Resources & Ideas
How to Comfort the Grieving
My world slowly began to unravel after hearing the doctor ask, "Have you ever been exposed to diethystilbestrol (DES)?" I was lying on the examining table undergoing infertility testing. The results dashed all my hopes for carrying a child. The risk of internal deformities was too great. It also started a journey of medical tests and interventions as abnormal cell changes were found. I underwent a complete hysterectomy while still in my twenties.
This journey of grief sent me into messy places and words spoken out of season were like sandpaper to my soul. This new, raw reality of life turned me inside out and many friends were at a loss how to respond. I struggled knowing how to respond as it affected me physically, emotionally, physiologically, spiritually and psychologically. Many days I was not easy to be around and I could not tell friends how to help me as I journeyed through the next days, months and years.
How do you help someone whose world has completely changed? How can you walk with someone through short term and long term grief? Through my own cries of pain let me share with you what hurt, what helped and what I realize I needed. Remember, truth out of season is a painful thing. A person in grief, pain or suffering is not in a place where hearing these words are helpful.
- When I was told, "If you had enough faith, you would be healed."
- To be told, "All things work together for good…" or "God is in control and He doesn't make mistakes."
- When someone asked, "What do you need?" or "Call me if you need anything."
- To hear words like, "You can always adopt."
- When people told me how "so and so" coped with their grief.
- To hear platitudes, no matter how well-intentioned.
- When people said, "I know what you're going through."
- When someone said, "Tell me what I can do for you" and waited for an answer.
- To have a friend come and vacuum the house or drop off a meal.
- When someone mowed the grass while I was away at medical appointments.
- To hear laughter, even in the midst of tears.
- When I heard, "I'm so sorry" or "I love you."
- To actually hear and receive tender prayers (even over the phone or by email).
- When cards continued to come weeks and months after surgery or loss.
- To know others understand my absence from baby showers even while I rejoiced with them.
- When people just listened or gave a simple hug.
- To brighten my soul to receive flowers and thoughtful gifts.
- When friends understood that some days I was more "touchy" than others.
- How tough it is to reach out for help.
- Caring for others is one of the greatest gifts we can offer.
- Suffering can isolate the sufferer especially when the journey of grief is long.
- How sharing struggles bonds people together.
- Stages of grief cannot be rushed through or put on a time table.
- Echoes of pain may still remain for weeks, months or years.
- The importance of being there for someone when the crowd may have moved on.
- God does bring beauty from ashes in His time and in His season.
- Out of this season of pain and grief, there has been personal and spiritual growth.
- This loss has taught me how to listen and respond from those who gave these same gifts to me.
"What I didn't Learn from Martha"
If your house is like ours there are piles of brightly colored magazines like Martha Stewart's Living, Better Homes and Gardens, and This Old House. They tell us how to make our homes more beautiful, food more delicious, and how to impress guests when they come over. Some of my favorite TV shows are HGTV, Food Network, and Create. I’m hooked on websites like AllRecipes.com where people can share their good ideas about entertaining. But when I step back, Martha and her cronies really haven't come close to addressing what really matters when it comes to having an open home.
I like to imagine what it would be like if Martha were to sit down with some of the Bible writers and debate with them what true hospitality is. In Jewish thought hospitality is rooted in the concept of the Almighty who “loves the sojourner” (e.g., Deut 10:18), and in the story of the Israelites, to whom God said, “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Ex 22:21).
Not only is hospitality a fundamental expression of Jewish faith, it is also plays a part in the early Christian faith. Paul links the idea of “brotherly love” to “hospitality” in Romans 12:10-12. If hospitality is so central to Biblical faith why do we struggle to express it today?
Perhaps fear constricts our ability to express brotherly love. Many people put “inviting people over” right up there with “public speaking” as one of their biggest fears. And instead of calming our fears, the piles of home improvement magazines, and trips to Home Depot only amplify them. Maybe we should stop and look our fears in the face.
Top Five Fears
Fear #5: We fear what people will think.
“Will they think I’m a slob?” “Will they notice that I didn’t have time to clean the bathroom?” “Will they think I’m a bad cook?” “Will they think I’m too cheap, lazy, or plain?”
We’ve all had these thoughts—I know I have, but when I focus on this fear—it moves the spotlight to me instead of them. I can't really get to know my guest, I can't relax and enjoy the visit, and I forget what my goal really is: to love them into our family; to use our home to build God's kingdom.
