Welcome the Linger

THE ART OF LINGERING

Earlier this week, in the piece “An Amazing Event”, we explored how a local church hosted an event for women by pointing out areas of excellence.   The sixth point was that this church welcomed the linger.  This point resulted in a few questions that will be unpacked in this follow up piece.

At the end of the women’s event “Amazing”, the women in attendance were directed outside to the after party.  This consisted of lunch, places to sit and have conversations, a small market to shop, activities, etc.  I have no idea if there was an official cut off time, as I left after about an hour.  However it didn’t appear they were in a rush to send their guests on their merry way.  Speaking with one of their leaders, I learned that this is a very intentional decision, because they find that when they allow people to gather after their events better and deeper connections are made.

In theory, this sounds wonderful.  But, you may be asking about how it is logistically possible for smaller churches.  I believe it is fair to say that most of us are hosting events at our church, whether it be a simple brunch or a more expansive women’s conference.  I believe it is also fair to say that most churches don’t have a separate conference center or banquet hall on the property, but instead use a shared space.  With services on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings, our events are most commonly held on a Friday evening or Saturday morning.  Once the event concludes those shared spaces must be reset for services.

How do we let our guests linger when we have to prepare our space for the church services that same day or the next morning?

Extra Volunteers – many hands make light work.  If you have more volunteers on hand, specifically after the event, it will take less time to reset the church.  

Move the Party – consider other spaces.  If you held an event in the sanctuary, once the event is over move to a new location.  This frees up the sanctuary to be reset by volunteers, while your guests can linger and talk in the lobby, parking lot, etc.  You can use the overflow room, lobby, or even outside spaces.  Keep in mind that if you choose to move the party off the church property, you may lose guests.  More people are apt to stay and linger, but once they get in their car it can be more tempting to just head home.

Designate the Space – if moving your guests into a new space to linger, define that space.  Clear signage indicating where the conversation space is located and volunteers to direct your guests from one space to the other is helpful.  Your church parking lot can be a great space, so long as you consider the weather, set up seating/tents, etc. 

Provide Food – if you feed them, they will stay.  This does not mean that you need to over extend your budget by providing free food.  Some churches can afford this, some will include it in ticket prices, others simply invite vendors and let their guests pay.  Just make sure if you are going to expect guests to pay for their own lunch that this is included in the promotional materials.  Food can be a meal or even just light snacks.

Create Conversation – give them something to talk about and engage with.  Set a space or few that are great photo ops.  You can create these spaces with things you can find around your home.  While waiting in line to take a photo, women will start talking.  As they walk the space, the décor itself is a conversation starter.  Food will ignite conversation, as your guests discuss their options or the quality of the food.  People love to talk about good food.

Fun Activities – so long as there is something to do, your guests will linger and connect.  Whether it’s a mini-market place they can stroll around and shop, photo ops, or games and activities, having something to do will encourage women to stay and engage.

Something else to consider…

As a woman who has attended many local events over the last 20 years, let me share what usually happens when I return home.  I’m walking in the door, feeling encouraged, inspired, motivated… I don’t want that feeling to pass.  Then I hear these words…

“Mom?  What’s for lunch?”

Within minutes of returning home, mom is back on duty.

If you are scheduling an after party similar to the event I attended this past weekend, that will include food… activities… etc.

Why not invite the family to meet them women afterwards?  Turn the after party into a family event.  A few food trucks or food vendors, activities for the kids to engage in, conversation areas for the women… but also opportunities for the men to connect too.  It adds to the community.

 

