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Begin a Women's Ministries Program
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Many women are interested in starting a Women's Ministries group but do not know where to begin. Some feel unqualified. The Lord has wonderful experiences in store as you lean on Him, becoming involved in a ministry which is best accomplished under His guidance.

Ask God to guide you

The first step is to pray. Pray for a burden for the women and how to meet their needs. Study God's Word and the Spirit of Prophecy for guidance. Talk to other Women's Ministries leaders. You may have only a few interested women at first, but as you allow the Lord to lead, others will want to become involved.

Ask God for a Vision

Without a vision, the people perish. Ask God to give you a vision as to what He wants for you and your church. Share your vision with your women leaders. Share this vision with plans for your ministry with your local pastor. Include him in your plans and events with the overall vision of the church. See vision and mission statements as to how to prepare them on web site.

Preliminary Planning

Next, get a group of women together to do preliminary planning. Be sure that the women on this committee are a cross section of women in your church, representing different age groups, ethnic groups, educational, and economic levels. It would be wise, as much as possible to also represent singles, divorced, disabled, etc.. You will then be modeling an inclusive ministry and be better able to meet real needs. If the pastor's wife wants to be involved, that is wonderful. But if her schedule will not allow her involvement, or her interests are elsewhere, ask her if she would like to serve as an advisor.

Prepare a survey

To help you determine the needs of your group, ask the women of the church to fill out a needs survey. Some of the questions that might be useful in a needs survey to help define your proposal are:
  1. As a Christian woman, what is your greatest personal need or area in which you would like to see yourself grow?
  2. What are the three most prevalent needs you can identify in your closest non-Christian friend?
  3. Thinking about the women of your church, what concern do you share for them, and which group of women do you believe need immediate attention? (i.e. mothers of preschoolers, single parents, working women, widows, etc.)
  4. List three pressing needs or issues your community is facing. How could the Women's Ministries of your church help address these problems?
When you have defined the needs of your congregation, you can put together a specific plan of action. The church board should authorize a planning committee. They should confirm the ministry leader and team, or depending on the time of year, these women might be selected by the nominating committee. This planning committee would then develop a proposal that includes a specific description of the program design, curriculum resources, budget, a starting date and other decisions necessary to begin your program. It is all right to start small and slowly build.

Leadership qualities

The women who take leadership positions in Women's Ministries do not necessarily need to have previous leadership training. They must, however, be willing to be taught and be able to work well with others in the church. Some of the qualities they should possess are:

Spiritual qualities:
  1. An intimate relationship with God
  2. Serving God, not self
  3. Devoted to prayer
  4. Committed to God and His Word
  5. Servant leadership
Positive personal qualities:
  1. Integrity
  2. Thinks before acting
  3. Courage
  4. Faces issues
  5. Vision
  6. Serves others
  7. Positive self-image
  8. Motivates others
  9. Teachable spirit
  10. Delegates work
Personal qualities to avoid:
  1. Burnout
  2. Sense of inadequacy
  3. Spiritual dryness
  4. Fear of failure
  5. Unloving attitudes
  6. Conflict with authorities
  7. Critical spirit
  8. Habitual lateness
  9. Pettiness
  10. Strong individualism
  11. Passivity
  12. Laziness
  13. Lack of emotional control
  14. Poor time management
  15. Over commitment
  16. Compulsive talking
Four wrong motivations for leadership:
  1. Pressure from others to become involved
  2. To receive prestige and admiration
  3. To fulfill a personal need for acceptance and approval
  4. To have power and authority over others
(Adapted from the Women's Ministry Handbook, Carol Porter and Mike Hamel, General Editors. Victor Books: Wheaton, Illinois, 1992.)

After the church board or nominating committee has chosen women for leadership positions, it would be appropriate to consecrate them to this position. Ask the pastor for a Sabbath when the new leader and her supporting committee could be brought to the front of the church for special prayer. This will benefit the new ministry in a number of ways. It introduces the group and the objectives of the group to the congregation. It shows the support and the linkage between this leader, the committee and the pastor. It gives the opportunity for the pastor to invite the blessing of the Lord on this new and important ministry.