Last Thanksgiving we had a random mix of people over. After they left, it occurred to me that I hadn't cleaned our powder room. For a minute I thought “Oh no—I wonder what they thought of me!”--then I chuckled as I remembered a poster I recently saw ”excuse our mess—we LIVE here”. I hope they felt like they were in a normal home, with people who aren't perfect, and who sometimes just don't have time to get the toilets cleaned!
Fear #4: We fear it will take a lot of work.
Working full time, volunteering at church and in the community, exercising, and doing household chores leaves little time for all the work it takes to entertain. Cleaning the house till it sparkles, cooking gourmet meals, and creating a fantastic centerpiece for the table all takes a whole lot of time. But wait a minute, is that really what people expect, and what we should expect of ourselves?
I find that people seem to have the best time at our house, when they're sharing in the work. I love it when guests ask, “how can I help?” I ALWAYS find something for them to do, regardless of age or gender. If they don't ask, I try to find some assignment for them, so they can participate in the experience, rather than just being an “observer”. Sometimes I hand them a broom, give them a head of lettuce to chop, or have them set the table. That's when they really invest themselves into the experience of being in our home. I've had countless guests thank me for trusting them enough to let them help. Food brings people together, and so does the preparation of food.When I open our home with this mindset, it offsets the fear that I need to do all the work all by myself.
Fear #3: We fear it will take a lot of money.
When grocery costs climb faster than paychecks, cupboards don't overflow with extra food. How can we afford to have company over if we barely have enough food for our own family?
I've discovered some creative ways to eat and share our home while on a tight budget. I try to assign people part of meals such as pasta Primavera, baked potato bar, crepes, sloppy joes, or hay stacks, which are all super inexpensive meals that people can get involved with. Some can bring the veggies, some the salad or dessert, so no one is spending much money or doing a lot of work. Meat and alcohol are usually the most expensive part of a meal, and when that is avoided, the grocery bill is much more manageable and no one seems to mind.
I've found that God seems to do just what He did many years ago on that hillside with the loaves and fishes—He works it out that we always have enough food, and we've never gone into debt because of our grocery bill. Sometimes, every serving dish is scraped clean, but everyone is fed. Opening our home doesn't require wealth, it requires a willingness to be real with people. Which brings me to the next fear.
Fear #2: We fear they'll find out something bad about us.
Guests who come to our house are free to look at our books in our bookcase, our pictures, our kitchen cabinets, or our medicine cabinets. If there are offensive items in these places, it could be embarrassing, or they could judge us.
When we open our homes to people, we're making ourselves completely vulnerable to them. I just expect that this will happen, and place books in our bookcases that I've really enjoyed and would love to lend out. I put items in our powder room medicine closet that I suspect they may need: bandaids, Tylenol, dental floss, a little bag of feminine products. When we invite them in, we give them permission to know us, and we really don't have any secrets. That's were intimacy starts. My biggest hope is that they'll find Jesus here—and take Him with them.
Fear #1: We fear they’ll never leave.
What's really exciting is when they don't want to leave because they're having such a great time. It's exhilarating to see a group of random people who've never met before, and find a common thread of commonality between them, and watch as they exchange contact information, promising to connect again. Or when they're working as a team on building an incredible salad—or try to figure out how to make crepes, or doing an “assembly line”--of moving wood up our 53 stairs from our forest floor. They create or accomplish something amazing! Together! We like to think that in a way, they'll never leave—we have an “art wall”, and ask our guests to do something—a picture, good words, their name, something that will remind us of them! Of course, since we treat our guests like family, when its bedtime we go to bed and invite them to stay as late as they want but to ask them to turn the lights out and lock the door when they leave.
Martha Stewart is truly an amazing woman. She's resilient, creative, courageous, but she has yet to experience the joy of biblical hospitality. I'm sure she's missed out on some of the blessings we've experienced: the gift of watching our family “grow”, of using our home as a hub of influence, or a place where our world can expand as we hear other life stories. But the very best thing about opening our old imperfect home is to be able to have 'front-row' seats as people make decisions for God.
10 Top Tips for Leading a Small Group Bible Study
- Be a tool. God is really the one leading your group, so pray that He will equip you and that He will work in the hearts and lives of the women in your Bible study. You are their servant, and nothing will serve them better than time spent praying for them.
- Be ready. Work ahead in the study. Come with questions in hand, especially early on while group members are still getting to know each other. Be prepared to share a little of your own journey each week.
- Be safe. Women need to feel secure in their group. Two things will help: time and transparency. Your group will trust and respect you as you demonstrate that you are willing to risk trusting them by being open yourself. Encourage women to share but never demand that they respond to a question or pray out loud.
