Single Sisters, A Confession

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Single Sisters, A Confession – By Gena McCown

When my husband and I got married, we were one of the first among our groups of friends.  Life didn’t change much for us at that point, but then once our daughter was born things changed quickly.  Our friends would call to invite us out, but that wasn’t always possible.  In fact, more often than not, the answer was no.  In the earliest days, I was just too tired from having a newborn.  Eventually it was for no better reason than last minute excursions required large amounts of preparation.  We had to find a sitter, pack up our daughter, drop her off, then of course pick her home, before returning home.  Being completely honest, it wasn’t often worth the work.  We wanted to see our friends, but the effort to actually go out was more than we were willing to give.  Couple this with going from a dual income family of two, to a single income family of three… and our budget wasn’t really as free as it once was either. 

Here’s the confession part…

For years, I never understood why my single friends didn’t “get it”.  We understood that they didn’t fully understand what it takes to get a family ready for a night out.  I just wondered how many times would I have to tell them that we needed more notice before that would stick.  Eventually, after enough of our answering “no”… they just stopped asking.  That wasn’t what we wanted, but it is what we got.  Yet, I had never once considered what our change in life meant to our friends.  They had lost a relationship with us, and frankly we let it go too easily.  We could have done a better job of nurturing that relationship.  And for that failure on our part, I’m truly sorry.

Looking back on those days, there is a lot we could have done.  We could have been the ones to make plans, in advance, instead of waiting for their call.  We could have countered an invite for a night on the town, with dinner at our house or coffee later in the evening.  We could have intentionally made the effort to engage with our friends more regularly.  I was too busy trying to figure out what they were not understanding about our new lives, that I was not able to see that I was dropping the ball too.  Maybe I figured they’d be joining the ranks soon enough and we’d raise our kids together.  But, the way it turned out was that most of our friends had just begun starting their marriages and families as we were on the end of the story.  I have friends who have  their oldest kids starting preschool this year, while my oldest is in college.

What I have learned over these years, to my regret, what that I failed to recognize and value those friendships in the way I should of.  So caught up in my own world of change, I was unable to see that their world changed too.  It also kept me from noticing their struggles in singleness.  I have friends who are still waiting for their Boaz.  So, what does this have to do with Women’s Ministry?  Everything.

In book after book, conference after conference, study after study, and speaker after speaker… we’ve heard these words:

Our first ministry is to our husband and children.

So, we build up a Women’s Ministry robust with studies on being a better wife, becoming better mothers, dealing with the stress of marriage and parenting.  We volunteer, have collection drives, or donate money to causes that champion mothers and children.  We make meals for our new moms, moms who have a child in hospital, wives who have a husband in the hospital, and women who are newly widowed.  We have MOPS groups, and volunteer at VBS, then eventually we graduating to volunteering with the teen girls at youth.  

But, guess what?  Not all of our women are wives.  Not all of our women are mothers.  They still matter, greatly.

The single women (without children) of your congregation are not interested in a speaker talking about intimacy in marriage… when she is still waiting.  Nor is she interested in the latest potty training trends, or how to get your child to stop sleeping in your bed.  She does not want to make a chore chart or a cute framed dry erase board for planning out meals.  And, for the most part, she’s not interested in a class on couponing or making your own homemade laundry soap to save money.  She also may not be interested in the “Young Adult” or “Singles Group” at your church if she feels like it is just a bunch of fishermen trying to snag a fish on a hook.

We have created Women’s Ministries around the idea that the majority of our women are married with children, and this focus has caused us to overlook our Single Sisters.  Just as I was caught up in my own life and needs, I neglected to value my single friends… as ministries we can get so caught up in creating programs and events that meet our needs that we neglect the needs of our single women.

What do our Single Sisters (without children) need:

She needs sisterhood.  She is looking for friends and companions.  She wants a few women that she can hang out with on a Friday night, or take a morning jog with.  She wants women in her corner that she can trust to support her, encourage her, and frankly just have fun with her.  