WMC Meeting 3/31 Recap: Hospitality

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In a time where we are the most connected by devices and social media platforms, overwhelmingly people are feeling more alone.  Current studies are correlating that the higher the person’s social media usage, the more prone they are to feeling isolated.
Why?
1.  We feel excluded or rejected.   We are now very much aware to what we have not been invited to, or excluded from.  In the past, before social media, you literally may never know that you were not invited to a lunch date, or girls night out.  Now, not only does it stare us in the face… but we see it repeatedly as photos and videos are shared by all those who were present.
2.  We feel inadequate.  As we are able to see in to the lives of others… their homes, cars, vacations, etc. we begin to feel that we are not good enough.  We may hesitate to invite someone into our home because we don’t feel our home is as nice as their home.  We may not invite someone to a coffee date because they are always at Starbucks and we can only afford Dunkin.  In addition to feeling inadequate, we may create false personas in order to virtually “keep up with the Jones”.  We will pull ourselves away in order to protect that persona.
3.  We experience jealousy.  Jealousy and inadequacy are very different things.  Inadequacy is how we feel about ourselves, and jealousy is how we feel about others.  Jealousy builds up bitter feelings towards others, and will cause us to push people away.  
4.  We fear missing out.  If we disconnect from social media, we fear that we may miss what others are sharing and doing in their lives.  We can get so wrapped up in keeping tabs on others that we actually disconnect from opportunities in our real life.
* Note that none of the four point above even begin to address actual addiction.
* There is an evidenced cycle that loneliness will drive people online, yet will only make them feel more alone and disconnected, and can actually cause them to dive even further into social media to connect.
Of 2000 people who were polled, that used social media regularly, 72% reported feeling alone.  Of the 72%, one third reported feeling this way at least once a week.
With these numbers we must expect that this will have an impact on the church.  We have women who are walking through our doors every Sunday, who feel alone.  Women sitting at our brunch tables, who feel disconnected.  Women who live in our neighborhoods who are deeply looking for real community.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to spur one another on to love and good deeds.  Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
The Bible has the answer to what research is showing us, that real life … face to face connection is necessary for community.   In Act 2 when is speaks of the early church, it is noted that they added to their number daily.  Not because they met occasionally but because community was part of their daily life.  They grew because they were present with one another.
Research is indicating that digital community is not the same as real community. 
Experts suggest having a social media cleanse, where you break the habit of social media dependence.  Whether you cut it out completely, cut back the number of hours, or cut back from the “groups” that are keeping you from real life relationships, something has to give in order to allow you to embrace community in the form of personal relationship with people you see face to face.
What does this mean to our church and ministries?
1.  We must acknowledge that our women in our church and communities are overwhelmingly feeling alone.  Even when they live in a house full of people, are volunteers in the church, work in larger offices… they FEEL alone.
2.  We must do a better job of making sure that all of our women feel included and welcome.    This means making sure we have done our best effort to invite not just our friends and family members, but our neighbors and co-workers.  That we are extending invitations to strangers and visitors.   Practically this means not giving up on traditional methods of announcing events (personal invitations, handing out flyers in the church lobby, etc.).  We can’t rely on digital/social media announcements and registration alone.  (Read Luke 14:12-14)
3.  How we present our ministry will matter, to battle the feeling of inadequacy.  If all our social media shows the perfectly polished church ladies, we may put a wall between ourselves some of the women we want to reach.  We need to have a willingness to show the raw and rough edges too. 
We’ve said before that you can’t please all the people all of the time, but we can please some of the people some of the time.  This means having a Women’s Ministry program that has a diverse offering that meets the different women in our church.  One way to ensure this is to have a Women’s Ministry Team that has the same diversity as the church.  When you are thinking of the various women you serve, and accommodating to their situations… that is hospitality.  They will feel cared for because you considered them.
Additionally, hospitality is making sure that all women feel wanted at our events.  Often we take for granted that our guests will know where everything is or how we do things in our space.  We must always plan and prep with the guest in mind.  Having clear signage and volunteers to help direct people on where they need to be. Keeping guests in mind also means to always plan for new members/guests that may start attending just before you event.  If your space holds 50, and it’s an event where you are selling tickets, sell only up to 40 or 45.   This buffer allows you the flexibility to accommodate new members instead of having to tell them that the event is full and they need to wait to the next one. 
As leaders, we model hospitality by being aware.  We watch the for the table that just has 1 person sitting at it.  Volunteers keep an eye out for the person who walks in alone or seem lost.  We take the time to meet people individually and connect them to others as we go.  Be willing to give up your seat, your meal, your book, your ticket, etc. if it means you can invite one more to the table to be apart of the community of women in your church.
Surely, on a ministry level we are creating warm and inviting spaces.  Our teams put a lot of work into the details.  Make sure that the details don’t take more attention and time than your guests.    Don’t forget to also extend hospitality on more personal levels.  If you are texting back and forth, just chatting away… invite her for coffee to continue the conversation.   If you and another women in the church send jokes and funny videos back and forth, recognizing you have a similar sense of humor invite her to a funny movie or to see a comedian.  
Stop the face book stalking, and go back to face to face talking.
For more thoughts on hospitality, check out this document we gave to the attendees at the meeting.  Print off copies for yourself, your team, or your hospitality coordinator. 

