The Starting Point

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It can be hard to come to terms with a subject that is just completely outside of your scope of understanding.  To have someone think less of you for nothing more than the color of your skin, or your country of origin.  To be treated as less than, to have lower expectations on your ability, or marginalized by how you look before someone even takes the time to get to know you.

Something else that is also hard is a willingness to call out sin for what it is, especially when it a sin you don’t want to admit is still present.  Even more so when that sin is being committed by yourself or others you know, particularly when you know that they are a good person.  From tasteless jokes to out right discrimination, we must come to terms with the fact that racism still exists in our country.  Yes, there are areas in the country that are more progressive than others.  There are people who have fought for civil rights in the past, and those who are still doing so today, because they believe in equality for all people.

Yet, there are still places where racism exists in very blatant ways.  Many more where racism is far more subtle.  If we call racism what it is, SIN… then we know exactly what we are supposed to do with that sin.  Which is tackle it head on.  It can be far easier to justify someone’s sin, by pointing out a persons checkered past or giving a good person a pass for an inappropriate joke.  Jesus never gave sin a pass.  Nor should we.

As our eyes become more open to the wounds that have not healed, we feel conviction over our thoughts and words.  We make the effort to change ourselves, to influence those around us.  For others, and for any number of reasons, their eyes are still covered by scales.  They can not see the sin, and as leaders we have a responsibility to not allow sin to go unchecked.

What are some practical ways you can be apart of change in your life, Women’s Ministry, Church, and community?  To confront sin, we must identify it and then actively work against it.

  1.  Take the time to understand the feelings of others by choosing to be quiet and listen.  Ask people who come from other cultures and ethnicities to share their experiences with you, and do not interject your opinions.  Allow them to speak, listen to what is being said, and take time to reflect on that conversation before you respond with more questions.
  2. Read.  There are plenty of books on the subject of racism and also on racial reconciliation.  You can watch interviews online, panel discussions, and more.  Google “Race and the Church” or “Racial Reconciliation and the Church” and you’ll find a trove of useful information.  I recommend “UNITED” by Trillia Newbell.
  3. Challenge your Women’s Ministry team (or church leaders) to go through “The Bridge to Racial Unity” Bible Study as a team.   You can access this through the ministry Be The BridgeEnter this study with humbleness, willingness to listen, and as the leader of the ministry set the tone of respect.  If you do not have any women of color serving on your ministry team, considering inviting a few willing women to go through this study with your team.  Women who are willing to field your questions with grace and mercy.
  4. PRAY for your own life to become open to diversity, that the Lord will bring the women to add to your Women’s Ministry team, and convict the heart of your church leaders to create a space that is welcoming to all of God’s people (even when it means getting out of our comfort zones in how we worship) including bringing people of color onto staff positions.

Be Still and Know

BeStillHe says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  

– Psalm 46:10 NIV

Quite often in leadership we find ourselves always on the go, moving forward, advance our Kingdom work.  We can spend hours scouring the internet tracking the trends of Women’s Ministries across the country.  We can invest our time and money in books to better ourselves as leaders.  We can even meet quarterly with Women’s Ministry leaders in our community to create a council of leaders who share their wisdom and experience.  Movement, growth, and study is a beautiful thing.  It’s not always the best thing.  There are times, even we as leaders, need to find stillness and listen to the voice of God.

We may need to stop the online searches, put down the books, and pick up the Word and let it speak life into our personal walk, families, and our ministry.  What if the Lord doesn’t want your ministry to follow the ministry trends but instead innovate a new way to minister to women?  Have you considered that the Lord may be trying to take your ministry focus off solely serving the women in your church and instead opening the doors to the women in your community?  Or, has your ministry taken priority in your life over your family commitments and relationships; and it’s time to add more people to the team or reevaluate your ministry goals?

If we are too busy listening to other voices, we can disrupt our ability to hear the Holy Spirit speaking.  There is a season to work and toil, but there is also a season to be still and listen. A time to be still and know that He is God, and He will order our steps.

Who Is In Your Community?

networkingHave you ever wondered what is happening in your community?  What businesses exist?  Which ministries are working alongside the community?  Who are people of influence in your area?  I have.  So, this week I stepped out on faith and attended a local business “branding” event.

