Don’t Neglect the Bridges

Don't NeglectThe Bridges(1)

If you drive along the coastline, especially after a rather busy hurricane season, you will see docks that have been damaged by the storm or by time.  Keep driving that route and eventually some of the docks are repaired and yet others continue to fall apart.  I’ve never understood how someone would let their dock completely fall apart.  It seems easy enough to repair, and better to repair them fast before the damage grows.  There is one in particular that has been so forgotten about that the walkway is completely gone and the posts look like nothing more than stumps peeking over the water.

Why am I so bothered by these dilapidated docks?  Because they are bridges between the land and sea.  I can walk out to a depth that I couldn’t reach otherwise.  They allow me to take in the smell of the salt air, dip my toes in the water, gather with friends, or get into a boat and set sail.  Since I don’t live on the water, I have an outsiders perspective.  I don’t take the dock for granted, because I just know that if I could live there… I’d be out there every day.  I know this because I remember spending summers on a lake and doing just that.  In fact, any time I get a chance to walk a dock or boardwalk, I’ll take it.  There is such beauty to be found.

However, to the person that owns the property, there may be a difference of opinion.  Maybe they never cared about or used the dock in the first place.  Perhaps it came with the property, but since they didn’t own a boat and didn’t like to fish, the dock didn’t have much purpose or reason for them.  It could be that the cost of upkeep on the dock was just more than they could afford or not high on their priority list.   So the dock is left to rot, the bridge between land and see falls away.

If you spend any time speaking with me about ministries within the church, you will find that I often refer to them as bridges.  Ministries are the docks that are anchored to the church and reach out into the sea of our communities.  Our leaders, volunteers, and members can step out onto the dock and walk toward a sea where they can be fishers of men.  This bridge between church and community, is a pathway that connects the two in a very specific way.

Such ministries (or bridges) are recovery groups, youth groups, children’s ministries, food pantries, women’s ministries, and so on.   Imagine the church is a fortress on an island, a refuge from the storms in the world.  From this island fortress, are several docks that work as bridges to the sea of people who are in need of Christ, in need of a safe community.  There will be those who come running for help, hopping in boats and chartering their way to the docks, rushing in the doors.  But, what about the ones who are stranded on the distant shore?  They need someone who is willing to get in the boat and come for them.  What about the person who was tossed into the sea of circumstance, they can no longer see the shore and they are eyeing the horizon for something to grab onto?

There is a tension between those who are in the body and the leadership about “programs”.  A desire from the leadership to not have a church that is “program” driven, where the people come for the message and connect into small groups.  However, this concept really works best among those who already have a concept of what church is and how it works.  They know the protocol.  Visit the church.  Become a member.  Join a Small Group.  It doens’t work nearly as well for the person who comes from an unreached community, where the safe fortress looks overwhelming and intimidating. They are not ready to be swooped up by fishing nets and cast into the throws of the community.  Instead, they need a bridge to cross.

On the flip side, we can throw all of our money, time, and resources at programs just because that is what the people want.  That is not being a good steward.  What we need is balance between having the correct bridges that lead people in the right direction.  What good is a dock or a bridge that leads a person down a path that goes nowhere and serves no purpose?  Therefore, we can not afford to have programs for the sake of programs, to look busy, or meet every person’s request.  Instead, we have programs that serve as a bridge from the community to the church, and the church to the community.

Just as I am saddened to see broken down docks along the coastline, I am equally saddened to see the neglected bridges of the church.  Huge, beautiful buildings, where we under utilize the space that God has given us.  Rooms that are left to degrade because no one uses them, turned into storage, covered in dust.  Those are rooms that should be teeming with life.  Bible studies, men’s groups, women’s groups, support groups, etc.  What a terrible waste of the gift God has given us, a building, when we let it sit empty and unused. 

Then there are the leaders who have been given gifts and talents, but forgotten about and left to wane in the waters.  They feel the call to lead, they feel the need in the waters that surround them.  Instead of being bolstered up, they are forgotten about and discarded.  Eventually wearing down to a point where they are no longer of any use, given up to the sea.  Desperately wanting to reach those who are looking for a solid place to land, but lacking the support to do so.

We can not afford to neglect our bridges.

