This Is Serious Business

Women's Ministryis a Calling

When I speak to people about Women’s Ministry, or quietly observe in various Facebook groups about Women’s Ministry, I wonder if we are talking about the same thing.

So much time is spent talking about decorations and favors, cute little themes… I wonder if this is Women’s Ministry or Pinterest Ministry?

I’m not suggesting that we disregard creating a wonderful experience for the women who attend our events, I am concerned when this appears to be all that we are providing.

Not being one prone to silence, I decided to speak up.  In one group, after reading countless posts over many months that discussed what verse would match their theme… I had enough and spoke up.

Think about this for a moment.  They had already decided a theme for their event, but now they needed to find a verse to teach from that fit the theme.  I can’t be the only one who feels like this is a backwards approach.  Shouldn’t the WORD be the forefront of the plans, and the decorations and theme the icing on the cake?

I asked  a simple question…

“What are you doing to disciple your women?”

Other than a few responses that related to Bible Studies and Small Groups, there wasn’t a lot.  For most, their event were their primary outreach and teaching tool.

I was encouraged, however, by the number of women who were honest…

We don’t.   But, I’d like to.  I don’t know where or how to begin.

We’ve tried but it didn’t take off.

Now I am committed to helping these women come up with a plan to kickstart discipleship in their churches.  The conversation is open, and the opportunity is endless.  But, what is prone to happen in these types of scenarios is a lot of conversation and research with a heavy dose of push back from the question of “what if”.

I’ve learned over the years, you can “what if” yourself into complacency and inaction.  If you are going to wait for every detail and facet to work itself out, nothing will ever get done. Sometimes the greatest “what if” to ask yourself is…

What if we don’t?

What if we don’t disciple our women?  What if we don’t challenge our women to dig deeper in the Word?  What if we don’t encourage our women to a more intentional prayer life?  What if we don’t steward our money, resources, and time toward The Great Commission call of Women’s Ministry?

Women’s Ministry is far more than fun themes and pinterest worthy decorations.

Author Gloria Furman, in an interview, referred to Women’s Ministry as being any occasion where women minister to other women.

How we minister matters.  Titus 2 calls us to minister to women through teaching, and how we live our lives.  Which means that what we teach through Women’s Ministry matters.  I would call all of our churches to examine how we are doing Women’s Ministry today, and weigh it against these questions:

  1.  Are we encouraging and providing avenues for women to learn to study the Bible, and offering a Bible Study schedule that provides enough variety and opportunity for women to plug in.  Do we encourage our women to sign up for these study groups?  Are we preparing women in our church to become teachers of study groups?
  2. Are we fostering a spirit of intentional prayer in our ministry?  Do we model prayer?  Do we have a prayer team who prays for the women in the church?  Do we take time to teach women how to pray?
  3. Are we creating space in our calendar of events to include service projects in our communities?  Do we call our women into action, responding to the needs around us?
  4. Are we providing opportunities for our women in leadership to receive training and support in this call?  Are we identifying future leaders among our women and investing in their development?
  5. Do we have a Women’s Ministry that is focused on The Great Commission?  Do our events center around the Gospel?  Or, do we fit the Gospel into our events?

You see, I believe that Women’s Ministry is not a simple little ministry that gathers once a month to learn about making the perfect centerpiece, surviving motherhood, or even feel good messages about how beautiful we are to God (granted those have there place and time).

No.  I believe that Women’s Ministry is serious business.  Being a Women’s Ministry Leader means that the Lord is trusting me with half of his flock.  Which means that I am called to handle the Word of God responsibly, and teach it to other women.  It means that I am called to go out and share the Gospel with the poor in Spirit.  It means that I am praying over our church, community, and the women I serve … as well as teaching them how to pray.  I am leading in order to build up more leaders who will go out to all the corners and share the Good News.   None of this call is something to take lightly.

It is a great and noble calling, to lead His daughters.  How we lead matters.

