Ministering to Women, A Changing Face.

cpiece

I’ve been doing a lot of research lately about the roles of Women in Ministry.  Just these past few days I was really trying to look at women as a whole, who is it that we are ministering to?  As I google searched, and google searched some more… and went through the most recent women’s ministry books and resources…. we have a lot of work ahead of us.

  • Working women, working moms.
  • Stay at home moms, and housewives.
  • Grandmothers who are raising their grandchildren.
  • Mothers with adult children who have returned home.
  • Single moms, single working moms.
  • Mothers of children with disabilities.
  • Women who are widowed, or are married to a man with a terminal illness.
  • Women who are divorced.
  • Women who are stepmothers in blended families.
  • Women who adopted children.
  • Women who are lifelong single.
  • Women who have children.
  • Women who are infertile or have had miscarriages.
  • Women who have lost children or have a child with a terminal illness.
  • Women who have been abused:  physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and sexually.
  • Women who are disabled.
  • Women who struggle with addiction:  pornography, substances, and more.
  • Women who come from broken homes, women who were abandoned.
  • Women who are homeless.
  • Women who are struggling with their sexuality and gender identification.
  • Women who are struggling in their marriages.
  • Women who are married to non-believers.
  • Women who are struggling financially.
  • Women who are struggling spiritually.
  • Women who are suffering from depression and debilitating anxiety, who consider suicide.
  • Women who suffer from PTSD, from experiences in their life or serving for their country.
  • Women who are retired.
  • Women who are empty-nesters.
  • Women who are in, or previously were in prison.
  • Women who had abortions.
  • Women with serious or even terminal illness.
  • Women who suffer from eating disorders and body dysmorphia.
  • Women who are struggling, burdened, worn out by life.
  • Women who have faced racism, ageism, sexism in their lives.
  • Women who feel that they have no value, no importance, and are invisible.
  • Women who have been exploited in the sex trade industry, by decision or force.
  • Women who are young, trying to navigate the waters of adulthood and their future.
  • Women who are older, trying to move beyond the failures of their past.
  • Women who are mothers of prodigal children.
  • Women in the mission field.
  • Women on the battlefield.

If you, or your church, is wondering if a Women’s Ministry is needed…. I hope that list answers the question for you.

It’s a resounding YES.

We also need something new, because our needs changed…. our ministries haven’t.  We need women who are not just willing to lead fellowship events and bible studies, we need something new.  We need women who are equipped to Minister To Women.

The face of women in our church is changing, it’s time Women’s Ministry catches up.

Advertisements

SEMINARY? How can I justify it?

 

biblestudy

Autumn comes, and your church starts making announcements regarding the upcoming Small Groups and Bible Studies.  Sign up sheets are at the information desk, emails come from the church with more information about the studies.  You find yourself looking through the menu of possible studies…

Beth Moore’s Daniel Study

Lisa Harper’s study on Malachi.

Dave Ramesy’s Financial Peace class.

Love & Respect for Married Couples.

The MOPS group is doing the “Frazzled Female” study.

A women’s expository study on the book of Acts.

and the list goes on and on.

They are all good studies, and you wish you could make room for them all, but you can only choose one!

For one second, did it ever occur to you that you shouldn’t study the bible, or what the bible has to say on certain topics?

Did you question if you could afford the book?

Did it ever cross your mind as to whether or not it would be worth it?

I mean, really, what would you do with it?

beforeamen2

You may think those are ridiculous thoughts, but I would like to tell you that those questions are the exact ones I heard when sitting in a workshop about women in seminary.

In the New Testament, we had women sitting at the very feet of Jesus to learn from him.

In 2015, we have women questioning… trying to justify… getting formal biblical training.

There were women in the workshop who were trying to grapple with the commitment it would require to get formal biblical education.  Do I have enough time for it?  Can my family spare the time it would take for me to study?

There were women who were trying to justify the cost of seminary, when we live in a time where information is just a few clicks away.  They were wondering if the family could afford, and if they were being good stewards with their money, by investing in seminary.

The number one question asked:  “What would I do with it?”

So, let me get out my soap box for a moment.  And, let’s talk.

Ladies….

You are teachers of God’s word, every time you give scriptural advice to a friend, teach a Sunday School class or lead bible study.

You are messengers of God, when you show up at the homeless shelter, fly into another country to install water filters, or lean into a coworker who is struggling.

You are image bearers of God, charged with being godly women, honorable wives, and shapers of your children.

If all of our thoughts, words and actions should be God centered, revealing God to the world around us…

… how better is it then, that we get to know God’s word in a deeper way?

We should NEVER have to justify digging deeper into the scriptures.

