Prayer & Worship, Training Event Recap

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

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

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

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

Worship Matters

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

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

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

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

Praying Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Heart of Worship

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

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

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

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

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

Small Group Series #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!

Branding & Building Workshop

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If you were unable to attend our Women’s Ministry network and training event on Saturday, here is a little recap of the training you missed.  This information will be in two installments, beginning with BRANDING YOUR MINISTRY.    Look for future support articles and resources on this topic as well.

Branding Your Ministry:

  • Branding is how we create short visual and verbal explanation of who we are and what we do.
  • Branding helps us communicate information quickly and efficiently.
  • Branding will assist your team members in remaining focused on your ministry purpose.

Visual branding gives us an image or logo that is easily identifiable.  When scanning the church bulletin or website, your image will catch the attention of the women in your church to your upcoming events or announcements.

Combining visual branding and a few key words, will ensure that your guests will know who you are, where you are located, and what you are doing.  consider a simple business card.  If you only had that much space available, and you wanted it to be visually pleasing, what information would you make sure to include?

The selection of these few key words, which may be bullet points – a mission statement – or a piece of scripture, will create a litmus test for your team.  If every event or program is tested against the “brand”, you can decide which elements should be invested in and which should be passed on.

Common Mistakes in Branding:

  • Avoid continually rebranding the ministry.  Sometimes when a ministry takes on new leadership there is a strange need to rebrand the ministry.  It’s the new leaders way to indicate that change is on the horizon.  However, when we change the name of our minsitry we take a risk of losing those who identify the ministry to the old name. 
  • Avoid complex designs, trendy names, or unfamiliar acronyms.  If your ministry identity is not easily understood, women are going to pass right by it.  Complex designs will not always translate well into various types media, or can cost a fortune in printing costs.  Trendy names will eventually date themselves and require change to stay relevent.  Just because a term or acronym is familiar to seasoned Christians, it won’t be obvious to new guests or in the community.  We shouldn’t live under an assumption every one will “get it” because it seems obvious to us.    Who wants to go to your local HAGS meeting?  Even if it does mean Holy and Glorious Sisters…
  • Avoid using names that will date your ministry, or make it appear to focus on certain ages or stages of life.  Your ministry is going to speak for itself, if you think giving it a younger sounding name is going to bring in younger women… you will be disappointed.  Or worse, you may allienate your older women.

Successful Branding Strategies:

  • Use What You Have!  If your church has already invested in having a logo/branding package designed, see if you can have the words “Women’s Ministry” (or whatever your ministry name is) added to it.  It will cost you less than starting from scratch, and will be professionally done. You can even ask to feminize it with the simple change of a color or visual element.
  • Know Who You Are!  What is your ministry purpose or goal?  What is the vision of the church and how does the Women’s Ministry fit into that vision?  The answer to these questions can help you design your logo or come up with that catch phrase.
  • Keep It Simple!  Clean and simple designs with core information is best.  Easy to remember names and catch phrases will be helpful.  Ministry name, who the ministry serves, and where the ministry is located will be your most valuble information.  Have a Women’s Ministry page set up on your church website or start one on your own through a free site (like wordpress), or even a Facebook group.  Then your print materials can point women to these resources where they can get more detailed information about the church and your ministry.
  • Know Your Audience!  Where and how you are going to use your branding is important.  If your Women’s Ministry is purely focused on building up the women in your church, you don’t need as much of an explanation as you would for a ministry that is reaching out into the community.

 

Wednesday Devotion: Serving With Passion

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Serving with Passion, Laura Masoner

I grew up hearing that God is love, but I never heard the word “passion” when describing God or His character.  The description of God’s passion toward us is found all over scripture, a prime example being the Song of Solomon. If you’ve spent any time in Psalms, you can’t miss David’s passion for God.  I love where Psalm 42:1 says: “As the deer pants for the water brook so my soul longs after thee”.  I can sense the love, passion, and longing that David feels toward God.  Through trials and triumph, David loves and longs for the abiding presence of our creator, and it pours out of him like a bride gushing over her groom.  The bible itself is the greatest love story in existence, no one can deny the unconditional love and the lengths to which He goes to draw us near and lavish us with His love.  But the bible is more than a mere love story, is pure passion from cover to cover.
 
We are only able to love because He first loved us.  Not only does he love us, He is passionate about us.  As a jealous God, His godly jealousy is also a display of His passion for us.  He is passionate that we remove idols from our lives that keep us in bondage to sin and rob us of the freedom He has for us.  It is not self-seeking, God knows the pain and loss we will suffer if we choose sin over Him.  God has a passion for intimacy with His children, and true intimacy between God and his children occurs when we pursue Him with an undivided heart.
 
When I decided to fully devote myself to Christ and die to self, the Holy Spirit ignited my passion toward Him.  Not only am I passionate about Him, I am passionate about my calling and purpose.  He wants us to serve Him out of our passion for Him, not out of a feeling of obligation.  We are to have an eternal perspective that helps to develop the drive to exchange the things of this life for the things God calls us to endure.  The apostle Paul knew this all too well.
 
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
 
As leaders we must have an eternal perspective from which we view the world.  We also need passion and purpose, although it is essential that we are passionate about the right things.  We need to place a high value in people rather than possessions or positions because we serve a God who is all about relationship.  As leaders we must be invested in people, not in numbers, fancy websites, or lavish brunches which are mere tools.  That is not to say that events and websites have little value because they are great tools to disseminate information and draw women together.  The point is that relationships are the point, and we must be careful not to turn ourselves into little “Martha’s” and begin to extend our focus in the wrong direction.
 
An effective leader should have passion about their ministry.  That’s not to say that 100% of the time we are positively effusive about leading women’s ministry, but if we ever find ourselves in a place where we’ve lost passion for the ministry, we need to inquire about it at the throne.  We could be taking the ministry in a wrong direction, or God may be calling us to step out of leadership so He can raise up a new leader.  It can be evident to the team you are leading if you lack passion for the position to which you are assigned, and you will notice the enthusiasm of the team begin to wane. 
 
 Paul was passionate about Christ, his ministry, and people.  Paul was actively and heavily invested in the people he served and his fellow servants in the ministry. This is evident all over scripture, it is seen in his greetings at the beginning of each of his letters.  He models a sacrificial leadership fueled by passion and bound by love.  He gives thanks, encourages, and prays for those to whom God has entrusted to him.  Read over the first few verses of a couple of Paul’s letters, such as Romans and Ephesians, and as you pour over the beginnings of his letters, prayerfully consider what made him a passionate leader.  This week, let us pray over our ministries and our leadership, that we will honor Christ courageously and passionately in the path He has set before us.