I Am Found – #Write31Days

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Talk about being behind.  It’s been a whirl wind summer of discovery for me, deep thinking, faith changing… just a big summer.  I’ve been challenged a lot.  I’m seeing things a bit differently.  This study had a helping hand in opening my eyes to those around me.  It’s only a 6 week study, but one that I feel about 6 months overdue in sharing with you.  Ok, maybe not that long.

I was given the opportunity to get a sneak peek at I am Found, when Moody Publishers selected me to be a part of a launch team.  The study is now available for sale, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Is this you?

Do you long for connection, but surround yourself with walls and a closed heart?

Do you battle shame, but long to be known and deeply loved by God?  By others?

Are you hesitant to show others the real you?  Do you fear rejection?

Do you desire to just been SEEN?  Do you feel invisible to God?  Are you hiding by choice?

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I remember walking up to the counter at my Publix Deli.  It was SWAMPED.  The line was long, patience was wearing thing, the employees were doing their best.  When my number was called, I began placing my order with the manners in which my grandmother instilled in me.  Yes ma’am.  No ma’am.  Thank you ma’am.  The woman who was serving me was worn out, you could see it in her face.  It was tired, stressed, and the line after me was growing.  When she handed me the last of my packages, I took a glimpse at her name tag.  I said “Thank you, Linda.  Have a blessed day”.

Immediately her eyes lit up, a smile appeared on her face, she relaxed just a bit.  She responded with the normal “You’re welcome” and tacked on a “have a great day too”.  Her attitude had shifted.  I believe it was because someone recognized her.  Yes, she may have been running my face through her memory trying to place me.  Do we go to church together?  Does she shop here often?   Or, perhaps it was just as simple as being noticed in the sea of the hustle and bustle, the chaos and stress.

I believe we all have a deep desire to be seen by God, by others.  We want to know that we are valued, wanted, desired.  We hope that others will recognize our gifts and talent, our hard work and dedication.  It isn’t even about having accolades tossed our way, being promoted and given a raise.  Sometimes it is literally just wanting to know that someone sees us.  Or, when we suffer that someone cares about us.

There are instances where we have created that environment because we have been shackled by guilt and carry the burden of shame.  We build up walls around us so no one sees the real us, yet at the same time we scream out for people to see the false us.  It’s almost like slight of hand.  Look at the fake me, the perfect me, who as it all together… so that you don’t see the flawed me, the imperfect me, who is barely keeping it together.

There are times we hide because we have been hurt by others.  Afraid to let people in, yet desperate to not walk through life alone.  We constantly push and pull people, in and out of our lives.

Playing hide and seek with God, or others, is no longer enough.  We want to be found.  Seen. Known.

The I am Found study by Laura Dingman is a personal journey through the scriptures, biblical truths about how God sees us and Jesus loves us.  Each week begins with a bible based teaching, followed by daily reflection, opportunities to journal your thoughts; as you explore your life.  Your shame, your identity, God’s affection, relating to Him and others, and so much more.

This is a great study for personal use, small group, or ladies study.

Book Review: 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit

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Last month, I got this amazing book through the B&H Bloggers Team for the purpose of reading and reviewing on my blog.  The thoughts expressed here are my own, and I hope you find them beneficial.

I’ve always been drawn to what I consider “leadership” books.  When I was going through the management training program at Office Depot, my mentoring manager was constantly putting books into my hands on management.  This fostered a deep amount of respect for learning from those who have walked the road before me, as well as those who challenged the way we have always done things.  One of my most liberating books was “The Customer Is Not Always Right”.

As I moved into Women’s Ministry leadership, I too was drawn to materials that would help shape and mold me in the leader I needed to be.  I’ve never been naive to believe that Godly Leadership doesn’t involve on going investment into that spiritual gift.  I will never be so bold as to think I already know it all, or that others do not have something to teach me.  I have also been an encourager of not only getting leadership books into the hands  our ministry leaders, but challenging publishers to look at the void in the “women’s ministry” category of their catalog.