She needs investors.  She is looking for women that are going to speak into her life, words of truth and wisdom.  Women who are willing to walk out faith with her, guide her, and hold her accountable.   She isn’t looking for just a teacher to spout words at her, but investors who are willing to take their time with her.

She needs strength.  Some women embrace singleness, and for others it is a struggle.  If she struggles with singleness, she is going to need your strength to hold her up during those times.  Your strength to hold her accountable when temptation comes her way.  Your strength when her judgment is blinded.  Your strength when a relationship doesn’t work out, or doesn’t happen at all.

She needs Jesus.  Just like the other women in the church, your Single Sisters need opportunities to dig deep in the Word… in away that is not focused on marriage and children, and instead focused on Christ.  She needs to be reminded that her worth is not tied up in how great of a wife she is, how wonderful of a mother, or having Proverbs 31 thrown at her every waking hour.  She needs to know that she is made in God’s image.  That she is valuable and worthy, strong and capable, a daughter and inheritor, and that she is commissioned to His great works.

There are a few things she does not need.

Unless she asks for it, she does not need to be set up on blind dates with your neighbor’s son or college buddy.  She doesn’t need your pity, sympathy, or made to feel less than because she is “still single”.  She doesn’t need to field questions about finding Mr. Right, when there will be a wedding, or if she wants to ever start a family.  She doesn’t need to you to prod her with questions about past relationships to analyze what went wrong or what she could have done differently.  And, she doesn’t need lessons on how to land a good man.  

She needs women who will help her find value and confidence in herself, helping her to view herself the way God sees her. 

As Women’s Ministry leaders we need to be encouraging our Single Sisters to join our leadership team and help us expand our Women’s Ministry to be inclusive and considerate of our Single Sisters.  As we open our eyes and see that these women are part of the mosaic that makes up the sisterhood of believers, we become more intentional about the space we create for them in our community.  

A Word From Guest: Dr. Naima Johnston Bush

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The Women’s Ministry Council is pleased to introduce you to Dr. Naima Johnston Bush, from Refreshing Life with Naima.  Naima is a supporter of our ministry work.  If you will be attending our live training event in Florida, on June 30th, we will have a few door prizes from Naima to give away.  PLUS… expect something special from her at our LeadHer Conference on October 6th in Hobe Sound, FL.

It is summer time, and perhaps your ministry is taking a break.  This break from ministry obligations is a perfect time to lean in the Lord, seeking His guidance and direction for you personally.  Dr. Naima Johnston Bush has a few words on what hinders us & how to move beyond those hinderances.  

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4 Things That Keep You From Achieving Your God Given Dreams!

Inside of each of us is a purpose, a destiny only we can fulfill. As the cares of life encompass us we often lose sight of those original dreams that the Lord has placed in our hearts and settle for living a life of just getting by. Take a moment and ask yourself right now, are you truly living a life filled with Christ’s purpose? Are you walking in the fullness of your ministry and applying your gifts to advance the kingdom of Christ?

Most of us are not. I wasn’t. Until I quit my job in 2002 to form Broken Box Ministries. It wasn’t always easy, I didn’t have the tools, resources or information to do what I felt God was calling me to do. Furthermore, I felt that I was just too old to move forward and begin pursuing my dream. It seemed impossible…. I was so unsure of what to do or how too even do it. I needed to trust the Lord. All this is summed up in one of my favorite Tweets;

“When nothing is sure, everything is possible!”

Maybe you’re not called to quit your job and go into fulltime ministry, but you still have a dream! To start a business or nonprofit? Be a missionary? Start or grow a ministry at your church? There is a problem you are assigned to fix, something only you can accomplish! So what’s holding you back? After traveling the country and talking to tons of people I’ve discovered 4 things that keep people from achieving their God given dreams, and I’m working hard to help people overcome these issues. Ask yourself, are any of these me?

Number 1 –  Fear

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.

2 Timothy 1:7

We’re all afraid of something, but moving forward in spite of this fear is a true testament of not only courage but of faith. Perhaps you’re not moving forward to pursue that dream because you fear that God didn’t really call you to it, you’re not good enough, you don’t want to face rejection, you’re afraid it won’t work out… The list can go on and on.

