Worship in Women’s Ministry by Sheila Thomas

Hurricane Irma Recovery & Relief:  We are still collecting data on how and when our long distance friends can help the recovery and relief efforts.  Many areas are inaccessible until the power company can clear downed lines and ensure the area is safe.  We will update on how you can help as soon as information is available.  Please note, if you have family in The Florida Keys:  Power, landline phones, and cellular service is out throughout the keys.  However reports of those who stayed behind on the islands has so far been good.  They are ok, just unable to call family to check in.

What in the Word Series contributor: Sheila Thomas on:

WHAT IN THE WORD DOES IT SAY ABOUT WORSHIP IN WOMEN’S MINISTRY?

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Several months ago I was asked to speak about the importance of worship in women’s ministry today. I was honored and happy to do it. Why? It’s my heart. I love women’s ministry and I love worship.

So when thinking and praying about writing my article for this month, I felt led to share my thoughts again on this subject.

I feel it’s so important to ask God to show us how to worship. What does he want from us? He wants our adoration and praise. He wants us to “be in the moment” of praise and worship.

So many times it’s easy to be in a church service, but not really be there. You know what I mean? Our minds wander. We start thinking about our next day’s activities. What’s for dinner? What do I have to do tomorrow at work? Does my child have her homework done? Or worse yet, maybe you’re like me and you are easily distracted with the people surrounding you at church. “Oh, my! What was she thinking wearing THAT??!” Or “Gracious! She has a major sleep hole in her hair!”

Okay, maybe you’re not like me. I call it my crazy sense of humor. But really and truly, it could be me having a critical spirit. Lord, help me.

Years ago I found myself in a church where the musicians were less than good. Bless their hearts. They were doing their best, but for a music teacher (that’s me), I found it very hard to be able to focus on worship.

I began to talk to God about it and here’s what I heard Him say: You’re a music teacher. You are a trained musician. Your job all week long it to critique your students. It’s normal that you find yourself doing that in church. But close your eyes. Sing a little louder yourself and think of what you’re actually doing and not what they sound/look like.” I began to do that and found that I could actually worship God in spite of the less than excellent quality of the music.

Many things can distract us from worshipping God. Not even just in church, but in our everyday lives. We can find ourselves grumbling and complaining. We are sometimes just plain tired from all our necessary duties in our lives.

But God wants to be present in our everyday lives. Our days will go so much better if we will learn to praise Him instead of grumbling and complaining.

Worship is not just singing at church. Worship is done in our hearts and minds. So let’s look at what worship really is.

Worship:

The feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity.

Honor given to someone in recognition of their merit.

Take part in a religious ceremony.

A divine encounter with God.

You can see from these definitions that it does not necessarily mean to sing. However we have come to think of worship as music done in a church service. For the sake of time, I’m going to be focusing on that today.

As a voice Teacher, I was interested to know that there are actually health benefits to singing.

Singing helps you to live longer, produces endorphins (the “happiness hormone”), helps the body produce oxytocin, which helps reduce stress, improves your cardiac rhythm, reducing the risk of heart disease. And if you sing correctly, if helps train your stomach muscles and diaphragm. It is a great exercise for your lungs, strengthens your immunity, increasing the concentration of immunoglobulin A, helps your brain develop, and it’s the best method to get better memory. If you sing with other people, you’ll find yourself feeling more self-confident! That’s how positive singing can be!

God thinks music is very important. There are at least 63 scriptures on music in the Bible.

Psalm 104:33: “I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.”

Psa. 47: 1-2: “Come, everyone! Clap your hands! Shout to God with joyful praise! For the LORD Most High is awesome. He is the great King of all the earth.”

I Tim. 2:8: “In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.”

One of my favorite verses is Zephaniah 3:17: “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

The Bible even speaks of winning battles through music. In II Chronicles 20 Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and praise him for the splendor of his Holiness as they went out at the head of the army, giving thanks to God because his love endures forever! And as they began to do this, the Lord sent ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, who were invading Judah, and they were defeated!

Battles are definitely won through our praise. When we sing and worship God together, we are creating an atmosphere for God to move. So important!

Our enemy, the devil, knows how important it is. Why do you think he messes in musicians’ lives so much? If he can cause them to be full of pride, jealousy, envy, lust, etc. , he can thwart God’s plans.

Many believe that Satan was the worship leader in heaven.

Christian and Jewish Biblical scholars draw conclusions from Ezekiel 28:12-17 and Isaiah 14:12-14, claiming that Satan was once an angelic musician; a great worship leader of Heaven. Equally studious examiners of the Word debate that these Scriptures are not referring to Satan and/or that referring to him as a worship leader is not indicated.