To get right to the point, I loved this book from the first page.  Why?  Because, author Nicki Koziarz speaks from someone who has been known to quit.  She’s not the person who has always pushed through, and speaking to you from her life long success to motivate you to be just like her.  NO!  She admits that sometimes staying put, staying the course, is HARD.  She has wanted to run, and she has run from a task not going her way.  She is authentic in acknowledging that she doesn’t WANT to be a quitter, but she has quit.  More than once.  And, she is real when she shares it isn’t a struggle that just goes away on it’s own because we just decided to stop quitting.

The rest of the book walks us through the habits of a woman who doesn’t quit, beginning with the most obvious step… owning our bend to run, but choosing to change that bend.  As we progress through these habits, we see how much Nicki Koziarz depends not on herself, her own gumption…. BUT ON GOD.  It is His strength and motivation that keeps her going and focused on being a woman that sees things through to the end no matter how she feels about it.  That means that YES, sometimes we are going to have to finish something that we are not enjoying, don’t like how it’s shaping out, etc.

The Biblical foundation for these habits come from the book of Ruth, using Ruth as an example of a woman who doesn’t quit no matter what circumstances are thrown her way.   As you complete your navigation through the 5 habits, the book is capped off with helpful scripture to reference during those times you want quit, based on the reason you are considering quitting.  As well as, there is a final page that walks you through the five questions you need to ask yourself anytime you are contemplating quitting.

This is a great book to give to leaders in your church, ministry, or life.  If you know someone who is a default quitter, this would be a fantastic investment into her life.   As a Women’s Ministry Leader, I think this book would be a helpful tool in developing your team or future leaders.   Recently, it was also brought to my attention that there is a special book study that you can use alone, or with a group, to explore these habits more deeply:

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A 2015 Must Have, for an Amazing 2016!

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Every year people make New Years Resolutions, on January 1st they are going to make some sort of a big change.  Very few are actually preparing for that change in December.  If the goal is to run a marathon, they begin training in January.  If they want to change jobs, they will push through with their current job to get through the holidays.  Even if they are looking to end a relationship that isn’t moving forward, many will wait to get through the holidays (including Valentines Day) because they don’t want to be alone for those family events and big dates.

Perhaps this is part of the problem with New Years Resolutions, we are procrastinating on the preparation.  We are waiting to January 1st to arrive before we even put pen to paper.  What if we got the ball rolling a bit sooner?  What if we made the decision on December 1st that TODAY we would begin taking the steps toward an amazing future?  Sounds great, but we may not know HOW to get that ball rolling.

I’ve always believed that if you want a better outcome in your life, the first changes we have to make are the ones that result in a better self.  Be a better YOU.  My life statement has always been that I want to be better tomorrow than I was today.  A better person.  A better wife.  A better mom.  A better friend.  A better worker.  Most importantly, to me, a better Christian.  I don’t ever want to live this life thinking I have nothing more to learn, or that I have this all figured out.

I don’t usually make New Years Resolutions because I find that as a whole, we just can’t keep them.  But when you resolve every day to make today better than yesterday, and tomorrow better than today… it’s a momentum that builds and carries us through even the most difficult of times.  But, sometimes we are just stuck in a rut.  We know we want more, but we don’t know what MORE looks like.  We want to be better versions of ourselves, but we don’t understand what that looks like practically.

I received a copy of Holley Gerth’s book “You’re Already Amazing” from Family Christian stores, to read and review.  I had an expectation on what the book was about, but there was so much more that I didn’t expect.  I was anticipating a book that would be a cheerleader, encouraging all of us to embrace who God created us to be, the motivation to take those steps forward.  However, the book also included questions, prompts, and practical activities that would take you through the process one step at a time.

Here is the GREAT NEWS about this book, this book is not about becoming a NEW person.  It isn’t going to direct you on how to turn yourself into someone you are not, or that person you have been holding in esteem.  This book teaches you to embrace who you ALREADY ARE, as God created you to be.  You will brush off all of the expectations that you (and others) have put on you.  No more lies, no more expectations, no more pressure, no more putting yourself down.

Action steps are peppered throughout the book, as well as some other great tidbits.  However if you are looking to dig deeper, on your own or in a group, there is bonus material at the end of the book.  Perhaps, you want to dive into this book on your own.  It may be a great book for you and your best friend or accountability partner to work through together.  You could go as far as using this as a spring book study or even encourage the women in your church to work through it together under the direction of your Women’s Ministry.