Maybe you tried once and you believe you failed. But did you really fail?  Ask yourself if there was any fruit at all from the situation, did you learn anything, get closer to God, bless anyone? What we think of as failure can be a part of God’s plan for us. Just look at Thomas Edison, how many times did he fail before he got the light bulb right? Look it up… and I’m sure we can believe that electric lights were part of God’s plan!

But the first step to overcoming fear is admitting it to the Lord; then taking a step in the direction you feel He’s calling you to. You can move forward to overcome your fears. God believes in you, so you just need to believe in yourself.

Answer the following questions:

What Are Your Greatest Fears? Take these fears to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to help you move past them. After praying how do you feel? Keep praying and believing and you will see change!

List five practical ways you can overcome your fears. For example if you fear you’re not good enough to do what God is calling you to do or you don’t have the ability, make a list of all the scriptures you can find that tell you who you are in Christ and what you can do through Him. Read that list daily until the Word is hidden in your heart. What other ways can you think of?

Number 2 – Lack of Resources

You may feel you can’t go forward because you don’t have the proper resources to do what you know you’ve been called to do. There is always a way to get started, even if you don’t have a million bucks in your hand. If God called you to do it, then you have what you need in your hand – Read Judges Chapter 6 and use Gideon as role model, I do!

There is one simple fact that cannot be denied when you are facing a lack of resources to move forward in your God given dream. You know someone somewhere who has what you need or knows someone who has what you need. All you have to do is pray and then ask. I’ve gotten more stuff that I’ve needed in the last few months from folks simply by asking! Staff volunteers, recording equipment, financial donations, assistance in booking just to name a few. The Word tells us to ask and we shall receive, so get to asking. And remember God’s law of reaping and sowing, if someone asks you, be sure to give it if you got it!

Answer the following questions:

What are your biggest needs to get started?

Who can you ask for assistance to get moving? List those folks:

Select a concrete date on when you’ll ask them for what you need:

Remember!

  • Don’t be afraid to ask them for suggestions if they don’t have what you need

  • Take what they are willing to give, God can do much with a little

  • Apply the 2 Step Approach, “Pray and Then Ask!”

Number 3 – You Think It’s Too Late

One of the things I hear from people is that they think it is too late for them to achieve their God given dream.  But, I believe that as long as there is breath in your body there is time to achieve some part of the dream that God has placed on your heart, for the advancement of the Kingdom.  It may be modified, it may not grow to be exactly what you thought it would be, but if you still have strength, you still have time.

I always think of Abraham and the promise that the Lord gave him and Sarah, the promise became Abraham’s dream and although he saw some of it come to pass, he didn’t see it all come into fruition. But he did what God called him to do after getting hemmed up in Egypt, messing around with his nephew Lot and having a child with the handmaid. Delays, these were delays, but they did not take the Lord by surprise! God still brought forth His promise to Abraham, his dream of being a father. In essence Abraham set the foundation for a dream that would belong to the entire world. A dream that would turn into a blessing for the whole world.

So the past does not matter, the time to start is today. What if the dream in your heart, is simply this, the foundation of a bigger dream that will meet the needs of millions of others?

Get Moving! Don’t wait another minute, the Bible tells us…

If you wait for perfect conditions you will never get anything done.

(Ecclesiastes 11: 4)

Ask yourself, what does your dream entail that you feel is limited by time? For example, what if you felt you were suppose to be a champion figure skater, you love ice skating, but now in your 40’s you’re to old to pursue that dream. But you know the Lord has placed that passion in your heart. After much prayer, you could found a ministry that reaches out to figure skaters, or arranges free lessons to children who can’t afford lessons while also training them in the truths of the Word of God. Or maybe you could become a coach’s assistant and win a future world champion to the Lord, who will then share the gospel with millions through their athletic efforts. Time does not diminish the promise of God!

Answer the following questions:

List the limitations you feel you’re facing because you feel it’s to late.

