Team Series: Hospitality

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Team Series:  Hospitality by Gena McCown

Hospitality is probably one of the most beautiful words in the English language, especially if you are a Southern Girl.  Hospitality smells of fresh brewed coffee on the other side of an unlocked door, where the mat says “Always Welcome”.  It reminds me of a time where friends just stopped by to shoot the breeze, and inviting people into our home was a regular occurrence.  Women gathered around the kitchen table or in the livingroom, bibles open and snacking on homemade lemon bars.  Sweet Tea on the back porch as we prayed over each other.  My Great Aunt’s perfumed powder wafting across the nose of every woman she greeted with a hug as they crossed her threshold.

Hospitality is what makes us feel welcomed into a space, warm and relaxed… at home. 

There are some women who are simply PRONE to hospitality, it is their genetic code.  They will look for ways to invite people into their home.  Quick to volunteer to host a luncheon or meeting.  There will always been enough food, and drinks.  The bathroom will smell of fresh dried lavender.  There will be a chocolate mint on every pillow at the retreat center.  She lives to make people feel special, and loved. 

This woman is important to your Women’s Ministry, this is a role to be on your top priority to fill. Why?

Hospitality Leaders are:

  • Women of influence.  Typically if they go to an event, they bring and encourage others to come too.  My Pastor’s wife calls them “connectors”.
  • Genuinely are excited to see every woman who enters the room, and make it a point of meeting the new faces.
  • Generous with their homes and time.
  • Quick to organize meals for the sick, new moms, new families, etc.
  • Find joy in the details of their tasks.
  • Have vast amounts of knowledge when it comes to finding locations for events from luncheons to weekend long retreats.
  • Are usually effective event planners, or at least great on event teams.
  • They have an eye for femininity that pragmatic leaders tend to lack, but those attending our events will appreciate.

Their Role in Ministry:

  • Event Planning Leader/Team – brunches, luncheons, retreats, teas, etc.
  • Meals Ministry Leader/Team – sick, new mom, etc.
  • Welcoming Committee Leader/Team – how do we welcome new women to our church?
  • Hosting Team Meetings or planning meetings (even if they are on the team)

A note of caution, women who have the gift of hospitality are often creative types.  Which means for events like retreats, you may do best to pair them with an A type personality.  One is in charge of the schedule, finding the speakers, planning the technical side of the event; the other is responsible for the meals, special touches, speaker gifts, etc.   It is important to know your women, their gifts and strengths… as well as their weaknesses.  Occasionally you have the blessing of a woman with the gift of hospitality and administration, and she’s the gal whom you can give the whole task and trust she’ll get it done. 

Women with the gift of hospitality are also typically generous and will have beautiful ideas to make women feel special and welcomed at events.  However, these special touches can impact your event budgets.  It is important to be clear with your hospitality leader the budget she has for her tasks.  I have known many of these women who would be happy to pay out of their own pockets to make up the difference, but I do generally ask them not to.  Simply because we need to keep up a budget that all team members present and future can work with.  If she supplements her budget, out of pocket, yes the event will be magnificent… but it may be hard for a future leader who replaces her to do the same.  Encourage these women to do the best they can within the agreed budget, but don’t be surprised if they “gift” a thing or two over time.

 

Team Series: Second In Command

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Team Series:  The 2nd in Command by Gena McCown

One of the first tasks any good leader should do is to find, appoint, equip, and build up second in command.  A President has a Vice President, executives have junior executives, even Pastors have Associate Pastors or Elders they can call on.  Why is this an important role to fill on your ministry team? 

What if the Lord removed you from your Women’s Ministry right this second?  What would happen?

A family emergency takes you unexpectedly out of town.  One of your children become hospitalized.  Your spouse gets reassigned and you have to move this weekend.  You are threatened with a health crisis of your own.

Any number of things can happen that will unexpectedly pull us away from our ministry work, sometimes it is temporary and other times it is not.  Could your team function in your absence?  I’ve always felt the mark of a good leader is that their absence is not noticed. 

I have been on a team where this happened, and we were left scrambling.  It wasn’t that she was a bad leader, in many ways she was a great leader.  However, she had never taken any one under her wing to serve as a second in command.   When she left, we had a lot of plans on the calendars but none of us knew all the background info that she had been working on.   There we many decisions that needed to be made and a weight of uncertainty in the air.  Had there been someone working directly under her, who had knowledge of these details… it would have been a much easier process.