It shouldn’t need to be justified, it should be a PRIORITY.

Can we afford NOT to?

And the good news is this… if God’s calling you to formal biblical training, God is making that more and more possible every day.

You can download a bible app for your phone or device, for FREE.  We have access to commentaries from trusted sources, at our finger tips, a google search away!

We have books that we can borrow from libraries, download into our kindles, and buy off of amazon on every subject from Early Church history to Apologetics for Women In Ministry.

These are all the right steps to take to digging in deeper.

And if God is calling you to formal education, there are affordable options out there.

There are certification programs and degree programs online, which are less expensive than brick and mortal schools.  Christian Leaders Institute offers a certification on a donation based model.   You give what you can afford.

CLIlogo

Christian Leaders Institute, as well as some other online colleges and seminaries offer degree seeking programs.  The cost for these degree programs are a less than traditional schools, and offer you the ability to work at your own pace.  You can take one class at a time, or a full course load.  There are payment plans and scholarships available for seminary education.

For some, there will be the option of attending seminary on a campus.

The point is that there are options out there, for those who are being called. 

I can not believe that God would ever admonish any of his children for investing money, time and energy into formal biblical knowledge.  Too much of the scriptures instructs us to not just listen to The Word, or read The Word, but to CONSUME it.

If you feel God is calling you, pray that He will reveal to you how to go about it.

Even if it begins with you, a couple of friends, and an open bible.

BOOK REVIEW: The Case for Grace, Lee Strobel

Family Christian offered me the opportunity to review the book “The Case for Grace” by Lee Strobel.  While Family Christian sent me the book for the purpose of the review, the opinions in this review are entirely my own. 

caseforgrace

The first time I read anything by Lee Strobel, it was his book The Case for Christ.  I loved this book because it was practical and pragmatic.  His goal was to determine if there’s credible evidence that Jesus of Nazareth really is the Son of God.  Thankfully, the truth revealed to Lee Strobel would draw Him to Christ, forming a personal relationship, that would impact not only Lee’s life, but the lives of those He would touch through his writings.  In fact, The Case for Christ and The Case for a Creator are both books I have recommended to people when they are in a marriage where only one of them is a believer.

When Family Christian gave me the opportunity to get my hands on The Case for Grace, I was eager to begin.  Grace has been an issue my heart has been camped out in for quite a while.  I was very excited to get an chance to get Lee’s take on it.  His books, for me, are like sitting down with a wise friend and getting to the heart of an issue.   His writing is comfortable, familiar, and he is able to see things from both sides of the coin. He doesn’t dismiss abruptly those whose opinions differ from his.

In The Case for Grace, Lee Strobel uses his investigative journalist skills to explore the evidence of grace in the live of real people.  Each chapter encompasses a look into the story of a person who was transformed by grace.  Stories that will take us across the globe, into the hearts from those who suffered abuse or addiction, lives transformed as children and adults.   Lee Stroble intermingles those stores with his own quest for understanding grace in his life.

What really stood out to me, from these various stories, was that in each… despite how different from my own… there were elements that I could understand.  They might be a shared feeling of despair, the understanding of hope they found, and sometimes it was just an insight I had not considered for myself.  Very different stories, but they showed that the gift of grace knows no bounds.  It is available for the abandoned orphan turned street kid, the addict curled on the floor, the refugee…. you…. me.  God’s grace is a gift he freely gives to those whom He adopts into his family.

A Father’s love to the fatherless…. in body or spirit.

The book also includes supplemental materials:  discussion questions, scriptures to reference, and books for continued reading.

The Case for Grace makes for a great weekend read, curled up with your coffee… or a group discussion for small groups or book clubs.

#FCBlogger

 

When Your Child Doesn’t Look Special Needs

MBA

I will guarantee that many of you have said, overheard or seen sentiments like those pictured above.  I know I did.  I was one of those moms who had a perfect first child, and therefore thought I knew everything.  I had no problem blaming the parents, blaming the doctors, blaming society for allowing “brats” who try to solve the problem by medicating them vs. discipline.

Then, I had to eat my own words.

I now find myself one of the first people to defend the child with the invisible disabilities.  My second daughter was entirely different from my first.  She was far more exuberant, and head strong.  She had quirks about her that would make me question, from a very early age, if she suffered from some sort of disorder.  I would find myself searching the internet, taking those “how to know if your child has _____” quizzes.  My daughter was always the square peg in a world of round holes.  Even within the scope of various disabilities, she didn’t quite fit the profile.  I would think briefly that she must be fine, but then with each developmental milestone we would (or should) hit … I was searching again.