I don’t have a business, I actually know a bit about branding, and yet I just knew that I had to give this luncheon an opportunity.  I learned about it through a sponsored post that was on my Facebook page.  I knew absolutely no one attending, and I had no idea what I was walking into but hey… I like lunch.  That’s a win, right?

By the time I walked out of there, I learned of three local ministries in our area that I could connect our Women’s Ministry leaders to.  I also was able to help another ministry with a resource that could help her cause.  Another ministry offered me a few solution ideas that I had not considered as we grow our ministry.  I even learned a tidbit about branding that I am going to be employing with the Women’s Ministry Council.

Talk about a win!  If you are trying to find ministries or organizations that your Women’s Ministry can work with, consider a networking event.  Or, if you are a ministry or organization in need of support from local businesses… consider a networking event.  Ask around, search on Facebook, and I’m certain you will find one in your area.

A Leader’s Heart by Trish Jones

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So thankful that Trish allowed me to share her heart for Women’s Ministry with you all.

~ Gena McCown, Co-Founder WMC

Our newly-rebooted women’s ministry leadership team met recently with Jenny Andrews to learn more about mentoring. The day before that meeting, I was moved to spend several pre-dawn hours trying to put into words what God had placed on my heart. This was an unedited letter sent to my team, with certainly no idea of sharing it with a larger audience – who would know or care? I did, however, copy Gena on it as another means of further introducing myself to the Women’s Ministry Council. To my surprise, she asked if I would allow for its publication. This is pretty much as it flew off my fingers – meaning it’s quite long and wordy – but it does express my firmly-held beliefs about women’s ministry – beliefs that appear to be shared by many. So, I offer it without apology, with the prayer that you may find it challenging and helpful, and for the glory of our King and Lord Jesus Christ.    ~ Trish Jones

Dear Sisters: To use perhaps an overworked “Christianese” term, but an apt one – I’m heavily burdened with many things that right now are all connected, in one way or another, to “women’s ministry.”

I don’t know about you, but the events in this country over the past two weeks have left me almost literally nauseous and terribly sad. The hatred and division that is spewing forth from multiple sources and appearing in full blown color on our TV screens – indeed, everywhere we turn – is ugly and frightening. And growing. The women’s marches that took place across the US the day after the Inauguration were breath-taking in their scope of lostness, vitriol and perversity. But – if we were to engage any one of those woman on an individual basis, we would have found someone just like us – lost, hurting, angry, with brokenness and pain in their lives, just looking for hope and peace in the only ways they know or believe in.

The open war that has been declared and is increasing daily between “conservative” and “liberal” viewpoints, values, opinions, and stances is growing bloodier and more vicious, as the media – and I mean both sides of it – have taken off the gloves of even rudimentary politeness. There is no such thing as “news” anymore – it’s simply slanted headlines delivered by talking heads who have their own agenda. And yes, that’s just as true of Fox News as it is CNN. And it is tragically but increasingly true of “conservative, Christian” news sources.

Our country is staggering towards – what? Only God knows. But the pace of change and the bloody carnage it is leaving in its wake touches each of us, whether we choose to believe that or not. We may try very hard to pull the comforting blanket of our own church-based, family-oriented little worlds tighter around us to ward off the ugliness and protect our children and our grandchildren – but it isn’t going to work. It’s here. And it’s growing.

And it should not surprise us at all.

 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

You know one of the things that has struck hardest at my heart, oddly enough? The recent deaths of famous people – people who have entertained me, who are of my generation. Most recently, Mary Tyler Moore. She was 80. I’ll be 70 in April. She appeared to be – because of the characters she played – sweet, loving, wholesome, kind – a woman to be admired. Really? Where do you suppose she is now? She’s alive – somewhere. Where?

Alan Thicke. He was only 69. Again, apparently one of the good guys. Where is he now? And Debbie Reynolds, for goodness sake! Dying one day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher – who admittedly led a fairly rough life. Golfing’s greatest, Arnold Palmer. A good guy, to be sure. Florence Henderson, Hugh O’Brien. John Glenn – the American hero. George Michael: a great musical talent who led a dark and twisted life. And then there’s Fidel Castro. Where are they now?