There are primary two ways you can work with a second in command, the first is similar to a hierarchy structure. This leader in training is kept up to date with the details of the ministry, but doesn’t have any more power than other members of the team.  You will walk them through the ropes of running the ministry, but you hold all executive power in the final decision making.  Their purpose is to be ready to take over the reigns of the ministry, should the time come.  

The second way is as a Co-Leader, this woman will have a bit more power/pull/weight to her opinion than other team members.  She may not have the ultimate say when it comes to the ministry decisions, but her opinion carries greater influence.  Her role is to slip in and out of leading the group as needed.  This is the woman who can fill in while the leader is on vacation, or take over for a matter of few months when a leader is going through a crisis.  In a large ministry, you may even have more than 1 co-leader and even give them particular team members that they oversee. 

In both cases the Women’s Ministry Leader is responsible for developing these future leaders to take over her job.  However in the case of a Leader in Training, this is your ace in your back pocket that you bring out only when you need to.  Whereas a Co-Leader has a far more active role in the ongoing ministry work.

A Second in Command Leader Should:

  • Have a heart for women’s ministry in the church and community.
  • Dedicated to the church, and exhibit a solid relationship with Christ.
  • She should be trainable, you don’t need a person with experience.
  • Dependable, showing up to meetings regularly and completes her tasks.
  • Shares ideas that will help the ministry function better.
  • Excited by serving others.

What She Should Know:

  • Keep her up to date on the ministry finances.
  • Location of important documents, passwords, keys, codes, etc.
  • Contact information and details associated with event planning.
  • Overview of information pertinent to the Women’s Ministry from staff meetings or the Pastor (only information pertinent to WM, please).
  • Access to team members contact information.
  • Overview of meeting agendas in advance, and what are her meeting responsibilities.

In the past, Women’s Ministry Leaders have created binders full of important ministry information that could be passed like a baton to incoming leaders.  Now, we can share documents online via google documents (if you have a gmail account).  This helps leaders stay connected, work and update tasks between meetings, etc.  If you are interested in starting a Women’s Ministry Binder… check out Pinterest for GREAT suggestions, printable worksheets, and more.

I love to see these developing leaders active versus people I siphon information into.  So, intermittently as part of training, allow her to completely lead a meeting from start to finish.  You can work her up to this by giving her small responsibilities and increasing them over time.  Give her a larger task to oversee, like planning a brunch or finding new small group leaders.  See if she has a passion for something to add into the ministry that you can put her at the helm, like a prayer ministry or mentoring program.

While it is great to have a second in command who has a similar ministry vision as you, it’s also great to bring someone along side you that has new ideas to bring to the table.  You may wish to strategically develop a younger woman, select a woman who is transitioning out of another ministry leadership role (previous MOPS Leaders are great for future Women’s Ministry Leaders), or you could find someone that just has a HUGE heart for women.  While experience isn’t necessary, their level of experience will determine how much time you need to spend developing their skills.

We can predict when a changing of the guard is going to happen, but when it is within our ability we should make sure this woman is fully ready to assume command of the ministry before we retire or voluntarily step down.  You can begin by steadily increasing her leadership, while culling your leadership back.  This also makes for an easier transition for your team members who have served loyally with you over the past years.  Give your team members advanced notice that you are planning to step down in a few months and that you are transitioning the new leader into place.  When they come to you with questions or concerns  funnel them toward the new leader instead of dealing with it yourself.  You are not only training a new leader, but the team to trust her leadership.

If you plan on still serving with the Women’s Ministry after stepping down form leadership, I recommend taking a few months off.  Allow the women to get accustomed to serving under the new leadership, and then ease yourself back in.  Leaders leave a legacy even when they don’t intend to, and it can take time for members to adjust to a different leadership style and new ideas.  Change is hard, even in ministry service.

Planning a Retreat Budget

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It is a brand new year, and for many of us that means that we are in the midst of planning a retreat for the women in the church.  Quite often a retreat may be an alternative word for any sort of women’s getaway, including going to a conference.  As we begin the planning process for this retreat, one of the most important factors we need to consider is the budget.