Work with your pastor

It is wise to work closely with your pastor. During the early planning stages, talk to your pastor. You will need his or her support to be successful and he/she can give you valuable advice. Explain that Women's Ministries will support the pastor and spouse in their goals for the church family. Never "surprise" the pastor—keep him/her informed of your plans. It is important too that you plan your programs into the larger church calender well in advance.

Identifying spiritual gifts

One of the goals of Women's Ministries is to help women identify and use their spiritual gifts. As soon as possible, help your leadership and the women to whom you minister find their gifts. One effective way is to work in small groups. Have each group draw a picture of a woman (stick figures are fine!). Then have each woman write her name beside the part of the drawing with which she identifies her gift. If she like to do things with her hands, she would write her name beside the hands. Perhaps she likes to go visit—identify the feet. Perhaps it is to preach; write beside the mouth. Ears to listen, heart to sympathize, and so forth. Then ask each lady to share why she feels this is a gift, and if time allows, how she has or would like to share this gift. You can also pre-prepare pictures of Christ and use that instead of a drawing of a woman — we can be the hands, ears, eyes, feet for Christ (see page 168). As soon as practical, you may want to have a full Spiritual Gifts Seminar (See pages 164-166).

Target your ministries

There are generally three categories of programs: to teach and disciple women, to nurture, and to evangelize. Knowing which type you are planning will help you to plan successfully. From time to time plan some leadership training for your leaders and potential leaders also.

Determine priorities

You will doubtless want to do a survey of the women in your church to find what specific programs, classes and outreaches your group wants. Your survey should show where the real needs are in your church. Check carefully that your programming is meeting those needs. This is the formula of success that Jesus used in His ministry. He didn't minister to keep busy. He ministered to meet needs, real needs.

One nice way to do a survey is to roll the surveys up and tie them with a nice ribbon and then pass them out at the door of church. Collect them in the same basket after church. Do not let the women take them home; it is much too difficult to get them back! You may or may not want to have women sign their names. Once the survey is completed, select the most pressing need and develop a way to meet this need. Do one thing, and do it well, before you begin others. It will help you gain experience and win confidence.

Write effective goals

Women can easily be carried away with an exciting idea, such as starting Women's Ministries, but sometimes fail to set realistic goals. Your program will have more support and will be more successful if you set goals. Ask yourselves some questions:
  1. Is this program Christ centered?
  2. How many do we want to attend?
  3. What do we need to do to get this number?
  4. How many nonmembers do we want to attend?
  5. Who are we targeting?
  6. What is our primary goal?
Write out your goals. This will help you to see any missing links.

To be successful, goals must be Specific, Attainable, and Measurable. Programs cannot be hit-or-miss. Ask yourself:
  1. Are our goals specific?
  2. Are they attainable?
  3. Are we looking at pie-in-the sky, or are we certain that with God's blessing our goals are attainable.
  4. Are they realistically something that our women and resources can handle?
  5. And finally, can we measure the success of our goals?
If you can answer each of these questions satisfactorily, you can be assured that you will build effective ministries in your local church.

It is always a good idea to evaluate your program after it is over. Did you achieve your goals? How can you improve your goals, and your program, next time? Go over each item in your plan to see what went well and what can be improved.

Develop the details

Some of the details to think about in planning a program are:
 
Where?

When?

Time?

Will child care be provided?

Who will provide child care?

Is the facility booked?

Is the facility large enough?

Are there chairs, tables, heat, etc.?

How much will the program cost?

How will the program be paid for?

Do you have a budget for this program?

Church leaders respect a program that is organized. They are much more likely to give financial backing to a program that has been thoroughly and thoughtfully developed.

When planning the time for a program, carefully check that there are no competing programs or activities to detract from your attendance. Make sure that it is a convenient time of day for your target audience. Young mothers will not want to come during children's meal or nap time and elderly women often do not want to go out after dark. Give the same kind of thought to where a meeting is to be held and to each concern.

When you have worked out the details, give all assignments in writing so that you have a paper-trail that can serve as a reminder to you and the person who has accepted the assignment.

Determine resources

In planning a program, retreat, church service, or a simple tea, there are many resources that need to be assessed. It is a good idea to keep a file or notebook of possible resources. These would include speakers and chairpersons, sources of finance, materials such as books, pamphlets, videos or other educational materials, and retreat facilities. Your resources would also include facilities (especially necessary for retreats) and even transportation.

