What in the Word does it say about Friendships? {Sheila Thomas}

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Friendships. Are you satisfied with yours? It has been my experience while working in women’s ministries, that a lot of women seem very unhappy in their friendships.

If I asked you with whom do you like to hang out, what would be your answer? Who are your best friends? What do you like to do with them? What do you like about that person? What does your friendship with that person do for YOU? Or better yet, what is the friendship doing for HER? Are you benefiting from each other?

Do you have friends to hang out with and just be yourself? Can you just laugh and speak your mind? Or are you guarded, appearing shallow and afraid to share your thoughts?

Do you shy away from large groups of women? Or do you like to “hide” in a large group of women because you’re afraid to be in a one-on-one friendship? Are you afraid of being real? Do you think that if your friends really know you, they won’t want to be friends with you?

Do you long to have better friendships? Are your friendships real or are they shallow and “surface-y”? (Hmmmm…That IS a word, right?! Oh well. You’ll have to understand that I’m good at making up my own words. Ha!)

How can we have good friendships with other women? Does the Word of God talk about this?

When thinking about what to write for my next article, I began to feel directed to the topic of friendships among women.

Friendships are a very important part of our life. Some are casual, some close, and still others more intimate. We all long to have at least one friend with whom we can be real.

George Eliot wrote:

“Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”

I love that quote. Mr. Eliot knew what he was talking about.

First let me tell you a little about myself. Growing up, I had close friends for seasons in my life. My father was a preacher, so I lived in four different towns growing up. I would develop good friendships with a few girls in most of those places, but then after moving away, most of those friendships would dwindle away and new ones would develop.

Then in High School I became friends with a girl who has remained my best friend for all these years. We have had a special relationship that has developed more and more special.

We both had three children each, who were close in age to each other. For many years, we lived in the same town and went to the same church. We shared so much together. For years, we had one day a week in which we would go shopping, take craft classes together, and go to lunch. We made this a priority – we made sure that unless our children were sick or our husband off work, we did it.

We no longer live close to each other, but we still make the effort to be together as often as possible. We schedule visits to each others homes. We schedule long phone chats. We text back and forth. We are really and truly more like sisters. She is the sister I never had. I thank God for her!

Because of this relationship, people have asked us how did it happen, saying how unusual it is and how blessed we are. It began to sink in to both of us how truly rare it is. It gave me pause for thought. Hmmm…how DID it happen?

So let me share with you a little of what I know about good friendships, how to acquire and maintain them and be a great friend yourself.

Some women have said that they can’t seem to get a friendship like that. They say that women aren’t that friendly to them. Or if they thought they were getting a close friend, invariably the friend would suddenly distance themselves, or break a trust, or shut them out of the “circle”, or move away.

Some women have been so hurt by their friends, that they argue repeatedly with this little voice that says, “Don’t build new friendships – life has a demolition crew around every corner!”

But we can’t be that way. We have to be brave, vulnerable and trust again. Real friendship is resilient, being made strong by commitment, creativity, caring and sharing.

I believe that in order to have a friend, we have to make ourselves friendly. We can’t sit over on the sidelines watching and hoping that someone will come over and become our best friend. Why would anyone want to establish a relationship with someone who looks dejected, bored, and having a major “pity party”? We have to make the first step.

Then we have to realize that not everyone we try to establish a friendship with is going to “click”. So we must remember to not take things personally and get our feelings hurt, but get up and move on to another one. Certainly life’s experiences, chemistry, etc., go into making close friendships. And usually close friendships are not developed over night. They grow in time.

In order for this to happen, you must choose to spend time together. Go shopping, take a craft class, or go out to eat together. Find out what interests you have in common.

In getting to know this person better, most likely there will come a time in which you may become irritated or hurt by something they say or do. In this, you must be forgiving. See their heart. Think the best of them. Learn to let go of hurts. Be powerful, not pitiful.

There are 7 things from Proverbs 3 and 4 I believe will make us the friend we need to be. If we attain these 7 things, then we will attract great friends.

For illustration purposes, I’m going to call them by name as if they were friends. Let me introduce you to them.