- Be accountable. Build accountability into your group with "Bible Study Buddies." Make your group even smaller by partnering women in groups of two or three. Ask "buddy" groups to call or email each other through the week to ask: (1) What is one thing that has caught your attention in this week's study? (2) How can I pray for you today?
- Be focused. Women come to Bible study because they want to dig into God's Word. Groups that lose track also lose people. Real relationships are fostered and built around discussions based on God's truth. Period. A group that stays on topic fulfills the need of the women to know God and each other.
- Be a listener. Resist the urge to start forming your response instead of listening to what is being said in your group. Nothing says you care more than your attentiveness. We guarantee that the women in your group will notice!
- Be biblical. We receive a continual feed of what the world wants us to think, feel and believe. Bible study should be different. Ask members to identify the biblical basis for their responses, and help them connect everything to the truth of Scripture. You won't ever go wrong there.
- Be responsive. Facilitating quality discussion depends on reviewing what has been said, making connections between group member's comments and knowing when it's time to move on. Your role is to guide the discussion so it neither stagnates or moves along too quickly.
- Be aware. Observe your group carefully, and make note of those who seem distant or dominant. Spread your attention around even to those who won't demand it, while helping stronger personalities find balance even if that means jumping in when they take their next breath!
- Be inquisitive. People love to be interesting, and they really love when you show interest in them. Become a student of your group by asking them questions. Before, during and after Bible study, find out what they like, what's going on in their lives and how God is working through the study. You will be amazed what you will learn when you simply ask.
Whether you are leading your first Bible study or your 50th, you are likely to notice that God is up to something in your group each week. You never know what God will do with the life of a woman who is in your next Bible study. You might just ask, "What if?"
What Can I Do As a Women’s Ministries Leader?
- Pray with your team for those who are suffering from these challenges in a hurtful way
- Inform the women about the Six Issues and how to minister to these needs (see our web site to find Ministry Ideas) http://adventistwomensministries.org/index.php?id=67
- Conduct a research to determine the major needs of women in the church and community
- Start with a project
- Give the church opportunity to participate
- Work in partnership with the Church Departments
- Form a team of volunteers, including health professionals, educators, business women and people wiling to help
- Provide training seminars in these topics
- Help the women to find a ministry they can be involved in different projects
Young Women's Ministries
Ministries for Ages 13-35 in the Local Church
The generational differences between age groups, as well as the unique needs of 21st century young women, call upon the local church to develop ministries that will involve and empower young women. An organization designed specifically for young women is a proven way to get them involved. What's more, older women need the vitality and creativity of young women, while young women (ages 13-35) need the life experience and mentorship of older women.
The fundamental principle in establishing a young women's ministry (YWM) in the local congregation is to empower young women to discover their potential in Christ and to carry out the gospel commission.
*To encourage young women to develop and maintain a close relationship with God.
*To foster a strong community among Adventist young women and to connect them to Women's Ministries with an emphasis on mentoring.
*To train and equip young women to use their gifts in outreach for God's kingdom.
*To address some of the significant, unique issues facing young women.
*To encourage an involvement in service to the community.
*To reclaim young women who have left the fellowship of the church.
How to Start a YWM in Your Church
Organizing a YWM is most effective when it is developed under the auspices of Women's Ministries.
1. Pray earnestly for God's guidance.
2. Share your vision with your pastor and women's ministries team and ask them to pray for the process of establishing a YWM and to clarify the flow of accountability.
3. Request in writing that the pastor seek conceptual approval from the church board for the development of a YWM.
4. Form a YWM committee composed of: young women with diversity in age and ethnicity, the women's ministries coordinator, and one mentor (such as a female elder or woman of influence who is also a spiritual leader.)
5. Appoint young women to the following positions: a leader, a prayer coordinator, a communication coordinator (takes minutes, creates advertising, etc.), and a treasurer.
6. Survey the young women of your churcch to find out their needs, then help assess how their unmet needs may influence the mission and objectives of the organization.
7. Keep the pastoral team informed of survey results and committee progress and establish liaisons with the prayer and youth leaders.
8. Build committee consensus on formulating a mission statement, choosing two or three strong verbs to identify your main goals (such as train, mentor, empower) and two to five objectives.
9. Develop a ministry focus that will direct the planning stage of the organization.
10. Establish ministries to address the selected objectives (i.e., a bi-weekly Bible study group or support group and a monthly outreach activity such as a puppet ministry for children in hospitals.)
