Leadership Advice from Shari Edwards

What is your best piece of leadership advice to another women’s ministry leader?

leadershiptalk

 

I teach a college course on “Women’s Ministry in the Local Church” and much of my passion for equipping the younger generation comes from lessons I’ve learned along the way. I share with them a list “Top five things I would tell my younger leadership self”:

  1. Pray more. Know God’s truth in Scripture and claim it in your life. Go to Him first with struggles, questions, complaints, and praises.
  2. Be sober and alert. The enemy is always prowling! Don’t give the enemy room to establish a stronghold.
  3. You have nothing to prove to people. Don’t try to be all things to all people and let go of trying to do “all the things.”
  4. Always keep your eyes on Jesus, wait on the Lord, and use your gifts where you are. Be aware of and love the people who are in your life right now—both younger and older.
  5. Always keep learning. None of us has it all figured out, and that’s the beauty of walking with God because we get to see what He is doing in His power!

Originally posted on LifeWay Ministry to Women. Read the full article here.

Fields For Harvest

Green corn field growing up on blue skyThere is a corn field I pass on my way to work each morning. Last spring as the ground was being prepared for planting I thought of the parable of the sower (Luke 8:4-8). The ground was tilled and soon I saw rows where the seeds had been scattered. Each week there would be changes and I began to considered how the corn field was like the fields we tend for the Lord.

The crop began to grow and I noticed the corn in the center was tall and green. The plants on the edge of the field were green, but shorter and not as bright in color. As the season progressed, some of the stalks on the edge began to turn brown and others struggled hard to grow. My attention was drawn to the lush, thick, green stalks in the center and the sweet corn I knew they would soon produce. I sometimes wondered why the farmer didn’t water the edges more so all the stalks would yield a good harvest.

Summer arrived and we experienced record breaking heat. The field began to dry out. The stalks at the edge died quickly and even the thick, green stalks in the center showed signs of the rough weather. The farmer must not have cared for his field because after only a few weeks I looked at what was once lush and green to see it had become of sea of brown. The stalks were dead or dying. The corn had not been gathered. The work this farmer had done in the spring was now wasted and no good had come from it.

A few weeks later I noticed the field had been cut and the dead stalks were gone. It had become a barren, uninviting place to see. However, the empty field was soon covered in bales of dried corn plants. I smiled as I realized that the plants would serve a purpose, though not the original one intended, and the work had not all been in vain. The farmer is now preparing the field for winter and I anticipate a new crop will be planted in the spring with the hope of a great harvest next fall.

When someone is asked for a philosophy of ministry they often say the Great Commandment and the Great Commission (Matthew 22:37-40; Matthew 28:19—20) guide their path. Likewise, if they have been in church life, they might say the goal of ministry is to reach, teach, and minister to the people. Both of these descriptions are correct, but they do not reflect the nuisance of Christian ministry as seen in the growing corn field.

The process begins with the farmer getting up early to prepare to go to his field. Ministers of the faith must also prepare themselves through regular time in study of God’s Word and prayer. The fields must be plowed so the seeds can take a firm hold in the soil.

For the ministry to grow deep roots, relationships must be built with the people we hope to reach. The field needs to be watered, weeded, and watched for consistent growth. Likewise, we must consistently care for all the people and not only those that are most receptive or willing to serve. The people on the edge of the church may require extra attention, but it will help them grow to be fully devoted followers of Christ.

If everything goes well then the corn will grow large and the harvest will be full. There will be seasons, however, when the fields do not grow and we watch our labors fall to the ground. In ministry these may be the times of greatest personal growth and spiritual renewal as we call upon the Lord for His leading and help. If we remain faithful (1 Corinthians 9:24) we will be given new direction and the ministry will continue to grow. Ministers must remain open to change.

The final stage of the corn field is preparing for the future. Just as the farmer prepares the field for next year’s harvest so must we prepare for the future. Leadership development and mentoring in a Paul and Timothy manner is essential for the continuity of ministry within the church. Every minister should have someone they are mentoring and someone that mentors them.

For me if comes down to loving God and loving others. If I love above all else then the fields will be white for harvest.

Help, My Church Doesn’t Support Women’s Ministry

womens teaI love women’s ministry. Chris Adams once defined women’s ministry as “to serve or be a servant. Ministry simply refers to the act of ministering to or the act of performing service for another.”(1) I think we all agree that women’s ministry is not confined to the church building. We should be reaching out to women in all of life’s contexts including school, work, family, and community activities.

However, the question posed is how do you intentionally minister to women in your church when the church doesn’t support a women’s ministry?

Prayer is Foundational

Before you begin to search for answers pray for the situation, your church, and pastor. Be sure to pray for them and not about them! By that I mean, you are asking the Lord to open your eyes to see things from others perspectives. You should want to understand your pastor’s heart and why he does not support a formal women’s program. Ask the Lord to help you examine your own heart. What has motivated you to want to serve women in your church?