Spend some serious time in prayer asking the Lord to reveal to you how your original dream should look now. Journal those answers, then make a commitment to do one thing everyday to achieve the dream.

Number 4 – Lack of Trust

Ultimately, the real reason we don’t move forward to achieve our God given dreams is a lack of trust. We either don’t trust ourselves or we don’t trust the Lord. Nobody wants to admit that they are having trouble trusting God, but I think most of us are not even aware that we’re not trusting the Lord.

Maybe you don’t trust that you heard from the Lord and you don’t want to make a mistake. Maybe you’re not sure what the Lord is telling you to do. Maybe you don’t trust that you can do what God has called you to do. But this is where your faith must kick in. This is where you have to walk by faith. I’m sure Noah must have wondered if he was really hearing from the Lord when he began building the ark. But God had placed in his heart a dream and the dream saved the future.

The truth of the matter is if you really desire to please God, if you really want to follow Him and you start to take steps to do what He’s placed in your heart to do if you are out of order the Lord will correct you. Failures may occur, and things may not always work out like you think they should but that does not mean God has not called you to move forward in this dream.

Nothing replaces prayer and fasting and the word for getting direction from the Lord. Make up your mind that you will walk by faith and not by sight, trusting that Lord will lead you, outline the dream and lay it on the altar, pray over it, speak life over it and then begin to move forward in faith!

So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

(James 2 :17)

To Build Trust:

Spend time practicing listening to and for the voice of the Lord, so that you are attuned to hearing His direction for the advancement of the dream that He has given you.

Commit each step to the Lord and ask for confirmation of those things, which He has called you to do. Get wise counsel.

Remember you can hear from the Lord for yourself, sometimes you have to just trust that you know and take a step.

Simply take a step in faith and see where God takes you!

Answer the following questions:

Give your dream a name, describe it, what is it and what does it look like?

List all of the ways that God has come through for you in the past:

Ask yourself, how is this any different?

For Further Reading: The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkerson

Remember, your God given dream is not for you alone, but for the advancement of the Kingdom, the glory of the Lord and in the service of His people. On that last day you want to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant!”

So get cracking, the HARVEST is ripe and the LABORERS are few!

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This article is taken from: Go With What You Got, Dr. Nay’s Guide To Develop Your Dream, Pursue Your Passion and Achieve God’s Will For Your Life.   © Dr. Naima Johnston- Bush, Refreshing Life with Naima www.ministryofnaima.com
A dynamic singer, speaker, educator and author, Dr. Naima Bush uses her artistic gifts to communicate the love of Christ across the nation ministering at over 100 dates a year. Naima has written and produced her debut album entitled, Everything, her sophomore album, This Place and her latest CD, The Deeper Project. Naima is the author of Called To Sing, 13 Mistakes To Avoid When Starting In Music Ministry, Dr. Nay’s Random Life Lessons, Go With What You Got; Dr Nay’s Dream Development Manual, Confessions of a Big Girl and her newest book, Lessons from the Back Seat or How I Learned to be a Wife.
Originally from New York City, Naima holds a BA in Sociology/Women’s Studies from Ohio Wesleyan University, a Master’s Degree in Higher Education Administration and a PhD in Educational Foundations from The Ohio State University. Naima is the founder of The Refreshing Life with Naima, a Christian lifestyle organization dedicated to empowering women to live lives of exuberant joy, powerful prayer and sincere gratitude.
Naima is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Christian Songwriters and Musicians International, and ASCAP. Naima is an ordained minister and is married to Pastor Jon Bush, they live in New Llano, LA with their doggy children, Bianca and Bucho.  

Leadership Calendar – June 2018

June 2018

We really appreciate your patience through our technical difficulties with this month’s calendar.    We are really excited by the response to our monthly calendars, they are our most visited and revisited posts!  As always, we have created it in a coloring sheet style that you can add your own flair too.  Use the comment section below to share ideas you think we should include on future calendars.  

Past calendars can be found on our download & printables page.

