The Women’s March and What Pastors Need to Know

ABC News recently reported that, “More than 1 million people rallied at women’s marches in the nation’s capital and other cities around the world Saturday…” shutterstock_561776317

As the women’s ministries director for the Peninsular Florida District of the Assemblies of God, I am hoping this was a wake up call for the church and it’s leaders.

As percentages go, there is a phenomenal amount of support for women’s ministries in our district. Particularly in the last three years – we have seen a record number of churches come on board to establish women’s ministries in the local church as well as participate in what our district has to offer. We are so thankful for all the Lord is doing. Yet, there are some pastors/leaders who are resistant to the idea of having an established women’s ministries in their church or connecting beyond the local church. Here are a few things I’ve heard…

“Our ladies get all that they need through our main services at the church. As far as anything additional, we plan events like shopping trips to the outlets a few times a year. Let’s be honest, that’s what women really want…to go shopping.”

“The discipleship needs of our women are met through the membership track we have at the church, for all adults. There is no need for specialized ministry to women. We’re doing just fine as we are.”

“Frankly, I’m afraid to establish a women’s ministry. That would give the women a place to gather and talk and possibly become negative and gossip and before you know it, I would have conflict in the church.  I just don’t need that. I’d rather not give them a platform to meet.”

“Women’s Ministries is an outdated concept and structured like something from the 1950’s. That’s just not where our church is at.”

Well, not surprisingly I have some insights on all this…

First of all women will gather and talk whether a pastor gives them a place to do so or not.

Second, women are longing for more than to spend a few hours at the outlets with their friends. What we experienced Saturday in our nation was a cry in the streets. Are we listening? Without a doubt a lot of women don’t even realize what their heart is truly crying out for. But the church has the answer! What do we do with that opportunity?

Third, I am wondering how many church membership and discipleship tracks are addressing subjects such as abortion, rape, harassment, gender identity, etc. There are issues today’s women are facing that are not addressed from a biblical standpoint in a shopping trip or a membership class.

Fourth, regarding women’s ministries as an outdated concept – when is the last time you checked out what is happening in women’s ministries? I think you will be surprised at what you find. Lives are being transformed from the inside out. I would love to take you on a virtual tour of what is happening in Pen Florida, alone. What God is doing in and through women is nothing short of amazing.

Pastor, women will gather. They will mobilize. Will it be at your church?   As spiritual leaders, we must be proactive and approach people even before they reach out to us. On Saturday as they watched the march on television, many spiritual leaders shook their heads in amazement and responded with “What is wrong with these women? They’re crazy!”  Some retaliated with rebuttals on Facebook. A better response would be for each of us to ask ourselves, “How can I lead the way in meeting the spiritual needs of women who are crying out for help?” Even better still, how can we meet those needs BEFORE they are crying out for help?

I am not judging pastors. I’ve been one myself for almost 30 years.  Now serving in the district office, I spend my life primarily encouraging pastoral leaders and their spouses and women’s ministries leaders. It is with a heart for every one of those leaders and their churches that I share this.  I am hoping that every pastor will prayerfully consider what they are prayerfully and strategically doing to help the women of their church and community walk in their God given purpose and destiny.

1021162109dI spoke with one pastor who said, “Deanna, we might not have a formalized women’s ministries, but there is ‘women’s ministries’ all over our church! Women are serving. They are greeters, they teach classes, they work in the nursery. They serve. THAT’S real women’s ministry.” Respectfully…no it’s not. That is women IN ministry, not ministry TO women.  For decades, women were little more in the church than the predominant work force, lacking replenishment for their own soul or recognition for their efforts.  In recent years there has been an exodus of women from the church nationwide. Scores of them have taken their gifts and passion and invested it in the business world where they find themselves respected as equals and their work genuinely valued.

The last U.S. Census shows that women are the majority population in the United States by a slight margin and in the church they have historically been the greater margin as well. Not only are they typically the largest population of any pastor’s congregation, but they have greater pressure, needs and influence in the world than ever before.

Author Bev White Hislop says, “The physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs of women may be greater than at any previous time in the history of the United States. There may have been more traumatic circumstances in the lives of American women, but there probably has not been a time when women have had fewer helpful connections and less effective shepherding.”