Their achievements, their careers – their movies, the pleasures, fun, entertainment they brought to our lives – what do they matter now? How important are they now? Oh, it may have been fun while it lasted – but was it enough – for eternity? Fidel Castro – his destiny is fairly obvious. But Debbie Reynolds? Mary Tyler Moore? Robin Williams?

I don’t know why their deaths have impacted me so, except to say they have reminded me of my own mortality and the swiftness with which my life here can end. I’m not afraid of death at all; it’s nothing more than a welcome door to eternal happiness with my Lord. But what about everyone else? Death is real – but what lies beyond that doorway is even more real – and everlasting.

So what does that have to do with women’s ministry? Well – everything. As I’ve been seeking God’s will and direction through prayer and His (living!!!) Word for such a ministry at our church, I keep coming up against one major question: What’s the point? What are we trying to do – and why?

Let me share two more verses from that same passage that hit me like a ton of bricks. And keep in mind, Sisters, I didn’t write them – God spoke them:

For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:6,7)

Whoa. This letter isn’t meant to be an exposition of this passage. There is much here to be learned by careful study, comparison with other Scripture, and the wisdom God has given other commentators. But those are pretty strong words – about us. Women. There are 1,000 things that can – and probably should – be said about this, but there’s one phrase that sticks out to me: “let astray by various passions”.

As I’ve been wrestling (correct word – this has been and is a battle) with the idea of “women’s ministry” and what it is supposed to be (in God’s will) for our church, I literally wrote down the names of many women I know who attend there. I won’t share them – you could make your own (in fact, I encourage you to do exactly that). I wrote them down as fast as they came to me – women from all ages, lifestyles, and spiritual maturity (as much as I can discern). Every one of them I know personally, some better than others. But I know their lives and at least some of what they wrestle with and what they are suffering – their “various passions:” sinful strongholds, financial difficulties, physical ailments, relationships gone wrong, family pains and tragedies, fear, anxiety, lack of knowledge of and faith in a sovereign, loving God, bitterness, anger, unforgiveness, defiant, rebellious living, the consequences of past sins, repented of but the consequences remain, loneliness, sexual desires and sins – the list goes on. You may know many of the names on that list; women whom you may think “have it all together.”

I wrote them down – I sat back – I studied the list, I pictured each woman – and I asked: what do they need? I added myself to the list: what do I need?

Wham! Good question – but wrong question to ask first. Is a women’s ministry – or any ministry – supposed to be based upon what people need? Really?

Why are we here? What is our purpose in this life, on this earth? Why did God leave us here after He saved us? “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31). That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? Combine that with Jesus’ words in Matthew 22 and you have the basic structure of women’s ministry:

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37,38)

I picked up several books on women’s ministry, but started with one from The Gospel Coalition called Word-Filled Women’s Ministry, edited by Gloria Furman and Kathleen Nielson – two major names and leaders in women’s ministry. I would strongly encourage each of you to get one and read it. But here are a couple of quotes that I highlighted:wfwm

“Women’s ministry is ultimately not about women. Nor is it about programs. It’s about the glory of God and the health of his church.” (Melissa B. Kruger, Women’s Ministry Coordinator, Uptown Church)

“Profitable ministry among women is grounded in God’s Word, grows in the context of God’s people, and aims for the glory of Christ.” (Kathleen Nielson)

What do all those women need? What do I need? To be about the Father’s business. To be part of having His will done on earth as in heaven; to see and be a part of His Kingdom expanding. To know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and to share in His sufferings (Philippians 3:10).

How do we do that – in women’s ministry, or any other area of “Body life?” Back to 2 Timothy:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

(2 Timothy 3:16,17)

If our Women’s Ministry – in fact, if our Life Groups, our Bible Studies, our church services, our service to our community, our evangelistic trainings and church-planting efforts, our children’s ministry, our youth groups, our church itself – if any of that is not based upon the personal, God-breathed, living Word of God, taught and practiced and obeyed for the glory of Jesus Christ – it is an absolute waste of our time and efforts, is outside the will of God, and will be consumed by fire on that Day. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

Well. As usual, when I get started writing something, I’m off to the races. I’m a fast typist, so I can get a lot done in a relatively short period of time – but then I wind up with pages and pages. But – if you’ve stuck with me this long, I’ve got a few more things to share that – for me – have set the tone of why I’m even involved with this leadership team and where I think God is leading us – and why.