We can not afford to let our buildings go to waste, nor our leaders.  We are in a time where generations are falling away from the church.  It is a time where the “Dones” are leaving the church in mass exodus.  We are desperately seeking how to bring in new members and hold onto our existing ones, but relying on worshiptainment to be the answer.  And, completely unaware that as we throw our money and resources into the superficial draw, we are letting our bridges burn to the ground.  We create a single pathway into the door, and sadly it is only going to appeal to a certain type of person, with a certain type of need. 

When a church embraces the smaller ministries within it, seeing them for what they are… bridges to the community… then we create multiple pathways for different types of people, with different types of needs to cross. 

Today, we know that depression is on the rise.  People are reporting in startling numbers that they feel alone in this world, disconnected.  It seems so impossible, with social media and text messaging keeping us just a key stroke away.  Yet, the statistics support that despite our virtual connectedness… we feel alone, we feel lonely, we feel disconnected, and we desperately are seeking to fill that void.

The correct response for the church, in my opinion, is that we need to create more bridges that welcome in different people and meet their needs.  Which now, more than ever, includes a need of community and connection.  Stop neglecting the bridges and instead give them support, financial backing, and opportunity.  Use the buildings we have been blessed with, embrace the leaders that God has gifted with talents and placed in your pews.

Let’s face it, when it comes to Biblical knowledge, we have never had so many resources available to us.  I can sit in front of my computer at any time of day and queue up an infinite number of Pastors sermon’s to read or watch.  I can learn from the Pastor in my home town, and across the world.  I have unlimited access to praise and worship music, online lyrics to follow, and I can even pick and chose the rendition that I prefer.  I can customize my playlist to my hymnal preferences, contemporary leanings, or a peppering of the two.  Between printed books, ebooks, articles, and resources I can read the Bible, study it in depth, and find the answer to any question I have with just a few key strokes and Google.

However, what none of these things can provide for me is the community that comes with a congregational family.  A sense of belonging, community, and family.  A connection that has to be fostered beyond the Sunday morning “shake your neighbor’s hand”.  In the few minutes before and after service, I don’t have a chance to make real connections with people to turn a church building into my church home.  I need opportunities that allow me to get to know others better, and deeper.  Places where are not just learning together, but serving together. 

It is a hand and hand approach, ministries and the church.  So perhaps, it is time we take better care of them.

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Such a Time As This?

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Revival:  In Such a Time As This?

In the book of Esther, Mordecai has been requesting of Queen Esther to go before the King to petition to save her people. Esther knows that coming before the King uninvited may have disastrous consequences, but Mordecai responds: “Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14b). Over the last year, the subject of Revival has been burning in my heart. I’ve wanted to understand more about the historical roots of Revival, just as much as I have felt that the embers of another Revival are glowing.

Revival has not only been on my mind, but I have heard it come up in conversations and with the recent Azusa Street Revival celebration (and those simultaneously around the globe)… clearly it’s a global burn. The timing of the Missions and Revival course couldn’t have come at a better time. To grasp what a future Revival is going to look like, we must examine the Revivals of the past… from Pentecost forward to the isolated geographical Revivals that are already happening. There was a portion from the class presentation by Dr. Bruce Ballast that gave me cause to pause, and ask myself… are we living in “such at time as this”?

An excerpt from Dr. Bruce Ballast’s book:

Is there a means that God uses in His sovereignty to bring about a revival in this country that is quantifiable? In the next few chapters I want to focus on a few commonalities from which we can learn. There are at least four factors that recur in these periods of history:

  1. They are preceded by a time of religious decline, sometimes referred to as declension, in the country.
  2. God’s people then feel called to pray;
  3. Prayer leads the church to confession and work t hat allows the Holy Spirit to break out in power;
  4. The revival then produces leaders who continue the revival spirit and create new methods of evangelism or refine old ones.”

In the last few years, a particular piece of scripture keeps popping up. Whether it shows up in a group Bible study, or in my own personal time with the Lord, 2 Timothy 3 is ever present. When leading a group in Bible study, the reaction to 2 Timothy 3 is the same: “That sounds like today, doesn’t it?” Women in my study groups recognize that the warning issued in the scripture is a parallel to the world we are living in today.

2 Timothy 3 (copied from BibleGateway.com)

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; 9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will manifest to all, as theirs also was.