I plead with you to not simply write off the women who marched as ungodly or crazy. May we look deeper and ask ourselves what we can do to reach out in love and provide a place where women will discover the hope and freedom that only Jesus can provide.

Would you like to have more resources in ministering to the women in your congregation?  I am here to help. dshrodes@penflorida.org

 

Deanna-ShrodesDeanna Doss Shrodes is the Women’s Ministries Director for the Pen-Florida District of the Assemblies of God. Deanna is most passionate about investing in leaders and leadership health. Deanna is an Assemblies of God ordained minister and has served as co-pastor alongside her husband Larry, for 29 years. Currently they are lead pastors of Celebration Church Tampa (AG). Deanna is a speaker in demand in the United States and abroad, and is an accomplished musician, worship leader and recording artist. She is an award winning writer and contributing author of five highly acclaimed anthologies and sole author of the books, JUGGLE: Manage Your Time, Change Your Life, Worthy to Be Found, RESTORED: Pursuing Wholeness When a Relationship is Broken, and STRONGER: 30 Powerful Principles for Leaders, all published by Entourage Publishing. Deanna has been featured in many publications worldwide, including The Huffington Post.

When You Are Working Hard But Lack the Results You Hope For

By:  Deanna Shrodes, Director of PFWomen

Many leaders are hard workers, but lack the outcome they long to see. Truly hard workers find themselves discouraged and depressed wondering, “Why am I seeing little fruit?”  Many are on the brink of resigning out of frustration. I have encountered this phenomenon many times, and have pondered possible reasons for it.  Being someone who works hard and sees many of the outcomes I’ve dreamed of, I’d like to provide some insight on this.  I’m not writing this to appear as if I have it all together.  I’ve fallen flat on my face at times. But I’ve also had a lot of successes. I share this as someone who has had dreams come true and wants to help others see their dreams come true as well!

Here we go:

Spend time on the right things.

A leader cannot do it all. Great leaders trust others and develop a strong team. And at the same time, there are multiple areas that must be addressed by the leader personally to move the organization forward. There are thing that cannot and should not be delegated. Some leaders have too much on their plate and others too little. Some have left essential items off of their plate. And, some simply have the wrong mix of things on their plate. Have you prayerfully considered what should be on your agenda?36869_everyday_volunteers_8

Years ago, Saleena Smith*, a pastor’s wife, shared with me that her husband was experiencing depression over their church which was in a state of decline. On the surface it was puzzling because her husband was a Godly man who worked hard.  He arose early in the morning to seek the Lord. He prayed about what he was to bring the people from the Word each Sunday.  He faithfully pored over commentaries, preparing weekly messages and was an excellent preacher. However, looking beyond the surface into her husband’s weekly schedule brought clarity. It was Pastor Smith’s custom was to spend literally all of his working hours on two things: his Sunday sermon and prayer. When his wife gently spoke to him about the lack of time spent on anything else he responded, “There’s nothing more important than the Word and prayer! That is why I spend all of my weekly time on it! If I just feed the people, the church will grow.” And yet year after year, despite how great Pastor Smith preached and how much he prayed, the church continued to decline.

The reality was that Pastor Smith had the two most important things on his plate, but left some other essentials off. While it is a true statement that there is nothing more important than the Word of God and prayer, a pastor who spends no time equipping the saints for ministry (Ephesians 4) and addressing things like discipleship, leadership development, vision, outreach, etc. will get stuck regardless of how many hours they pray or study.  Leaders must accomplish multiple tasks a week to move forward and it’s important to identify the most important items and unapologetically spend time on those.

When it comes to my role in directing PF Women, I can lead great events but if I’m not investing in leading my team members up close and personal, we will experience decline. Things can also begin to stagnate when we focus only on the parts of leadership we enjoy the most. I love preaching as much as the next preacher – but if I exert all my energies into traveling around and speaking and don’t keep a pulse day to day on the administrative matters of the ministry – it won’t take long for things to implode. A good leader identifies what should be on their plate and how much time to allow for each of those areas for the organization to move along at optimum speed.