There are two types of retreats/getaways that we can consider in our planning:

  1.  Joining a Women’s Retreat
  2. Planning a Women’s Retreat

When we join a women’s retreat, that means we are looking for an existing event that we can simply take part in.  It could be a national conference, a regional women’s ministry retreat, or partnering up with a larger church in our area.  The benefit to this event is that you don’t have to do anything other than promote it, collect the money (if there is not a website to register), and make travel arrangements.  All of the planning and work has been executed by the hosting ministry.  Whew.

However, there are times when we really want to do something more personal for the women in our church. Perhaps this is an opportunity to create tighter bonds among the women in the church, or maybe the Lord has laid on your heart a very specific theme/message to present.  When we plan a retreat on our own, there is a LOT more work involved.  To be honest, they are usually NOT less expensive either.  If you are attempting to plan your own retreat to save money, consider yourself forewarned. 

Generally speaking, from a business perspective, the MORE people who attend an event the LOWER the per person cost becomes.  The expenses for print materials, for example, will reduce in price per person because it is fiscally more advantageous to print a larger run than a smaller limited run. A speaker may have a flat fee that is not affected by the number of attendees to the conference.  The fewer people you have means that your expenses are divided up among a small resource pool.   For a retreat that I planned a few years ago, it would have cost me exactly the same if I had 50 women in attendance, or 100. 

Another point to consider is where the money for your retreat is coming from.  There are women’s ministries that have a budget from the church, or at least have an account where they have raised funds to pull from.  Yet, the reality for many women’s ministries is that they have little to zero budget.  When planning your own retreat, if you are going to be holding it off the church grounds, you need to anticipate having to make a deposit to reserve your date.  Will this money come from the Women’s Ministry account?  Will you need to get a “loan” from the church fund until the payment for the retreat are received, at which time the church is given back that advancement?  Or, are you going to hope for the best & begin accepting your payments… hoping that the space will still be available when you have enough to put in the deposit?  It’s a risky move, but I have known women’s ministries that have had no other choice.

I believe these considerations are why most women’s ministries will join in a retreat elsewhere, frankly it is easier.  Plus the cost you are given, is the cost.  There are no surprises.  If you are given a ticket price for a conference, we generally know that it doesn’t include our meals and hotel room.  We have options to stay in the hotel hosting the conference, or at a nearby less expensive location.  If we are aware that our food is not included, we can do research ahead of time to find out what the local restaurant choices are & their menu pricing.  If we decide to take our women to a retreat location, in most cases the cost includes your lodging, food and materials.  Then the women’s ministry need only decide if they are going to carpool or rent a bus. 

Planning a women’s retreat ourselves is entirely different, and we need to expect the unexpected.  Our ticket costs are dependent on the number of people in attendance, if we don’t get enough people the ministry pays the difference.  So, keeping all this in mind, we can begin to explore how to budget for planning a  women’s retreat.  Typically the expenses for planning your own retreat will include lodging, food, materials, speakers, and sometimes transportation.  There are ways to cut expenses, such as pulling your speakers from within the church versus hiring a professional speaker. 

In my years of serving on and leading ministry teams, I’ve seen several different budget styles.

  1.  The team plans the event as they want it, determines the number of people they want to attend the event, divides the cost up by that estimated attendance, and then you have your ticket cost.
  2.  The team sets a per person ticket cap, trying to get everything they want in within that budget.  They prioritize their wants for the event, until they run out of room in the budget cap.
  3. The team sets a per person ticket cap, does everything they want for the event, and the ministry makes up any difference between the final expense and the collected funds from the attendees.

The first option is risky, because you could create an event that is just too expensive.  The higher the price the event, the less people who will be able to afford to attend.  This means you will have a harder time getting the minimum number of attendees in order to make the event break even. 

The second option has less risk, however it does mean that you are going to have to let go of some really good ideas.  Or, you are going to have to get really creative (which also means you will be doubling your work load trying to acquire your event components for less money). 

The third option is beautiful option, but only feasible if you are leading a women’s ministry that has the funds to pull it off.  The majority of women’s ministries do not have excess funds that they can put into a retreat.

My preferred option is the second, it is a conservative budget that you can control.  The first and third options leave too much room for your budget to get away from you. 

