A Leader’s Heart by Trish Jones

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

~ Gena McCown, Co-Founder WMC

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

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

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

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

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

And it should not surprise us at all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(2 Timothy 3:16,17)

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

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

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

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

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

Why a specific women’s ministry?

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

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

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

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

The People We Need in Ministry Work

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I’ve always loved the hands in group huddle.  I believe what is most appealing about this type of encouragement is how no one person stands at the center.  Hands from every direction reach into the center, combining together to create a woven tapestry of people working together to accomplish a task.

Our lives as Christians are not meant to be lived alone, in solitude.  The Lord calls us into fellowship with our family of believers.

Leadership is not meant to be lonely either.  Jesus had his twelve.  The apostles traveled in groups, sometimes with one another or at minimum among their supporters.  They relied on one another to discuss the matters of faith.  When a lot of mixed messages were being sent out, they convened at the Council of Jerusalem in order to set things straight.

I would dig even deeper to point out that the twelve who followed Jesus were not mirrors of Christ, nor each other.  Each person had a different history and story to tell.  They had different personalities and roles to play in the every day work of the ministry.  We too, as leaders, need people who fulfill different roles in our inner circle.

We need a mentor, and we need someone we can teach.  We need an encourage, as much as we need the skeptic in our lives.  We need someone with wisdom and discernment, as well as someone who has the gift of prayer.  We need those who will walk along side us, willing to disagree with us, willing to discuss difficult matters with us.

And, as we build our Women’s Ministry teams… we should seek these same types of people to fulfill those roles.  We can’t have a team made up only those who encourage.  We need people who have passion for teaching and hospitality.  We need people who heed the call to pray for the church, the ministry, and the community.  Women who are fiscally gifted as just as important as they are good stewards with the ministry budget.

Over the next few weeks we are going to explore some of the roles of our leadership teams.  What is the role?  Why is it important?  What does the Bible say about it?  And, how do we find a person to fill that role?

Don’t forget to visit our EVENTS page and RSVP for upcoming events!

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.

 

 

Is Your Ministry Visible?

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On a Saturday morning, when your women’s ministry gathers to serve… who are you serving?   Is it the women of your church?  Their friends, family, and coworkers whom they invited to share in the day.  Or, are your tables filled with unfamiliar faces?  Faces that wear the marks of pain, struggle, loneliness, and longing for something they can’t put their finger on.

On a Saturday morning, when your women’s ministry gathers to serve… where are you serving?   In the comfort of your sanctuary, singing praise music, taking an offering, listening to a speaker?  Are you in the banquet area of your church, detailed centerpieces, a spread of homemade foods to feed an army, watching a bible study video, and having table discussions?  Or, are you out being the hands and the feet to those who are living on the streets, struggling to pay their bills, pulling weeds, painting houses, reading to the blind, shopping for the invalid, and serving the “least of these”?

Let me assure you that there is absolutely nothing wrong with serving the women of our church.  The women in our churches need encouragement, accountability, opportunities for growth, mentorship, and in their times of need we have a responsibility to minister to those needs.  However, this can not be the extent of how we serve our community.  We need to be willing to step out of our comfort zones and church walls.

When we serve the community, we serve like Christ.   When we serve those who are overlooked or outcasts, we serve like Christ.  When we serve others who serve, we serve like Christ.  Look to your community and ask yourself… if I was looking for Christ, where would I find him?  Who would He be talking to, who would He be serving.  Then go, and serve.  I guarantee that He is serving along side you… as you serve the body, He touches their spirit.

What are some tangible ideas for serving your community?