Spend money on the right things.

Many leaders are focused on what is best for themselves first, and then their staff or inner circle. Here’s a principle I have learned. When I put the needs of the organization first, the resources are there to cover everything including myself and the staff/team.  When what you do is based on self preservation, it will decline at some point. Leadership is others-centered. When you keep it that way, it works. When you revert to self preservation you enter decline. Because leadership was never about me or you. It’s about them.

Pastor Rick* dealt with a problem many pastors struggle with in their churches…a lack of financial resources. The church was barely making budget week to week, but he faithfully plodded on in the work of ministry at First Church and he had a small but loyal and hardworking staff. He longed for an increase in the finances to do all of the projects and outreaches he dreamed of.

2856_img_1032One week the church received an unexpected financial blessing from one of the members who sold a home. Pastor Rick considered what to do with the financial gift and settled upon the idea of replacing the church phone system since it was so out of date. While the phone system was a blessing to the office staff this did little to move the struggling church forward in any way. Buying a phone system isn’t a wrong thing to do, but the timing in this particular case was unwise. The church hadn’t done any outreach in the community for a long time, due to lack of resources and yet they had a brand  new phone system but not many people left to call.

PF Women has experienced the blessing of God upon our finances. Not only did we quickly get out of almost $75,000 worth of debt that was there when I came into office, but we have operated in the black since that time and moved forward to do great things for leaders in the local church as well as giving to missions around the world. Day by day we get stronger. Part of that is good financial stewardship as well as strategizing carefully to spend money on things that will bring the greatest return.

When I’m looking at what we need to spend money on both from week to week and year to year, I consider first what is going to be best for those we serve. Honestly there are quite a number of things in my office that could be replaced and make life more comfortable for myself, my assistant or our leadership team.  But leadership isn’t first and foremost about what makes the leader or their team more comfortable. Leadership is about helping others. My goal every morning is to wake up and reach more people and serve them better. As our team does that, guess what?? The resources increase and we are able to acquire things along the way that also help make things better for the team. (Our registration and 1,000 Sisters team is doing a happy dance right now about the new laptops that are on the way to replace the antiquated ones. Truth be told, we needed these laptops three years ago but it wasn’t the proper timing. Because we spent the money on things that increased our reach and our revenue we now have more money for things like upgraded computers.)

There are many things I could share about properly stewarding the finances of a ministry for growth but for time and space sake I will just hit a few:

  • Make no snap decisions about money.
    • I take about a month to develop the budget for the coming year and carefully consider and pray about every expense and where we will get the biggest return on investment.  The biggest return in my view is one that helps us achieve our vision and mission. If we come into unexpected money, it is never spent immediately unless it would be something I’ve already prayed about months before and sought God to bring it in for that specific purpose.
  • Make no major financial decisions alone.
    • Pastor Rick Warren says, “All of us are smarter than one of us.” While everyone in your organization giving input as to the budget would bring chaos, having a few people you strategize with is key. Some people who are invaluable to me in big decision making are our district CFO, treasurer, my assistant and executive team. While I hold some authority as a leader to make financial decisions, I invite them into the process to advise me even more than is required. I don’t dread their input – I appreciate it. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” The sure way to make a lot of dumb decisions is to have a lack of counsel and accountability particularly about the big things.
  • Don’t spend what you don’t have.
    • There is often a fine line between faith and foolishness. God doesn’t ask us to give what we don’t have but He does ask us to give what we do.  Problems come in our personal life, ministry and organizations when we live on credit and give what we don’t have instead of what we already possess.
      • PF Women has operated entirely in the black for three years. God continues to supply and needs are met as we continue to be faithful in giving and stewarding. We give generously of what we do have. We never give what we don’t.  If we were ever to hit a momentary unexpected and rough patch there is no question of what would happen. I would step up to the plate and make a personal sacrifice to put us back in the black. As John Maxwell once said, “A leader knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”  If you asked some leaders they would think that means that a leader is the first to hop up on the platform and speak. I believe many times it means a leader is the first one to pull out their checkbook.

Get the right people in the right place.

Examine the leaders around you closely. (This article assumes you have at least a few leaders in place. If you don’t that’s another article for another time.)

I make it a practice to recruit what I believe is the right person and with specialized skills being secondary. (I realize it’s different when you are hiring someone such as a music pastor. Obviously a very specific skill set it required.)  For instance, when I met Liz Capano of Faith Assembly Orlando, I knew I wanted her on my team. I didn’t even know in what capacity yet. I just knew she was our person. I came to realize she was the right leader to host our radio show and she’s taken it to levels I personally hadn’t achieved on my own. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.

37900_youth_gatheringWhen I’m selecting a leader, generally, “the right person” will have a varied skill set and more than likely serve in several positions over their tenure on the team. Part of that is due to the changing needs of the organization and part of it is, sometimes you have the right person in the wrong spot. Many leaders leave the right person in the wrong spot because of varied reasons such as – they’ve been there for years and are comfortable in that role. Leadership isn’t about comfort. Don’t be afraid to mix it up, or to make course corrections as soon as you discover a change needs to be made.  The person overseeing our registration this year may be the emcee next year at our event because we realized – we had them in the wrong spot.

Perhaps nothing is so frustrating as pouring your heart and soul into a place or a group of people and experiencing little of what you’ve prayed and worked so hard for. As a leader I want to help people avoid that frustrating place where they are ready to quit.  My prayer is that this article gives a reader in that place even one glimmer of help and hope. I’d welcome a call from any leader in that position who says, “I just need someone to talk through things with, strategize and pray together.”
Here you go: (863) 683-5726, ext 232.

Much love,

Deanna

*names and identifying details changed

Deanna Shrodes on Life, Love, and Leadership

How long have you been leading?

I’ve been leading all my life, even if in an unofficial capacity. In a pack of kids at five years old, I was an influencer in the group saying, “Hey everybody, let’s go this way…”

How would you define your leadership style?

I’m passionate about team building. You can achieve greater things through a team. If you want to build something significant and lasting, it has to be through a team. You can accomplish some things on your own, but there are limitations. Because of this and other reasons, I choose to team build.  I’m a confident leader and thrive on finding the potential in others and helping them flourish.  On a broad spectrum, enjoy discovering and amplify the voices of others, especially up-and-coming leaders.   I get energized when I’m surrounded by the most talented people in the room.

On a practical level, my leadership style on a day-to-day basis could be described as organized with an attention to detail, but I don’t have a problem releasing projects to others and I don’t micromanage.  I want people around me who know what they’re doing and trust them to do it.

How will you determine what decisions to proceed with that may benefit some at the expense of others?

Prayer!   That is not a pat answer.  I am a person of prayer and value it above most anything else in my personal life or in the church.   Nothing great happens without prayer and no significant decision should ever be made without it.  I’m Pentecostal in practice not just in theory and pray in my prayer language every day – that the will of God be done in all situations.

How do you personally deal with conflict?

There isn’t a neat and tidy answer to this question for all situations. In general, I believe that dealing with things sooner rather than later is wisest. I also believe communication early, often and clearly is important.  It’s not just important to communicate something in a timely fashion —  it has to be clear to be effective.  As a leader you can get up and say a whole bunch of nothing.  You’ve communicated but not clearly, and therein lies the problem, many times. We can avoid some conflicts by being clearer in our communication up front.  Statistics tell us most people don’t really get something until they hear it seven times.  I believe in not only telling people something, but repeating it , and in different ways if they haven’t gotten the message accurately the first, second or third time.

In cases where a person is openly divisive, Matthew 18 is the rule. One of the benefits of building a strong team is that you can call on the team to help you resolve conflict, and utilize them in the guidelines given in Matthew 18. The Bible also says to  “mark those who cause division among you.”  I have had to mark a few people and allow the leadership to do what leaders should be set free to do – lead.

How do you get people to partner with you when you share a vision?