Lately, Women’s Ministry has come under criticism.  Women are tired of the same old same old, and they want something deeper.  Younger women are not interested in their mother’s type of Women’s Ministry.  They want to be a part of something that has significance, meaning, and purpose.

We are not being challenged to something new, but rather returning to the way it was.

The Old Testament has several points relating to how women ministered in their time.  We begin with Eve in Genesis Chapter 2, created to be a helper to Adam.  What is interesting is that the Lord made Eve as a response to Adam being alone.  God was with Adam.  There were animals with Adam.  Man was hardly alone.  Yet, God says that it was not good for man to be alone, which meant there was something Adam still needed. When Eve was created, Adam had instant community.  Women have been serving others in community ever since.

One of our primary roles of Women’s Ministry is to create a community and build relationships with one another.  This is why having events and studies are a great tool, so long as the event doesn’t trump the purpose of the event.  Through our events we can bring women into community and fellowship with one another, but also by encouraging them into the Word and prayer, we bring them into community with God.

One of the best, and simplest, definitions of community is COMMON + UNITY.  What are the things that we have in common that unite us?  As Christians and women, we are united by our uniqueness in how God created us.  Women’s Ministry draws us together in COMMON UNITY as we identify as daughter of the King.  Through that community, we are able to minister to one another’s needs, teach the Word and how to pray, serve along side each other, and spur one another forward.

We lift one another up and defend one another.

We sympathize and have compassion for one another.

We teach each other and grow in faith along side one another.

We go before throne for one another, speaking truth to our sisters.

Let our Women’s Ministries become more than just a monthly gathering, and instead become a community.  One where we gather at the well of Living Waters, drawing from it, together.

Recap of Training Event: Single Sisters

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On Saturday, June 30, the Women’s Ministry Council held a quarterly training event related to the topic of serving our single sisters.  Our guest speaker, Willow Sanders or Protect the Heart, shared with us her experience as a single mother and single woman in the church.  Her three point approach to addressing this need in the church & has also been supplemented with additional information that may be beneficial.

SEE SOMETHING –

In order to address a concern or a problem, we must first see it for what it is… within our community and within the church. 

  • Over 50% of the US population are single.  There are more single people, than married.
  • Of these singles, 53% of them are women.
  • Only 23% of single women attend church regularly.
  • 1 in 2 babies are born outside of marriage.
  • There are 15 million single moms in the US alone.
  • 67% of single parents are not actively attending church.
  • Less than 1% of all Christian Churches have formalized single mom programs or outreach.

What Do You See?   Do you notice single women or mothers in your church?  Do you notice when your single women or mothers are not there? 

Scripturally, we have missed the mark on serving our single women and mothers.  James 1:27 is clear that the fatherless are close to the Father’s heart and should be close to ours.  The Bible never directly speaks about “single women” needing assistance but it does address widows over 80 times, fatherless over 100.  This means that the care of God’s people is important.

We do not need to be concerned with why a woman or mother is single in order to serve her.  Remember, this is about acts of service and not about what you think she deserves or what you think she can do on her own.  Do not assume that our single women and mothers have people to help and support them, or that they do not need help because they can do it for themselves.

Single mothers may have a difficult time making their needs known because they feel they are unending and do not want to be a burden.  Single women also don’t want to burden others with their needs.  In addition, there needs may be so overwhelming they don’t even know where to begin to ask for help.  If we want to understand how to bless them, we need to be connected with them in relations and have a heart willing to help.

SAY SOMETHING

As a community, and ministry leaders, we can be apart of fixing this issue.  If you are reading this, I assure you, you have single women in your church and community, you have single mothers too.  (And, there are also single men and fathers too!)  How do we start?