  • Host a luncheon for those who are serving the community in your area, to thank them for their service and to help them refuel their bodies for their work.  I would not limit yourself to only “ministries” either.  For example, you could contact a local food bank and offer to host a thank you luncheon for their volunteers.   Treat the teachers who work in the most troubled schools to a breakfast treat or catered lunch.
  • Host a baby shower for the local crisis pregnancy center to restock their inventory of goods they distribute to their clients.
  • Pack up bags for the homeless that contain a snack, hygiene items, etc. and plan a date to hit the streets and distribute them.  Pinterest has a ton of great suggestions for this project.
  • Host a luncheon for women who are being freed from the local prison, as part of their transition process.  Feed them, pray over them, find out what needs they have for reentering society, and then see what you can drum up.  Coordinate with a local salon to host a day of free haircuts for the women, a local thrift store to give each woman a certificate for 1 complete outfit for interviews.  Find out what items they can take ba the prison with them, and make gift bags filled with those items to bring back with them.  Or, find volunteers willing to go to the prisons and pray/minister to the women.
  • Volunteer at local soup kitchens, women’s shelters, etc.  Give time, or even begin a regular process of collecting donations for their needs.  Include bringing those needed items as part of your admission to an event.
  • Find local speakers for your events who are willing to donate their time, while the money from the tickets goes to organizations in need within the community.  Use your brunches as an avenue to collect money or goods.
  • Hold your next brunch somewhere in the community, a local restaurant or park.  Post signs that the community is welcome.
  • Find empty nesters in your church who love children, and pair them up with young teen or single mothers for mentoring.  These are women who need childcare in order to go to work. Foster a real relationship building opportunity.
  • Partner with other churches and create a support group for our Female Combat Veterans.
  • Create a tutoring center for single mothers who are trying to earn their college degree (or high school).  Or, a workshop that teaches English to speakers of other languages.
  • Bring gift baskets to the local strip club for the women who work their, remind them of their value.
  • Host bible studies in community centers, retirement homes, nursing/rehab facilities.
  • Find a neighboring church and host a lunch for their ministry leaders (Pastors, staff, study leaders, ministry leaders).

These are just a few ideas on what you can do in your community to let them know they are seen, known, and cared for.  Just close your eyes and pray… “Lord, give me your eyes to see the needs.  Give me courage to step out of my comfort zone in order to serve those whom you love.  Point me in the direction in which you want me to go.  Here I am Lord, send me.  Amen.”

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.

Ministry Spotlight: One Child Matters

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This summer, at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference, I happened to come across a great ministry in the Exhibition Hall.  After spending quite a few minutes talking ministry with their representative Curtis Wilson, I fell head over for the work that One Child Matters is doing for children all over the world & the impact that they are having on communities.  What is beautiful about partnering up with a ministry like One Child Matters, is that there is a impact not only abroad but in our churches, communities, and in ourselves.

The very first time my family ever sponsored a child from another country, we specifically chose a child who was similar to age as our children.  It’s been beautiful to watch her grow up and turn into a young woman who is not only growing in her faith but dedicated to being a positive influence on her own community.  One of my most treasured possessions is a letter she wrote to us where she shared how she prays for us.  When I think of the difference in our lives and opportunities, to know that she is praying for us is a humbling reminder that we are all in this life together.  We are all family, brothers and sisters… sons and daughters… of the King.  Family cares for and prays for each other, regardless of the number of miles between us.

If your church or Women’s Ministry is looking for an organization to partner with… I am thrilled to recommend One Child Matters as a suggestion.  There are children available for sponsorship, as well as missions trip opportunities, and you can request a speaker from One Child Matters to speak at your church or next Women’s Ministry event. 

For more information, please visit their websiteOr, you can contact Curtis Wilson directly at 614.560.5742  and on Twitter @CurtisDWilson

If you are a local Women’s Ministry Leader or Pastor’s wife, in the Treasure Coast or South Florida, visit our facebook page.  Curtis Wilson will be traveling to our area to share One Child Matters with local churches, and there will be a special dinner event for Women’s Ministry Leaders/Pastor’s Wives. You can add your name & church name to our list & we will make sure you receive an invitation to the event.

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.

Pray Top Down

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A standard protocol for any ministry is to pray for God’s protection and favor over their work.  At a Women’s Ministry team meeting, we may pray for each others’ personal requests, for the event we are planning, and the women in the church. How often do you make sure to include praying for your Pastor, Staff, Church, and the Community it is serving?

So often we are focused on our own ministry needs that we forget that we are part of a bigger ministry in our community.  We are focused on our own ministry, and our own church… and we may forget about the other ministries and churches that are serving in our areas as well.  We also may be so focused on our role in serving in our ministry area that we forget that we are part of a body larger that we serve as well.

As we delve into the topic of Prayer & Worship in your Women’s Ministry at this weekends training event, we want to make sure that we don’t neglect to remind our leaders the importance of praying beyond your ministry.  We are grateful for The Good Book Company’s book “5 Things to Pray for Your Church”, which walks you through the ways you can be praying for your church, your role within it, and beyond your church walls.  The women attending our training event will be receiving a copy of this book courtesy of The Good Book Company.

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A posture of prayer needs to start from the top down.  As ministry workers who are part of a larger church body, before we begin praying for our own ministry needs and direction, we must begin with the church from the top down.  We pray for protection over the building, and we pray that our Pastors will be protected & have wisdom in shepherding the flock. We can even go a step further up, as we pray for our country and elected officials and how they will respond, represent, and protect the rights of the church.