I’m simply going to quote what I have written in my “Women’s Ministry Journal” (I set aside a specific one for this very purpose). Some are questions I asked myself; some are my thoughts and beliefs. I offer them as starting points for your own reflection and comments. As I’ve already said (for three full pages!) – I had to wrestle with why I was even involved in this; was this something God wanted to do; if so, why? and what was the point of it all? You’ve seen the answer I came up with. What forms that will take, what that will look like, in practical ways, is still to be determined. But I had to lay a foundation in my own mind before I could go any further.

What do I want in this ministry? What do I believe God wants?

    • For women to see Jesus as central to their lives, regardless of circumstances
    • For women to have a hunger for the Word of God – to know it, study it, live it
    • For American women to be focused on the Kingdom – not our comfort; focused on the Glory of God, not us
    • For women to live with eternity in view – in our lives, the lives of our children and families and our world
    • For women to be instruments of healing, of reconciliation, of peace – across racial, socio-economic, political lines
    • For women to look up and out – to be the hands and feet of Jesus (example of Dorcas, Acts 9:36-42)

Why a specific women’s ministry?

  • Women used to (and in many other cultures, still do) congregate around a communal well, or river, or fire pit – to draw water, cook, wash clothes
    • They “did life” together naturally
    • Older women naturally shared/mentored/trained younger women
    • Life stories were shared, lessons learned
  • American life just a generation ago was still very much this way, especially rural American life – quilting bees, church socials, active neighborhoods – in and out of church, women knew one another and shared life
    • This is no longer true in our Western, American culture. We are withdrawn, independent, separated
  • We all need supported, encouraged, loved, nurtured, admonished, trained, held accountable and made to feel safe with each other

How do we live for the glory of Jesus Christ; the expansion of His Kingdom; and the service of His people through the women’s ministry of our church? That’s what we need to determine – in that order.

“Women’s ministry must be first and foremost grounded in the Word. We must not start with the needs of women – although we must get to those needs. As in the case of any church ministry, in women’s ministry we must start with the Word of God at the heart of everything we do.” (Kathleen Neilson)

So. On this early Friday morning, as I prepare for our meeting tomorrow – this essay is just to share what’s on my heart. I hope it helps in some way to spark your own passions and thoughts and prayers for what we are doing. But even more importantly – for the why of what we are doing. Or to be even more exact: the WHO. He is able – and He is worthy.

Reminder {Jan 7th is our next event!}

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

Our next Women’s Ministry Council meeting is coming up on Jan 7th and almost all spots have been reserved.   RSVP HERE

Tonight we began packing up these amazing gift bags that will be gifted to the churches in attendance.   The Lord has blessed the work we are doing here on the Treasure Coast in equipping our Women’s Ministry leaders and teams.  This January will be slightly different as we are able to bless the women for their service and our communities as we equip our leaders with ways to serve.

Care & Community is something every Women’s Ministry needs to be considering, and in 2017 we can make a huge impact collectively.  If you are not local, I would encourage you to consider how your Women’s Ministry can reach outward in to the community.  How can your Women’s Ministries in the various churches come together as a unified body in helping our communities.

As usual, when our meeting is over, we will post the highlights of the trainings and speakers.  However, until that time, it can’t hurt to begin thinking on your own about the impact your church can have on your community.  What organizations can you come alongside; locally, nationally, and globally.  What is the call at the heart of your church’s mission and how can you support that mission calling?

We have collected a few great ministries and organizations we will also be sharing with you through the month of January, as well.  Look for a lot of great information coming you way.

Change in the Air {2017 is Coming}

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The year is coming to an end.  You have prayerfully considered whether or not the Lord is calling you to remain in Women’s Ministry.   As a team you have reviewed the past year’s successes and failures, and you have tapped into the women in your church for their opinions and perspectives.  The next step is to take all of that information and look forward to 2017.

Start with the Pastor

Before making any major changes or vision shifts in the ministry, this is a great time to check in with the Pastor(s).  If the WM goal is to be supportive of the church vision, consider that just as you may be exploring a vision shift … so may the church leaders.  The needs of our church and the community we serve may have changed over the last year.  The Lord may be pressing a new mission on the hearts of the leaders.