Hospitality

We also had a great drawing prize, and two lucky winners took a copy of Kristin Schell’s book The Turquoise Table home.  (Congrats Trina and Nicole)

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LeadHer Conference, Are You the One?

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For the first time ever, we are planning a conference geared for women who are serving in ministry leadership.  These are small group leaders, MOPS group leaders, Women’s Ministry leaders, and more.

Statistically these are women who are volunteering to serve their churches, they are not paid staff members.  Additionally, in most cases these are ministries that receive very small budgets if any.

When we decided to host this conference, it was our goal to create an event that would:

1.  Let these leaders know that their work and efforts are appreciated, and do not go unnoticed.

2.  To put on an educational event that would not only refresh their spirits, but also educate them with information and tools that they can bring back to their ministry work.

3.  To create an event that would connect ministry leaders across denominational lines, where we all rise up together as co-laborers.

4.  Consist of a speaking team that was as diverse at the women we serve.

Recognizing that many of these women would be paying out of their own pockets, we also committed to make the event as affordable as possible.   Within the price range we set, $69 we secured our location… basic event materials… simple decor… and lunch included.  Our speaker team has generously donated their time.

However there are special things we would like these leaders to take back to their churches and ministry that will help them in to the long term.  We have negotiated special prices with vendors (60% off!) but we still need to raise the funds to cover those discounted costs.

If you are a supporter of women who serve in the church, have been a woman who led in the church and wishes you would have had access to such an event, or you have a business/organization that would like to officially support our event at a level you can afford… please consider giving to this campaign.

We will be sure to acknowledge any one who supported this event publicly, unless you choose to give anonymously.  At which point we will still acknowledge our anonymous givers collectively.

REGISTER:   www.LeadHerConference.com

SPONSOR:  https://leadherconference.com/sponsorship/

SUPPORT:  https://www.gofundme.com/leadher-conference-supporters

WMC Meetings

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The WMC is preparing for our March 31st local meeting in the Treasure Coast, FL.  Occasionally, we receive an email or notification asking if there is a WMC in other cities.  We’d love to see this as a reality.

If you would like to start up a WMC in your area, we are happy to help you do so.  Please visit our “Start a Group” page to request more information.

And don’t forget to register for the WMC’s 1st annual women’s leadership conference!

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Introducing the LeadHer Conference!

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Back to School!

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It’s back to school season!  Women’s Ministry groups around the country are full of mothers who are navigating the waters of back to school.

Some are watching their children enter their school years for the first time, tear soaked tissues in hand.

Others are wrapping their heads around new teachers, dress codes, schedules, and shopping.

Then there are those who have their hands on a whole box of tissues as their children enter their senior years or head off to college.

How can we minister to our mothers?

  1.  Mentoring.   It is so valuable to any mother to have in her circle of friends and mentors the woman who has already walked this road.  We lean heavy into those who have gone through these days, learn from them about the beauty of what is to come.
  2. Calendars.  When you are planning your Women’s Ministry events, consider your local school calendars.  Find out important dates like school vacations and major events like Prom and Graduation.  Try your best to schedule events away from these times, as parents may be out of town on holiday or celebrating milestones with family who have traveled into town.  Be sure to consider private school schedules, which may differ from public.  If your church services more than one county, be sure to take into account the other county schedules as well.
  3. Clothing Swaps.  Back to school can be an expensive year, bring in all of your school clothes that the kids grew out of and swap with other moms.  Or, take those collected clothes and bring them to shelters for homeless women and children.
  4. Supply Drives.  Use your women’s ministry events as an opportunity to collect school supplies and take them to schools in need, or local children’s group home.  Bless the moms in your church who could use a hand offsetting back to school expenses.
  5. Connections.  Connect moms who have children in the same schools, so they can get to know each other better.  Help establish car pool groups, after school child care volunteers for working parents, etc.
  6. Volunteer.  Start a after school program for children in your local schools, teach them about Christ, friendships, character qualities, etc.  Moms would love to know their kids are being invested into vs. babysat at after school programs.
  7. Celebrate.  For the moms who are becoming empty nesters for the first time, meet up with them during these first weeks especially and celebrate!
  8. Small Groups.   Add a day time small group that meets when the kids are school, this is a great opportunity for our stay home parents.  They can meet with a local small group to study the word, without taking away valuable family time at nights and on the weekends.

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.