The Man of God and the Word of God

10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. 12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

I do not believe it would be bold of me to suggest that most of the church would agree that there has been a spiritual decline in the United States. Churches are closing doors, Christians are pitted against each other on subject of social justice and political correctness. Abortion rates are at 25% of all pregnancies, children are changing genders, people are more concerned about their rights than the overall health and happiness of the population. Drug addiction, pornography addiction, and violence is too common. The family unit has begun to change face as we have embraced single parent homes by choice. Even within the pews of the church we have those who harbor bitter roots of unforgiveness, seek financial prosperity over personal edification, we can not tithe because we are in debt beyond our capacity to repay, and false promises/gods/idols are creeping their way into our homes.

The church is called to persevere, and keep running the race… but just as the scriptures warn us evil gets worse, deception grows. If we can see ourselves in the words of the Scriptures, then I believe we fulfill the first point in Dr. Ballast’s conditions. We must be in a state of spiritual decline. Are we not in such a time as this?

As the faithful become more aware of the parallel between the world today and the warning of 2 Timothy 3, more and more congregations are turning to prayer. Movements are happening within larger ministries that are bringing prayer to forefront of our priorities, and books are being published to direct our faces to Christ through deeper and purposeful prayers. Such as, Priscilla Shirers book Fervent and movie War Room, Revive Our Hearts’ Cry Out prayer event, local churches putting aside denominations to stand in prayer for Revival to come, building prayer ministries and churches setting up prayer rooms, as well as individuals being called to intentional prayer in their lives are becoming more and more prevalent.

One thing that I have noticed in all of the historical accounts of great Revival is a precursor of ramped up prayer life, particularly noticeable among the women of the body of believers. Women starting prayer groups, women praying for specific leaders to come forward, women praying for Revival, or women who are crying out to God to do a mighty work and inviting the Holy Spirit into their towns. Prayer is an integral first step into ushering in Revival, by preparing the hearts of those the Holy Spirit is going to move through. I feel confident is saying that I am witnessing this call to prayer in the lives of women in my local community as well as abroad. The second condition of Dr. Bruce Ballast’s list is being actively met. We are crying out in a time such as this, for the Holy Spirit to bring Revival to His people.

In his third condition, Dr. Ballast suggests that through prayer the church is called to repent. On April 9, 2016 there was an event called Azusa Now, which was on the 110th anniversary of the original Azusa Street Revival. By the blessing of technology, I was able to watch almost the entire Revival event. What I witnessed was breathtaking. The organizers of the event were adamant that the Lord could not bring the Spirit of Revival upon the nation until the church was ready to repent. We needed to repent of the division we had created, we needed to forgive, we needed to reconcile.

When I look through the great Revivals of history, they each had a focus. It is my belief that the theme of the next Revival is going the be Reconciliation of the Church unto Him! We are a people divided, stiff necked, each with their own opinion of what is right, and many listening to those who would tickle their ears with what they want to hear. Man has molded faith to his liking versus molding himself to Christ likeness. At Azusa Now, I witnessed a Christian Pastor, Catholic Priest, and Messianic Rabbi each present an olive branch of reconciliation. Each asking for, and giving, forgiveness to one another in such a humbling and contrite manner that it brought tears to my eyes and convicted my heart of forgiveness that was long over due. Are our hearts being broken, for what breaks His, in such a time as this?

The final condition Dr. Ballast suggests is that there will be an emergence of leaders who are going to usher in the starting point of Revival. It is within reason to suggest that some of these leaders are already positioned on a global scale. However, what we know about Revival is that as much as there will be leaders who have a larger, public, platform (like that of Billy Graham); there is also a need for local leaders who are going to step forward and continue their work in the local congregations. The Lord has granted us technology that allows those larger than life leaders to gain an audience all over the globe. However without local leaders to continue the discipleship process, we would leave these new converts in a lurch.

Without a doubt, the Lord is going to raise up strong leaders who are going to be part of the Revival process. However, there is a responsibility for those of us who are already leading in the church to begin to equip our lay leaders to pick up the baton and lead those new converts as they enter our church doors. We also need to be equipping leaders who can go forward and assist the leaders God brings forward, as they reach out into the community to bring people to Christ. We need mature leaders who can help those that the Lord has brought into repentance, as they find themselves coming back into the fold from which they have wandered. We will need leaders and teachers who have sound doctrine and understanding of the scriptures to teach in the years that will follow the Revival.