If the church mission isn’t changing or shifting, share with the Pastor what changes you may be considering.  Seeking his input will be helpful as you try to narrow the new vision.  Does this new direction fit within the mission of the church, does he support these potential changes or new direction, and questions along those lines will help you engage his support.

Don’t Forget Your Team

As the WM Leader, we spend quite a bit of time researching Women’s Ministry ideas and directing the team and volunteers.  We invest in our team as we develop their leadership skills, and in ourselves as we read books and look to leaders in our ministry field for inspiration.  When change is on the horizon, and the Lord is stirring something in us, it can be quite easy to internalize those thoughts.  However, even though we are the leader, we must not forget that we are part of the team.  When your team members feel left out of the process, changes catch them off guard, and they may question their value to the team.

Instead of walking into your normally scheduled WM team meeting and dropping a bombshell full of unexpected changes, bring the WM team into the fold.  Invite the team members into the process by including them in the early stages instead of waiting until you have made a slew of decisions.  At the onset, ask the team members to be praying with you about potential changes.  Need information?  Ask team members to help with the research or read books along with you.  Talk to other leaders about what has been working within their ministries.  Make the process a team effort and you will find the changes that results are exciting for the entire team, instead of surprising.  When the team is excited with you, it is a much easier to spread the excitement throughout the women in the church.

One Change at a Time

Most people are resistant to big changes.  The familiar becomes unfamiliar, the predictable becomes unpredictable, what they have always known becomes the unknown.  After the team has come to an agreement on what kind of changes the new year will bring, we should be careful to not implement all of the changes at one time.  Create a priority list of what changes can be made that won’t affect the body directly (such as team structure or position changes), followed by the program changes that are most important to least.  Take each change one at a time, allowing the women to acclimate to the change before adding in a new one.

Some changes are easier than others.  If you want to stop bringing in paid speakers and use the testimonies from the women in your church at your brunches, that is an easier shift.  If you have been holding brunches every month and you want to cut out brunches entirely, that would be a little harder.  In a change like this, it may be better to begin reducing the number over time than eliminating completely.   If you want to switch from packaged bible studies to leader led expository studies, there should be a process in place before making such a shift.  A plan that includes finding these leaders, helping develop their study and teaching skills, and the over time moving from one study style to another.

What is the Point of the Change

When you begin to remove aspects of your ministry program, what are you replacing it with?  This is not necessarily about quantity of programs and offerings, but can also take into consideration quality.  Having the ability to articulate the reason behind the changes to the women of the church will help transition through the changes more effectively.  When your team members not only understand and support the changes, they are part of the changes and will help defend those changes when criticism arises.

If you are lessening the number of small groups being offered, why?  Are you attempting to reestablish more intentional groups?  Are you going to implement a new group model that focuses more on mentoring?  If you are cutting out brunches, why?  Why does it need to be cut, and what is it being replaced with?  Are fellowship events being cut out completely or simply going in a new direction that would foster closer relationships?

I wouldn’t recommend making ministry changes without being able to explain the necessity of those changes.  The Lord will not prompt you to make a change without a reason.  Laura Masoner often reminds me that the Lord isn’t going to pull you away FROM without also pointing us in the direction of what He wants us to go TO.  Change for the sake of change isn’t really justifiable.  Change for the sake of improvement will always have a defense.

 

Survey Says {Women’s Ministry Success}

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Survey Says… {Women’s Ministry Success} by Gena McCown, Co-Founder

How do we determine that our ministry efforts are successful?   From a Biblical standpoint, there are some great litmus questions we can ask:

  • Have our events been Gospel Centered?
  • Are our programs Disciple Making?
  • Have we improved Bible Literacy in our women?
  • Has there been a growth in the Prayer Life of our women?
  • Do our events/programs fit within our Mission Statement/Verse?
From a practical standpoint, some other areas that we can look at are:
  • Attendance:  has there been an increase, decline, or no change in the number of women attending?
  • Faces:  are we serving the same women repeatedly, a revolving door of new faces, or a healthy mixture of returning regulars and new faces at each event?
  • Community:  do the women of our church invite their friends and family to our events, or are we only serving the women in our church?
  • Outreach:  how many outreach opportunities have we participated in as a ministry?
  • Event Types:  which of our events have the greatest attendance versus low attendance?
  • Bible Studies/Small Groups:  have we seen an increase of new small group leaders, small group attendances, or shift into more in-depth small group materials/studies?
  • Funding:  do we have a budget deficit or surplus?