  • Build a relationship with your church/community/ministry leaders around this issue.  Break down the cons and focus on the benefits to the health of the entire Body by addressing it.
  • Understand that there is a difference between including them in your ministry or community events, and having a separate meeting or ministry to address their unique set of needs.
  • Gather others who have a heart for growth and guidance in this area.  
  • Always have childcare for events, free if at all possible.  Don’t forget that single parents will have great difficulty in attending weekly Bible studies and small groups without a childcare option.
  • Offer to babysit for free, and do it often.  This is a great option for teens to learn about serving.
  • Teach them by doing life with them.  Go grocery shopping and teach the single mom how to stretch her dollar, help her create a budget, meal plan strategies, etc.
  • If she is a single and pregnant & lacking support, go with her to doctors appointments and advocate for her (especially if she is young).
  • Gift her girl time.  Watch her kids so that she can connect with her friends, or become that friend who takes her out for coffee.  Go to the beach, invite her over (and her kids), go window shopping, etc.
  • Research Support Groups – Embrace Grace, Embrace Life, and Embrace Dads
  • Help her around the house.  A single, working, mother may need help tackling laundry or dishes that have piled up.  A single woman may need help with little projects around the house that she lacks the tools/know how for.  Bring your husband with you, and have him knock out some little projects while you are helping her catch up on chores.
  • Buy an oil change for her.  Host a car maintenance/home repair day through your church on a monthly basis.  Have a team of knowledgeable men (or women) that can go with her to the mechanic or help her negotiate home repairs.  Single women and mothers worry they can be taken advantage of.
  • Send her a gift or card with encouraging Scriptures attached to serve as a VISIBLE reminder that God (and you, the church) SEE her, think of her, and care about her.
  • Single moms can become overwhelmed with house care.  Clean her house, hire a service, or help her clean and organize her home.
  • Surprise her with a midday lunch while at work or at school.  Little gestures like this can be life breathing.
  • Gift her gas or grocery gift cards.  You never know when she’s going to need that extra few dollars to get through the week.
  • Cook her a meal for no reason, or if you know she’s going through a rough patch set up a meal train.
  • Start up a run, walk, jog, bike, exercise group that includes the children.
  • Buy or send flowers, for no reason.
  • Offer tutoring or homework help for her kids, or if she is still a student… help her.
  • Listen to her goals and dreams, and help her make a plan to pursue them.
  • Pray WITH her and FOR her.

SOLVE SOMETHING

John 10:10 tells us that “the thief comes ONLY to steal, kill, and destroy; I {Christ} have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

What a better trifecta of doom than to take potential restoration and steal hope, kill opportunity, and destroy new legacy.   As leaders, as churches, we can be the second part of that scripture.  We can help these women so that they may have life, and have it to the fullest.  We know that focusing our efforts will not solve every problem associated with being a single woman or mother, but it is a start.  The more we get to know these women, their needs, then the more we can come up with solutions.

Some things to keep in mind about singleness…

  • Singleness is not inherently lonely.  Funneled and guided in the right direction, it can create more time to invest in ministry or meaningful relationships.  However, that does not mean she will not experience seasons of loneliness.  This is why it is important to be connected to her relationally not just in service.
  • Singles do not need to be “fixed”.  It is not a downcast position in life.  Encourage them to put their faith in God’s timing, when they need the encouragement.  However, do not deliver false promises.

A famous quote attributed to Mr. Rogers was something that came from his mother.  She told him that in times of trouble, trial, or crisis to:  “Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.”

You, my precious sisters, ARE those people. 

Remember, to expand your view of WHO these single women are.  Click on the links below to view/print two hand outs from this event.  Share them with your ministry/church leaders.  Pray about who can join your Women’s Ministry Team with a heart for single women and mothers.

Serving Single Sisters

Serving Single Mothers

July Leadership Calendar

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We have our quarterly live Women’s Ministry Council training event on the last day of June, it is all about serving our single sisters.  Therefore, we wanted to get the July Leadership Calendar up ahead of time.  You may notice we’ve adjusted the formatting a bit.  Hopefully this will eliminate future technical issues like we had in June.  Let us know what you think of the new format, and our entries for each day. 