With an ever growing population, we are going to need enough leaders and teachers who are ready to disciple and mentor in place (or at least working toward being ready). This means that our current churches need to be preparing for Revival by discerning leaders in the body and coming up with development plans for their spiritual growth. Impressing upon our existing body a desire for Biblical literacy, disciplined prayer life, discipleship/mentor relationships with our seasoned believers, and encouragement to those in the body who feel a call to pastorship or ministry leadership. A great start for this intentional movement toward preparation would include a more direct path toward identifying the spiritual gifts of the congregation, and then applying those gifts into the church now.  Is the Lord readying His people for such a time as what is about to come?  Is a time such as this drawing nearer?

When the Church Hurts

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Sometimes, we forget that the church is full of broken people.  We forget that they are sinners, just like us.  We forget that they are imperfect, prone to wander, and any other negative adjective that we could apply.  However, we do remember these things about ourselves.  And, in doing so we place some unrealistic expectations on other people.

  • We expect others to be perfect Christians.
  • We expect others to forgive us when we are not.

A season ago, I found myself in a predicament.  I consider myself an observant person.  I can usually read people well, and I really REALLY try to avoid drama.  Yet some how, there I was.  Knee deep in gossip.  What is worse, is that in my attempts to try to fix the situation… I was drowning myself.

My first mistake was that I didn’t recognize gossip for what it actually was.  What I thought I was hearing were concerns, and that I was being asked to step up and help facilitate change to happen.  Instead, what I allowed to happen was an engagement in gossip with no actual problem solving.

We need to be hyper aware that not all conversation is positive.   Even things like prayer requests can be a cover for passing on juicy gossip.  Criticism of the church, Pastor, or ministries in the church are not always constructive.  Quite often others will feed us their “issues” because they are not brave enough to say it directly to the person in charge.  Instead of being thrown under the bus, we then walk out in front of it willingly. 

My second mistake was assuming that they were coming to me because I was a person they trusted, and could help fix the problem.  I ended up woven into a web of conversations, and stepping up into role that I never should have.  It was not my place to solve their issues.

In a flurry of panic, the last thing we need to do is try to solve everything ourselves.  Especially if we are not the person who is immediately involved.  We can not become an open ear to everyone’s complaints about someone else or the way they are leading.  Instead of taking it all in, and then stepping up as a representative of the group… we should be pointing each individual voice in the right direction.  As my husband reminded me:  “If it was so important to them … they wouldn’t have called you. They would have gone right to the source.”  Clearly, it wasn’t that important.

My third mistake was the assumption that, because I was serving in ministry, that those I was serving with would be honest and upfront.  After a pretty tense incident, conversations began.  Trying to diffuse the situation myself, and find a possible solution, I engaged in the conversation and tried to pull everyone together.   Ultimately, when pressed on what happened, I was the only person who didn’t back-peddle.  This lead to a crack in my relationship with another leader, a distrust toward those I was serving with, a hit to my credibility and reputation, and influenced my attitude toward the church I was attending.

When we assume that others will be as honest and forthcoming as we would be, we are just going to set ourselves up for disappointment.  Why?  Self preservation is human nature.  What happened when Adam and Eve at the apple?  Adam blamed Eve.  Eve blamed the Serpent.  When push comes to shove, people will protect their own self interest, even at the cost of their relationship with you or risking your reputation.  Just because we are serving in a church together, we shouldn’t assume these things will never happen. 

My fourth mistake came in the form of promises that I made.  As each person approached me, conversations began with something along the lines of: “This is just between us…”   I thought I responded correctly, by giving a caveat that I would only step up if each person was willing to speak their mind openly the next time we met.  With their agreement to those terms, I felt that the promise was safe to make… because, at the right time it would all come out.    I was very, very, very wrong.  In fact, that right time never presented itself.  Now I was in between a rock and a hard place. I had opened my mouth, but I was left standing alone.

In this situation, I was left with two choices and I didn’t like either of them.  I could choose to keep my promise, and let my own reputation fall to ruin.  Or, I could break the promises I made and throw each person under the bus.  This was a no win situation, especially at the time because the question meant preserving myself or my relationships.  How could I be angry with them for throwing me under the bus, and then turn around and do the same thing?  Yet, on the other hand, if I kept that promise… I was allowing myself to go down in flames and potentially ruining any future ministry service. 

I was hurt.  Truly hurt.  Deeply hurt.  Hurt that I would be accused after having a flawless record of leadership.  Hurt that I wasn’t given the benefit of the doubt.  Hurt by those who I considered friends.  It was going to have a huge impact on me over the next year, but it was also going to usher in some truths and lessons I needed to learn.