Besides reviewing these two aspects of our ministry, we can also utlize surveys to help us understand our ministry results better.  There are 2 types of surveys you can use in your ministry work to tap into the thoughts of the women you serve.

Per Event Survey:
This is a short survey presented at the end of an event where the women can provide feed back on that specific event.   Surveys like this are great for when you have a guest speaker, a retreat or workshop, etc.  It provides insight into the particulars of the event, allowing you to see what the women valued most or how the speaker resonated with the women.  A highly praised speaker is one you would invite back, if they didn’t seem to care about the decorations you know that you can skimp on that next go around, if they didn’t like the location then you don’t return, etc.  I like to include a space for comments where women can share specific thoughts about that event/speaker that are not in the questions.  There are several event surveys on the internet via sites like pinterest, women’s ministry tool box, womensministry.net, etc that have downloadable surveys available.  Or, you can write your own.
End of Year Survey:
End of Year Surveys are a great way to get a general overview of the response to your ministry work.  You can not expect your women to remember every speaker you have hosted over the course of the year.  Grading individual speakers is better suited for the per event survey (I learned this the hard way).  End of Year Surveys tend to include simple agree/disagree questions, such as:
  • WM at Church offers a wide variety of Bible Study and Small Groups.
  • WM at Church brunches are held at just the right frequency.
  • WM at Church events are well publicized and I feel informed.
These surveys also allow you to offer up an opportunity to ask more personal or opinion based questions, such as:
  • List three ways you believe WM at Church could better support our women?
  • If you are not in a small group, please share why?
  • Would you be interested in one on one discipleship/mentoring?
  • Are you interested in serving with the Women’s Ministry team?
Just as in the event survey, I do recommend leaving some space for comments and suggestions.   This is also a great opportunity to begin connecting people together by including questions about hosting a small group in your home (but not teaching), leading a small group, starting a community interest group (Christian Photographers, Sewing Groups, etc), and specifics that can connect the women to serving in the church.
You can send out the surveys in one of two ways, a good old fashioned paper survey or via one of the many (and often free) internet survey sites (such as Survey Monkey).
Why I value paper surveys:
  • They are accessible to everyone in your body, not just those who have a computer or are computer friendly.  It allows our older generations to speak their opinions.
  • They allow space to expound upon your answers in the margins.  For example, you may agree that there is a great variety of small groups but perhaps you’d  like to see more expository options available.  Paper surveys give space to make notations as you fill out the survey.
  • When someone has a paper in hand, they are more apt to complete it and return it.   Especially if they are completing the survey at the end of the event, or at the last WM event for the year.  You will see your highest return by having surveys filled out on site.
  • NEGATIVE:  You will have compile all of the data yourself, reading and counting every single survey.  The larger your ministry, the more tedious this will become.
Why I value internet surveys:
  • You do not have to be a math whiz to compile the data.  These online survey sites will often create charts/graphs with your data, thus making the review of the results easier for everyone.  You will have a great summary sheet to share with your Pastor, Minsitry Oversight Committees, and to go with your budget requests for the Financial Committee.
  • Online surveys are quick and easy and you do not need to try and interpret handwriting.  This makes the entire process easier for both sides, the person taking the survey and the person responsible for processing it.  Additionally, paper free surveys are environmentally friendly.
  • Most people will complete the survey when it shows up in their email box, but you do take the risk of the survey ending up in someone’s junk folder or buried in a slew of other emails and forgotten.  If you send out an online survey, make sure to mention it at your current event or social media sites to ensure the women know to look for the survey.
  • NEGATIVE:   The oldest generation of your church will be less likely to respond to the online survey.  There are sometimes limitations on the number of questions you can ask (if it’s a free service) or on how much they can type in the “comments” section.  Which means you may get a less in depth analysis.
My final thoughts on surveys comes to the subject of anonymity.  On the one hand, people will feel more freedom in their responses if they are allowed to remain anonymous.  On the other otherhand, anonymity can often give someone a platform for passive agressive attacks.  In other words, people are more apt to say something critical anonymously than they would if they had to say it to your face or attach their name to it.
If you choose to go anonymously, be prepared for a heavier dose of criticism.  Don’t ask questions you are not prepared to hear the answers to, or read comments that are less than helpful.  Some women will respond with their genuine concerns in this format, since many women don’t handle confrontation very well.  Especially if they are friends with the WM team members.  You will need to pray for discernment as you read the responses to determine if it is constructive criticism or destructive criticism.  You will also lose the opportunity to allow women to express interest in serving/leading as part of the survey.  Which means you would need to handle that separately.
If you choose to have the women include their name in the survey, be prepared for a lot of sunshine and roses and minimal open criticism of the ministry work.  When we have to sign our name to something, we are often more generous and graceful with our opinions.  It’s that part of women which is sensitive to the hearts of others.  We don’t want to hurt feelings or criticize someone we consider a friend.  However, this gives the women you are serving an opportunity to express their hearts.  If someone is willing to post a criticism with their name attached to it, you now have important information in your hands.  First, you know that this issue was important to the person who wrote it.  Second, you now have the opportunity to speak directly to the person about it.  This is a great opportunity to hear ideas or suggestions to improve the ministry, or at least create a conversation where you can explain to the person why the ministry made that decision or had that event.
Of course, there is also the option to let the women decide if they want to answer anonymously or not.  Even the online ones will give you the option for this choice as you set up the survey.