For more information contact:
Community Bible Study: consider starting a Bible study specifically with women who do not attend the church.
Pencil Evangelism: have pens and pencils printed with your church’s name,address, phone number,and a scripture verse.
Visitor Gift Bag: prepare special gift bags for women who are new in the church. Include a letter from the Women’s Ministries staff thanking new women for coming to the church.
Single Women Welcome: Many single women don’t feel welcome at Women’s Ministries events. Make sure that the program is welcoming to singles.
Neighborhood Prayers: Send women door-to-door all over your community to pray for and with the citizens of your town.
Garden Party:Host a garden party for seniors in your community who are widowed and have no local family.
Prayer Sisters:pair up with women you don’t know very well. Have the women become a prayer sister for a month.
Source:Women’sMinistries inthe21stCenturyby GroupPublishing,Inc.
A Ministry to Reclaim Women
Who Have Stopped Attending Church
2. Pray over this list individually or in groups.
3. Share your dreams of renewing friendships and reclaiming these missing members with your pastor and help him/ her get a feel for each one.
4. Together introduce this program to your church board and then to the church body.
5. Form a Heart Call ministry team. The team should include:
- A leader - a woman with a vision for the ministry who possesses the leadership gifts to pull the team together and oversee the project to fruition
- A Bible study leader - a woman with teaching gifts who can effectively lead a small group through the Bible study materials
- An event coordinator - a woman with hospitality and organizational gifts to coordinate social gatherings and / or seminars - events designed to invite the women you hope to reclaim to attend
- A mentor for each woman to be reclaimed (see #6 below)
7. Send a subscription to Women of Spirit magazine on your list. The cost is only $12. Order from Review and Herald Publishing Association and tell them the subscriptions are for the Heart Call ministry.
8. The Review and Herald Publishing Association will send you enough cards to send to each woman on your list. The card lets them know they can expect to start receiving Women of Spirit magazine as a gift from your church.
When the women have had time to receive their first issue of Women of Spirit, the heart partners should make contact with each one, asking if they've had time to read the magazine and how they like it. This is an easy, non-threatening way for the heart partner to make the first live contact with woman she is mentoring.
9. The church women's Ministries Department whould begin planning events to invite these women to. Perhaps the first one should be held away from the church. Later events could be held at the church. A Women of Spirit tea is an especially nice idea. Recipes and suggestions are included in the Heart Call kit.
10. It would be a good idea to form small Bible study or prayer groups that meet in members' homes to invite these women to. They might not feel comfortable going back to churchat first but would go to a woman's home where they could study, pray, and form friendships with other women from the church. Bible study suggestions include "Come Alive With Jesus, " a series of seven non-doctrinal Bible studies, or "Bible Studies for Busy Women," a set of 14 doctrinal studies available from your ABC or AdventSource.
11. Heart partners should reach out to theri friend on a regular basis. Invite her to events that have been planned by Women's Ministries and ofer to pick her up.
Give your friend to God. Your responsibility is to become a friend. Spiritual conviction will come only through the Holy Spirit.
Remember, do not end the friendship as long as she is willing to continue. It is extremely importat to love her unconditionally, even if she shows no interest in returning to church.
The Heart Call kit contains valuable material for training your Heart Call team as wel as resources for reclaiming ministries and small groups, and recipes for your social activities. It also contains a CD with PowerPoint presentations and printable materials. Order from:
*Available in English and Spanish!
Limited supplies available upon request.
Women to Woman
The program for each meeting is simple:
- Simple supper
- Devotional, given by an Adventist
- Special feature by Adventist or non-Adventist
- Closing thought
- Attractive decorations
- Tasty food
- Christ-filled devotional (not doctrinal)
- Varied special features - spiritual as well as secular; guest speakers as well as other features such as a style show or home decorator ideas
To start Women to Woman in your church, first ask for God's guidance. If He impresses you that it's the right ministry for your church, then:
1. Plan a budget.
2. Talk with your pastor.
3. Form a small committee to plan program themes, decorating, and menus.
4. Make sure special feature appeals to most age groups.
5. Find good speakers. Try to get a tape of the speaker or talk to someone who has heard her. Watch the newspaper for women in your town who are good speakers.
6. Menu should include entree, salad, vegetable, bread, and dessert.
7. Ladies should call ahead for reservations, so you'll know how much food to prepare.
8. There is no charge for the meal, but a donation bowl is placed on each table.
9. Alwasy start and end on time. Tell speakers in advance how much time they hae. Remind them that this is not a place to talk about doctrines.