First I would calculate for myself if it was truly worthwhile.  I would not try to convince someone else to give or invest of themselves with a vision I am not fully committed to.  I can’t speak with any sense of passion about something I’m not personally invested in.  After making the decision for myself I would speak from my own experience of why I have decided to invest in whatever venture is on the table.  I would do that through a series of creative communications in whatever areas God led me to use – social media,  personal one on one meetings, messages at events, letters, etc. And, I would go first in sacrificing and set the example in giving. I don’t expect anyone to do what I’m not also willing to do.

How do you handle situations in leadership where people try to put obstacles in your way? Have you ever had someone try to sabotage your efforts and what did you do?

Yes, many times.  My daily prayer with everything and everyone including myself is this: “Lord, if it be of you – let it flourish. And if it is not of you, bring it to a halt.” I include myself and my efforts in this prayer. I just want God’s will. I pray that whatever is of Him would flourish and whatever is not of Him would not. The enemy has a plot, but God has a plan! When you are fully submitted to God and His will and His way, He fights for you. It’s not about God being on my side, it’s about me being on His. When you are on the Lord’s side, you will not fail. Stay close to Jesus, and let Him win for you. The battle truly is the Lord’s but we must be in the right position – close to Him under His protection and guidance.

For those leading a staff, what are things you believe are important in being a great leader/boss?

Lead the way by example. Don’t expect them to do anything you are unwilling to do. Make the sacrifices first before you ask them to. Care about them as a person first. Ask about their family. Listen. Love them. Be as generous as possible. Laugh together and have fun. Celebrate their accomplishments. Show appreciation. When you do all these things, people who are the right fit for your team will exceed expectations. Lead in such a way that anyone would wish they were on your team or had you for a boss.

What mistakes did you make earlier in your ministry or as a leader that you would advise other leaders not to make?

There are many, but these are a few…

First, if I had it to do over again, I’d take more time off.  Particularly in our former pastorate, I set the people up for a level of reliance on me that just wasn’t healthy.  I took so little time off and they were perfectly happy to let me burn out.  If I could go back and have a do-over I would not be personally unhealthy at the expense of the church.

Second, I would have realized that sometimes you win the smaller battles but lose the war.  I fought on a lot of things early on in ministry that were just stupid. Looking back I can’t believe some of the things I went to the wall for.

Third, I would have NEVER tried to talk someone into staying in the church when they wanted to leave. (When you talk them into staying they usually affect others in a negative way and take other people with them when they finally do leave.)

I could go on and on with what I would do over again, but these are just a few.

What are some of your favorite books that have impacted you as a leader?

Communicating for Change by Andy Stanley, Start with Why by Simon Sinek, Developing the Leader Within You by John Maxwell, Secrets of the Secret Place by Bob Sorge,  Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek, Just Enough Light for the Step I’m On by Stormie Omartian.

Where did you meet your husband and how long have you been married?

At the University of Valley Forge and we’ve been married twenty nine years.

Do you have children?

Yes, three. Dustin (26), Jordan (25) and Savanna (19)

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned as a mom?

Example is everything. “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work. We have to live a Godly life in front of our kids, for them to succeed. Love them deeply and express it daily. Be affectionate. Don’t spoil them with material things. Give them attention.  You can give them too many things but you can’t love a child too much. Be a parent not a pal. Make things like church – youth group – and kids and youth camps as non-negotiables. Don’t major in the minors.

What about as a wife?

Be a great forgiver. Realize that marriage is an everyday exercise in getting beyond your selfishness.

What was the most surprising thing for you, about being a minister’s wife?

The varied, high and unattainable expectations. Every church member has a different idea of who and what you should be and many don’t mind telling you.

If you could give just one piece of advice to a brand new minister’s wife, what would it be?

Read Galatians 1:10 over and over and over. Memorize it. Live by it.

If you could give one piece of advice to a leader in general what would it be?

When everything is going wrong, it’s not always your fault. But when everything is going right it’s not always your fault either.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?  What lessons did that person teach you?

My grandmother, Jura Lewis. She taught me resilience, love, commitment, love for the Lord and His Church.

What do the women in our churches need, in your opinion?  How can we meet that need?