Team Series: Discipleship Leader

Women Bow And Pray

Team Series:  Discipleship Leader, by Gena McCown

Many churches have a program of people meeting together to study the Word.  These groups can go by many names:  bible study, small group, or life group are the most common.  There may be a group of people within the church that are meeting to pray together.  Or, you may even have some mentoring relationships going on.   There are churches that have a structured program in place for what types of materials they study, when, and how often the groups meet.  Others allow leaders to naturally step up to the plate, and the church really serves as a conduit of information; connecting the people to the groups.

When the church has a system in place, whether structured or organic, the Women’s Ministry will often focus on other areas they can serve the women of the church.   However, what would happen if we placed a member of our team in charge of taking that system a step further?  What if we were more purposeful in how we disciple and mentor the women under our care?

Characteristics of this Leader:

  • Spiritual gift of Leadership and Teaching
  • Dedicated student of the Word
  • Organized, may also have the spiritual gift of administration
  • Sincere desire to develop people, encourages women into the Word
How this Role Serves the Women (and church):
  • Researches and vets new study materials to ensure they are theologically and doctrinally sound.
  • Looks for new small groups leaders, and helps develop their leadership skills.
  • Develops a step by step program that disciples new believers from their first steps into accepting Christ and beyond.
  • Helps connect new believers to seasoned believers for mentoring relationships.
When you bring a leader on to the team that has a heart for discipleship, your Women’s Ministry can take a turn toward not only the Cross but the Great Commission, to go out and make not just converts but disciples.  This creates in the Women’s Ministry a very intentional direction and purpose, and quite often our fellowship and social events are geared toward funneling the women into the church and into these disciple making processes.
What that may look like in your church will vary, based on the needs of the church/community and the availability of those willing to step into the roles of teacher or mentor.  It may take time to develop your program into the full vision, but each year you can move a step closer to that end goal.
For myself, I like to walk women first through and overall understanding of the scriptures (Angie Smith’s study “Seamless”), then I want the women to learn how to study the scriptures for themselves (Jen Wilkin’s book “Women of the Word”).  I follow these two books up with walking the women through prayer (Don Whitney’s book “Praying the Bible”).  After these three steps, then the women can plug into study groups on topics that are more applicable to their season of life or circumstances.  Some women would prefer a small mentoring relationship with an older wiser woman over a group study.
Just a note:  Remember that in a mentoring relationship “older and wiser” doesn’t always mean older in age, sometimes it is older in regards to experience.     A 40 year old new Christian can sit under a 28 year old life long, seasoned believer.    A woman who is 50 and a newly wed in her first marriage can sit under a woman who is 30 and married for 12 years. 

Ministry Spotlight: MOPS International

 

mops

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.