You might also notice July 29-31 are missing.  Don’t worry!  We didn’t forget these 3 important days of the month.  The August 2018 calendar will be posted at the end of July and will include the 29-31 and all of August.  

Have a great weekend, and watch for the recap of Saturday’s training event to be posted on Monday and Wednesday of next week.

SOCIAL MEDIA DRAWING WINNERS:

Your book and a little extra gift have shipped.  Keep an eye out for your package!

Singled Out

Serving Our Single Sisters

In preparation for our June 30 training event, our team has been speaking with single women to get their perspective on how we can better serve them.  A common response was that the women desired to be seen but not singled out.  In other words, notice us but don’t put the spot light on us.  It’s a fine balance between recognizing the various women in the church or community and lumping them all into neatly labeled boxes.  Too much attention is not always welcomed, or a good thing.

Over all, it appeared the women didn’t want to see a “Single Women’s Ministry” created under the banner of the Women’s Ministry.  No desire for events to be launched that were solely marketed to the single women.  They didn’t want to wear the scarlet letter “S” for single on their lapel.  They also wanted to limit the assumptions made that because they were single it meant they had all the time in the world to volunteer, or had the desire to volunteer within the children’s ministry.  Please don’t assume that their singleness is something they dread, when there are those who embrace it.

So, we march that fine line between seeing the women and recognizing their needs but meeting those needs without the fanfare and hoopla.  We don’t need a “Single Women’s Table” at our next brunch, where we portion off those women into a neat little section.  Yet, offering up a Small Group for Single Women becomes an option from the variety of studies you will offer.  They can choose to join that group, but may elect another because the topic is more suited for her.  In this, we have given them and option and we are also not putting them on display.  

Overall, the general consensus was that the women who are single want to be treated just like everyone else.  If you would send a meal over to the house of the flu stricken mom of three, send a meal over to the house of the single gal too.  Drop her a birthday card in the mail, invite her to lunch, invite her to sit with you on Sunday morning. 

Her singleness does not define her, or her gifts.  She is a daughter of the King, just like you.

Single Sisters: In An Idea World

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In an ideal world, serving our single sisters would be easy.  But this is not an ideal world, this is a fallen world.  And, so we struggle in our own lives and we can struggle to serve others well.  As ministry leaders, we need to take this bull by the horns and become the catalysts in our churches and communities to champion for these women.

There are times, as married women, we look back on our single days … before marriage and children… as if we had all the freedom in the world.  We remember it, like the picture above.  Dashing off with our girl friends on another adventure, giggling away, without a care in the world.  We forget that we too had to work, we too had sorrows, our adventures were outnumbered by the mundane.  We may not have had our own kids to watch, but we may have been babysitting our siblings.  We were working off hours because the married women or parents took the shifts during the school hours.  

If we are honest, being single probably wasn’t as amazing as we remember it was.  We forget that even in our singleness we had sorrow, that we may have felt alone, that there were times when life was hard.  I’m watching a single friend go through the ringer right now.  Everyone else in her life seems to have it all together.  Marriages.  Children.  Amazing jobs.  She’s feeling the weight of expectations on her shoulder, and wondering if any of that is every going to be in her future.  She plugs away each day, and sometimes… she shares that the beam of hope for something different is getting dimmer.

She shares that she’s tired of eating out alone or ordering in take out, because cooking for one is not easy.  She shares the heartbreak of being invited to another bridal shower, wedding, baby shower, and family party.  She doesn’t want to answer any more questions about who she is dating, or when she wants to start a family.

Even for those who choose to be single, and embrace it as a gift, are hammered with expectations.  Since they are not tied down, it is assumed they have nothing better to do than work more, work holidays, volunteer more, serve more, etc.  People don’t understand why they don’t have enough money to travel more, go out on more girls nights out, or shop as if they have no budget.  

In an ideal world, it would be easier.  But it’s not an idea world, it’s a fallen world.  