Before they will linger, you must invite.

THE BFF

If the women who attend our events are given an opportunity to linger, they are going to connect.  And, sometimes, reconnect.  At an event a few weeks ago, I happened to check my Facebook account and saw a familiar name had checked in at the event.  It was one of my closest friends from early elementary school.  Changing schools and time had disconnected us.  Now, 30 years later we were in the same place at the same time.  Had there not been some time to linger after the event, I wouldn’t have know… possibly ever.  Since the event, we have reconnected to find out that God moved our families into our current city in the same year… we have kids attending the same schools.  How crazy?  God crazy.

The thing is, you can’t embrace the linger until you send out the invites and follow up on them.  Your invite needs to include all of the pertinent information:

  • The name/purpose of the event.
  • Date and time.
  • Location.
  • Cost and registration deadlines.
  • Childcare availability or suggestions.

In addition, you can include things the guests should bring (Bible, notebook, etc.) or even if there is a dress code for the event (funny hats, comfy clothes, art smocks, etc.).  I also recommend informing your guests ahead of time if there will be opportunities to purchase items from the speaker, event themes, etc. that they may want to budget for.  Also, let your attendees know if there is going to be time to linger.  “Join us for the after party” or “lunch on the lawn after the event” are quick ways to let anyone registering for the event know to add a little extra time in their day to linger and mingle with others in attendance.

20 years of ministry leadership has taught a very important thing about inviting guests: an invitation without follow up will dramatically impact your attendance and registration.

If you mail an invite, it can get lost in the mail.  If you just simply mention it over Sunday announcements, people may forget to write it down or late comers will miss the news.  Not everyone is on social media, and emails can fall into the abyss of junk mail with ease.  To reach the most people, it is wise to use multiple avenues to share your invitation.

  • Service Announcement + Printed in Bulletin + Email + Website/Church Calendar
  • Printed in Bulletin + Email + Facebook + Posters in Women’s Bathroom
  • Announcements + Hand out Flyers in Church Lobby + Social Media Posts

Any combination of these is a sure fire way to extend your invitations reach, the more the better.

Yet, there is one SURE FIRE way to up your attendance…

PERSONAL INVITATIONS

A personal invitation is just that, personal.  When you call, email, or text a person (not as a group) and express your interest in whether or not they will be attending the event ensures that your guests feel wanted and valued.  It shows that the ministry really cares about who is coming to the event.

You may be thinking that calling every woman in the church and personally inviting her is going to be quite a task.  It is, but here is how to handle it:

  1. First publish the event and allow your more motivated, committed guests register.  Now you only need reach out to the women who didn’t.  You have reduced the number of calls/texts to make.
  2. Every church has “connectors” people who just naturally seem to attract others.  Make sure your “connectors” are sharing on their social media and with friends that they are attending the event, and encourage their friends to do so.  Having connectors on your planning committee is another way to up your attendance.
  3. Divide up the remaining women that you want to extend a personal invitation to between your Women’s Ministry Team and volunteers.  It may be a lot for 1 person to call/text 100 women from the church.  But, it is a far smaller task to have 10 team members reach out to 10 women from the church.

As you begin to invite more people, the chatter will begin.  Women will begin talking about the event on their own and this will help your reach anyone who fell between the cracks.  This is especially important for new members in the church or for reaching out into the community where official contact information may not be available.  Word of mouth is a great way to gain traction and spread information about your event.

Get your guests to the event.

Provide excellent content.

Let them linger.

A Common Identity

A CommonIdentity

This past weekend, at a women’s event, one of the Ice Breakers was all about our identity in Christ and how we introduce ourselves to the world.  The Women’s Ministry Leader selected Paul’s introduction of himself from Romans 1:1…

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God

It reminded me of something I read about our identity in Christ, as women.  First and foremost, we connect as a family of believers… sisters in Christ.  When we introduce ourselves based on this identity, we are Christian women.  Secondly, once Paul identified himself as a servant of Christ, he identified his purpose.  Which was an apostle who was called to share the gospel.   Once we know WHO we are, daughters of the King, we can then begin to share the rest of the details of our life.