When she was just around two years old, we got our first diagnosis.  “Speech Delayed”.  We attended a few assessments, and had our sit down meeting to talk about her treatment plan.  This was the first time someone referred to my daughter as disabled.  It rocked me to my core.  It doesn’t matter what the diagnosis is, hearing that your child is disabled … it takes your breath away. I cried the whole ride home.  Someone actually put words to something I suspected all along.  But, clearly, it wasn’t just a speech delay.   Many of the behaviors she was exhibiting, it was assumed, would correct themselves as she became more verbal.

Her speech cleared up, but the quirks didn’t.  In some respects, it got worse.

I remember, time and time again, telling people THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH HER.  I actually wanted to  know what it was, so I could help her.  Answers evaded me.  It was her second grade teacher that first mentioned autism, but my daughter didn’t fit that profile either.  Our next diagnosis was a positive one, GIFTED.

I knew my daughter was exceptionally smart, which I think was part of what frustrated me about her behaviors.  I couldn’t wrap my head around why someone SO smart, couldn’t see or correct her behaviors.

It would not come until 5th grade that we would get another diagnosis.  ADHD.  You know the “brat disease”, “excuse for parents who don’t want to discipline their children disease”, the “too lazy to parent their children disease”…. yeah, that one.  We would work our way through figuring out medications and dosage.  What I couldn’t be prepared for, was the response of others.

“She is just being a kid, she doesn’t need medication.”

“Have you tried changing her diet?  I have read that _____ causes ADHD”

“You don’t have to give her medication.  Mountain Dew or strong coffee will work just as well.”

“She is just head strong.  You need to set firmer boundaries.”

They have no clue what it is like to live with a child that has ADHD.   Let alone a GIFTED child, with ADHD.  They live in a world, where their brains NEVER shut down.  They are constantly on the go, on the move.  They talk non stop, about everything, to the point of parental exhaustion.  They are extreme about how they respond to everything.  She is loud.  She is intense.  She is extreme.  She is, exactly how God made her.  And, she will happily tell you that.

When you talk to someone about your child being disabled, and they say “She doesn’t look disabled…. it hurts.  They do not know what it is like to get a letter home EVERY DAY about your child’s behavior, and the calls to the doctor that it may be time to increase her medication.  Again.  The same medication you were hoping to wean her off of in time, with the grand hope that you can help her learn to control her behavior.

It is devastating to hear members of your own family speak about her disability.  The one who calls her a “zombie” when she is on her medication.  And the one, who says they can’t handle her off her medication.  When people who are her own blood won’t babysit her because she is “too much” for them.   She will spend the rest of her life unaware of the number of times she was rejected by her own family members.  A burden my heart bears, to spare her.

They also do not know what it is like to open your child’s planner at the end of the school year… to find a note taped in the back.  In her handwriting you see the words “Read Every Day”.    And, as any mom would, you open up the note to see these words written on a cheap valentines day class swap card….

“I know some people think you are weird,

But I think you are awesome.”

It is great to see that someone sees the AMAZING side of your child.  It is heart wrenching to know that your child needed that affirmation so much, she would put it into her planner… making sure to read it every day.  She needed to know someone other than her parents (and God) liked her.  She was alone, lonely.

Everything changed when she started her medication.  The notes stopped coming home.  She started making friends.  She was able to focus, and her behaviors stopped or at least were minimized.  She has best friends now.

In the church, it is easy for us to know how to respond to the child with a visible disability.  We not only see it, but we are prepared for (or at least expecting) that we are going to need to be more patient, more hands on, more helpful and more understanding.   We would be more cautious about what we said to the parents.  Those parents hear things like “He had a hard day today, but we got through it” or “He did so well today!”.

When you are a parent of a child with an invisible disability, you hear things like…. “Wow, that one… she’s a handful”, usually accompanied by a look of complete exasperation on their face.  When well meaning people off up a litany of suggestions on how to raise this child, you feel defeated.  You feel judged.  You feel like you are failing as a parent. 

We are now in the middle school years, and our daughter sits with us during Saturday night service.  We do not give her medication on days when there is no school, we still hold out hope that she’ll learn the coping skills to live off medication one day.  Sitting with her, un-medicated, at Saturday night service is the equivalent to sitting with a toddler.

She fidgets.  She talks.  She interrupts.  She draws.  She goes through the papers in the pew pockets.  She touches people, gently.  She asks a million questions.  She hangs on you, pulls on you, sits on you.  She sits up, she lays down.

She can’t help herself.

She also sings with all her might.  She raises her hands to the Lord, as she praises.  She smiles bigger, and has a twinkle in her eye … that melts your heart.  She laughs with every muscle in her body.  She is the embodiment of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.   She may ask a LOT of questions, but they are good questions.  Pastor, despite her fidgeting… SHE HEARD EVERY WORD YOU SAID.  With certainty, we will be discussing it later.  You deposited that information into a vault, a bank she will pull from one day.