Contact your conference, union or division director for a list of current Women's Ministries books, handbooks, newsletters, videos, seminars or other resource material available. There are many excellent books on topics such as women in the Bible, self-esteem, small group prayer and Bible study, women's devotional books and much more.

Funding your program

This may seem to be one of the hardest obstacles to overcome. You may be fortunate to be in a church where the board will give you a liberal budget. Or you may have no money at all and you will have to be very creative. In either case you will need a budget. If you are inexperienced, ask one of the church treasurers to mentor you in planning a budget. Get prior approval for all expenditures! Plan carefully and early to avoid surprise costs. Keep receipts of all purchases and good records of all spending. And most important, keep within your budget or you may have to personally pay for expenses that you did not intend to pay. It will also give your ministry a good reputation if you're careful to stay within your budget.

As time passes and the value of Women's Ministries is proven and more appreciated, there should be money in every church budget for Women's Ministries. When your ministry is new in your church, you may not have the financial support that you would like. You may have to raise the money yourself. Women can cook. Women can bake. Women can put on musical programs. Women can have garage sales. And there are many other ways.

The more carefully planned and successful your programs are, and the more they can be seen as a benefit to the church, the more likely you will be to be able to get funding from the church for future programming. Define the needs in your church so that you are meeting real, previously unmet, needs.

There may be some programs, retreats, times when food is served, or guest speakers come, for which you will want to charge or sell tickets. You will need to advertise well and build enthusiasm so women will want to come.

Advertise your programs

The best program will fail if people don't know it exists. And people in the advertising field say that you have to tell about something five to seven times for people to really be aware or remember something. So think of every possible method of informing that you have at your disposal. Of course you can use your church bulletin, newsletter, announcements, and bulletin boards. You can make posters and hand out fliers. If you want nonmembers to attend, you can use public service radio and TV announcements, newspaper stories or ads, also. Don't overlook inviting women's groups from other denominations; every program should be a way to reach your community! Be ready for other Christians and non-Christians and be careful to never give offense.

You will be most effective if you can get your whole congregation involved in promoting your program. Get the prayer bands praying for your program. Make certain that your pastors and literature evangelists have your yearly schedule. If they are aware of the programs planned for women, they can invite those they meet and visit. Get your telephone committees working. Make sure that your pastor has a nice supply of the fliers and that he is well-acquainted with all of your plans. Most importantly, encourage your church members to bring a friend.

In some countries women wear uniforms and some kind of a badge and they knock on doors in the community around the church and invite people personally to come to the meetings. In others they visit several times and give a fresh-cut flower with a personal invitation to come to their meeting. Be creative!
Minister to individuals

The purpose of Women's Ministries is to minister to the women of your church and to reach out to those who are nonmembers. People are encouraged and won one-to-one. Make certain that every individual is made welcome and comfortable at your programs. If you expect 30-non-members, make sure that you have at least 30 of your church women present to mingle with and befriend them. Plan to have someone sit with each guest and to begin to build relationships. And if men come, especially welcome them and make them comfortable! Women's Ministries is inclusive.

Disciple new members

As you attract new members to your church, have a plan to mentor them and to help them become comfortable with the Adventist lifestyle. In order for our ministry to be truly effective, we must disciple this new member until he/she becomes truly integrated into our church family. It would be helpful if there were a planned program to assign someone to each new person, especially if they do not already have a comfortable relationship with someone in the church. Invite them home for Sabbath dinner or afternoon activities. Help them to feel they belong, that they are no longer a visitor. Persons who work specifically with new converts say that it takes about 12 - 18 months to disciple a new member, so that they are also able to take on responsibilities and pass on what has been given to them. If the spouse has not been baptized, find some activities you can do with them so that he/she will be comfortable in joining their mate and the group.

Resources

The conference Women's Ministries director is responsible for providing resources for the local church leaders. The Women's Ministries director at the union level provides training seminars for Women's Ministries leaders, and the Women's Ministries director at the division level is available for organizational assistance, training meetings, encouragement, and resources. It is important for local leaders to attend basic training sessions sponsored by the local conference. Women's Ministries is committed to reaching the community, discipling people, and nurturing our members around the world.

Resources:

Strengthening Your Church by Tamyra Horst (local ABC)
North American Division Resource Kit (NAD Women's Ministries office)
Women's Ministries Handbook (AdventSource)