Now, let’s apply this to our ministry.  What is our common identity?

We are Local Community Church, servants of God in our community.

We are The Women’s Ministry, servants of God to women in our church and community.

We are Community Non-Profit, a Christian agency that serves our community’s needs.

  • Common Identity #1 = WE.  We establishes a community, family.
  • Common Identity #2 = Church / Ministry.  These words establish that the community we are part of is faith based.  For an organization, once you have stated your name you can move into including that it is a Christian agency/group.

How we introduce ourselves as a group creates a clear identification of who we are collectively, what our community is, and through this people we encounter should feel like it is a welcoming community.  Body language, the words we use, the way we speak will make a difference.

We are essentially repeating what Paul said in Romans 1:1.  We’ve just replaced Paul’s name with our church, ministry, or organization’s name.

The rest of our introduction will help the person identify what our purpose is, and this is where the descriptions begin to vary.

Thursday, we will discuss how the ways in which we differ are also valuable in our Kingdom purpose.

Hospitality to Pastors & their Families

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If you have been a member of a church for any length of time, you will have experienced the welcoming of a new Pastor or staff member to your church.   A Pastor search is such a process that for many of us we are as relieved as we are excited about welcoming this new person or family into our body of believers.  For the incoming Pastor and family, this could have been a long road too, waiting for God to guide their steps to your door.  Excitement and anxiousness combined, they are walking into a family of believers that they barely know.

My sister in Christ, co-laborer in the faith, Naima Johnston-Bush and her husband answered such a call.  They packed up their house in Florida and set off for Leesville First Assembly of God, in Kingdom service.  To my joy, on a Monday morning, I woke up to this picture and her words:

Naima

Our first Sunday at our new church and the ladies Ministry gave me an old fashioned “pounding”. They pounded me with God’s love and blessed our home with lots of great cleaning supplies, canned goods and boxed items. I won’t need cleaning supplies for the next six months.   ~Naima Johnston-Bush

First, I just want to shout out to the Women’s Ministry at Leesville for welcoming a family so beautifully.  Thank you for the love you showered on my friend.

Second, when I saw this picture… knowing we were heading into the topic of hospitality… I immediately asked permission to share.  THIS is such a wonderful way to display hospitality to new Pastors, Staff Members, and their families.

In all of my years in the church, I’ve seen plenty of people showered with gifts as they were leaving.  Moves, retirements, volunteers called into fulltime ministry or missions elsewhere, etc. have been opportunities to thank people for dedicated service to our church body and an encouragement and provision for those stepping out in faith.

I am not sure I’ve ever seen this kind of outpouring on someone who was coming into the body.  It may be possible things like this were done quietly among the existing staff members, gift cards and helping unpack.  In this occasion, it was the Women’s Ministry who stepped up and said how can we bless this new home?

It brought me to question how do we as Women’s Ministries let the women who are leading in our churches know that we appreciate them?  But also, ask myself, are we doing a good job welcoming in the wives and children that packed up everything and walked away from their friends and family in order to follow their husband’s call in to ministry?

For the last several years, I have participated in a group of Pastor’s wives (even though I am not one) in order to have a better understanding of how ministry affects the wives and family of Pastors.  I’m so thankful that the group welcomed me in, even though I’m not a PW… because it has been eye opening.

When I hear their stories, the good… bad… and the ugly… I just know that we could be doing a better job.

So, whether you want to share here … or talk among your Women’s Ministry teams, let’s ask and discuss the following questions:

  1.  Are we showing hospitality to our Pastor and Staff wives?
  2. How do we welcome in a new Pastor and his family?  What could we do, if we are not currently doing anything?
  3. What does hospitality for these women look like long term, once they are settled or have been in the fold for years?

Good hospitality makes a person not only feel welcomed through the doors, but that we are wanted to stay for the long term.  It shows a person they are seen, loved, and makes them feel cared for.  We minister to their spirit, their hearts, their minds, and even their households when we love well.