10. Have someone at each door to greet the ladies and give them a name tag. If it is a large group, have a hostess to help the guests find a seat.
11. Women should work in the areas in which they are gifted (i.e., those who decorate should have the gift of creativity; food should be prepared by women who cook well; greeters should have gift of hospitality, etc.)
12. Offer free babysitting. If a meal is not provided for the children, at least offer them a snack.
13. Centerpieces may be sold at the end of the program to help defray expenses.
For questions or more information contact:
For Women's Ministries
in the Local Church
2. Observe *Women's Ministries Emphasis Day in your church.
3. Make sure your church participates in the NAD Women's Ministries Offering (second Sabbath in July).
4. Observe *Abuse Prevention Emphasis Day every year in your church.
6. Teach women to do breast self-examinations.
6. Invite a neighbor or inactive member to a women's ministries event.
7. Start a grief support group.
8. Have a ministry for women in your community who have lost a baby.
9. Begin a women's Bible study group.
10. Start a Heart Call ministry to reconnect with inactive women in your church.
11. Start an auto mechanics class for women.
12. Disciple new believers in your church.
13. Have a purity ministry for the teens and young women in your church.
14. Start a girls club, such as Sisters in Christ, to mentor the girls and teens in your church.
15. Be sure your church women's ministries leader is a member of the church board.
16. Sponsor *Women's Ministries Leadership Certification seminars for the women of your church.
(*Note: Carla Baker will be presenting the major portions of the level one certification Monday - Friday, June 2-6, 2008 at the KS/NE Conference Camp Mtg. in Lincoln, NE)
17. Sponsor personal hygiene items for a women's shelter.
18. Subscribe to Women of Spirit magazine personally and send it as gifts to non-Adventist friends and relatives.
19. Give every newly baptized woman in your church a gift subscription to Women of Spirit magazine.
20. Give opportunities for women to learn to speak in public.
21. Establish a women's prayer group in your church or neighborhood.
22. Have a retreat for the teenage girls in your church.
23. Have a banquet for the girls / teens of your church.
24. Plan a stress reduction seminar / program.
25. Schedule a healthcare professional to talk about women's health issues.
26. Conduct a *Prayer and Love Saves (PALS) series in your church.
27. Prepare "Welcome Home Baby" gift baskets for new mothers in the community.
28. Plan and carry out an evangelistic series by women.
29. Sponsor something special for the singles in your church.
30. Pray for your pastor and his / her spouse.
31. Write a note of encouragement to someone.
32. Spend time with a sick or shut-in member.
33. Take food to shut-ins or take them to doctor appointments.
34. Organize helping teams to assist elderly or shut-in members iwht difficult tasks such as raking or shoveling snow.
35. Send in quarterly reports to your conference women's ministries director.
36. Go on a prayer walk in the community with your women's ministries team.
37. Hold a self-defense class at your church and invite community women.
38. Host a fellowship meal and brainstorming session for al women in your church.
39. Make quiet-time play sets for young children to use during church services.
40. Have a financial seminar for women.
41. Make *pamphlets on abuse prevention available to your church members.
(*Note: Breaking the Silence abuse pamphlets have been sent to every church in the KS/NE Conference. These are to be places in restroom stalls so people feel comfortable in picking them up. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you didn't receive your packet.)
42. Get acquainted with a young girl in your church and tell her she's special.
43. Have a class on organization and time management.
44. Volunteer to give aible study.
45. Plan a prayer breakfast for the women of your church.
46. Have a mother-daughter banquet or retreat.
47. Start a support group for children of aging parents.
48. Begin an after-school tutoring program.
49. Sponsor parenting classes for teen mothers.
50. Encourage the women in your church to have prayer partners.
51. Start a women's Sabbath School class in your church.
52. Start a support group for women who are married to unbelievers.
53. Have the women of your church take charge of a church-wide week of prayer.
54. Give baby showers for needy or unwed moms.
55. Give women's devotional books as Christmas gifts (available at your ABC)
56. Sponsor women to attend conference women's retreats.
57. Adopt people at nursing homes by visiting them and sending them cards.
58. Conduct a Mother's Day Out program once a week or once every other week.
59. Start a Women to Woman ministry.
60. Sponsor a Young Women's Ministries for the women ages 13- 35 in your church.
Every event is an opportunity to model attractive, Christ-centered, relevant, active, relational ministry where women will have the opportunity to meet Jesus one more time, or maybe for the very first time.
*Resource materials available from: