What Not To Say
• “You’re the last one on my list.”
People don’t feel valued or inspired when they are begged to jump on board a sinking ship! If nobody else wants to help, why should they?
• “Oh, there’s really nothing to it; it won’t take much time.”
The message that’s conveyed with this approach is that “any dummy” can do it! And it might not be the truth. Don’t minimize time or talent commitments to manipulate women to volunteer.
• “I helped you before.” Or “If you are a good cook, you should help with the food.”
Using the guilt/ought/should approach doesn’t motivate women with the mission or vision of your ministry. It motivates by guilt. And that’s just yucky.
What To Say
• “You have great skills and talent. Would you be interested in using them in our ministry?”
Be personal! A personal invitation and validating the contribution a woman can make to your ministry are the most effective ways to inspire and encourage her to volunteer. An ad in the bulletin just can’t connect with her the way you can!
• “Let me tell you what happened at our last event.”
Share stories! Women will be inspired to volunteer, and to keep volunteering, when you share and celebrate the success of the mission of your ministry. When a woman’s life is changed through Girlfriends—talk about it!
• “We have so much fun together.”
Have fun! Serving in ministry should be fun and fulfilling. The same thing women are looking for from your women’s ministry is what they should experience in your ministry—friendships, faith, and fun! Make serving in your ministry the most fun place to be!
Most churches simply start with the first week of the Bible study. Think again! You’d be surprised to discover how many women don’t know much more than the names of a few other ladies at your church. Let your first week be one where women get to know each other. They need time to connect, share their stories with each other, and get an idea of what to expect before they’ll be ready to open up their hearts and share honestly with each other.
It’s best to do this in smaller groups since the idea is to get women personally connected. So first, invite all your small group leaders or facilitators to join you in doing the following things together. You’ll model your expectations, and let them see for themselves how important this step is for the women they’ll be guiding. Plus your leaders will connect like never before!
Here’s what to do:
• Make a memory together!
Easy: have the leaders of each small group invite her women over for coffee, to go out to dinner or dessert together, or even meet at a park and go for a walk together. This time together in a different setting makes conversation more natural.
Over-the-top: encourage small group leaders to get their group together for an adventure that’s sure to bond them. Horseback riding, canoeing, a behind-the-scenes tour of a local attraction, painting pottery together—anything that’s out-of-the ordinary, takes a few hours, and will provide a connection they’ll talk about for years to come.
• Ask women to think back to when they were young girls, and then have them share a memory of what they most enjoyed during those years. Or have women share about how they became Christians. Or invite them to tell one dream they still have for their lives. Giving a specific topic for sharing includes everyone—and questions like these allow women to share as deeply as they are comfortable.
• Use this time to go over group expectations. For example, will your group start on time and end on time? Is it OK to bring kids along or not? And most importantly, who’s bringing snacks?
• Go over group boundaries at this time as well. Discuss what accountability to each other looks like, why being accepting of each other’s differences is important, and how critical it is that confidentially is maintained. Women need to know that what they share won’t become the topic of conversation and gossip! You may want to create a simple group agreement that everyone signs to convey how important these points are.
Fall brings the start of the school year, and the kick-off (often literally!) of many sports programs for children. Soccer, football, dance, and more. Being at their children’s sports practices and games can prevent mothers from getting involved in Bible study.
Here’s a fresh idea: Invite a few of those mothers to use one practice a week to share prayer needs and read a short devotion together. While the kids are exercising their bodies, they can be exercising their faith. It doesn’t have to be long and involved with lots of homework—anyone who shows up can join in.
This can end up being both a huge encouragement for those who can’t make weekly meetings during this season, and an outreach opportunity as well. Other moms who are also at practice may be curious about what’s going on, and since they don’t have to have a lot of Bible knowledge to participate, simply invite them to join in. After a few weeks of being included they might start asking how they can know more about Jesus!
Autumn is just around the corner. And while in nature this means things are slowing down and preparing for winter’s rest, in ministry it’s just the opposite. We’re gearing up for new Bible studies, new activities, and new friendships with women. But many of us are in a rut, doing the same old thing.