  1. Lady Love – She shows love to all her other lady friends, always thinking of them, not always thinking of herself and what someone did to her.

  1. Lady Loyalty –She is always loyal to others, never breaking their trust. She keeps a closed mouth when told things in confidence! This is a “biggy”!

  1. & 4. Lady Wisdom and Madame Insight – They go hand in hand together. Proverbs 3 says that friendship with them is worth far more than money in the bank, better than a big salary, and nothing you could wish for holds a candle to them. They offer long life, their manner is beautiful, their lives wonderfully complete. Who wouldn’t want them for a friend?

  1. Madame Understanding – Of course, we get this from God. In Proverbs 4, it says that understanding will make our life glorious, she will garland our life with grace, make our days beautiful, and add years to our life. Who would not want to be friends with her?

  1. & 7. Lady Clear Thinking and Madame Common Sense – They also go hand in hand. Proverbs 3 also says that they will keep your soul (mind, will and emotions) alive and well, they’ll keep you fit and attractive, you’ll have safety, sleep well at night, have no need to panic over alarms or surprises, or predictions that doomsday’s just around the corner, because God will be right there with you if these ladies are with you!

One added bit of advice from Proverbs 4:23 – 24: “Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts. Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth; avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip.”

Ultimately, God is the best friend we can have and best example of a friend. He is always there for us, never fails us, always loves us, and always does good things for us. Earthly friends may fail us, but He never does!

If we concentrate on being the kind of friend we wish we had, then we’ll attract those kinds of friendships. And when life brings on changes in those friends’ lives, we need to “go with the flow” and be understanding. If we will refrain from concentrating on “our hurt”, whining about how they are treating us, be kind and loving and overlook their faults, be there for them when they want us and need us, the friendship will thrive!

Take the risk! Get out of your comfort zone. Open up with other women. Also be a good listener. Friendships go both ways. Remember to not make the friendship only about yourself. Take down the walls. You may be pleasantly surprised. It’s worth it.

The Miracle of Friendship

(Author Unknown)

There’s a miracle called friendship

That dwells within the heart,

And you don’t know how it happens

Or how it gets its start…

But the happiness it brings you

Always gives a special lift,

And you realize that friendship

Is God’s most precious gift!

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Three Years Later

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By Gena McCown

A little over three years ago, the first Women’s Ministry Council meeting was held.  I look at where we are today, I see where we are heading.  I sit in awe of what the Lord has done with an idea that was formed over two coffees and cheeseburgers at a McDonald’s late one Monday evening.

For those who do not know our history, let me take you back to that evening.  We had just wrapped up a Women’s Ministry meeting for our church.  Laura Masoner and I decided to meet over at the McDonalds and chat.  Laura and I can talk Women’s Ministry for hours without exhaustion.  It was during that conversation that the big “what if” question was posed.

What if we could get together with other Women’s Ministry Leaders/Teams and talk shop.  In our earliest inceptions we saw a networking group at best, conversing over coffee and pastries.  But then the Lord gave us the vision for something much bigger, a task that would require our faith and obedience to His will.  Not a move has been made in this ministry that was not laid in advance by God.  Not a step was taken at our pace, but rather we have been hustling to keep up with Him.

We knew that the majority of materials and websites that dealt with Women’s Ministry were either antiquated or still focused on the fellowship side of ministry with little focus on the practical.  We knew that Women’s Ministry was heading in a direction where the old programs were not working for women any more, and they were looking for something deeper and more meaningful.  Women’s Ministry needed to be renewed and refined.  It was time to take Women’s Ministry into a direction that was Gospel Centered, Disciple Making… SERIOUS MINISTRY.

In the three years since it’s inception, Women’s Ministry Council has been meeting the goals and mission consistently.

  • Providing FREE practical ministry training to local Women’s Ministry Leaders/Teams
  • Connecting Women’s Ministry Leaders/Teams to tools and resources to help build effective ministries, and encourage their gaze to ever be on Christ as their purpose.
  • Building relationships between Women’s Ministry Leaders/Teams so that they can help each other, when possible by sharing resources, materials, and experience.