Church Vision

A church may elect to not have a formal women’s ministry for many reasons. Individual ministries, or silo ministries, use to be the main stay of church programs, but that is no longer the case. Many churches are looking to blend activities across ages rather than separate into affinity groups.

Sometimes it’s as simple as resources. If the pastor has limited staff he may not elect to bring on new ministries that he does not have time to personally encourage. Also, a women’s ministry may not best serve the vision for the church during a particular season. Many church plants or urban churches choose to not have specific women’s programs.

Would a women’s ministry move the church vision forward?

Options Outside of Women’s Ministry

If your church does not have a formal women’s ministry program you still have many opportunities to reach women. Look at the women sitting around you in worship service and develop relationships. Start a women’s small group for Bible study or other activities. You might start a book club or do crafts together, always keeping the Good News central to why you are gathering.

Titus 2:3-5 is foundational to most women’s ministries, but organic mentoring can take many forms and has been shown to be more effective with the millennial generation (2). Invite one or two women to lunch or to share a mid-morning coffee and begin to do life together. Is there a young mother in your church that could use some help? Offer to come watch the kids while she is catching up on laundry, go grocery shopping together, or teach her to make your signature dish!

Look in your church for the Proverbs 31 woman that is trying to do it all. Is there a woman striving to serve her family, work outside the home, be active in her community, and still participate in the church? How might you show God’s mercy and grace to her? What if she is single and working to support herself, maintain her home and yard, and manage a social calendar so she is not alone? What might you do to illustrate God’s love to her?

Women’s ministry has been evolving over the past few years (3,4) and I think we will continue to see changes in how it is expressed in our churches. Women will always seek out other women so in it’s purest form women’s ministry will occur. However, if your church elects to not support a formal ministry to women you can still find many ways to encourage and equip women for kingdom service.

  1. Adams, C. (2009). Women’s enrichment ministry. Nashville, TN: LifeWay Christian Resources, p. 7.
  2. Edwards, S., & Neumann, B. (2014). Organic mentoring: A mentor’s guide to relationships with next generation women. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.
  3. Taylor, M. (2009). Brave new women: The transformation of women’s ministry in 21st century culture. Retrieved from http://leadnet.org/brave_new_ women_transformation_of_womens_ministry_21st_century_culture/
  4. Parker, B. (2017). An investigation of millennial and older generations expectations of women’s ministry: A Delphi study (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertation and Theses database. (UMI No. 10619995).

Sacred Holidays – A Review

sacred holidaySacred Holidays by Becky Kiser is not what I expected. It’s not a book – well, it is a book, but it’s not a chapter-by-chapter story. Sacred Holidays is organized into three parts with Part 1 discussing how to focus on less chaos and more Jesus. Honestly, that is what I thought the whole book was about and in a way it is, but not as specific as these first two chapters. Part 2 helps you examine each holiday from New Years, to the summer season, birthdays, and finally ending with Advent and Christmas. Part 3 is extra material on dealing with common struggles encountered during holidays. Personally, I think Part 3 should be required reading.

So why read Sacred Holidays? I would encourage you to read it because it isn’t a regular book! We all want less chaos and more Jesus, but to be honest reading about it never seems to change anything. Sacred Holidays takes the extra step of helping you walk through a process to reduce the stress and focus on Christ.

For example, let’s look at New Year’s since it’s coming up soon. First the author talks about new beginnings and change and provides multiple Scriptures on the topic. Then she asks ‘the questions’. These questions are asked for each holiday. “Why do you celebrate the new year? What are some ideas you’ve heard of that might make this holiday more meaningful, What has worked, What hasn’t worked, What do you want to try in the future?” Next comes the action statements, “What struggles do you need to prepare for?” This was my favorite part! She asks you to consider how to “not be THAT Christian” and how to deal with conflict, budgets, schedules, and grief.

By the time you get to the end of each holiday chapter you have reflected on the why and how of holiday celebration from a Christian worldview. You have been given opportunities to reflect on the way it has always been and how you might make changes for the future. If you follow the process with prayer and a heart open to change you will walk away from the next holiday with less chaos and more Jesus. I know this, because I just survived Thanksgiving the Scared Holidays way!

To purchase the book go to the LifeWay Website

Disclaimer: A copy of the book was provided in exchange for an independent review. Neither B&H Publishing or the author had input on the review content.

Living Fit by Ronnie Floyd

Living Fit by Ronnie Floyd“ Your choices today will determine your fitness tomorrow” is the first of many highlights by Ronnie Floyd in his new book Living Fit: Making Your Life Count by Pursuing a Healthy You published by B&H Publishing Group in 2018. The book contains five sections divided into twenty chapters. The main sections discuss how to live fit spiritually, physically, relationally, financially, and emotionally. Each chapter provides a Scriptural foundation with imbedded questions to help the reader personalize the information for life change.