However you choose to use it, I could not recommend this book more as an end cap to your 2015 reading list.  Don’t wait, dig in now, and be ready for an AMAZING 2016.

Official Family Christian Blogger

For the Love of Women’s Ministry

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This has been a very interesting summer, as I have been developing a Women’s Ministry college course.  I’ve been entrenched in books on every topic from Women’s Ministry leader books, to deeper books on the biblical stance on women as leaders in the church.  I’ve been digging into the scriptures, looking at historical evidence, and frankly…. my head is going to explode.  There is a lot of information rolling around in my head, and much of it has challenged and even changed the way I viewed certain topics.

It has also increased my passion for women’s ministry, but a different women’s ministry from what I have ever known.  It has also opened my eyes to some of the glaring holes we have in resources, as well as lifted my spirit as I have uncovered things in the works across the country that are going to turn women’s ministry on it’s head.

Women play a huge part in the life of their church, most recent surveys estimate women make up 55-65% of most congregations, additionally they make up about 80% of the volunteer force of the church.  This volunteer force are the ones responsible for teaching and leading other women, teaching our children in Sunday School, leading Kids Clubs, volunteering for VBS, and this is in addition to service like preparing meals for new moms, taking care of hospitality for Sunday morning, rocking babies in the nursery, volunteering for secretarial duties in the church, cleaning up the church, etc.

Yet, it is becoming more apparent, that the majority of these women who are volunteering to teach and lead are not being discipled for those positions.  Are we ensuring that our women are qualified to teach or lead, or thankful for the warm body willing to volunteer?  Are we encouraging our volunteers by equipping them with mentors?

Women’s Ministry has lost focus in recent years, becoming unbalanced in what they offer to the women in the church.  There are more social events, fewer study groups.  Study groups are focused on content from books, versus content from the scriptures.  We are studying books about the bible, instead of the bible itself.  We have lost our ability to interpret scripture on our own.  We come together for social events to foster community, which is important, but at the cost of spiritual growth.

Why has this happened? 

In part, it is because Women’s Ministry has no real support at the moment.

Women’s Minsitries are often independent ministries within the church, that exist in their own sphere.  Pastors, sort of leave the women to fend for themselves.  They lack invested guidance, and many are not truly clear about the church’s vision.  The goal of a women’s ministry should be to use their calender of events and studies to support the vision of the church.  But in order to do so, the leader team really needs to understand what that is.  We need our Pastors to not only allow women’s ministry to exist in the church, but also to step in and help mold it.  We need a Shepherd.

When it comes to resource materials on Women’s Ministry, much of what is available is very outdated.  There are books and websites that lean more toward party planning, and less about making sure our ministry is gospel centered.   Additionally, many of these books are out of touch with the current obstacles and difficulties women face TODAY.    We are lacking books of substance, that train us on how to be effective leaders, run effective and gospel centered ministries, how to minister to the women in our church, and with changes in societal norms…. these subjects are just going to get more confusing.

Women’s Ministries are being led off the cuff, wading the waters and uncertain of what to do.  We begin to mimic other ministries, or do age old activities because “that is what women’s ministry does”.  We are afraid to break those molds, because women won’t come.  Or, we want to… but we can’t get the support of church leadership because of the stereotype of women’s ministry in the past.

I spent the last week speaking to women’s ministry leaders across the country.  I wanted to understand what the greatest obstacles women’s ministry leaders face.  I received the same answers, state to state…. east coast to west coast.

1)  We don’t know how to reach the 20 year old women in our church.

2)  We don’t have a budget to work with, to get the materials we need.

3)  We don’t have support from our Pastors.

I reached out to a woman who wrote her doctorate thesis on Women’s Ministry, and sadly… she didn’t have an answer to these questions.  She confirmed that these are indeed real problems, on a board scale, but there hasn’t been an answer in the church.  She surmised in her thesis paper, the best way to address it was to step outside of the church and start a parachurch organization.

I was saddened that this was her conclusion.

Then I looked at the statistics on the number of women leaving the church, and began to wonder.