Where the Money Goes:

One of the most shocking things I learned in retreat planning, is that PER PERSON… you greatest expense is FOOD.  Unless you are blessed with a team of ladies who loves to cook, and a location where you can prepare your own food, estimate 50% of your cost going to food for the weekend. 

The next most expensive item is going to be the lodging.  Campgrounds will always be less, since you are typically sleeping in a dormitory style space.  Hotels will always be the most, because it includes all of the extra amenities.  Additionally, I found that staying TWO nights almost always costs as much a ONE night in a hotel.  You also will need to consider how many people are sleeping a room, I found less and less women are interested in shacking up four to a room to save money.  They want their own bed, they want the space less crowded, and some hotels are no longer allowing this as an option.

It seems to me, no matter how you shake it, up to 75% of your money is going to food and lodging.  This is why more women’s ministries have opted for single day retreats.  It removes the lodging costs entirely, reduces the food cost drastically, and since they are usually local there is really no transportation cost either.

For small women’s ministries, you may actually find that is CHEAPER to rent a mansion on the water, preparing your own foods for the weekend than to go to a hotel.  And, something to consider, you almost always pay for the week.  The WM team could head up early and spend time preparing the space, bonding, even planning the year before the rest of the women arrive. 

Once you have secured the location and arranged your meal plans, then you can begin to look at speakers (if you are going to pay them), and finally move on to materials.

By choosing women from the church to speak, you can save money on speaker fees that can range from $50-$100 per session (not including their lodging, meal, transportation).  In our church, when we use a woman form within the church as a speaker we give her a discount on her event registration & usually get her a small gift.  If you have women who are comfortable speaking, but not necessarily preparing the materials, there are kits from companies like Group Publishing that provide all the content.  All you have to do is find a few women to present it, it’s a lot less pressure on the women overall.

Now that you’ve gotten the big three components out of the way, you can subtract those expenses from your budget.  At this point it will be very clear if you are working from a budget with a large margin that will accommodate renting a charter bus, or if transportation to the event will be left up to the attendees.  Coordinating carpools can be a helpful way to “provide” transportation options without incurring the expenses of a charter bus.  In the past, when coordinating carpools, we have made sure to provide the drivers with any road tolls and gas money as a token of appreciation for their willingness to drive.

Once you have addressed any transportation costs, the remaining available funds are what you will have left for all the other materials for the retreat.  These materials can include notebooks, pens, take home favors, or supplies they will need for the event.

If you are planning on doing a craft:  Try to build your craft off of items that are in the clearance section, ask for donations from local craft stores, or contact the manufacturer to see if you can get a bulk order discount for your supplies. 

If you are planning on a tote bag of gifts:  Ask local businesses if they are interested in sponsoring the items.  At a past retreat we had a local business woman who donated 50 water bottles, with her business card dropped inside. 

If you need supplies for activities:  Ask around the church, you never know what people have lying around.  A few years ago, we need 100 golf balls for a special activity at one of our retreats.  A woman happened to have a bucket of golf balls from her husband (who couldn’t play anymore) and they donated them to our event.  That saved us a lot of money.

Also consider that some local businesses will give non-profit groups a percentage off their purchases, like Hobby Lobby.   Others will give a gift card to their store that you can use for whatever you like, we got a $50 gift card to Target to use on our craft project because the end product was going to a local children’s home.

Getting creative can help you dwindle down your expenses and make that last big of available budget stretch further.

My final piece of advice is to budget conservatively, if you want a 100 women to come… but all of your pricing is based at 51 women minimum,  plan for 51.  You can hope for 100, you can pray for 100, you can even expect God to deliver 100.  However, base your budget at that minimum number.  This way anyone who comes to the event after that 51st woman is now putting you in the place to ADD to your budget. 

Adding to your budget will allow you to:

  • Offer scholarships for women who can’t afford the retreat.
  • Allow you to move things back into the Retreat Plan that you may have had to remove.
  • Provides a small budget that you can purchase thank you gifts for all of your volunteers, or even get a special gift for each woman in attendance.
  • It also allows you to have funds that you can roll over to future women’s ministry events.
  • You could opt to cover the registration for the retreat for the Pastor’s wives, as a gesture of appreciation.
  • Upgrade the food menu, add in access to an amenity on the location that was not included.