Team Series: Social Media Leader

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Team Series:  Social Media Leader, by Gena McCown

A few years ago, we would not even have the discussion as to whether or not a “Social Media Leader” is important to a ministry.  Times are different, social media is a huge part of our communication process.  Having a leader in place that is comfortable with technology and social media can be beneficial for several reasons.

  • Social Media Leaders replaces the older position of “Historian”.   Beside the leaders, women at our events will be taking pictures.   Managing social media accounts provides a landing place for these pictures that can be shared with the entire ministry.
  • Social Media Leaders replace the older position of “Publicity Leader”.  Social media accounts are a great way to promote upcoming events, link to registration or ticket sale locations, and introduce your ministry to the community.
  • Social Media Leaders fulfill and enhance the older position of “Communication Leader.”  Using social media accounts, this leader can build a bridge between the leadership team and the women of the church.  Social media accounts are a great way to recommend books, write custom devotions, or even help the women in the church get to know the leaders in a more personal way.   These same connections can happen between the women in the church, encouraging the women to pray for each other, share scripture, and even impromptu lunch gatherings.

This may be a position that you could give to a woman who wants to serve on the Women’s Ministry team but can’t commit to regular meetings.  Depending on the size & activeness of your ministry, this could be a lot of work or minimal.    This leader would not only work on your social media accounts, such as Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook… but also your ministry website.

You may choose to create your own website using services like Weebly or WordPress, or your church may provide you with a dedicated page that can be updated.  The first two options don’t require your leader to be proficient in webdesign and coding, and the last option usually is a matter of submitting the information to whomever is in charge of the church website.

Back in May, there was a series exploring how Women’s Ministry can use various types of social media accounts:  Pinterest , Twitter , Instagram , and Facebook .

If you are having success with any other social media apps or services, we’d love to hear what you are using and how it’s benefiting your ministry.  Visit our Facebook Group to share!

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.

 

 

Prayer & Worship, Training Event Recap

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The Women’s Ministry Council had another great training event on the value and importance of integrating Prayer and Worship into your Women’s Ministry Programs.

We would like to thank P&R Publishing for their donation of Susan Hunt’s Prayers of the Bible Study and Leader Guide, for each woman in attendance.  Additional thanks to The Good Book Company, who donated copies of 5 Things to Pray for Your Church.  Table Talk Magazine (from Lingonier Ministries) also donated copies of their back issue on Worship MattersMoody Publishing provided our women with sample chapters from two newly released studies I am Found and An Unexplainable LifeCrossway sent our women sample chapters from their book Praying Together .   Talk about a great group of resources for our leaders and their teams!

If your Women’s Ministry is looking to partner up with some ministries, for the first time at a council meeting we highlighted two ministries that are doing great things in the world!  The first is The Freedom Challenge, which works to free women and children from sex trafficking, sex slave industry.  If you have women in your ministry who love physical challenges and have a heart for these women, be sure to look into this great ministry.    However, if your women have a heart for children in impoverished nations… One Child Matters is a ministry  that opens up the doors to sponsor children, have missions trips to their development centers, and impacts the communities abroad as well as in our church.    Both of these ministries were featured in our July and August Ministry Spotlight articles.

Now for the meeting recap, in case you missed it….

Worship Matters

Our first speaker, Sheila Thompson, addressed the importance of including Worship as an intentional part of our Women’s Ministry events.  While worship can be defined in various ways, Sheila (who has a music background and credentials) talked specifically about the musical forms of worship.  Highlighting scriptures that reference of song and musical instruments as worship, Sheila was able to provide us with the biblical foundations of this style of worship.  However, Sheila dug deeper and covered the physical, mental, and health benefits of singing.  The Lord is so good to give us an act of worship that helps us in not only spiritual ways… but our bodies and minds.

Sheila shared how in the scriptures (and it is referenced over 63 times) that music is a posture of worship to the Lord, a weapon in battle, invites the power of the Lord into our lives as we praise, and that the Lord even sings over us (Zephaniah 3:17).  We discovered how many of our worship songs are rooted and sometimes directly quoted from the scriptures to provide us strength, encouragement, hope, and trust in the Lord … as well as, songs of praise and thanksgiving.

In our Women’s Ministry events, Sheila pointed out that by starting out our events with a few praise songs… we are setting the tone for the event.  Women are able to surrender and let go of all the junk they came in with.  They are preparing their hearts and minds to receive the word the Lord has for them.  They are in a better mood going out than they were coming in.  These songs stick with us as we move through the day, and we find ourselves returning to them.  Additionally, there are times where despite the troubles and the trials we are going through, we can choose to sing in victory!

Integrating worship into your Women’s Ministry program can start with simple steps… such as including Worship songs as part of your Women’s Brunch or even at the beginning of your small group sessions with a song or two.  One of our council women spoke up and shared how they conclude their meetings with a song, so the women leave on a note of praise & hope.  As a Women’s Ministry Leader, you can take this even a step further by planning Christian Concerts into your calendar by either attending local concert events OR by hosting a night of Worship at your own church.

Praying Matters

Our second speaker, Gena McCown, addressed the importance of having a posture of prayer and fostering a solid prayer life among the women in our churches.  Gena began by pointing out the relationship between singing and praying.  As we look to the Psalms and other areas of scriptures we see many prayers were lifted up by the body in the form of song.  There are numerous references in the scriptures about our call to prayer, why we pray, what we pray for, and how we are to pray. 

The call to pray is marked as something we are to do continuously, without ceasing.  Prayer is not an occasional thing we do when we need something from God, but a regular habit.  As ministry leaders we model this posture of prayer for the women in our churches, but we are also put into a position to teach people how to pray.  Some are gifted by the Holy Spirit with the gift of prayer, others need to be helped along the way.  Even the disciples asked Jesus, “How do we pray?”.

The scriptures tell us that men ought always to pray (Luke 18:1) with thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2), without fear or doubting (1 Timothy 2:8) and calling on Him in truth (Psalm 145:18).    We pray to seek Him, in our distress, to seek provision, for healing, in confession, seeking forgiveness, and in thanksgiving and praise.  It is part of our daily habit, without ceasing (Luke 6:12, Colossians 4:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:17).

How do we pray?  We can use the scriptures, such as The Lord’s Prayer or the Psalms.  We can allow the scriptures to inspire our personal prayers, use our own words voiced outloud or written down, and we pray even when we can’t find the words.  Romans 8:26 reminds us that through the Holy Spirit the Lord hears our groaning.  We are praying in our lengthy conversation with the Lord, or when we simply cry out “Oh, God!”.

As leaders we model prayer when we use it at the start, ending, or even in the midst of our events and small group studies.  We model it when we stop what we are doing to pray for someone on the spot vs. telling them we will pray for them later and adding it to our list.  We pray and share those prayers within notes of encouragements, a quick text that says the Lord put you on my heart today and I wanted you to know I was praying for you, and when we specifically ask people how we can pray for them. 

We foster prayer life among our women, when they hear our prayers.  When we start off our leadership meetings praying for the church leaders and our communities.  We set the example, but we also teach.  Include a small group on how to pray, or invite one of your prayer warrior women to lead a prayer ministry in your church.  Have a workshop series on different prayer methods and habits, invite a speaker for your next brunch that will guide your women to a posture of prayer.    As it becomes a more common practice in your Women’s Ministry leadership team, it will spread to the women in the church, and into our communities.

We must also be willing to share our testimony on prayers, so that women not only understand how we pray… but how the Lord responds to those prayers.  We share our answered prayers, praising God.  We share our unanswered prayers, trusting God.  We share the prayers that were not answered how we expected or hoped, acknowledging His ways being better than our own. 

Finally, it is important to create an environment of trust and authenticity among the women.  As we share our prayer requests, they begin to see that we as leaders have struggles to.  We have unanswered prayers, we seek His will and favor, we pray without ceasing for our prodigals to return… our husbands to find Jesus… our addictions to be healed… and our good news too!  In our vulnerability, they will find authenticity… and then our anonymous prayer requests will begin to disappear and a community of sisters walking in faith, praying for one another will begin to form.

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 – Q & A

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

We’ve come to the end of our series, however this series couldn’t possibly answer or address every question or need on the subject.  We are going to close this series by answering questions that were submitted earlier in the series, and hopefully in doing so … we’ll fill the gaps.

Q:  What is the difference between a Small Group, Life Group, Adult Sunday School, and Bible Study?  Do we need them all, and if so why?

A:   To a certain extent, it really is semantics.  In many churches these terms are interchangeable,   Small Groups and Life Groups are especially.  Generally speaking, Small Groups and Life Groups are intentional groups of church members (usually under 12 people) that are “going through life” together.  They may study the bible, a helpful book, or even weekly topical studies together.  The purpose of the group is spiritual growth, relationship building, and accountability.  Bible Studies and Adult Sunday School, are more akin to traditional models of group study.  They are generally larger, and stick to scriptural study.  This may be in the way of expository (line by line exploration of the scriptures) or using printed Bible Study curriculum.    Over the years, the lines have smudged a bit and Bible Study Groups may elect to study a helpful book, or a small group may grow into a “large group”.   I believe they all share the same goal for spiritual growth, although small groups and life groups create more relationships building opportunities.

Q:  How do I get people to sign up for my Small Group?

A:  There are a few ways to get interest built in your small group.  First, I think we need to do a better job of talking up our small groups before the official sign up period.  This also includes making sure that we are clear about the details, date… time… place… number of weeks… childcare… cost… etc.  Bring it up among your friends, post it on your facebook page, etc.  In the churches we should also make a purpose to highlight small groups leading up to the signs ups with intro videos playing between services, information in the church lobby, etc.   

Second, personal invitation is a great way to bring people into the fold, it tells the women you encounter that you want to get to know them better or would like to share this experience of growing in faith with them.  One thing that can happen (it’s happen to me personally) is that as life groups grow and leaders are developed your personal circle of friends may become life group leaders.  You can actually run out of women to invite, because you don’t know them.  This means you need to get intentional about meeting new women in the church.  

Third, we have to remember the saying “out of sight, out of mind”.  Many people have the intention of signing up for small groups & will forget.  It is important that when we are announcing small groups at church or a women’s event that we have a way for them to sign up immediately.  A kiosk in the lobby that directs to a digital sign up or an old fashioned table with clipboards set up in the lobby, either are great ways to get the women to sign up before they get home and life gets in the way.  Another option is a Small Groups Kick-off Brunch.

Q:  How do we fund our small groups?

A:  If small groups are part of the church vision, then when it comes to the purchasing of leader materials (video, leader guide, etc) this is an investment the church or Women’s Ministry makes.  Then, each participant can purchase their own workbook.  Many publishers off bulk discounts on materials that could save the participants money, but this requires collecting the $ in advance or the church purchasing materials that may go unused if the sign up is less than expected.  I suggest picking a publisher that has a good array of materials, so that you can build an account and relationship with that publisher. 

Present your small group menu well in advance for your church members to sign up, and take payment when they sign up.  This allows you to only order the materials you need.  People who have paid at the time they sign up are more likely to stick through the commitment as well.  Then, when the Small Group meets for the first time, you can distribute their books.    This also helps your leaders know exactly how many people to plan for.   When we allow people to sign up, and then purchase their own workbook… we have no clue on who is actually going to follow through & show up.   When we require our Small Group leaders to fund the group themselves, we lessen the number of leaders who are going to volunteer to lead. 

If you are a small church, church plant, or a ministry independent of a church… funding the study may not be in the budget.  Then, as a Small Group leader consider dispersing the cost of the materials among everyone in the group.  $100 leader kid, $10 workbook… 10 women in the group, everyone pays $20.  Or if the church can budget $50 towards the leader kit, each woman pays just $15.    Also consider, if you are on a tight budget, video series where you don’t need the workbooks (or vice versa).  Share materials with other Small Group Leaders, or find a larger church you can establish a relationship with and borrow materials.  Or, teach an expository or weekly topical study that doesn’t require anything more than your bible.

Q:  How can I lead good discussions in our group vs. asking “what does this scripture say”? 

A:  I think discussion questions are a huge trip up for some small group leaders, which is why they like to purchase curriculum versus writing/teaching their own.  In this case, the leader guide generally has discussion question prompts in place and you are following a script.  I believe this is a great option for new leaders, because they can get their feet wet in the process of small group leading.  For seasoned leaders, what I suggest is to begin with the purpose you chose this particular study.  What is the goal, what do you hope the women achieve by completing this study independently and as a group.  Once you identify your goal for the study, you can then create questions that are going to move the women toward that goal.  Creating questions that gently guide them to the “ah-ha” moment.  In fact, this is why I strongly suggest having your goal in place before you even pick the study.  If you are picking a study because it’s popular, or “looks good”, there isn’t a goal in place.  Without a goal, you will struggle to come up with engaging questions.  With a goal first, you will find your questions are in place, and you select a study that helps answer those questions.

If you questions are not your thing, you can always ask someone else in your group to lead that portion.  I must admit, some people are just better at it than others.  You could even assign that task to multiple women in the study, each week a different person is tasked with writing the discussion questions.  Also, when you preview the material ahead of the group vs. watching it for the first time with them… take notes.  The points you thought were worth writing down can become the launching point of the questions you ask.

Q:  When should a Small Group be “OPEN”, “CLOSED”, or “DROP IN” in regards to attendance/members.

A:   There are only two Small Groups in which I think “DROP IN” is appropriate.  1st, is the very first week.  If someone isn’t certain if this particular study is something they want to commit to, allow them to drop in for the first session and view the introduction with the group.  2nd, is if your Small Group is a topical study that changes from week to week.  This allows the women to drop in only on the topics that interest them.  I love this option for seasoned believers or busy women who are trying to plug in but their schedule doesn’t allow for a long term commitment. 

Open Groups are great for big topics.  For example if you church offers Dave Ramsey Financial Peace as a Small Group, this is a perfect for Open Groups.  Expository or Book By Book Study Groups are also appropriate for Open Groups, as they are working through the scriptures.  Open Groups are great for new leaders who are leading their first small group, or leaders who are more interested in getting to know other women in the church.  Open Groups are important to have so that the women who attend your church have an opportunity to find their fit within a group of women vs. being thrust into a group where they can’t connect.

Equally, Closed Groups are also important to have in the church because these are the groups where deeper fellowship and accountability occur.  Most Closed Groups start that way, a group of women who decided to meet together as a Small Group.  However they are not advertising their group to the church, but letting you as the WM Leader know that they are part of a group.  Other Closed Groups start off as Drop In or Open Groups, that over time relationships began to form and they make the conscious decision to continue close the group to new members.  Closed Groups are important because the relationships that develop are deeper, there is accountability in this group, personal information begins to be shared, etc.  At this point it is important to protect that group by closing the group.  Then it is up to the leader and group to determine if, when, and who is added to the group. 

It is my belief that all three of these types of groups should be happening in your church.  Open Groups and Drop In Groups are the first stop usually for new members in the church, guests, etc.  This is where they can test the waters, get introduced to how small groups work, and find their fit.  Closed Groups are the ones where real relationships are developed, and I believe the long term goal for each woman in your church should be to move from an Open/Drop In Group to a Closed Group.  Our Small Group menus should be very intentional.

Q:  How Do I Refresh Interest After A Year?

A:  When interest starts to wane, the first question we need to really understand is WHY that happened.  Was the study too intense?  Too long?  Did we notice interest started to drop about half way through?  Or, did women disengage almost at the beginning?  Then we can move onto examining other possibilities.

If a study is too long, or too intense, it could just mean that the women need a break.  Either a literal break, taking a few weeks or months off.  Or, a break in the material itself and as a leader I need to find something a little bit lighter for our next round.   If we notice that somewhere between the beginning and middle, women were already disengaging… that is generally a good indicator that the study materials were lacking in some way.  Maybe the speaker on the video was not engaging, wasn’t understood, or the content seemed very dated.  It could be that the video was great, but the homework in between was monotonous or unchallenging.  On the other hand it could be that the homework was overwhelming.  I’ve experienced both.  This is why I stand firm on intentional small group study selections, we need to not just grab an interesting title off the shelf, but walk through it ourselves or seek suggestions from others.  You just never know what you are going to get.

If none of the above seems to be the case, my next suggestion is to ask the group.  Maybe their needs have changed, or it’s time to reevaluate the goal for the group.  If your goal as leader was to strengthen the marriages of your group members, and you have done six studies on a row relating to relationship building… maybe it’s time to mix it up.  Move to a study that actually is willing to talk about the physical aspects of marriage.  Has your group moved from young married couples to married couples with children.  Then it may be time to switch from studies on marriage to studies on parenting.  Talk to the group members and see what they want to study next.  If you’ve been leading expository studies on the Old Testament, maybe it’s time to take a jump forward to the Gospels for a bit.    Or, it may be time to bring in fresh faces and invite some new women to your closed group.  You may also need to consider that your group is ready to split, and begin leading their own groups.  Finally, you need to prayerfully consider if the Lord is prompting you to take a break.  It could be that you are entering a season of life where you are called to be the student. 

When interest wanes, something in the dynamic of the group isn’t working.  Once you have explored all of the questions about the form and function of the group, there are only technical questions left.  Such as… has our groups availability changed and we need to set a new day/time, has this group just met it’s purpose and it is time to disband entirely. 

Social Media Series – #4 Facebook

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

I have purposely chosen to leave Facebook for a bit later in the series, because there is frankly a lot to say about something we already know a lot about.  Truth is, you probably have a Facebook page.  Your church probably has a Facebook page too.  And… I don’t think I would be stretching things to suggest that your Women’s Ministry has a Facebook page as well.