I dug a bit deeper…. why are women leaving the church?  Why are women not committing to bible studies?  What are we missing???

Spiritual Gifts.

We are missing the fact that we have a church made up of mostly women, where God has bestowed gifts upon them to use for His purposes.  We are not identifying them in the church, we are not developing them in the church, and we really are not using them in the church.  Women feel as if they have more to offer than child care and making coffee.  They have gifts of teaching and mentoring, that are being unused.  So they leave, looking for a place where these gifts will be embraced.

Spiritual Growth.

Women want to grow spiritually, they want to dig deeper in to the word, and they don’t know how.  We have failed in bible literacy for women, underestimating what they can and cannot do (or understand).  We offer them cake, but eventually they get tired of cake and then they stop showing up for study groups.  It’s because their spirit wants something more substantial…. they may not even realize that is what they are missing.  They do know the group is not meeting a need.  We need to create programs that address this need.   Not just asking for volunteers to lead studies, but identifying and training study leaders.  Give those without confidence, confidence.

Spiritual Community.

Something that really breaks your heart, is when you hear a woman from your church tell you that she is lonely.  Recently a well known author posed a question on her facebook page, she asked what was the one thing women felt they were lacking in their church.  The answer, community.  Women want to not just have a church family on Sunday, or bible study nights.  They want to go back to the earlier church days where we were a community who “did life together”.  Older women responded that they missed having lunch with the church on Sundays after services.  Another commented that in 10 years of being in her church, she had only been invited to dinner with another family ONE TIME, and that her invitations were going unanswered.   She lamented that she had a closer relationship with her “non-Christian friends” than those she worships with.

A women’s ministry needs balance, and needs to be Christ focused.

Have social gatherings, like brunches and ladies night out events.  This is where we begin to form community.  It is the place where we start getting to know each other, establishing trust, and building relationships.  Use these social gatherings as an avenue to tap into the spiritual gifts of the women attending.  As you learn of their spiritual gifts, funnel them toward study groups that will help develop their spiritual growth and maturity, and build closer tight knit community. It is here that women will begin to have deeper bonds and are given the ability to serve each other with compassion and love, counsel and guide, mentor and disciple.  Then, as we wrap it all together, we have built up women to serve the church.  Women who are committed to serving in ways that support the over all vision of the church.

As our Pastors begin to recognize this shift in ministry, where we are intentional about every event & study pointing toward Christ and supporting the church’s vision… I believe we will see greater support for the ministry.

The change must start with us. 

The great news is that there is a widespread recognition amongst women’s ministry leaders that there is a shift coming in women’s ministry.  The are organizations that are developing to train women’s ministry leaders, and provide support and encouragement.  Several are focusing on the Pastors, and getting them on board with effective women’s ministry.  Three books are currently on the market that should be in your Women’s Ministry library.

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As these various organizations and ministries complete their programs for Women’s Ministry trainings, and more support resources come available, I will definitely be sharing them here.

It’s time to look at our women’s ministry with new eyes.  There are many men and women who see a revival on the horizon, within women’s ministry, or at least with women’s ministry a contributing factor.  Churches can’t afford to lose their women because they feel unrecognized, under appreciated, and under valued.  And women, we can’t take a posture that we will just leave the church and do it on our own.  Let’s not divide our churches any further, but restore unity within the body.  Be a part of the solution.

Andy Stanley’s ASK IT – Loving this study.

I was really excited for spring Small Groups, because we selected Andy Stanley’s Ask It!  I am a HUGE Andy Stanley fan, I like his “tell it like it is” attitude, how he speaks directly to the heart of the matter, and more importantly he doesn’t generally use a lot of filler.  That fits my personality to a tee.

If you are one of those people who wants to know what God’s will is for your life, or even in a particular situation or relationship… Andy Stanley takes through the steps to discover those answers.  And, it’s simpler than you think!

This is a great study for small groups, or the video can be watched in a single sitting.    If broken up into sessions, the video will take your small group just 6 weeks to complete.   If you would like your small group study to run a bit longer, couple the video with the book.

My small group loves this study so much, we want to do an adult fellowship night on it.  We kept thinking not only of our own situations, but others whom we felt could benefit from this study.

You can purchase the video and book through Family Christian.