It’s easy to choose the same thing over and over because you’ve done it often and know what to expect. But there may be women who are not attending simply because they’re tired of the same old thing, or because you’re not offering a study that’s relevant to them.
Here are some ways you can turn over a new leaf for fall:
• Review several studies that you’ve never tried before. Yes, you’re looking for Bible depth, but keep in mind the other needs of women such as the need to connect with others in meaningful ways. Does the study allow for and even encourage discussion? Does it allow women to share about their own lives and what God is doing or does it only focus on a speaker? Does it focus on filling in the blanks on a page or filling the needs of women’s hearts?
• Invite new women to be leaders or small group facilitators. Expand your Bible study leadership team by inviting younger women, those who have been on the periphery, and especially those God has put on your heart! Make your invitations in person instead of just making a note in the bulletin. It’s hard to say no when you’ve been asked face to face.
• Plan for variety. Even though many women now work during the day, most churches continue to offer Bible studies only on a weekday morning. Can you offer studies at different times of day? At various locations like at a coffee shop, the library, homes, or a bookstore? Can you offer one study that is homework intensive and another that isn’t? The more variety you can offer the more likely women will be able to attend.
• Keep groups small to allow for better discussion and more honest sharing. Small is good! A group with just six members will have opportunities to go deep with each other!
Is your women’s ministry overflowing with volunteers? Are women chasing you down the church halls to see how they can be involved? Or do they run when they see you headed their way? If you’re having trouble recruiting or retaining volunteers, before you invest in a new tin of breath mints, read on!
Here are tips for helping women want to get involved.
• Use the right tools. One of the best tools is success stories. Share how your ministry is changing the lives of women. Tell how women are connecting with each other and with Jesus.
• Be willing to search. Look for women who demonstrate natural leadership abilities or have a strong interest in a particular activity. Encourage the women already serving in your ministry to be looking for other women to join them.
• Don’t be too sensitive. You can’t be afraid of rejection. Even though you have the greatest, most fun-tastical and life-changing women’s ministry ever, not everyone you ask is going to say “yes.” Don’t take it personally when women say “no” or give up on asking because they say they are “too busy.” These same women might become wonderful volunteers later on.
Are your women’s retreats in a rut? The same women, same traditions, same locations? It’s time to step outside those routines and experience a fresh perspective! Try one or more of these ideas to revitalize your next retreat.
What a Difference a Day Makes
Getting away for 24 hours is wonderful, but some women aren’t willing or able to leave their families and job for that long. Consider a one-day retreat that lasts only eight hours. Even a shorter break can be a rest from the routines of everyday life. When you plan a one-day retreat, you’ll include more women, keep costs affordable, and make planning simpler.
An Experience You Won’t Forget
When women experience what they’re learning, biblical principles stick with them up to nine times longer. Consider out-of-the-box activities that can be debriefed with discussion and Scripture. Do a ropes course together and then dig into the topic of trust. Embark on a one-day service project and talk about putting faith in action. One group went on a dog-sledding trip—it challenged women physically and then helped them consider challenges God had in store.
Smarter, not Harder
Why reinvent the wheel when there are retreat resources that have already been tested and fine-tuned? Take advantage of ideas and resources that are already available. Involve new women to join in as you plan—and be open to the ideas they bring. (We’d love for you to try our brand-new retreat, Cafe Chocolat. It’s women and chocolate, how can you miss??)
Make it Relational
Women like to talk! Throughout your retreat, plan for plenty of discussion in small groups, with no more than five women per group. This allows everyone to go deeper, grow closer, and build more lasting relationships.
Step out of those retreat ruts and revitalize the women in your church. Freshen things up and be refreshed yourself!
Instead of tearing your hair out in frustration or making wild guesses at what might attract all ages, simply start talking—and listening. Invite two or three of the older women and two or three of the younger women to join you for coffee. Go around the table and let each woman complete sentences like:
- I wish our church offered…
- I’d love the opportunity to serve by…
- We could get more women like me to participate if we…
Use the time to listen and take notes. Encourage open and honest sharing. Letting women of all ages hear from each other helps everyone see that we have more in common than we think, and it builds bridges to each other and to solutions. It’s likely that even during this conversation walls will come down and assumptions will change as younger and older women talk together.