In mid 2016 we realized that we had created a space that was unlike anything we had ever experienced.  Women gathered, from many denominations and even unaffiliated, putting aside denominational differences UNIFIED in the goal to bring women to the Cross.  It has been a tender place, where we have been able to share our vulnerabilities.  It has been a brave place, where we have dared to tackle heavy topics with grace and love.  It has been a place of healing, where we have had our hearts broken as our eyes were opened … YET the hope of coming together as one body to make a difference in our world.

When I prepare for our upcoming meetings, I am filled with excitement and joy.  I know that four Saturdays, each year, I am surrounded by women who are different than me in many ways but are filled with the HOPE of Jesus.  Women who sacrifice to serve their church and community well, who strive to be and do better.  Women who are willing to listen with soft hearts, embracing one another, learning from one another.  It is a glimpse of Heaven for me.

I see what we have done here among a group of leaders, and I pray that is what is also happening in our individual churches.  Creating community, building relationships, spurring one another on to good, lifting up those who stumble, equipping each other… and preaching the Gospel to one another.  Talking of His goodness.  Sharing your testimonies.  Interceding for each other. 

2018 is going to be a big year for Women’s Ministry Council, and we can’t wait to see what the Lord is going to do in our lives, churches, community, and beyond.

Thank you for a great three years. 

Eat, Drink, and Remember.

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Women are inherently emotional creation, emotional in how we connect with others and respond to the situations we are in.  Men work on a different level, entirely.  It’s why you can meet for your women’s study group every week and wish you could meet more often; yet your husband might be content with meeting once a month to check in with the guys.  It is for this reason, emotional connection, the Women’s Ministry Council has a heart for building up a broad view of Women’s Ministry.

Brunches are great, as they fulfil our need to connect personally with others.  Yet, they often lack deep instruction.  Bible Studies are a great way to find instruction and wisdom.  Yet, they often have a changing of attendees that prevents real relationships from forming.  Small Groups, of set members who change study materials, may create a community;  but too often those community groups can close out new people who bring their own wisdom and value.

A Women’s Ministry that solely relies on monthly brunches is not going to a have a long term deep impact on the spiritual growth of women in their church.

A Women’s Ministry that solely relies on Bible Studies and Small Groups is not going to connect the women in corporate worship and instruction.

We must strike balance.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

~ Hebrews 10:23-25

The same can be said about how diverse our ministries are.  A Women’s Ministry that sits in the safety of the programs and offerings it has always provided is going to continue bringing like minded women.  However, it will be a near impossibility to diversify that ministry program to include a broader representation of your church or community.

During the last WMC meeting, one point that both Aimee Nelson and Jenny Andrews was made is our common identity.  Before all things we are Christian women, daughters of the King.  This is our common unity.

I can eat, drink, and remember how Christ changed my life… regardless of what food is on my plate or drink fills my cup.  I can do this at a table in a local café, or the home of a new friend.  To sit and break bread with a fellow believer sharing our testimonies with one another is a blessing beyond measure.  Regardless of our skin color or backgrounds, we love the same God.

It can be difficult to facilitate change in a ministry where many area already accustomed to certain events. We cannot facilitate change if we do things the same way we have always done.  Yet, if you change everything you may bring in new faces and your women already invested may leave, which doesn’t help bring people together either.  Change is hard.   However we can begin to implement change in smaller measures.

What if…

What if I invited a worship singer from a local African American church to sing for the worship portion of our brunch?

What if I went to a local, family owned, ethnic restaurant and catered in dinner for our next guest speaker?

What if our next speaker was born in another country?

What if our next keynote speaker at our retreat was a woman rescued from sex trafficking?

What if our next Bible Study was written by an African American author or a woman from another country?

What if we began a series of events where we brought in women from various ethnic churches in our community to learn more about who they are, what their ministry goals are, and how we can help?

You don’t have to dismantle and rebuild a ministry to bring change via a total overhaul.  You can begin to take small steps, over time.

Eat, drink, and remember…

we are all precious in His sight.

Leadership Begins In Me

Woman Looking at ReflectionI don’t know any leader who doesn’t actively seek to improve their skill set.  We dig into books, internet articles, and discussion with other leaders to better ourselves.  Hours can be spent looking at ministry trends, taking leadership assessments, and digging through the scriptures to identify what a good leader is and does.  We invest in our time in conferences and workshops, we seek to the best with the job God has assigned for us.

One of the things I have been focusing on lately, however isn’t the stuff I add into my leadership repertoire but instead the foundations I began with.  As leaders we are to be an example to those we lead, and sometimes we can get so wrapped up in our ministry work we can begin to drop the ball. It’s easy to excuse those moments because we have all of this leadership work to do, right?

If I want to lead well, I must begin within.  I must lead myself, well.

I must lead myself to church each weekend.

I must lead myself to spend time in the Word, regularly.

I must lead myself to talk with God through prayer.

I must lead myself to relationships with other believers that will strengthen me.

I must lead myself to still waters, quietness where I can HEAR the Lord.

I must lead myself to tend to my household, my husband, and my children.

Recently, a leader shared this statement with me:

You can not lead where you do not go, you cannot lead in what you do not know.

Care & Community, Part 2

As we gathered for another quarterly leadership meeting, there were new faces from local churches present.  But there was something else present, the spirit of giving.  The Women’s Ministry Council collected donations for the Church at Gate 5, which ministers to the workers at the South Florida Fair.  We collected clothing, food, and toiletries that will be dispersed to the workers by the Church at Gate 5 team.  These volunteers actually live in campers along side the fair workers throughout the length of the fair, serving their needs and sharing the gospel.    What an exciting opportunity to bring our leaders together and serve others.

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Our introductory speaker, Laura Masoner, shared with our leaders various ways that we can tangibly reach out in to the community.  Some of the suggestions she shared included:

* Pick one night per month from your small group schedule to volunteer at a local soup kitchen, 0r volunteer with a local organization.

* Hold a collection drive with your small group, or Women’s Ministry throughout the year.

*  Expand your meal ministry beyond people in your church and out to those in need in your community: neighbors, coworkers, extended family, etc.

*  Lead a Bible Study, night of Hymns/Worship songs, etc at your local retirement facility.

We created a document full of local organizations that can use assistance, volunteers, collection drives, or groups that they can start within their church to assist their community.

CARENET, C.A.R.E., PROTECT THE HEART

Our guest speakers Sue and Pam, from our local Carenet Center, shared with the women the facts about how abortion affects our community.  We were able to get a better understanding of the services they provide for women who find themselves in an unexpected pregnancy.  We learned about the statistics for our area, and were given information that we can take back and not only share with our Women’s Ministry but also our Pastors and church leaders.  This information included the various ways Women’s Ministries can come along side the center.  If you have a local pregnancy crisis center or group for unexpected moms in your community consider how you can:

* volunteer to stuff envelopes, clean up the office, provide meals for training events.

* collect donations of money, diapers, clothing, or other goods for the center or local moms.

* support their local fundraising events, purity events, walk for life events, etc.

* consider becoming a mentor mom, leading a study for moms to be, or share your testimony to other women who are in post abortive recovery.

Contact your local center and ask how you can help individually or collectively as a church.

ONE CHILD MATTERS

Curtis Wilson of One Child Matters shared some things with the leaders about One Child Matters, their child sponsorship programs, development centers, and mission trips.  Something that Curtis shared, that was new information to many of us, was the impact women have in their homes in regards to the spending & giving toward child sponsorships and missions programs.

As women, mothers, and those whom the Lord has gifted compassion and love… these children cry out to a special place in our hearts.  We want to be able to help them, and we don’t always know how.  As a Women’s Ministries we can have an impact not just on the children through sponsorship, but relationally as we connect with them in person through mission trips to the centers that serve these children.

I’m very excited to share, as a follow up, that One Child Matters has made great connections and has begun building relationships with several local churches.  This means Curtis will be coming back to our area again in the near future.  Should you be interested in having Curtis connect with your church, reach out to WMC or One Child Matters directly.

OUR ATTENDANCE IS GROWING.

OUR LEADERSHIP TEAM IS GROWING.

OUR MINISTRY IS GROWING.

2017 IS GOING TO BE A GREAT YEAR.

The End… or is it???