As we lead the women in our church to a posture of prayer, and model the behavior and practice before them, we can also help them to foster a position of prayer over the church they call home.

Lead Them to Pray

This week, in preparation for our Prayer & Worship Training Event , the Women’s Ministry Council invited member Jenny Andrews to contribute to the conversation.  Jenny is going to share with us practical tips for Starting a Prayer Team  in your Women’s Ministry. 
Before starting or agreeing to start either ministry in the church be sure to go before the Lord in prayer  about what it takes to start either or both. Both take time and both require diligence. Like any good steward we are called to count the cost of starting a ministry or team.
After you have done that if you are feeling called go see the Pastor who would be responsible for such ministry. My Senior Pastor was not over this particular ministry, the Associate Pastor was so I went to him. Or, connect with current prayer team leader and ask to how you can help.
I would ask a few important questions:
1. What is your vision for prayer in the church/women’s ministry?
          a. Most likely the pastor and other leaders are aware of the weak areas in the body of  Christ and they can help you be intentional on specific areas of prayer.  (i.e. prayer  chain, prayer team, prayer room, prayer night)
2. How can I help you in that vision?
Once you get those questions answered it is now time to pray about building a team for the prayer ministry.  Use the pastor’s vision as your guideline for the prayer vision for the year. Meet with them yearly around the same time the recast vision and assess prayer needs.
1. Start with key leadership and ask them if they are aware of any women who they would
consider women of prayer.
2. Begin looking for woman in your small group or in casual conversations who are desiring to pray with you and others.
3. Make a list of people and begin praying over them.
4. Make a list of responsibilities that would be required to be a part of the team.
          a. i.e. no gossiping, live life of godliness (not perfection), willing to learn.
          b. You can also look online fore prayer guidelines that will help you make up your list.
          c. Do a separate list of responsibilities for prayer team and for prayer room if you are   doing both.
 5. Send out personal invites to the potential team members for a meet and greet.
 6. Plan out a year of prayer events before meet and greet
          a. Have your dates in writing, you don’t have to have details of events or meetings       just that they are happening.
          b. Get on the church calendar schedule so they know you are having events.
 7. Pray for a potential assistant or co-leader for team they will help you tremendously.
8. At the meet and greet:
           a. Share the vision of the team/room.
          b. Share the responsibilities
          c. Allow them to have input on needs of prayer
           d. Share with them calendar
          e. Do brainstorm for prayer event ideas
          f. Look for potential leader to help you in this meeting
 9. Follow through with events
10. Keep team up to date on everything and encourage them often.
Remember this is not a to-do list it is a suggested list and can be tweaked to fit your particular church  body needs.
Study to show yourself approved. I would encourage you to study spiritual warfare as it  goes hand and hand with prayer. My encouragement would be David Platt’s series on Angels, demons and spiritual warfare. Pray for discernment and wisdom often as you will need it. Research praying scripture and praying God’s will in accordance with the bible.
It will be a slow process and it does take time but your efforts and diligence will pay off in the long run.  Remember to keep Christ as the center of you prayer team and never be afraid to ask for help in area unknown to you. Remain teachable and steadfast in prayer.
Prayer meetings can happen anywhere.   You can host them in the main sanctuary of your church, or even at a local park.  A popular trend is the establishing of a prayer room in your church.  This is usually a quite space, where women can come to pray alone or in groups.  Some are decorated and stocked with resources on prayers, and others are just a friendly space with some chairs.  A door that can close for privacy is recommended.   You may even choose to have a prayer garden or walk on your church property.  For some ideas on Prayer Rooms, visit our Pinterest Page.

Jenny Andrews is a wife of 14 yrs, a mother to 3 wonderful boys and a devoted followed of Jesus. She desires to encourage and equip women to be all that the Lord has called them be.  She enjoys speaking and teaching the Word of God. For more information you can find Jenny Andrews on her Facebook page.

Small Group Series – Q & A

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

We’ve come to the end of our series, however this series couldn’t possibly answer or address every question or need on the subject.  We are going to close this series by answering questions that were submitted earlier in the series, and hopefully in doing so … we’ll fill the gaps.

Q:  What is the difference between a Small Group, Life Group, Adult Sunday School, and Bible Study?  Do we need them all, and if so why?

