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.
I’ve been recovering from surgery this past month. In that time, I’ve had to rely on friends and family to help me with almost everything, from laundry to cooking to cleaning. While it’s been frustrating, I’ve been so appreciative of the people that stepped in to help. Their presence was a sweet gift that helped me get through a tough time. I also appreciated the cards and notes (and emails and Facebook messages) that let me know people were thinking about me…and praying for me. This time gave me a fresh appreciation for what these simple things communicate. They reminded me that God was with me and that he would always take care of me. It’s true: the littlest things can have the greatest impact.
We have the same opportunity to help the women in our circles feel loved and cared about. I believe God will use them (and YOU) to encourage them, and open doors of ministry you may not have expected.
Here are 10 simple gifts you can share—starting today!
1. Time. In our noisy, busy world, making time to listen speaks volumes.
2. Patience. Give women time to grow, respond, and get involved at their own pace.
3. A Smile. Offer a sincere smile to each person you can come in contact with.
4. The Benefit of the Doubt. Resist hearsay (and gossip!) and believe the best in others. And let them know you are on their side, no matter what.
5. Friendship. Many women are starving for real friends. Make sure you provide opportunities in your events and meetings for women to get to know one another and form real friendships.
6. Words of Encouragement. Make a habit of saying, writing, and sharing encouraging words to those around you. You don’t know the impact your words can have on someone who is starving for encouragement.
7. Recognition. Make note of special events in your meetings or newsletters; birthdays, anniversaries, special occasions. And don’t forget to recognize those who help with your events.
8. Appreciation. Let the women you serve with (in any capacity) know you appreciate their time and talents. There are many fun and informal ways to do this!
9. Prayer. Don’t just offer to pray for someone. When a need comes up, or someone is feeling low, stop right then and pray with them. Help them know how much they are loved, not just by you and your group, but by God.
10. Laughter. Women tend to take themselves too seriously! Give them opportunities to be silly and have some good, clean fun. It will help lift heavy hearts and also work to bond women to one another.
You may have received one or more of these gifts at a time when you really needed it. Now is the time to share that same gift with someone else…
It’s a new year. And my, how quickly January is already coming to a close! It’s amazing to me how fast a month can go by.
I’m sure that you, like so many of us, are working getting into the swing of 2013. There always seems to be a ton to do–planning, executing, communicating– you name it, we do it! I’ve been on that same path, but one of the things I encourage you to think about as you plan things for the year is ways to affirm your volunteers.
Whether you have 1 person who helps you, or 50, everyone wants to feel valued. It’s so ingrained in our DNA. As a leader, it’s one of the most important things you can do– make the people you lead feel like they are making a difference.
So how can you help someone feel valued? It can be super simple. Here are a just a few of the things I think I’ll try this coming year:
- Have a stash of a few $5 Starbucks cards that you can give to someone and just say “I appreciate you”.
- Write an actual, personal note to someone and mail it or leave it on their desk. Just saying “You are awesome!” can really brighten someone’s day.
- Ask God to lead you to a personal scripture for each of your volunteers and share it with them. Tell them you hope they are absolutely filled with God’s love today.
- Take the time to write one trait for each person you work with that you genuinely appreciate. Tell them that trait and why it matters to your team!
I’m sure you’ve got lots of good ideas too. If you have one, please share it in the comments!!
The January issue of Expresso, our monthly women’s ministry resource, has sparked a lot of discussion among women’s ministry leaders everywhere, and we’ve received a number of emails on the topic of the future of women’s ministry.
One friend sent a long letter sharing her own frustration with leadership at her church. It seems they have a younger leader who is unwilling to share the load. Our friend is thankful that a younger woman has jumped in…but here’s how she describes it:
The 31-year-old woman we have heading up our group right now doesn’t necessarily want to share in her responsibilities for women’s ministry. After an “election meeting” where she declared “since no one else wants to be president I’ll just do it again,” she currently leads the meetings, plans the social events, decides on the servant activities, and we all just show up and do what she says. Most of the “older women” seem to be fine with the fact that at least SOMEONE is willing to step in and do it, so no one has said anything to her.
What do you all think? How can our friend help this leader see that making all the decisions and not including others isn’t what leadership is all about? Ideas? Share them here!
Everywhere we go, we’re surrounded by the season of joy.
And yet, sometimes right in the middle of this season, we can lose our joy.
Maybe we lose it at the mall or Target. Or when we’re dealing with a difficult relative. Or it disappears when we visit a loved one in a hospital or nursing home. In times like this, it’s easy to just drop our joy on the floor and walk away.
For me, it’s been especially tough this year. My mom is spending Christmas in a nursing home after suffering a stroke. It’s been difficult not being able to share the usual preparations and conversations with her. And I’m sure there are many of you dealing with tough situations in your own life or family. Or maybe you’re facing your first Christmas without someone there.
One of the reasons Jesus came was to: “console those who mourn…give them beauty for ashes…the oil of joy for mourning…the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” (Isaiah 61:3)
God promises to pour the oil of joy into our heavy hearts. That’s one of the reasons I keep Christmas music playing 24/7. It brings me joy, even when I’m feeling overwhelmed.
We hope you receive some joy today from your favorite Christmas song. And while you’re at it, share that joy with someone else! You never know who’s day will be better when you do. Merry Christmas!
*post originally from Church Volunteer Daily http://www.churchvolunteercentral.com/cvdaily/21192/
Many years ago my husband and I were new to our community and were looking for a church. One Saturday near Christmas my husband came home from shopping excited about a group of people he’d encountered when a local church had set up a free gift wrapping station outside a store.
“It was free!” he said. “Really free. Not even accepting donations! And no one made me listen to a Bible presentation before they wrapped gifts, and no one tried to slip a Bible tract into the gifts. They just wrapped the presents with smiles on their faces and said they wanted to show the love of Jesus to others. Let’s go to that church!”
So we visited the next Sunday, and 20 years later we still go to that church.
This coming Saturday will be the next annual gift-wrapping and I’ll be there with several of my family and friends. We set up at a local shopping area right next to the ice skating rink, and have a nice warm tent where people can stop to have gifts wrapped for free. We supply boxes, bags, bow, gift tags—plus coffee, hot cocoa, and delicious cookies while you’re waiting. And it’s all offered for free—just like the gift God gave us in Jesus.
This is my favorite service project of the year, and I love it so much I try to see if I can be first in line to sign up each year. How many times have you had someone camping out in line to sign up first for a service project?? Well that’s me because I love to chat with people while I wrap, to hear their joy about the gifts they’re giving, to offer them a warm cup of chocolate, and—if they ask—to let them know I love Jesus and that’s why I’m wrapping their present.
I hope you’re finding joy in serving during this holiday season. We have so much to celebrate—and that free gift of Jesus is at the top of the list of reasons. Let that celebration overflow!