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.

 

 

A Heart of Worship

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We are excited this weekend to have a new speaker at one of events.  Sheila Thomas is going to be sharing with our local leaders about the importance of having worship as part of our Women’s Ministry events.

Do you put much thought, as a Women’s Ministry Leader about incorporating worship into your events?  Whether you are choosing a formal worship event, that is all about singing songs of praise and thanksgiving, or having a few minutes dedicated to opening an event in worship… here are a few quick thoughts to consider.

Events tend to be a place where we feel very comfortable inviting guests.  These guests may not be familiar with old hymnals, your church’s go-to song list, or even what is being played on local Christian stations.  Therefore:

  • Look for songs that are easy and do not have complex melodies that are hard to follow.
  • Select songs that use more common vocab words vs. “Christianese”, so that our guests understand what it is they are singing.
  • Print out the lyrics or have the lyrics displayed on a projection screen for those who are unfamiliar, never assume people have memorized the lyrics to a common song or can follow along.
  • Even though women do tend to naturally sing at a higher octave than men, consider the untrained voice may have difficulty with high notes and use them sparingly.
  • Consider the theme of your event, the emotion you want to evoke from the women, and select songs that fit the theme or desired response well.
  • Don’t be afraid to bring in a male worship leader for a women’s event.
  • If your church worship team is taxed for time already, consider using someone from the body who has this gift but can’t commit to the regular schedule of the worship team.  There may also be someone from your youth group that could lead worship.
  • Contact local Christian Colleges with music programs for potential worship leaders.   Many of these colleges require volunteer hours of their students, and leading worship may count.  This is a win for the student, to gain more hours.  It’s a win for the ministry too, as it helps offset budget concerns.  Make sure to ask the college if you are allowed to compensate the student for travel time/expenses or give a monetary thank you gift even though they are volunteering.
  • Consider balance in the planning stages regarding how much time you want to allot for worship songs, where in the course of the program do you want to utilize them (beginning, throughout, ending).

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Many thanks to Ligonier Ministries and their magazine “Table Talk“, for gifting the women in attendance this weekend a copy of their back issue Worship Matters“.  It is a great addition to our speakers thoughts on why we need to incorporate worship in to our programs.  It’s a valuable resource on a beautiful topic.

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!

Checking the Pulse of Your Ministry

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If you have even been in the hospital for any length of time, you know the routine.  Every so many hours a nurse will wheel her cart into your room.  She’ll check your pulse and blood pressure, she may even check your oxygen levels and temperature.   When we are in the hospital, we are there for a reason. Something brought us in to be cared for and regular intervals where they check our vitals is part of our care.  They are looking for key pieces of information… is the medicine working, are your symptoms better or worse, are you still stable for surgery, is there something else you may need?

But, they are not the only ones checking.  Have you ever noticed that no matter what brings you into your doctor, from a simple cold to a well examination… they check too?  You have an earache, but the nurse checks your blood pressure.   It’s your annual exam with the obgyn, but she’s listening to your lungs through her stethoscope.  These doctors are also interested in checking our vitals.  Unlike the nurses in the hospital, who know what brought you in the doors that day, these doctors and nurses are taking a routine glimpse into your overall well being.  These are the professionals that are going to catch something that you may have had no idea was happening in your body, they are the heroes of early detection.

As ministry leaders, we too should be checking the vitals of our ministry for effectiveness.  We need to listen to the sounds of the ministry as it exists today… does it sound healthy?  We need to check the pulse of the women in our church to see if they are engaged and pumping into the ministry or waning off.  We also need to be taking a temperature of the climate to understand what our ministry needs and what it doesn’t.  If we continue to run the exact same ministry day in and day out, it will get stale and it will no longer feed the needs of the changing body.

It is important for us to understand is working and what isn’t, what is our program lacking and what may we have too much of.  The only way we can know the answers to this question is by examining our ministry effectiveness.