In one of our first pieces on the topic, we suggested that the first thing we can do to serve our single sisters better is to see them.  By recognizing who they are, we make sure these women are feeling noticed, loved and cared for.

The second thing we can do to serve our single sisters better, is to stop assuming and start listening.  We can not default onto our own memories of how wonderful the single life was and use that to create a menu of opportunities to serve these women.  Instead, we need to engage them in conversation and get a pulse on what is happening in their world and lives.  If we listen, we learn.  When we learn, we know how to serve. 

Having a single woman serving on your ministry team is a good way to start the conversation.  

Single Sisters, A Confession

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Single Sisters, A Confession – By Gena McCown

When my husband and I got married, we were one of the first among our groups of friends.  Life didn’t change much for us at that point, but then once our daughter was born things changed quickly.  Our friends would call to invite us out, but that wasn’t always possible.  In fact, more often than not, the answer was no.  In the earliest days, I was just too tired from having a newborn.  Eventually it was for no better reason than last minute excursions required large amounts of preparation.  We had to find a sitter, pack up our daughter, drop her off, then of course pick her home, before returning home.  Being completely honest, it wasn’t often worth the work.  We wanted to see our friends, but the effort to actually go out was more than we were willing to give.  Couple this with going from a dual income family of two, to a single income family of three… and our budget wasn’t really as free as it once was either. 

Here’s the confession part…

For years, I never understood why my single friends didn’t “get it”.  We understood that they didn’t fully understand what it takes to get a family ready for a night out.  I just wondered how many times would I have to tell them that we needed more notice before that would stick.  Eventually, after enough of our answering “no”… they just stopped asking.  That wasn’t what we wanted, but it is what we got.  Yet, I had never once considered what our change in life meant to our friends.  They had lost a relationship with us, and frankly we let it go too easily.  We could have done a better job of nurturing that relationship.  And for that failure on our part, I’m truly sorry.

Looking back on those days, there is a lot we could have done.  We could have been the ones to make plans, in advance, instead of waiting for their call.  We could have countered an invite for a night on the town, with dinner at our house or coffee later in the evening.  We could have intentionally made the effort to engage with our friends more regularly.  I was too busy trying to figure out what they were not understanding about our new lives, that I was not able to see that I was dropping the ball too.  Maybe I figured they’d be joining the ranks soon enough and we’d raise our kids together.  But, the way it turned out was that most of our friends had just begun starting their marriages and families as we were on the end of the story.  I have friends who have  their oldest kids starting preschool this year, while my oldest is in college.

What I have learned over these years, to my regret, what that I failed to recognize and value those friendships in the way I should of.  So caught up in my own world of change, I was unable to see that their world changed too.  It also kept me from noticing their struggles in singleness.  I have friends who are still waiting for their Boaz.  So, what does this have to do with Women’s Ministry?  Everything.

In book after book, conference after conference, study after study, and speaker after speaker… we’ve heard these words:

Our first ministry is to our husband and children.

So, we build up a Women’s Ministry robust with studies on being a better wife, becoming better mothers, dealing with the stress of marriage and parenting.  We volunteer, have collection drives, or donate money to causes that champion mothers and children.  We make meals for our new moms, moms who have a child in hospital, wives who have a husband in the hospital, and women who are newly widowed.  We have MOPS groups, and volunteer at VBS, then eventually we graduating to volunteering with the teen girls at youth.  

But, guess what?  Not all of our women are wives.  Not all of our women are mothers.  They still matter, greatly.

The single women (without children) of your congregation are not interested in a speaker talking about intimacy in marriage… when she is still waiting.  Nor is she interested in the latest potty training trends, or how to get your child to stop sleeping in your bed.  She does not want to make a chore chart or a cute framed dry erase board for planning out meals.  And, for the most part, she’s not interested in a class on couponing or making your own homemade laundry soap to save money.  She also may not be interested in the “Young Adult” or “Singles Group” at your church if she feels like it is just a bunch of fishermen trying to snag a fish on a hook.