Whether or not Satan was a heavenly worship leader before his fall from heaven may be an ongoing debate until Jesus comes back. That he is an adversary of God is supported obviously in both New and Old Testament Scriptures (Zachariah 3:1-2;Job 2; Matthew 4:1-11; I Corinthians 10:21; Revelations 20:10).

Satan hates those who choose to praise and worship the Creator and he fights against them. He is especially concerned when believers gather together for corporate times of praise.


Focus on God creates the humble heart that attracts the favor of God. So Satan attempts to redirect the believer’s focus to anything but God. The most common way the enemy tries to interrupt the flow of corporate praise and worship is by stirring up pride and/or fear.

Whether it’s true or not that Satan was the worship leader, he definitely hates worshippers. How many times have you seen him affect the music as well as the people involved in church music?

Praise is a weapon of spiritual warfare. We must use it!

There will be music in heaven. The Bible speaks of it. Rev. 19:1-7 talks about singing, mass choirs, harps and being played.

We know that music is a gift from God and is important to Him. And not for just our pleasure, but to worship Him, to conquer the enemy, and for our own well being. I believe that our participation in worship is getting us ready to worship in Heaven.

In women’s ministry, worship is needed. Women are tired. They come to a church event needing to be refueled. Not only do we need to know the Scriptures and have fellowship and discussion time. Not only do we need to know ABOUT God. But we need to experience, worship and show our love to God. He loves our adoration and praise.

Battles are won through our worship. It takes our minds off ourselves. We put our thoughts and hearts on God. We lift our hands in praise and worship to Him.

Heaven is going to be a place full of worship. We are getting ready to participate in the BEST WORSHIP EVER!

“When we, God’s people, come into His presence with thanksgiving and praise, warfare is waged against our enemies, and our battles are won by the supernatural power of God. In the face of challenge and persecution, God’s people are to unite and praise Him. The enemy has no chance of winning against people who are consumed with praising God. There is no victory against those who rejoice in God’s great glory.” (From “Extravagant Worship” page 52 by Darlene Zschech)

II Chron. 5:4-8, 11-14 says that they were joining in unison in one voice giving praise and thanks to God. There’s something powerful about being in one accord. They were accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, and they raised their voices singing, “He is good; his love endures forever.”

Then it says that the temple of the Lord was filled with a cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filed the temple of God. Who knows what would happen if we as women would get together and just praise Him together in unity.

God wants to meet with us. He wants us to have an encounter with the Holy Spirit as we worship together. It’s not just a duty or a part of the program to have a few little songs to sing. What would happen if we totally abandoned ourselves in worship and didn’t care what anyone else thought?

I realize there are programs and time constraints. We have to be considerate of those things. I don’t know about you, But I’m hungry to experience the fullness of God. To really see Him move. See permanent change in women. In our relationships. In our marriages. In our children and grandchildren. In our finances. In our health.

In order for this to happen, we have to spend some time with God. It just might be a sacrifice worth making. Granted, some are not comfortable with that. What if something weird happened? What if someone gets out of order? You know, I just think God is big enough to handle that. Are we really willing to forfeit the move of God because we fear something will get out of order or weird?

In God’s presence is where we get revelation and transformation. It’s where miracles happen. Lives are changed. People are delivered and we become more like Christ.

Let’s be willing to get out of our comfort zones. Let’s ask God to come visit our women’s ministry. Let’s not have our plans so firm that we can’t allow God to do what HE wants to do.

It’s not OUR ministry. It’s GOD’S ministry. Let’s welcome Him. Maybe more people will be changed than just in following our little ideas for ministry.

I’m tired of status quo. I’m ready for God to move. We need God. Our nation needs God. We could be the change the world needs to see! Let’s pray.

Team Series: Hospitality

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Team Series:  Hospitality by Gena McCown

Hospitality is probably one of the most beautiful words in the English language, especially if you are a Southern Girl.  Hospitality smells of fresh brewed coffee on the other side of an unlocked door, where the mat says “Always Welcome”.  It reminds me of a time where friends just stopped by to shoot the breeze, and inviting people into our home was a regular occurrence.  Women gathered around the kitchen table or in the livingroom, bibles open and snacking on homemade lemon bars.  Sweet Tea on the back porch as we prayed over each other.  My Great Aunt’s perfumed powder wafting across the nose of every woman she greeted with a hug as they crossed her threshold.

Hospitality is what makes us feel welcomed into a space, warm and relaxed… at home. 

There are some women who are simply PRONE to hospitality, it is their genetic code.  They will look for ways to invite people into their home.  Quick to volunteer to host a luncheon or meeting.  There will always been enough food, and drinks.  The bathroom will smell of fresh dried lavender.  There will be a chocolate mint on every pillow at the retreat center.  She lives to make people feel special, and loved. 