A:   To a certain extent, it really is semantics.  In many churches these terms are interchangeable,   Small Groups and Life Groups are especially.  Generally speaking, Small Groups and Life Groups are intentional groups of church members (usually under 12 people) that are “going through life” together.  They may study the bible, a helpful book, or even weekly topical studies together.  The purpose of the group is spiritual growth, relationship building, and accountability.  Bible Studies and Adult Sunday School, are more akin to traditional models of group study.  They are generally larger, and stick to scriptural study.  This may be in the way of expository (line by line exploration of the scriptures) or using printed Bible Study curriculum.    Over the years, the lines have smudged a bit and Bible Study Groups may elect to study a helpful book, or a small group may grow into a “large group”.   I believe they all share the same goal for spiritual growth, although small groups and life groups create more relationships building opportunities.

Q:  How do I get people to sign up for my Small Group?

A:  There are a few ways to get interest built in your small group.  First, I think we need to do a better job of talking up our small groups before the official sign up period.  This also includes making sure that we are clear about the details, date… time… place… number of weeks… childcare… cost… etc.  Bring it up among your friends, post it on your facebook page, etc.  In the churches we should also make a purpose to highlight small groups leading up to the signs ups with intro videos playing between services, information in the church lobby, etc.   

Second, personal invitation is a great way to bring people into the fold, it tells the women you encounter that you want to get to know them better or would like to share this experience of growing in faith with them.  One thing that can happen (it’s happen to me personally) is that as life groups grow and leaders are developed your personal circle of friends may become life group leaders.  You can actually run out of women to invite, because you don’t know them.  This means you need to get intentional about meeting new women in the church.  

Third, we have to remember the saying “out of sight, out of mind”.  Many people have the intention of signing up for small groups & will forget.  It is important that when we are announcing small groups at church or a women’s event that we have a way for them to sign up immediately.  A kiosk in the lobby that directs to a digital sign up or an old fashioned table with clipboards set up in the lobby, either are great ways to get the women to sign up before they get home and life gets in the way.  Another option is a Small Groups Kick-off Brunch.

Q:  How do we fund our small groups?

A:  If small groups are part of the church vision, then when it comes to the purchasing of leader materials (video, leader guide, etc) this is an investment the church or Women’s Ministry makes.  Then, each participant can purchase their own workbook.  Many publishers off bulk discounts on materials that could save the participants money, but this requires collecting the $ in advance or the church purchasing materials that may go unused if the sign up is less than expected.  I suggest picking a publisher that has a good array of materials, so that you can build an account and relationship with that publisher. 

Present your small group menu well in advance for your church members to sign up, and take payment when they sign up.  This allows you to only order the materials you need.  People who have paid at the time they sign up are more likely to stick through the commitment as well.  Then, when the Small Group meets for the first time, you can distribute their books.    This also helps your leaders know exactly how many people to plan for.   When we allow people to sign up, and then purchase their own workbook… we have no clue on who is actually going to follow through & show up.   When we require our Small Group leaders to fund the group themselves, we lessen the number of leaders who are going to volunteer to lead. 

If you are a small church, church plant, or a ministry independent of a church… funding the study may not be in the budget.  Then, as a Small Group leader consider dispersing the cost of the materials among everyone in the group.  $100 leader kid, $10 workbook… 10 women in the group, everyone pays $20.  Or if the church can budget $50 towards the leader kit, each woman pays just $15.    Also consider, if you are on a tight budget, video series where you don’t need the workbooks (or vice versa).  Share materials with other Small Group Leaders, or find a larger church you can establish a relationship with and borrow materials.  Or, teach an expository or weekly topical study that doesn’t require anything more than your bible.

Q:  How can I lead good discussions in our group vs. asking “what does this scripture say”? 

A:  I think discussion questions are a huge trip up for some small group leaders, which is why they like to purchase curriculum versus writing/teaching their own.  In this case, the leader guide generally has discussion question prompts in place and you are following a script.  I believe this is a great option for new leaders, because they can get their feet wet in the process of small group leading.  For seasoned leaders, what I suggest is to begin with the purpose you chose this particular study.  What is the goal, what do you hope the women achieve by completing this study independently and as a group.  Once you identify your goal for the study, you can then create questions that are going to move the women toward that goal.  Creating questions that gently guide them to the “ah-ha” moment.  In fact, this is why I strongly suggest having your goal in place before you even pick the study.  If you are picking a study because it’s popular, or “looks good”, there isn’t a goal in place.  Without a goal, you will struggle to come up with engaging questions.  With a goal first, you will find your questions are in place, and you select a study that helps answer those questions.

