As the leader you can post quick pictures of things you are considering buying, locations for potential retreats, possible study materials for the next season of Bible Studies, etc.  Then your team has a place they can respond quickly.  (Granted, I would recommend giving them a heads up if you are going to be out and want immediate replies – so they know to be watching).  I think it could be a great way to share information with your team members, in real time, with the ability for everyone to contribute the conversation.   Such uses might include if you are out scouting retreat locations, at a conference and looking through small group study options, etc.

And… a private leader Instagram account might be a great avenue for team building and bonding amongst the leaders.

Shepherding Women In Crisis

Black and white image of a young woman crying and covering her f

When I first stepped into leadership roles in the church, over 17 years ago, there were some things I was never prepared to encounter.  Even to this day I can be caught off guard by the phone calls that will come my way.  I don’t always know the right thing to say, but I am getting better at it.  This is an area where I think we are failing to prepare our leaders in any facet of ministry leadership.

What do you do when your phone rings at two in the morning, and a woman from your church is crying out for help?  What is the appropriate way to respond, when a woman approaches you after church on Sunday and confesses that her husband abuses her?  How do you counsel the woman who has just admitted to you, after small group, that she’s been having an affair?  How do you comfort the woman who just shared with you that she had an abortion?  Do you know what resources are available in your area for a woman who is struggling with addiction?  And, do you know what the laws are in your area for mandatory reporting?

If any of these questions have left you stumped, scratching your head, you are not alone.

The first step, begins in the Pastor’s office.  I find it is better to head things off before they are a real life problem.  Speak with your Pastor about what the laws are in your state for mandatory reporting (as a ministry leader you may not have the same privilege protections in place as a Pastor would).  Also, ask him for a list of services that he recommends to members who come to him for counseling.  What Christian counselors are in the area that he refers people to, and what local addiction services does he recommend?  If he is unaware of other services you may need (like help for a homeless mom), take to the internet and begin searching for resources in your area.  Or, ask on Facebook.  You’d be surprised what your friends may know about that you don’t.

The second step, is to share all of this information with your team (including small group leaders).  As the leader of the Women’s Ministry, you will get some calls.  However, I believe that the majority of the phone calls or personal confessions are going to come to the leaders you serve with.  It is important for them to understand how to address these calls too.

The third step, is to help the women on your team understand their role in responding to the women who are in crisis.

  • You are NOT a problem solver.  It is impossible for you to have all the answers to all of their questions, or solutions to all of their problems. 
  • You are NOT a licensed counselor. There are going to be issues that are too big for you, and you should not attempt to address them.
  • You are NOT responsible for their choices.  There will be people who don’t listen to your advice or guidance, and you can not take that personally.
  • You are NOT their Holy Spirit or their Savior.  Be wise in the role you take in there crisis, we can walk along side a person without stepping into a role not meant for you.
  • You are NOT always the right person.  Friends may seek your advice because you are loyal to them, and not potentially the other person involved.  This means you are biased, and it may be wiser for someone else to walk along side them during this time.
  • You are NOT always in the right space.  If you are currently going through your own crisis, now is not the time to try to help someone else. 

The fourth step, is to set up some ground rules for dealing with women in crisis.

  • You will NOT talk or counsel the person while they are currently under the influence.  You have taken the call, heard what the person said, and verified that they are currently safe.  That is the most important thing you can do in that moment.  Set a time that you are going to call them the next day.  How they respond the next day will shed light on how serious they are about getting help.  If the person is not safe, then you can proceed with asking where they are & what you can do to get them to a safe location for the evening. You may want to bring your spouse or an elder along with you, for your safety (depending on the answer you get).
  • You will NOT make a promise you are not able to keep.  Do not tell a person they can call you at all times of the night, unless you are really ok with that.  You can answer the call, and instruct them to call the next day after a certain time. 
  • You CAN set expectations on how you will counsel the person.  It is absolutely okay to come to an agreement on biblical counseling that puts the load on the person in crisis.  If she admitted to having an affair, you can tell her that you will walk with her once she has ended the affair.  If there is a confession of addiction, you can tell the person you will not help them until they have told their spouse first… and you are happy to be there when they do for support.  You can suggest scripture readings to take place between meetings with the woman, and if she fails to keep her end of the bargain… your meetings will stop.  Clear expectations keep this relationship safe, structured, and nothing is a surprise.  There may be more practical boundaries as well, such as willingness to buy groceries but not give cash; or to help them create a budget plan without paying off their debts.
  • You will NOT “fight the fight” for the person in crisis.  If she continues to cancel meetings with you, doesn’t answer your calls when you set an appointed time to talk, didn’t call the resources you recommended, always has an excuse, etc… then she is not ready.  You can’t make her be ready to receive help, and you will need to know when to walk away.
  • REMEMBER that you are probably not getting the whole truth.  A person in crisis may not be telling you all of the facts.  It may be worse than you think, they may place blame on someone who is innocent, there will be plenty of reasons and excuses for their situation, etc.  Stay objective.  If you lose your objectivity, you need to walk away and recommend her to someone who can.
  • Don’t be SURPRISED if after counseling the person along, things get better, and then you find her in the same situation again.  Some forms of crisis, like addiction, are cyclical and take several attempts before recovery is possible.   Only you can decide how long you will be apart of that ride, before you trust them to the professionals.  You may also find out that you are not the first person to receive this type of call.  This behavior could have been happening for years, and you are just the next person on the list. The first person who answered their phone that night, the new face that doesn’t know her history, etc.
  • You WILL NOT feel guilty for mandatory reporting.  When a woman confesses to you that she (or her spouse/boyfriend) is abusing their child… and you have to make that phone call… you will NOT feel guilty.  At this point, the safety of the child is your priority and getting her help is the second one.  If someone confesses to you that they are suicidal, you will not feel guilty for calling their spouse or parent (if a minor) in order to get the help they need.  At this point, their safety is priority. 
  • You WILL NOT allow yourself to be a secret vault where people dump their burdens on you.  If you are going to allow yourself to take on this type of role in a person’s life, you need to be able to not carry their load for them.  Some people will dump and dump their issues into your head.  You can be weighted down by their problems.  Learn how to listen and lead without carrying.  Additionally, you are not helping them by keeping it a secret.  One tool that I use is asking:  “Do I have your permission to research some resources for you?”.  If the person gives me permission, since this is a woman in the church, my first stop is usually to call our Pastor’s wife.  She is actively involved in the leadership of the church.  Through her, I am able to discern if this is an issue the church is aware of and already helping with.  If not, then she can help point me in the right direction of resources that I may be unaware of.  If the church is already helping, then she can bring me into the fold (remember the woman invited me into the situation).

There is SO MUCH MORE on this subject than I could fit into a single post, especially with the various types of crisis women face.  However, this is a good starting point to get conversation happening between your leaders.