Familiarity with Facebook indicates I don’t really need to spend a lot of time explaining the benefits of using it to help promote your Women’s Ministry.  Just like other social media formats you have the option to make your Facebook group private or public, you have no character limitations, you can not only post and share photos … but you can organize them into albums too.  You can control the interactions too, by requiring posts to be approved or even setting your page for only approved members to post at all.  There is also the ability to control how new members are added to the page.  Facebook can be linked to other social media platforms to enable features that allow one post to be shown across various media formats.

One of it’s greatest benefits is that Facebook most likely has the majority of the women in your church.

Because this is very much common knowledge, I wanted to utilize this part of the series to identify the differences between a “Facebook Group” and a “Facebook Public Page”.

To begin we need to clarify official Facebook terms.  The Personal Profile is actually what most of us refer to as our Facebook page.  It is the one that is identified by our name, we post pictures of our children,  share recipes, and have watercooler conversations about the weather, politics, and product recommendations.  These pages are specifically intended to individual people, not businesses or organizations.

Now then, when it comes to organizations and businesses…. if you set it up as a Personal Profile page, it could be shut down by Facebook.  I know people who have learned this lesson the hard way.  I’m going to quote directly from Facebook’s help/faq page about how organizations and businesses can be represented on Facebook:

Pages allow real organizations, businesses, celebrities and brands to communicate broadly with people who like them. Pages may only be created and managed by official representatives.

Groups provide a space for people to communicate about shared interests. Groups can be created by anyone.

Other differences include:

Pages

  • Privacy: Page information and posts are public and generally available to everyone on Facebook.
  • Audience: Anyone can like a Page to connect with it and get News Feed updates. There is no limit to how many people can like a Page.
  • Communication: People who help manage a Page can publish posts as the Page. Page posts can appear in the News Feeds of people who like the Page. Page owners can also create customized apps for their Page and check Page Insights to track the Page’s growth and activity.

Groups

  • Privacy: In addition to a public setting, more privacy settings are available for groups. In secret and closed groups, posts are only visible to group members.
  • Audience: You can adjust group privacy to require members to be approved or added by admins. When a group reaches a certain size, some features are limited. The most useful groups tend to be the ones you create with small groups of people you know.
  • Communication: In groups, members receive notifications by default when any member posts in the group. Group members can participate in chats, upload photos to shared albums, collaborate on group docs and invite members who are friends to group events.

Currently, we use a Facebook Group.  However, over the years of running my own personal blog and Facebook Group… I’ve realized groups only get you so far.  And, unfortunately you can not just upgrade from a Group to a Page.  Which means you are going to start from the beginning, including bringing your followers into the new format.  With Groups you are able add people from your contact/friends list directly as it is associated with your Personal Profile.  When you set up a page, you can share it and invite people… but you can’t automatically add people in (even if they are friends or part of your existing group).

I am hoping that one day, Facebook makes it easier to move from a Group to a Page.  But, until then … this is something you are going to need to decide upon as a WM Leader.  Would a Group be sufficient or would it be better to have a Page?  A Group may work perfectly today, but what about over time as your church and ministry grow?   If you move to a page, you lose a lot of your privacy features.

How does one decide?  In this case, with Facebook, you are going to have to discuss as a team how you want to use Facebook in your ministry.

If you are intending to use it just for making announcements, sharing information, and promoting your ministry to the church and community… A Public Page is a great fit, and has a lot less limitations on it for reach and communication.

If your WM wants to use Facebook for building and fostering community among the women in your church, including sharing prayer requests … A Group would be a better fit, as it protects privacy and gives the administrators of the Group a lot more control.

One aspect of Facebook that I like above all the other social media platforms is that whether you are running it as a Page or Group, it functions a lot more like a personal website.  Plus, if you follow certain ministry pages it is really easy to share their articles, blogs, and devotions with the click of a button.

Not only can you post your announcements, pictures, create event invitations, communicate with each other, post videos, etc… there is now the new feature of Facebook Live where you can literally speak to the women at your church LIVE… like your own miniature live simulcast!  The women can type in questions for you to answer, or just sit back and enjoy the show.  What a great way to introduce the women in the church to the various leaders on your Women’s Ministry team.  You could schedule an Ask the Pastor night, feature testimonies from various women in the church, promote upcoming Women’s Bible Study Groups with a Q&A session, bring in women to answer questions for the different women in the church on parenting/marriage/work/etc, and you could even hold a LIVE Bible Study!

Those who got a chance to test the Facebook Live feature early are absolutely in love with it!  This could be a HUGE benefit to our Women’s Ministries to provide connection events online between our live events at the church or in the community.

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.