We have created Women’s Ministries around the idea that the majority of our women are married with children, and this focus has caused us to overlook our Single Sisters.  Just as I was caught up in my own life and needs, I neglected to value my single friends… as ministries we can get so caught up in creating programs and events that meet our needs that we neglect the needs of our single women.

What do our Single Sisters (without children) need:

She needs sisterhood.  She is looking for friends and companions.  She wants a few women that she can hang out with on a Friday night, or take a morning jog with.  She wants women in her corner that she can trust to support her, encourage her, and frankly just have fun with her.  

She needs investors.  She is looking for women that are going to speak into her life, words of truth and wisdom.  Women who are willing to walk out faith with her, guide her, and hold her accountable.   She isn’t looking for just a teacher to spout words at her, but investors who are willing to take their time with her.

She needs strength.  Some women embrace singleness, and for others it is a struggle.  If she struggles with singleness, she is going to need your strength to hold her up during those times.  Your strength to hold her accountable when temptation comes her way.  Your strength when her judgment is blinded.  Your strength when a relationship doesn’t work out, or doesn’t happen at all.

She needs Jesus.  Just like the other women in the church, your Single Sisters need opportunities to dig deep in the Word… in away that is not focused on marriage and children, and instead focused on Christ.  She needs to be reminded that her worth is not tied up in how great of a wife she is, how wonderful of a mother, or having Proverbs 31 thrown at her every waking hour.  She needs to know that she is made in God’s image.  That she is valuable and worthy, strong and capable, a daughter and inheritor, and that she is commissioned to His great works.

There are a few things she does not need.

Unless she asks for it, she does not need to be set up on blind dates with your neighbor’s son or college buddy.  She doesn’t need your pity, sympathy, or made to feel less than because she is “still single”.  She doesn’t need to field questions about finding Mr. Right, when there will be a wedding, or if she wants to ever start a family.  She doesn’t need to you to prod her with questions about past relationships to analyze what went wrong or what she could have done differently.  And, she doesn’t need lessons on how to land a good man.  

She needs women who will help her find value and confidence in herself, helping her to view herself the way God sees her. 

As Women’s Ministry leaders we need to be encouraging our Single Sisters to join our leadership team and help us expand our Women’s Ministry to be inclusive and considerate of our Single Sisters.  As we open our eyes and see that these women are part of the mosaic that makes up the sisterhood of believers, we become more intentional about the space we create for them in our community.  

Serving Our Single Sisters

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If you ask someone about the Singles in their church, they will often categorize them into two groups.  First are the Single Mothers, second are the Single Young Adults (college age, early twenties).  However, the Single Sisters in our church are a much broader group.

If I asked you to dig deeper, you might even expand that definition to include women who are over eighteen years of age, women who are single moms that were never married or those who are divorced, and then women in general who are divorced.

But what if I asked you to dig deeper than that?

What about our women who have never been married and are in their forties, fifties, or later in age?

What about our women who are widows?  

What if I asked you to consider our military wives, who are technically married but while their husbands are deployed they are raising their family on their own?

Or, have you considered your married women (mothers) who have husbands who are incarcerated, or in a long term rehab facility?

Our Single Sisters are the ones who are walking a journey without a partner.  Some by choice.  Some by circumstance.  They are the women who are happy and secure in their singleness, and the women who desire a partner and family.

How are we caring for our Single Sisters?  Over the next several weeks we are going to be leaning into this topic on a deeper level.  On June 30th, we will have a local Women’s Ministry Council training event with a special guest speaker on Serving Our Single Sisters.  This meeting will take place in the Treasure Coast, FL area.  Afterwards, we will wrap up this series in the first week of July.

As we begin, we ask you to examine who are the Single Sisters in your church.  Identifying them means that you are seeing them, and that is the first step in serving these beautiful women in our care.