  • Are we bringing our women into a deeper relationship with Jesus?
  • Are we pointing our guests to the cross or to the buffet table?
  • Are we providing a variety of opportunities that meet women at various stages in their walk?
  • Are we providing room or even an open door for the Holy Spirit to lead/guide the ministry?
  • Are we as leaders growing in our own relationship with Christ and in our gifts/talents?
  • Are we identifying measurable change in the lives of the women we serve?
  • Are we looking outside our walls and becoming aware of the needs and influences outside our body?
If we want to ensure that we are leading a ministry that is constantly keyed into the pulse of the women we serve, there are a few things we can accomplish within our ministry team.
1)  Have a ministry team that has a variety of women in different stages of their faith journey, as well as life stages.
2)  As a team, regularly check in with community leaders to see what the needs in your community are today.  Often needs in a community change over time, and we best serve when we know where and how to serve.
3)  Consider having “term limits” on how long any one person serves on the leadership team.  This gives existing team members a break to rest and see if the Lord is still calling them to serve in Women’s Ministry.  It also opens the door to bring in new fresh faces, which will bring in new and fresh ideas.
4)  Do not fear change, embrace it.  Change is an opportunity to see God do a new thing.
5)   Challenge your ministry team to bring some new, fresh ideas to the next meeting.
With the church body itself, you can check the pulse of the ministry by a few key tactics.
1)  Take a Survey.   There are several online survey sites, many that are free, where you can put together a thorough ministry survey and see how the women feel about the ministry.  Some even include a comment section at the end; where your members can share ideas, suggestions, or feedback.  If you want to survey the women in smaller bite sized chunks of information – or – on very specific events or ideas; Facebook groups allow a single poll question that you can customize the answers for.  This is a great tool, as well, because they can also leave a comment.  The only difference between the survey sites and Facebook polling is anonymity.  Any polls or comments on Facebook will identify the person answering.
2)  Ask the Connectors.   I’ve heard several ministry leaders use the term “connector” before, and if you aren’t familiar with it, it is essentially the “it girls” of the church.  Who are the women that carry influence?  She’s the woman that you KNOW if she’s going to be at your event, others will follow her there.  You’ve overheard her asking people if they are coming to certain events, because she is all about supporting the ministry.  She may be plugged in to one or more ministries in the church, or to community groups.  She rarely walks in the door alone, bringing guests is her thing… and she does it well.  There are usually connectors within each age group or demographic in your church.  Seek her out, and ask her to share her honest thoughts about the ministry.
3)  Be Among the Women You Serve.  It isn’t uncommon at an event to see all of the Women’s Ministry team members sitting together.  Instead, make an intentional effort to have the leaders dispersed among those attending the event.  This allow your team members to get in the moment feedback on the event, content, speakers, etc.
4)  Have a Town Hall Meeting.  Invite the women of the church to participate in a Town Hall or Open Forum about the ministry.  In the morning with coffee and bagels, a night with hot cocoa and desserts… keep it simple.  What I like about the Town Hall meeting is that you will see which women in your church are not only attending the events, but you’ll meet the ones who are interested.  Share the vision, ask for ideas, recruit volunteers, and give the women a change to have not only a voice in the development of the programs… but ownership in them too.   A Town Hall meeting is a fantastic place to keep your eyes open for future women’s ministry team members too.

Wednesday Devotion: Serving with Knowledge

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Serving with Knowledge, Gena McCown

Proverbs 1:1-7

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
For learning what wisdom and discipline are;
for understanding insightful sayings;
for receiving wise instruction
in righteousness, justice, and integrity;
for teaching shrewdness to the inexperienced,[a]
knowledge and discretion to a young man
a wise man will listen and increase his learning,
and a discerning man will obtain guidance
for understanding a proverb or a parable,[b]
the words of the wise, and their riddles.

The fear of the Lord
is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and discipline.

“For Christian leaders, this truth goes much deeper: to be effective in your actions of leadership, you must first and foremost have a personal and in-depth knowledge of God and His Word.  Your knowledge of His truth is more important than anything else in your preparation.”  ~ Jeff McMaster

When we step up into leadership, we are taking on an awesome responsibility.  People are going to look to us for answers, but we are also going to be watched by our critics.  It is important for Christian Leaders to have knowledge about a few key elements.  Christian leaders need to have knowledge about communication with people, knowledge of requirements of their position, and most importantly the knowledge of the Lord.

To know God’s will for the ministry you serve on, or for your role as leader, we must begin first in His Word.  We meditate on the scriptures so that we know more of God, we also look at how those scriptures address the calling God put on our life.  Learning from the scriptures is not a one time event, but a life long pursuit of studying to gain further knowledge.

As we come to a deeper knowledge of His Word, we will begin to see how the great leaders of Bible history are described.  We can learn from their successes and mistakes to shape the leader we are going to become.  By continually learning, we are continually being refined in our role as leader.  As the love of the Lord is revealed in the scriptures we learn more about how we should treat our brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as those who are our enemies.

Additionally, the more we know about the scriptures will shape our integrity as a leader.  We learn that we do not need to have all the answers, or be perfect.  Knowledge is freedom, because it reminds us that we are still a work in progress that is being perfected over time.  Our knowledge will help others trust us.  We are also put into a position to witness to people just through the way we live our day to day lives.

There are many great books out there on leadership skills and qualities.  There are books on how to run an effective ministry, plan a retreat, and fundraise.  We have been gifted resources all over the internet to help us learn more about the on the job skills required of being a ministry leader.

The best book to start in is, The Bible.    Be a student of The Word.  This doesn’t mean that you have to memorize every scripture in the Old and New Testament, but rather you have a familiarity with the scriptures.  This familiarity is what will help you when someone comes to you for advice or information, because even if you don’t know the appropriate scriptures off the top of your head… you know where to begin your search.  Knowing the scriptures will also help you identify sin in your life, or errors you may be making as leader.

There was a short time in my leadership history that wasn’t so pretty.  I had allowed myself to get caught up in gossip, but I was unable to recognize it as such.  The context of the conversations didn’t seem like gossip, nothing being said was untrue, and we were all serving together.  I was reading the scriptures one night, and there it was in flashing neon lights.  My sin was revealed in His Word.  Once I was able to see it, I was able to address it.   The scriptures not only showed my sin, but I was also directed on how to address it.

I would encourage you add to your knowledge bank by beginning to look through the scriptures for leadership qualities, and weigh yourself against them.  Where can you improve, pray for discernment, and pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you.  Pray also that the Lord would keep this knowledge rooted in a spirit to serve others.  Otherwise we risk falling into pride, or becoming academic and sacrificing relationship for more knowledge.

Pray for God to reveal mentors or accountability partners that can help you walk through your journey as a leader.