If you questions are not your thing, you can always ask someone else in your group to lead that portion.  I must admit, some people are just better at it than others.  You could even assign that task to multiple women in the study, each week a different person is tasked with writing the discussion questions.  Also, when you preview the material ahead of the group vs. watching it for the first time with them… take notes.  The points you thought were worth writing down can become the launching point of the questions you ask.

Q:  When should a Small Group be “OPEN”, “CLOSED”, or “DROP IN” in regards to attendance/members.

A:   There are only two Small Groups in which I think “DROP IN” is appropriate.  1st, is the very first week.  If someone isn’t certain if this particular study is something they want to commit to, allow them to drop in for the first session and view the introduction with the group.  2nd, is if your Small Group is a topical study that changes from week to week.  This allows the women to drop in only on the topics that interest them.  I love this option for seasoned believers or busy women who are trying to plug in but their schedule doesn’t allow for a long term commitment. 

Open Groups are great for big topics.  For example if you church offers Dave Ramsey Financial Peace as a Small Group, this is a perfect for Open Groups.  Expository or Book By Book Study Groups are also appropriate for Open Groups, as they are working through the scriptures.  Open Groups are great for new leaders who are leading their first small group, or leaders who are more interested in getting to know other women in the church.  Open Groups are important to have so that the women who attend your church have an opportunity to find their fit within a group of women vs. being thrust into a group where they can’t connect.

Equally, Closed Groups are also important to have in the church because these are the groups where deeper fellowship and accountability occur.  Most Closed Groups start that way, a group of women who decided to meet together as a Small Group.  However they are not advertising their group to the church, but letting you as the WM Leader know that they are part of a group.  Other Closed Groups start off as Drop In or Open Groups, that over time relationships began to form and they make the conscious decision to continue close the group to new members.  Closed Groups are important because the relationships that develop are deeper, there is accountability in this group, personal information begins to be shared, etc.  At this point it is important to protect that group by closing the group.  Then it is up to the leader and group to determine if, when, and who is added to the group. 

It is my belief that all three of these types of groups should be happening in your church.  Open Groups and Drop In Groups are the first stop usually for new members in the church, guests, etc.  This is where they can test the waters, get introduced to how small groups work, and find their fit.  Closed Groups are the ones where real relationships are developed, and I believe the long term goal for each woman in your church should be to move from an Open/Drop In Group to a Closed Group.  Our Small Group menus should be very intentional.

Q:  How Do I Refresh Interest After A Year?

A:  When interest starts to wane, the first question we need to really understand is WHY that happened.  Was the study too intense?  Too long?  Did we notice interest started to drop about half way through?  Or, did women disengage almost at the beginning?  Then we can move onto examining other possibilities.

If a study is too long, or too intense, it could just mean that the women need a break.  Either a literal break, taking a few weeks or months off.  Or, a break in the material itself and as a leader I need to find something a little bit lighter for our next round.   If we notice that somewhere between the beginning and middle, women were already disengaging… that is generally a good indicator that the study materials were lacking in some way.  Maybe the speaker on the video was not engaging, wasn’t understood, or the content seemed very dated.  It could be that the video was great, but the homework in between was monotonous or unchallenging.  On the other hand it could be that the homework was overwhelming.  I’ve experienced both.  This is why I stand firm on intentional small group study selections, we need to not just grab an interesting title off the shelf, but walk through it ourselves or seek suggestions from others.  You just never know what you are going to get.

If none of the above seems to be the case, my next suggestion is to ask the group.  Maybe their needs have changed, or it’s time to reevaluate the goal for the group.  If your goal as leader was to strengthen the marriages of your group members, and you have done six studies on a row relating to relationship building… maybe it’s time to mix it up.  Move to a study that actually is willing to talk about the physical aspects of marriage.  Has your group moved from young married couples to married couples with children.  Then it may be time to switch from studies on marriage to studies on parenting.  Talk to the group members and see what they want to study next.  If you’ve been leading expository studies on the Old Testament, maybe it’s time to take a jump forward to the Gospels for a bit.    Or, it may be time to bring in fresh faces and invite some new women to your closed group.  You may also need to consider that your group is ready to split, and begin leading their own groups.  Finally, you need to prayerfully consider if the Lord is prompting you to take a break.  It could be that you are entering a season of life where you are called to be the student. 

When interest wanes, something in the dynamic of the group isn’t working.  Once you have explored all of the questions about the form and function of the group, there are only technical questions left.  Such as… has our groups availability changed and we need to set a new day/time, has this group just met it’s purpose and it is time to disband entirely.