Living fit spiritually focuses on living a purposeful life with intentionality. Floyd states, “The process always precedes the product” (p. 21); a theme he repeats throughout the text. If the goal is a holistic healthy life then there is a process to be followed over time. Fitness is not achieved without discipline and direction based on a foundation of spiritual maturity.

Living fit physically centers on life’s dependence on each decision made. Physical fitness is equally coupled with spiritual, relational, financial, and emotional fitness as it is on eating right and exercise. “Refuse to see your life as being compartmentalized. You are not divided and cannot live like you are” (p. 53). Floyd goes on to state we have four major problems in our lives. “We have a mind problem, a will problem, an emotional problem, and a body problem” (p. 57). Each of these areas must be addressed for whole body fitness. To do so we must see ourselves as a whole person and not focus on the parts (1 Thessalonians 5:23). To give God control of our body is part of giving Him control over our life.

Living fit relationally challenges the reader to live selflessly, lovingly, truly connected to others, as expressed through service. Much of the information on relational living is based on servant leadership as described by Greenleaf. Biblical servant leadership takes the idea of service to others and shifts to purpose to the glorification of God. By serving others with humility our relationships will be stronger. “Serving others always results in a healthy relationship” (p. 115).

Living fit financially provided five principles for financial stability. Floyd suggests, being on a budget, getting out of debt, saving money, focusing on quality relationships, and being generous will lead to financial health. “When you refuse to think about practical matters like monthly expenses, healthcare, life insurance, and retirement, you are living irresponsibly” (p. 137).

Living fit emotionally emphasizes paying attention to the warning signs our life gives us when trouble is coming. Life should be ordered and not chaotic. When your body is sending you emotional signals of worry, frustration, or pain it is important to listen and take action. “The goal is not personal perfection, but personal progress” (p. 160). Floyd says one of the best ways to live emotionally fit is to live gratefully. An attitude of gratitude goes a long way in making us less anxious about the future.

In summary, the book was not what I expected, but it was exactly what I needed. Each chapter is embedded with Scripture to always bring the reader back to the place of dependence on God. What I most liked about the book was the holistic approach to health. Success in one area is not complete without a balanced discipline in all the areas. While human flesh might succeed for a while, we cannot maintain a healthy lifestyle on our own.

The introduction suggested that the reader should periodically “step back” and take account of what was read. This was excellent advice and I would encourage you to do the same. The book is a quick read, maybe a couple of hours, but to really take in the information for life change it should be read slowly letting the nuance of each section soak into our minds. This is the type of book you will read more than once. Scan it quickly the first time to get an aerial view of the information, but then slowly dive deep into each section for application and conviction. This was a great book for personal use, but I would also recommend it for group study. Each chapter contains challenge questions that are perfect for group discussions.

Disclosure: This is an unsolicited review made without input or direction from the author or publisher. A copy of the book was provided for the review.

Move Over Millennials

WM leading seriesMany of you know my recent dissertation focused on the difference in how millennial aged and women who are older view women’s ministry.  It was a great study, but the information is quickly becoming obsolete. We already need to be focusing on the youngest generation… iGen, for lack of a better term.

I’ve provided a link to a great article by Ashley Chestnut who serves as the Associate Singles 20s/30s Minister at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. In the article she says ” I encourage you to grab coffee or dinner with some recent college graduates in your church in order to get to know them and to find out what life is like for them. What is important to them? How do they spend their time? What do they consider to be important social and cultural issues? What YouTube channels do they follow? What are their go-to apps? What ideas do they have about women’s ministry? Have an open mind and hear what they have to say.”  All great questions and suggestions.

Here is the link to When iGen Enters Your Women’s Ministry

Share what you are doing to reach iGen through your women’s ministry in the comments below. How does ministry look different from what we have been doing with millennial age women? What can you suggest to help others?

A Shift in the SBC

 

There is an interesting article  about potential changes in the SBC and the ripple effect it may have on evangelical America.  I have not come to final thoughts about the shift that is occurring in Baptist life – and there is a shift happening – so I’ll reserve comment for now.  Read the article and let me know your thoughts.

  • Do you think Dr. Patterson should have been fired or was the original decision to retire him with benefits correct?
  • Is asking women to serve in higher leadership enough or do you think there will be a push for women to assume senior pastoral or more theological teaching positions?
  • Will people of color support the SBC’s traditional conservative positions or will there be a push to move to moderate politics and theology statements?
  • Will the SBC support J.D. Geear as he moves the denomination in new cultural directions or will we see a growing division within the convention?
  • Where will women’s ministry land when the dust settles?  Will the traditional role of women’s ministry continue or will it get shuffled in the effort to raise women up in leadership throughout the church?
  • What does Scripture say that may impact how we respond to these changes?

These are a few of the ideas I’m working through as I read comments, opinion pieces, and Scripture.  What questions do you have?  What is our next step?