They are all around us–the “we know a better way” folks. We all have those women who, from their vantage point, always know a “better way” to do the things we are doing. Often, their ideas and suggestions are valid, and could be helpful in the right time. But it does seem that these women are never available in the planning stages–but are more than happy to step up and offer their opinion after the ball is already rolling. You have a plan for decorations, and are busy implementing that plan…and along comes that person who knows a better way and has a better idea.
What is your response going to be? I know it’s frustrating, and it’s tempting to see their input as criticism of what your are doing. We can’t give in to the response our flesh would like to give! Instead, be kind, be graceful, be loving. A simple “we’re going to do it this way this time” should suffice, followed by an invitation to be a part of the process for the next event.
My husband has the “unfortunate” ability to predict the outcome of movies and TV shows. He is rarely surprised by a plot twist; somehow he instinctively knows who the bad guys are and what will happen before it happens. Sometimes I will ask “Have you seen this before?” His answer is “No, it just makes sense.” And normally within a few minutes, it happens just as he has predicted.
Me–I’m perfectly content not knowing ahead of time, and being surprised as the story unfolds–at least when we’re talking movies or TV.
However, when it comes to retreat or event planning, I prefer NO surprises. I appreciate being able to predict the course of events, and to plan ahead for any contingencies or unforeseen glitches. Of course, we do try to anticipate potential problems and plan for them. But there are always “plot twists” — things that come up that are totally unpredictable and out of our control. A speaker gets ill at the last minute; the venue makes a last-minute change; the equipment doesn’t work or is incompatible; a skit prop doesn’t make it to the venue; or, at the very least, you have a bad hair day… You can pretty much count on something happening.
We’ve been there many times. My advice? Remember that what we consider a “plot twist” was ultimately orchestrated by our loving Father, who is in control. Do your best and commit the rest. These “plot twists” are not a surprise to Him. Sometimes I think God allows something unpredictable so that He can work in a new way in our midst, and then He will get the glory.
This week, I read a very interesting article in the magazine we get from our homeowners’ association. What the HOA president shared can be applied to us as we put together our women’s ministry leadership team. Our HOA is run by volunteers, and it is at this time of year that they start focusing on who will be on the Board for the next year. What do they look for? In the president’s words, they look for someone at the “intersection of Willingness and Capability.” There are plenty of capable people who are not willing; there are others who are willing, but have not proven their capability. Does that sound familiar? His answer? The best place to look is at those who are already serving.
When looking for potential leaders in your women’s ministry, it may be tempting to look at those women in your church with natural leadership abilities–strong, articulate and confident. But I suggest that one of the primary things you look for is one who is serving. Find those in your women’s ministry who have been proving themselves faithful in serving and in willingly submitting to authority.
Of course, there are other important qualifications to consider–choose carefully!
In no particular order, I want to share a few verses that have been particularly encouraging or challenging to me as a women’s ministry leader:
- I Corinthians 11:1: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” Have you ever really considered the boldness of this statement that Paul made to the Corinthian church? As a Christian, it encourages me, and as a leader it challenges and convicts me. How would you feel about daily wearing a button or a t-shirt with those words on it? Would you want to hide when you were having a bad day, or when tasks were overwhelming or people were annoying you?
- I Corinthians 16:15b “…they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints….” Paul describes the household of Stephanas with the words “devoted to the ministry of the saints.” Another translations uses the word “addicted.” What a picture that paints…leaders who can’t stop serving even if they wanted to–they are obsessed with serving. They are hooked, and they can’t stop!
- John 15:5c: “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” This is a good reminder to all leaders all the time, because our flesh always wants to get in the way. If we are not on guard all the time, it is easy to find ourselves doing things in our flesh, using our common sense and our own abilities instead of recognizing our need for Him.
- Galatians 6:9 “Don’t get weary in well-doing, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” This should be lodged in your memory, available at a moment’s notice, because (light-bulb moment)… ministry can be wearying. People can burn you out; needs can be overwhelming. Keep your eyes on the harvest.
- I Timothy 6:20a: “Guard what has been entrusted to your care.” We have responsibility for the souls in our care, and those souls are of great value to God.
- I Corinthians 15:58 “Therefore, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” The enemy of our souls, that great “Discourager” tirelessly works to convince you that your labor in the Lord is in vain. Are you going to believe him? We walk by faith and not by sight.
- Philippians 1:27a “Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” This verse reminds us of the high standards of conduct the Lord requires. Our women are watching, possibly more than you realize. They are watching how you handle problems and conflict, they are watching you handle disappointment and trials in your own life, they are watching what comes out of your mouth.
- Philippans 4:8 “Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think on these things.” What we allow our minds to dwell on will sooner or later determine our actions and speech. It is a discipline leaders should take seriously, because our thoughts can be our downfall.
- Philippians 2:14-16a “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life…” Our world is obviously getting darker by the moment–but that is when our light shines brightest. We can be a light in a dark place as we continue to hold fast to the Word of life. Shine on!
- Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Just a reminder for all of us. We are privileged to follow in Jesus’ footsteps to serve others and give our lives for them.
One of our goals in women’s ministry is to serve and build up the women of our church body. As we plan for Bible studies and others women’s events for the coming year, we try to consider women in all stages and walks of life: younger women or older women; women who are single and those who are married; career women or stay-at-home moms; women with special needs, etc. As much as possible, we want our studies and events to be all-inclusive, open and applicable to all women. To that end, last year we added two regular Saturday morning events during the year, hoping to draw in those women who are unable to join us for events taking place during the week. Also, for that reason, the same women’s Bible study is offered both morning and evening to accommodate working women and stay-at-home moms. Our prayer is that the options available would draw in women “on the fringes.”
But at a recent leadership meeting, we were encouraged with this: “Work with what you have.” Yes, we want our women’s ministry to accommodate as many women as possible. We want to be continually drawing new women, helping them get excited about the Word of God and the fellowship and accountability of studying in a group setting with other women. We need to be inviting and encouraging women to attend. However, our focus should be on those who are coming, who have already shown their desire to grow spiritually by being there.
I think of Jesus, who ministered to all who came his way. But His efforts were centered on the 12 men the Father had given Him to disciple and prepare and raise up.
If God has given you five women who consistently attend your Bible study, work with them. Teach them. Disciple them. Encourage them. Concentrate on depth of ministry, not width. Work with what you have.