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

 

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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).

worship

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

Small Group Series #4- When We Meet

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

We have plowed through some length portions for this series, and now that we have taken care of the behind the scenes topics… let’s move to the front side of things.  We can have all of the prep work in check and still fail at small groups because we can’t control the meeting itself.  Now, I am going to admit that no matter how much you try a meeting can get away from you.  None of us are perfect, but the point I am going to focus on is what you need to happen MOST of the time.  Then when there is an occasional slip up, you will be forgiven.

Let’s cover some basic points that we should ALL be doing, then we’ll move on to the things where we have some options.

  • Preview the Material – do not going into each meeting blind.  Either watch the video and go through the workbook earlier in the day (or week), or even consider going through the whole thing before the study begins.  You will have a clearer idea of how long the material is going to take to cover, if you think you are going to need more time for discussion.
  • If you are teaching expository studies yourself, you should be preparing throughout the week, not a last minute hurrah before study starts.
  • Your group should be bathed in prayer, as anything we do that draws people closer to God the enemy is going to work to stop.  I always pray for obstacles to be removed from the path of the women to the study each week.
  • Set a realistic expectation on how long the study should last, and stick to that timeframe.  Occasionally conversation may take you over that timeframe, but make that the exception not the rule.
  • If a study is 8 weeks long, I always recommend telling people to plan for 9-10 weeks.  Inevitably something will happen that will disrupt the schedule. If everything goes according to plan use that last meeting as a conversation night to recap the study, make up date for anyone who missed a segment from the video, service project night, or even a fellowship night out on the town.
  • If you are meeting at a local coffee shop either schedule extra time into your meeting for ordering food/coffee…. or remind your attendees to arrive early to place their orders.
  • If you are meeting at the church or host home, make arrangements for any snacks/refreshments for the evening.  You do not always need to provide refreshments, but if you do put together a volunteer sign up sheet for the first meeting.

RUNNING THE MEETING:

  • Start on Time – be sure to show up a few minutes early to set up your videos or other things needed for that nights study.  You should be ready to go on time, and arriving early gives you time to deal with any technical issues.
  • Open in Prayer – you can choose to do a general opening prayer, allow people to make prayer requests, or take turns praying.  It is not uncommon for prayer time in small groups to take a long time if we are not careful.  I have tried a few methods each working effectively for different groups.  1) Ask the women to think of their prayer requests while praying a general prayer, asking God to listen to the prayers on their hearts.  2) Ask the women to submit their prayer requests to you via email/text prior to the meeting, then you can not only list them in brevity as you pray but also provide a printed list for the members to take home & pray over during the week.  3) Allow each woman to verbally make her prayer request before or during the prayer, but set a limit for 1 min. per person.  Establish this at the start of the 1st meeting, and remind the women they are free to ask questions or give additional prayers and support when the meeting is over.
  • Establish the “House Rules” at the first meeting, which will include start and finish times, how prayer requests are being handled, reminding the women that what is said in small group stays in small group, etc.  Then in the 2nd meeting give a quick recap.  No need to repeat at every study night.  Revisit if new members join the group.
  • Watch the Video/Teach the Lesson – if you are watching a video, you know exactly how much time it will take (it is usually printed in the jacket sleeve of the DVD).  If you are teaching the materials, watch the clock to ensure you leave time for discussion.
  • Prompt the discussions, being mindful to not take over the time talking yourself (which can happen with teachers, ha!) or that others in the group do not monopolize the discussion time.  Ask specific people questions, make eye contact to feel out if someone has something to offer, and help guide the conversation along.
  • Close in Prayer – In the closing prayer I like to include asking for protection over our church, the women in attendance, and those who didn’t make it for that evening.

In between study group meetings, I like to send email reminders if there is something the women need to do before we meet up again.  You can also use this email to remind the snack volunteers, do the assigned “homework”, any immediate prayer requests that can’t wait until the next group meeting, church announcements that might be important, etc.

So what makes the small group “effective”, since that sounds like any old meeting?  Being intentional.  I’ve been to many a meeting in the corporate world, spending 30+ minutes discussing something that could have been said in an email.  I’ve sat in small groups where so much time was spent talk about our prayers, that by the time we got to actually say them… we used up half of our meeting time.  I’ve led meetings where technical delays caused us to run behind, and I learned the hard way that I needed to arrive extra early.

What makes them effective is that everything goes so smoothly there is nothing to complain about, nothing to improve, and our goals are met.  It’s effective because it wasn’t defective.

When your small group meetings go awry, and are not effective it will be quite evident.  Word will get back to you that group thinks you are disorganized or always behind.  You will see your number of attendees drops, your regulars stop coming, or that you no longer get anyone signing up for your group.  You will see that more time is spent praying and talking than studying and you can’t finish in your allotted number of weeks.  You will run out of time, members, interest, and find yourself questioning “why do I even bother”.

If you are meeting your goals, if your group members stay put, if your group is growing in number, if your group is growing in their walk…. then you are running an effective meeting.

The final installment in this series will address some great questions that were emailed in about this topic, and will be posted on July 5th.  If you have a question and did not submit it yet, pop over to our series intro and submit your question now!

Leadership Should Not Be Lonely

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When you read through the scriptures, you will see that the leaders were hardly ever alone.  When Moses was called to lead, he had his brother by his side.  King David had people that he relied on for counsel.  Jesus had his disciples.  Paul had people who traveled with him, as well as leaders that he left behind in cities to lead the local church.  Paul wasn’t even alone in prison!  When the apostles would travel to share the gospel, they often set out in pairs or small numbers.  Plus, they always had each other lean back on, no matter where they were in the world. Advice was a letter away.  When it was time to tackle bigger subjects, they would meet together as a group to discuss the matters at hand.