You don’t have to make any promises at this meeting, and you might want to repeat the process with a different group of women to learn more. These conversations can help you gain insight, get ideas, and discover new leaders within your midst.
Does your mother ever embarrass you? My friend, Amy, recently shared a memory of a time her mom really pushed the limits of embarrassing her! Here’s what happened:
It was my 14th birthday, and to celebrate, my mother took my best friend, Leah, and I out to our favorite restaurant, the Turtle Club. (Anyone in Alaska, be sure to visit this wonderful place!) The restaurant was dimly it, but as I sat down I glanced up and noticed a painting on the wall. It caught my attention because it was the bust of a beautiful woman wearing only a Santa hat.
Soon after that I announced that I had to use the restroom. Of course Leah came along. When we got to the bathroom, I told Leah about the painting. After tittering nervously about it for a few minutes, we quietly walked back toward the table. As we got closer we realized that an addition had been made to the painting while we were away. Two bright, pink Sweet ‘n’ Low packets had been stuck over the “delicate places” on the painting! Oh, the mortification! Leah and I froze in our tracks, and then quickly back-pedaled to the bathroom. We were so humiliated! How could my mother have done such a thing? Didn’t she know how embarrassing that was?
As we peeked out the bathroom door we saw my mother call the server over and speak briefly with her. The server then helped her collect our things and moved her to another table across the room. Leah and I sighed with relief and quietly crept to the new table.
None of us said a word about the painting until we were safely home. Then I asked my mom how she had gotten those packets to stick to the painting. Turns out, she had used her straw to drop a bit of water onto the packets and just slapped them right up there! She had also spoken to the server about the appropriateness of having a nude painting in a dining room where families ate. The next time we visited the Turtle Club, the painting was gone, and Leah and I both learned a valuable lesson about speaking up for what’s right, even when it’s embarrassing!
It turns out that sometimes our moms embarrass us—but often it can be for a good reason! And it’s not easy always being that mom who has to do what’s right for her kids.
This story makes me glad we are releasing a new moms’ ministry curriculum soon. Where Moms Connect will be available in just a few weeks—check out the new website for more info! group.com/womens-ministry/where-moms-connect
Freshen it up and stay relevant by reaching women with these ideas as well:
• Create an email with info about the studies and blast that out to all the women in your church. Don’t forget to send it to the college girls!
• Start a Facebook page for your women’s ministry and put info about all the studies there. Start “friending” women in your church and get the word out through social media. If you’re not savvy with web technology, invite a younger woman to handle this for you.
• Think of fun and creative ideas to spread the word—and to keep your fliers from being quickly tossed in the trash. Make new labels for water bottles with all the info about your studies (“Quench your thirst at our Bible study!”). Or put that info on a colorful wrapper for chocolate bars (“Discover how sweet God’s word is!”). Or tape your info to a bag of trail mix (“We’re nuts about God and you!”).
• Consider subscribing to The Spice, a customizable newsletter that allows you to connect with women in your church through a professionally designed newsletter and calendar. Check it out at group.com/women.
Last week several of our women’s ministry team flew to another state to do a training event—and we had all kinds of glitches! A box of critical supplies didn’t make it to the event location. Only one volunteer showed up (we were supposed to have at least five). The hotel didn’t have any record of our reservation. The list went on and on…and we were feeling frazzled with so many things going wrong and knowing we’d have about 130 women showing up the next morning.
But when the next day came, somehow things worked out. Women arrived and were happy to connect with others in ministry. New friendships were made so networking could happen. Ideas were shared. New information was processed. And by the end of the training everyone left with a smile on her face and something new to try in her ministry. Yes, I was completely worn out from it all. But I could see that God had touched hearts that day in spite of it all.
I’m sure that as a leader in women’s ministry you have “those days” every now and then too. When you do, remember these words from John 16:33, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
It’s all about God—and he’s got it all in control.