They need a lot of things including the basics of spiritual formation – things like a close relationship with God and a prayerful and spirit-empowered life. But something important that also comes to mind is that they need to know they are not alone in the issues they face. I think many of us believe no one goes through what we do in the load we bear. It’s not nice to think of the fact that others are suffering in various ways, but it’s a comfort to know you’re not alone or crazy. We can meet the need by opening a conversation and giving helps we have found to navigate the journey.

What do you believe leaders forget sometimes that’s important for them to do?

Three things come to mind.

  • Laugh a lot. Leadership is challenging and sometimes we start to take ourselves way too seriously and get uptight about everything. I find things to laugh about every day. My assistant Erika and I share so many laughs each day, and I believe it’s essential to a healthy team culture.
  • Enjoy the process. So often we forget to actually enjoy the projects and events we work on. I have found myself in such an intense place at an event that I’m not having any fun doing what I’ve worked so hard on. We forget, God actually wants us to ENJOY the ministry.
  • Celebrate wins. I think Christians are bad at this, Pentecostals particularly. We are so focused on giving glory to God, (which is important) that we don’t celebrate accomplishments and milestones appropriately. When you do a good job at something, savor the win at least for a day. The next project awaits you, but don’t forget to celebrate what just happened.

 

What’s your favorite Women’s Ministries event?  Why?

Our annual leadership team retreat.  I really enjoy pouring into people as a smaller group and not just the big events. This retreat is really impactful and prepares our team to minister to people on a wider scale. This smaller meeting is the catalyst for every big thing we do.

What do you like most about being a pastor’s wife?

Having so much opportunity to make a lasting impact on someone’s life. The door is wide open! The sky is the limit.

What do you like LEAST about being a pastor’s wife?

The varied expectations that I could never meet even if I gave it absolutely everything I have.

What is your favorite Scripture verse?   

Joshua 1:5-6

“No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you. Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them.”

What do you like to do for fun?

Read, write, ride my bicycle, sit on the swing on the patio and watch the rain, take a long bath, be quiet and sip on a cup of coffee or an iced tea. I know that my “fun” is boring to most people

Are you a morning or a night person?

I’m actually both, with an afternoon crash. Ha! I’m raring and ready to go in the morning and accomplish a lot and then usually feel a crash mid-day and get a second wind at night and get a lot more done. Thank God for coffee in the afternoon. (Please do not send me a sales pitch for vitamins, a shake or something to wrap my body in that will fix my afternoon crash. I’ll keep my coffee.)

What is your favorite color? Green

What is your favorite food? Mashed potatoes.

What are some of your “favorites” in life?

Books, writing, classical, jazz, big band, gospel, playing the piano, singing, writing and arranging music, crepe myrtle trees, hydrangeas, roses, dancing (for fun, not performing) cruises, rollerskating, road trips or taking the train, rocking chairs, coffee and tea – the bolder the better, Africa, the tea fields of Kenya, walking through the woods, eating at  hole in the walls, being in quiet places and spaces. Solitude – I have to have it to recharge or just to be okay in general. I love people so much and at the same time if I don’t get quiet each day, it’s much more of a challenge to be loving but I try my best to be anyway.

Tell us something people may not guess, about you…

My kids say there is nothing people won’t guess about me because I’m so transparent. I don’t care who knows what about me…sometimes to an embarrassing point for my family. But let’s see…well, I am afraid of putting my head under water. I don’t jump into deep water. The ladies of the church we pastored in Maryland collected money and offered me $700 to jump into a pool. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I tried a few times and got so weak kneed and sweaty I told them to keep the money.

 What is your most unusual talent?

I can tell you whether the fries at a McDonalds are good or bad before tasting them. I get a feeling about it when I’m in the parking lot or driving by.

What is the favorite year of your life so far?

My first year as director of PF Women. It was an exciting rollercoaster ride of seeing God’s provision and faithfulness.

What do you like most about your role as director?

I genuinely love every single thing about it. It’s hard for me to pick one thing I love most.

Finish this sentence:  “My favorite place to vacation would be…”

Place I have been – Key West or Savannah, GA

Place I have not been – Greece

How do you want to be remembered?

As a person of integrity and love who gave my all at whatever I did, and made a difference in people’s lives and in the world.