This woman is important to your Women’s Ministry, this is a role to be on your top priority to fill. Why?

Hospitality Leaders are:

  • Women of influence.  Typically if they go to an event, they bring and encourage others to come too.  My Pastor’s wife calls them “connectors”.
  • Genuinely are excited to see every woman who enters the room, and make it a point of meeting the new faces.
  • Generous with their homes and time.
  • Quick to organize meals for the sick, new moms, new families, etc.
  • Find joy in the details of their tasks.
  • Have vast amounts of knowledge when it comes to finding locations for events from luncheons to weekend long retreats.
  • Are usually effective event planners, or at least great on event teams.
  • They have an eye for femininity that pragmatic leaders tend to lack, but those attending our events will appreciate.

Their Role in Ministry:

  • Event Planning Leader/Team – brunches, luncheons, retreats, teas, etc.
  • Meals Ministry Leader/Team – sick, new mom, etc.
  • Welcoming Committee Leader/Team – how do we welcome new women to our church?
  • Hosting Team Meetings or planning meetings (even if they are on the team)

A note of caution, women who have the gift of hospitality are often creative types.  Which means for events like retreats, you may do best to pair them with an A type personality.  One is in charge of the schedule, finding the speakers, planning the technical side of the event; the other is responsible for the meals, special touches, speaker gifts, etc.   It is important to know your women, their gifts and strengths… as well as their weaknesses.  Occasionally you have the blessing of a woman with the gift of hospitality and administration, and she’s the gal whom you can give the whole task and trust she’ll get it done. 

Women with the gift of hospitality are also typically generous and will have beautiful ideas to make women feel special and welcomed at events.  However, these special touches can impact your event budgets.  It is important to be clear with your hospitality leader the budget she has for her tasks.  I have known many of these women who would be happy to pay out of their own pockets to make up the difference, but I do generally ask them not to.  Simply because we need to keep up a budget that all team members present and future can work with.  If she supplements her budget, out of pocket, yes the event will be magnificent… but it may be hard for a future leader who replaces her to do the same.  Encourage these women to do the best they can within the agreed budget, but don’t be surprised if they “gift” a thing or two over time.

 

Team Series: Second In Command

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Team Series:  The 2nd in Command by Gena McCown

One of the first tasks any good leader should do is to find, appoint, equip, and build up second in command.  A President has a Vice President, executives have junior executives, even Pastors have Associate Pastors or Elders they can call on.  Why is this an important role to fill on your ministry team? 

What if the Lord removed you from your Women’s Ministry right this second?  What would happen?

A family emergency takes you unexpectedly out of town.  One of your children become hospitalized.  Your spouse gets reassigned and you have to move this weekend.  You are threatened with a health crisis of your own.

Any number of things can happen that will unexpectedly pull us away from our ministry work, sometimes it is temporary and other times it is not.  Could your team function in your absence?  I’ve always felt the mark of a good leader is that their absence is not noticed. 

I have been on a team where this happened, and we were left scrambling.  It wasn’t that she was a bad leader, in many ways she was a great leader.  However, she had never taken any one under her wing to serve as a second in command.   When she left, we had a lot of plans on the calendars but none of us knew all the background info that she had been working on.   There we many decisions that needed to be made and a weight of uncertainty in the air.  Had there been someone working directly under her, who had knowledge of these details… it would have been a much easier process.

There are primary two ways you can work with a second in command, the first is similar to a hierarchy structure. This leader in training is kept up to date with the details of the ministry, but doesn’t have any more power than other members of the team.  You will walk them through the ropes of running the ministry, but you hold all executive power in the final decision making.  Their purpose is to be ready to take over the reigns of the ministry, should the time come.  

The second way is as a Co-Leader, this woman will have a bit more power/pull/weight to her opinion than other team members.  She may not have the ultimate say when it comes to the ministry decisions, but her opinion carries greater influence.  Her role is to slip in and out of leading the group as needed.  This is the woman who can fill in while the leader is on vacation, or take over for a matter of few months when a leader is going through a crisis.  In a large ministry, you may even have more than 1 co-leader and even give them particular team members that they oversee. 

In both cases the Women’s Ministry Leader is responsible for developing these future leaders to take over her job.  However in the case of a Leader in Training, this is your ace in your back pocket that you bring out only when you need to.  Whereas a Co-Leader has a far more active role in the ongoing ministry work.