How does the church minister to people like me, to my daughter?

1) Recognize that unseen disorders are still REAL.  These families need support too, they need help… they parent the child no one wants to babysit.  When mom walks into the church late (again), looking like she just went through WWIII…. Smile at her, hug her, and connect to that child.  The more you make the child feel welcome at the church, the easier it is for us to get them motivated to come.

2) Be mindful of the words you speak, and the assumptions you make.  You have no idea how hard it is to parent these children, every day choosing which battles you are going to fight.  While yes, there may be parents who abuse the system, most of us do not.  We love our children.  We are doing everything we can for them to be successful now & in their future.  We need your words of encouragement.   When people make comments like the one in the picture above, they have no clue WHO they are saying it to.  I’ve heard it.  It makes me cringe.  I’m that parent you are calling lazy, and unwilling to discipline.  You don’t even realize it.

3)  When you see the parent trying to wrangle them in, understand that THIS child REQUIRES different techniques and parenting.  We are not being harsh, we are holding firm boundaries.  We are still teaching them, and we appreciate your willingness to teach them as well.  We appreciate your patience, and that you see the best in our kids.  Don’t let them get away with something, just because they have a disorder or disability.  Just keep it in mind, as you choose how to handle it, that you are not dealing with an average kid.  When in doubt, ask the parents.

I know there are times when my daughter will be a distraction, and you will look.  I expect the look.  I appreciate the smile.

For those of you reading this, who may have a child like mine sitting in your Sunday Service, there is HOPE.

When the pressure is removed from the parents, when they understand that you love their kids… imperfections, quirks, and all… there is an enormous release.  We can engage in your message, without worry about what our kid is doing every second.  And you set the tone for others, when you (especially as Pastors and Elders) say it is ok… the body will follow.  Your smiles, become their smiles.  Your acceptance, becomes their acceptance.

Use your knowledge of members in the body to connect us families together, but also with people in the body that have the skills.  Tell us about that occupational therapist that can give us suggestions on getting through the service, or help train the Sunday School workers on how to deal with kids that have disabilities and disorders, particularly the invisible ones.

And, consider having some of the following:

juniorshieldGIVE THEM JOBS!!!! – Just because a child or teen has a disability or disorder, doesn’t mean they don’t have gifts and talents.  Giving them a job as part of the service will allow them to plug in, feel important, and something to focus on.  Many would love to be a greeter, pass out welcome packets, help pass out the offering baskets, etc.  Even something as simple as having a few kids restock the pens and response cards in the pews between services, it can mean a lot.  Be sure to speak with the parents first, to help identify the best area to serve.

actionbible  Have a few copies of The Action Bible tucked sporadically under pews or available as the kids come in the door.  They are easy to follow, and can help capture the child’s attention during the service.  Mom and Dad will get to enjoy the message, and their child has something appropriate to keep them engaged.

worshipbulletins  Take a lesson from the Pros!  Any restaurant that serves kids has special menus and packs of crayons for kids.  Why?  Because, they know that kids have a short attention span & patience is not one of their strong points.  Children who are disabled will often find these same activities helpful, regardless of their age.  Have something like, Worship Bulletins for Kids, available at the pews, in a basket near the door, or being distributed by greeters; they are cost effective and won’t take up much space.  You can choose to provide crayons, or just let the kids use the pens/pencils already in the pews.

stickersEven something as simple as stickers is HUGE for kids, it’s positive reinforcement & fun.   The stickers can be kept at your Information Desk, and after service Mom, or Dad, can bring their child to pick up a sticker for sitting well through service.  The parents can come up with a reward system for at home (certain # of stickers collected = reward).  For many special needs kids, the sticker is enough.  Parents will appreciate that it is not candy too!  These Very Veggie Values stickers are perfect because they are fun, but also are learning tools.

—————————————-

The great news is that you can find these resources all in one location, http://www.FamilyChristian.com , they also have an entire section of books for Families with Special Needs Kids  including:  autism, add, adhd, overeating, fragile x, downs syndrome, and more.

These books not only are helpful to parents who have children that are special needs, but are great resources to children’s ministry leaders and church staff.  When you take the time to make an investment to understanding these kids in your church… you minister to our hearts in ways you never will truly understand.  There are times when you will treat our kids better, kinder and more lovingly than some of their own relatives.  You matter in their lives.

—————————————-

Matthew 25:40 “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me.”

Matthew 18:10  “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.”

Mark 10:14    He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”