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“Women’s Ministries is an outdated concept and structured like something from the 1950’s. That’s just not where our church is at.”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

Go For the Gold!

Hebrews 12:1-2 “…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our face…”

I Corinthians 9:24-26 asks, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?” and adds, “Everyone who competes in the games [Olympics] goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.”

I love the Olympics!  I am not usually a couch potato, but when the Olympics are airing, I schedule as much TV-time as possible.  There is so much to take in—the brilliant opening ceremony; the diversity of the events and the athletes; the heart-warming commercials encouraging the athletes as well as the viewers to be their best; the personal stories about the various participants; the varied cultures of the countries involved; the medal count…

The majority of what we see on television during the broadcast of the Olympics is the actual competitive event.  The race.  What we only get a glimpse of through video clips and interviews, is the many hours of preparation and the pre-Olympic trials each athlete participates in to be ready for their Olympic event.  We may get only a vague look at the physical and mental exercise each athlete goes through to get to continuous, consistent, and deliberate.  No athlete got to this point—the honor being an Olympian—by being half-hearted or lackadaisical.  Sure, some athletes are naturally gifted, but that gift has to be nurtured if one wants to become an Olympian.  Otherwise, they remain mediocre—yes, gifted, but mediocre.

Salvation is a gift.  A wonderful gift.  But in order to be more than a mediocre Christian, we must nurture this gift.  We must be constantly learning, growing, being challenged.  We must exercise our spiritual muscles through continuous study of the Word, through consistent prayer, and deliberate exercise of our faith.  The ultimate “prize” is the privilege of spending eternity in Heaven (Philippians 3:14, “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”), but to me, the gold medal is to win someone else to Christ so that they too can win the “prize.”

Robin portrait

Today’s PF Women Blog has been written by Robin Davis of Winter Haven Calvary Church.

Robin and her husband (Andy) of almost 35 years have served in music ministry, church administration, and event planning since they were married.  Her heart and passion for ministry has bled over into her role at the Peninsular Florida District office as she has facilitated the credentialing process for ministerial candidates for over 9 years.  Robin will be entering a new ministry this fall as she goes into the public school classroom as a teacher and graduates from Southeastern University in December of this year with a degree in Secondary English Education and Reading and ESOL Endorsements.  Robin and Andy have three adult children and eight grandchildren.