A Second in Command Leader Should:

  • Have a heart for women’s ministry in the church and community.
  • Dedicated to the church, and exhibit a solid relationship with Christ.
  • She should be trainable, you don’t need a person with experience.
  • Dependable, showing up to meetings regularly and completes her tasks.
  • Shares ideas that will help the ministry function better.
  • Excited by serving others.

What She Should Know:

  • Keep her up to date on the ministry finances.
  • Location of important documents, passwords, keys, codes, etc.
  • Contact information and details associated with event planning.
  • Overview of information pertinent to the Women’s Ministry from staff meetings or the Pastor (only information pertinent to WM, please).
  • Access to team members contact information.
  • Overview of meeting agendas in advance, and what are her meeting responsibilities.

In the past, Women’s Ministry Leaders have created binders full of important ministry information that could be passed like a baton to incoming leaders.  Now, we can share documents online via google documents (if you have a gmail account).  This helps leaders stay connected, work and update tasks between meetings, etc.  If you are interested in starting a Women’s Ministry Binder… check out Pinterest for GREAT suggestions, printable worksheets, and more.

I love to see these developing leaders active versus people I siphon information into.  So, intermittently as part of training, allow her to completely lead a meeting from start to finish.  You can work her up to this by giving her small responsibilities and increasing them over time.  Give her a larger task to oversee, like planning a brunch or finding new small group leaders.  See if she has a passion for something to add into the ministry that you can put her at the helm, like a prayer ministry or mentoring program.

While it is great to have a second in command who has a similar ministry vision as you, it’s also great to bring someone along side you that has new ideas to bring to the table.  You may wish to strategically develop a younger woman, select a woman who is transitioning out of another ministry leadership role (previous MOPS Leaders are great for future Women’s Ministry Leaders), or you could find someone that just has a HUGE heart for women.  While experience isn’t necessary, their level of experience will determine how much time you need to spend developing their skills.

We can predict when a changing of the guard is going to happen, but when it is within our ability we should make sure this woman is fully ready to assume command of the ministry before we retire or voluntarily step down.  You can begin by steadily increasing her leadership, while culling your leadership back.  This also makes for an easier transition for your team members who have served loyally with you over the past years.  Give your team members advanced notice that you are planning to step down in a few months and that you are transitioning the new leader into place.  When they come to you with questions or concerns  funnel them toward the new leader instead of dealing with it yourself.  You are not only training a new leader, but the team to trust her leadership.

If you plan on still serving with the Women’s Ministry after stepping down form leadership, I recommend taking a few months off.  Allow the women to get accustomed to serving under the new leadership, and then ease yourself back in.  Leaders leave a legacy even when they don’t intend to, and it can take time for members to adjust to a different leadership style and new ideas.  Change is hard, even in ministry service.

Ministry Spotlight: MOPS International

 

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This month, across the country and in many parts of the word, mothers of presechoolers are gathering at local churches for fellowship, support, encouragement, resources, and relationships.  An exciting facet is that Jesus is always invited too.

When my husband and I relocated to a new city, over an hour away, we didn’t know a single person here.  At that time we had an 8 year old and a 4 year old… however within just a few months I found out our third was on the way.  We were still trying to find a church home, our neighborhood didn’t have any other families with young children, and I was so very alone.   My first thoughts were:  “I need to find a MOPS group”.

I was already familiar with MOPS from my previous city and I knew that finding a local group would be a great way for me to meet people in my community that were in the same stage of life.  I also knew that MOPS groups were made up of women from various churches, which gave me an opportunity to be a part of a group while we were still searching for our home church.  For me, MOPS was a way to plug into community.

Over the last 17 years, I have watched women come to MOPS for many reasons.  What I also saw was how much MOPS became an avenue that led women and their families into the church.  MOPS Moms would sign their kids up for VBS.  The next year they were signing up as VBS volunteers.  They would trickle into family or kids events at the church, and then you would begin to see them at church on Sunday mornings.

There were some moms who ended up staying in our MOPS group, but their families would attend a church closer to their home.  Some would even start MOPS groups in their new church home.  MOPS is a blessing to both the mothers who are served and the churches in which they become part of the community.

Many communities, like our own, have MOPS groups with waiting lists because they’ve reached maximum capacity.  MOPS is one of those ministries, that in my opinion, you simply can’t have enough of.  Staring a MOPS group is an easy process that begins with the desire to serve our mothers with preschool aged children.

If you are interested in starting up a MOPS group in your church and community, visit their website or speak with another local MOPS leader.

 

 

Prayer & Worship, Training Event Recap

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

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

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

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

Worship Matters

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

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

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

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

Praying Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Heart of Worship

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

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

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

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

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

Small Group Series #4- When We Meet

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

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

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

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

RUNNING THE MEETING:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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