Now, I have a keener eye for gossip and the many forms it comes in.  I’ve learned how to deal with “talk and chatter” as it comes my way.  I’ve learned to never put myself in that position again, making a promise that would back me into a corner.  I’ve learned more about the need for boundaries and avoiding assumptions.

In totality, when I reflect back on that season, the biggest mark on my heart came from the assumptions I made.  If we are being honest with ourselves, this type of scenario isn’t uncommon.  It happens in school yards to corporate break rooms.  My biggest assumption was in the notion that this wouldn’t happen in the church, not among my family of believers.   Not among those whom I called friend, and served with loyally.  I was holding a group of people to a higher standard, because they called themselves Christians and we served in the church together.

My heart was broken over the situation, and it took me a long time to forgive.  To forgive those who I felt betrayed me, to forgive myself for allowing it to happen, and even to forgive those who doubted me.  But, I have forgiven.  All of us.  As the Lord walked me through this fire, and refined me… my eyes were open.   I could understand where each party was coming from and why they responded as they did, right or wrong.  Including myself.  I was able to recognize my part, finally, and ask for forgiveness.  I’ve grown from it, and become a better leader for it.

But, I was hurt.  I felt hurt by the church, and those I served with.  What you learn in these types of situations is the imperfection of the body.  Just like in the scriptures, no matter how close we are to God and how much knowledge we have about His Word… we are still human.  Just as much as others in the church failed me, I failed myself.  Just as much as I need forgiveness and grace, when I mess up… so do they.

Our churches are full of people who are in various stages of their walk, and our flesh still gets the better of us.   If Christ could die for the sins of man, why wouldn’t I forgive my sisters in Christ for being nothing more than a flawed human being.  If I want forgiveness for all the times I mess up, I set the example when I forgive.  This doesn’t mean I neglect the lessons I have learned, that I forgo healthy boundaries, etc.  Not at all, we are warned about wolves dressed as sheep.  But not every offense is from a wolf, sometimes it comes from the sheep who is a bit smudged. Sometimes, sheep bite.

When the church, or members of the body, hurt us… it is tempting to run.  We want to leave and find a better place.  We may run to a brand new church or away from the church altogether.  Let me assure you, where ever you decide to run… imperfect people are there.   They are in every church, every office building, every community center, and every home.

Let’s not assume to the worst of people, but we should be cautious to not expect perfection out of them either.  Be quick to forgive, and forgive as you would hope to be forgiven.  And, ultimately, learn to forgive those who have not asked your forgiveness.

When I reflect back on that season, to date, not one has ever apologized.  I went through all of the emotions.  I wanted to get in their face and call them to the carpet for their part.  That was when I was angry.  I wanted to look them square in the face and simply state that I was disappointed and let down.  That was when I was hurt.  I wanted to go to say that I could never trust any of them again.  That was when I was grieving.  But, I didn’t.  I simply waited.  Surely, over time, at least some would feel bad for what happened.  There would either be an admission of guilt to leadership or at the very least an apology to me.  That was when I was patient.  But, nothing ever happened… no apology or admission ever came.  So, I lingered.  I had to be willing to forgive those who didn’t believe they needed forgiveness or who were too ashamed to ask for it.

There I found freedom.  There I found peace.  It was there I could let go, more forward and reconcile my relationship to the church.

As I took a break from this post, to give it fresh eyes, I popped over to facebook.  Another writer (more well known than myself) was also writing on forgiveness today. In her piece On Forgiveness and Freedom , Jen Hatmaker quoted from a book:

In Boundaries, Cloud and Townsend wrote: “When you refuse to forgive someone, you still want something from that person, and even if it is revenge that you want, it keeps you tied to him forever. . . . [Forgiveness] ends your suffering, because it ends the wish for repayment that is never forthcoming and that makes your heart sick because your hope is deferred (Prov. 13:12). . .Cut it loose, and you will be free.”

The moment I finally had enough of clinging and lingering in my expectation of an apology, and forgave… it was done.  I do not believe a single person involved intentionally set out to hurt me, I don’t believe they could have known the ripple effect their choices would make.  Christ asked for God to forgive those who persecuted him, stating “they know not what they do”.   This is what I choose to believe about my experience with hurt in the church, I choose to see the best in them, letting go of my hurt by forgiving them, and then by setting my sights on the road ahead vs. the path behind me.

 

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.