It’s a common clichéd phrase in America to say that “it’s lonely at the top” or “leadership is lonely”.  As leaders we need to recognize that God never intended our leaders to be lonely.  In a previous article it was already mentioned the importance of having your own Timothy in place, someone you are developing as another leader or your eventual replacement.  However, this relationships are not meant to be superficial training grounds.  Those that we bring into our inner circle to develop as leaders will often help mold and shape our leadership too.  We learn just as much from their experiences as they do from our own.  Developing leaders will ask questions that we may have never considered on our own, or see things from a different perspective.

As much knowledge as I have about Women’s Ministry from experience coupled with books and research…

… I still don’t know everything. I have not encountered every possible scenario and even now I have some thoughts lingering in my head about how to handle certain circumstances should they arise.

Having a “Women’s Ministry Council” of leaders is part of how we can begin to fill those gaps in experience, knowledge, and wisdom.  Each leader is her own treasure trove of information to glean from.  Some WM Leaders are Pastor’s wives, who can give us insight to how Pastors view Women’s Ministry, or ministries in general.  They can give us an inside out view of the life of the Pastor in the church, the pressures he faces, and the parameters staff make decision within.

When we gather with other Women’s Ministry leaders, we have an opportunity to offer others our experience, and take in the experience of others.   As one leader just mentioned in our Facebook Group, we don’t need to reinvent a new wheel.  We just need help in finding the wheel that fits our group best.  We can pick and choose from the advice given and experiences shared, using those tidbits to shape our ministry’s future.  And, we can discard the things that don’t really apply to our needs.

We have a group of people whom we can share our successes with, and help them foster new ideas for their ministry.  And, we have a group of women who we can lean on for support when we are simply at a loss on how to grow our ministry.

Resources are more than books and websites, our best resources are the other leaders we are serving alongside with in our own communities.  Facebook groups and international websites have a lot to offer us in terms of general information.  However no one knows what it is like to serve THIS community, than those women who are in the trenches with you.

Every day, we gain more visitors to our website from other areas of the United States and beyond.  What we are doing here, in our South Florida location, is creating a program that we want to be duplicated in other regions.  By 2017, I am praying that all of our kinks have been worked out and that we will be able to put together a plan for Women’s Ministry Councils across the country.  Please keep our work in your prayers, that the Lord will guide this endeavor.  The blessing it has been for us, should not be contained to South Florida.

Women’s Ministry needs a leadership community!

Wednesday Devotion: Living with Integrity

wrong or right dilemma or ethical question - handwriting on colorful sticky notes

Living with Integrity
by Laura Masoner
Webster’s defines integrity as the state of being complete or whole, and the Oxford dictionary adds the word “undivided” to the definition.  The Hebrew word is tom which means complete or solid.  Many of us understand integrity as being morally sound and honest, which exemplifies being undivided, solid and complete.   The opposite of integrity is hypocrisy and duplicity, the very sins that Christ brought to the forefront when he confronted the religious leaders of the day.
 
To live with integrity, your heart must be undivided and focused on your Kingdom purpose and not your own desires.  If you are divided, meaning that you straddle the fence between God’s kingdom and your own, you lose integrity because you allow your flesh to drive you.  If you seek your own pleasures and not God’s will, then you are in conflict with who you say you are in Christ and how you behave. There is not complete unity with Him, your heart is divided, and you will remain incomplete instead of becoming a fully devoted follower.  Having integrity is what will determine which desires prevail, your own or God’s.  A subtle lie that sometimes leaves us in a state of moral decay is that our motives are not inwardly focused 100% of the time.  Often times we may have a kingdom perspective, but only when it is appealing or easy and not when it costs something or takes us out of our comfort zone.
 
Being solid means being the same whether or not anyone is looking.  A solid whole person is not duplicitous but is honest, reliable, and honorable even when it’s hard or when others are not.  Circumstances do not define when a person with integrity displays their integrity.  Even when mistreated they are unwavering and strive to behave with God honoring morality.  The inability to remain solid and be the same in public as in private has been a growing trend.  The lack of integrity is the reason kids cheat on tests, find remorse only when caught, and applaud themselves or each other when successful.  It is the reason for scandals such as Enron, WorldCom, Bernie Madoff and the like.  A compromised integrity is itself moral failure, and results in any or all of the following:  marital infidelity, lying, cheating, manipulation, corruption, stealing, and even gossip.   A person without integrity misrepresents Christ’s character.
 
Many people think that as long as no one knows what they are doing, they can feign the Christian walk and talk.  This is most definitely not true.  There are always subtle hints that do not go unnoticed by others, and you only fool yourself into believing that it is hidden from view.  Most of all, God knows.  He is the one about whose opinion we should be most concerned.  He knows every lie by omission, every minute we surf the net when we’re supposed to be working, every time we say something behind someone’s back, and every time we commit to something and don’t follow through.  Integrity is the demonstration of who we are in Christ in public and in private. It is the very definition of James 1:22– “Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says”.
 
When I think about being whole, complete, and solid, I think about the Rock, Jesus Christ, on whom our foundation must be built.  He is unmoving.  He doesn’t crumble, abandon, lie or change.  He must be the basis for our integrity, because morality based on societal definitions and are ever changing, are always subjective and degrade as society degenerates.  God remains the same, yesterday, today, and forever-Heb 13:8.  Who else in this world can make that claim?
 
This week, pray that God will reveal areas in your life that are not in line with His will, may lead you into sin, or differ with who you are supposed to be in Him.  Pray for His strength, guidance, and wisdom to recognize and avoid a compromise to your integrity.