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At the end of the year, we reflect back on the past twelve months.  This reflection period helps us to determine what was working in our lives and what wasn’t.  We will make resolutions about our hopes for the new year.  Things we want to change.  New adventures we want to take.  Big decisions that need to be made, and small ones too.  We look to make our bodies healthier, and our minds stronger.  Some people will choose to leave a job that is not fulfilling, others will dedicate themselves to trying harder to land the next promotion.

The end of the year isn’t really the end, but rather the beginning.

The end of a chapter that leads us to the next step in our journey.  The end of a book is an opportunity to start a new adventure.  As long as we wake up on this side of heaven, there is still a place for our gifts and talents in this world.

What does this mean to Women’s Ministry?

It means that it is time for you and your team to reevaluate your ministry work, determining what events and programs stay and which should go.  But, it is also a time for self reflection.

* Are you still called to be the Women’s Ministry Leader?  (Or, other position title)

* Are you still called to serve on the Women’s Ministry Team, at all?

* Is the Lord calling you to a new ministry, or a season of rest?

There are times where we are called to step down from authority positions, but not necessarily to leave the team.  Your heart might still be dedicated to Women’s Ministry, but you are in a season that lacks the time to dedicate to the leadership position.  You can step down permanently or even select an interim leader and take a leave of absence.   However, there are times the Lord has a new place for your gifts and talents, and it may be time to leave the ministry altogether.  It is important to pray for discernment so that you know which is the path the Lord would have you take.  Keep in mind that the Lord may also call you to a season of rest.  I once had a friend tell me that the Lord won’t move you until He has somewhere for you to go.    I’ve learned that is not always the case.  Sometimes we are called into a desert period, where we have left what we knew… but we are not ready to go to the promise land yet.  The Lord may move you to a season of rest, where your priority is your direction relationship with Him; a season of growth and maturity to prepare you for the next leg in your journey.

If you have been feeling as if the Lord is moving you out of Women’s Ministry, then there are some other questions you should consider for the new year.

* Have I begun training my replacement?

* Have I made my team or Pastors’ aware of my intentions?

* Do I have people praying over me, my decision, and the ministry?

* If the Lord is calling  you to a specific ministry, have you reached out to their leadership team and expressed your interest in joining their work?

* If the Lord is calling you to a season of rest, have you prayed for clarity on what that looks like and shared this with those who will keep you accountable?

If you know in your heart that your season with Women’s Ministry is coming to a close, the greatest gift you can leave your team and church is a team that is going to function well in your absence and in the transition period.  Giving advance notice of your intention to step down, identifying and developing your replacement, and assuring your church leaders that you will be available to the new leader in an advisory role during the transition can make the process move smoothly. 

Final considerations, should you determine it is time to leave your role in the Women’s Ministry:

* How will you handle your exit?  Will you step away completely or ease out over a period of time?

* How am I going to handle team members coming to me with WM issues, now that I am not the leader?

* How will I handle members of the church coming to me with WM issues, now that I am not the leader?

Something I like to remind WM Leaders is that they leave a legacy.  Some women don’t like change, and when a new leader steps up it usually brings change along with it.  If you feel called to leave, then you have a responsibility to support the leaderWhether you choose to step away complete or ease out, make sure that you are encouraging the women you serve with (church leaders, church members) to take their concerns to the new leader and not to you.  Or, you can reassure them that all changes take time to get accustomed to and to be patient.  Being supportive of the new season allows you to leave a legacy that includes exiting with grace.

Ministry Spotlight: Embrace Grace

 

 

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The Women’s Ministry Council desires to connect our ministry leaders with opportunities to better serve their church and community of women.   Among our communities are a tender group of young women who find themselves in an unexpected pregnancy.  Some will be fortunate to have a family that will walk alongside them, but for many others it can be a very lonely journey.  We believe the church can be doing a better job ministering to the hearts of our single mothers.  This is why we are fans of the ministry Embrace Grace

We encourage you to watch through these videos, visit the Embrace Grace website, and then prayerfully consider if this is an ministry that your church or Women’s Ministry can provide in your community.  If the Lord is leading you to Embrace Grace and embrace these young fragile mothers, you can request more information on starting a group via their site.