10 Ideas For Leading Your Ladies Group
By T. H. Corrigan
1 Help Them Think Outside The Box
Regardless of our age, occupation, or experience, we are creatures of habit. If we’re not careful, habit can lead to lives that lack creativity. Learning how to be creative is not hard-it is an attitude and a willingness to try new things and to think in new and different ways.
Challenge the members of your ladies’ group to try a different way of doing activities and tasks that have become a regular part of your ladies’ group process. Challenge them to begin by driving to or from the ladies’ group on a different route, and to be aware of what is happening in the world around them! Then ask for a report. They may be amazed at what they notice.
Occasionally change the order of various parts of your ladies’ group meeting. “We always do it this way” and “We never did it that way before” can indicate that you are in a rut. Try subtle changes in your process and delivery. Remind the ladies’ group of the positive things that can happen when we put ourselves in the frame of mind to be aware of God in our midst, and expect Him to do a work among us.
2 Send A Note Of Encouragement
It’s always great to get home at the end of a long day and find a personal note from someone offering a word of encouragement.
It takes just a few moments to write a note, and you can cover the whole ladies’ group in a few months by writing one a week. If you invite the ladies’ group to get involved (as in Telephone Calls, Idea number 67), everyone will get a note in the same time period!
With the growing popularity of e-mail, it is even easier to send a note to someone. Without the usual restraints of regular mail buying a card, finding a stamp, driving to the post office sending an e-mail message is almost as easy as preparing a cup of tea. In my groups, we pass around an address list that includes the e-mail addresses of everyone who has one.
I find that just a simple greeting and a note to remind the person that I appreciate them, or a scripture reference, or letting them know I am praying for them, can really turn a person’s day around or add the finishing touch to a day that is going well. Don’t get caught up in the idea that you have to spend a lot of time (or money) to do this right. Just do it, and the people in your ladies’ group are sure to appreciate it.
3 Help Them Learn To Deal With Difficult People
I have led many groups and have encountered some interesting individuals in those groups. Each time a person who was difficult to live with, who lacked certain social skills, or who expressed inappropriate behavior started attending the ladies’ group, we were presented with a decision. We could decide to love, accept, and for-give this person, or we could let him know that he made us uncomfortable and eventually drive him away from our ladies’ group. I am proud to say that most of the time our ladies’ group took the high road and deter-mined to accept the person regardless of where she had been, what she had done (or was doing) or how she presented herself.
I believe one function of the small group is to act like a triage unit and outpatient clinic. We cannot allow destructive and divisive behaviors (verbal attacks, sexual advances, et cetera), but we can handle many of the issues that people struggle with if we offer grace and mercy. As a leader, you need to have sufficient boundaries in place so that you do not take ownership of a person’s problems, but you can surely project an attitude of support and encouragement, speaking the truth in love. It is often possible to protect the whole group’s safety without ejecting someone who makes others uncomfortable.
God has entrusted to us a sacred responsibility to love and care for His people. It is a blessing to see a ladies’ group invest in a member who has had a rough life, has been abused, or simply lacks skills to interact in pleasant and healthy ways. Our groups show their distinction over other groups of people by the way we compassionately reach out to the lost, the broken, the prodigal, and the outcast. We have an opportunity to offer a safe, redemptive place. You may need to refer some people to a pastor, counselor, or other caregiver for issues you are not capable of dealing with, but the ladies’ group can definitely be a safe port in the storm for anyone who wants to get well and grow as a child of God.
4 Send Birthday Cards
For many people, birthdays are important events. Take the time to find out the birthday of each of the people in your ladies’ group. Write down their birthdays on your calendar at home or in your day planner. Just a simple note or prayer for blessing in an inexpensive card can be a highlight in someone’s day!
I have asked a volunteer in my ladies’ group to take on the responsibility for accumulating some personal information from each per-son. This includes birthdays and anniversaries. You can ask this “scribe” to prepare a greeting card the week before the event and quietly ask all the other ladies’ group members to sign the card. Boxes of cards can be purchased from assortment card companies without spending a lot of money, and a simple card can have a great impact.
5 Keep Confidences
Knowing you are a “safe” person who can be confided in, and who will keep a confidence, is a treasure. In this day of unidentified “leaks” at all levels, it is great to know your ladies’ group leader (and fellow group members) will keep confidential anything and every-thing you share in the group. Because it is so essential, group confidentiality is worth talking about several times a year. It establishes and reinforces the safety net that people need in order to share their private thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
I encourage every ladies’ group to develop a group covenant. This simple set of ground rules can be a life saver and help keep your group on track. Included in the covenant should be a statement about confidentiality. It can read something like this: “We will practice the covenant of confidentiality: Whatever is shared here stays here.” By designing and discussing the various aspects of your ladies’ group covenant, you have the opportunity to fully deliberate the issues involved in keeping confidences.
As the leader, you should model confidentiality and be known as a safe person. I have known many a leader who violated confidence by “sharing a concern” with other leaders. I have seen great damage done by well-meaning people who shared prayer requests outside the ladies’ group and effectively violated the trust others had placed in them.
We have a rule of thumb for confidentiality: The only time anything will be shared outside the ladies’ group is if a member shares a plan to harm himself or another, or shares a story about abusing a child, an elderly person, or a mentally/physically challenged per-son. In those cases we are required morally and legally to report the danger or abuse to those in authority in our church or organization. Even then we are bound by confidentiality and will share only that which is pertinent to this issue. Confidence is a treasure that should be guarded.
6 Give Honest Evaluations
Evaluations can be broken into two categories. First, if you are supervising a person or apprenticing her in some capacity either in the ladies’ group or outside, telling the truth in love will contribute significantly to the person’s spiritual growth. Giving honest evaluations of progress is a way to reflect a reality that may otherwise be con-fusing or distorted in the person’s mind.
Second, if someone lists you as a reference for a job or some other kind of contract, it is important to give an honest evaluation, without expanding on his capabilities or understating his lack. We live in a society where the truth is relative, so it is essential for us as Christian leaders to state the truth. I often will call the person to tell them what I have said or written on an evaluation for a prospective employer. They then have the opportunity to give me some feedback or choose whether to use me as a reference in the future.
7 Tell The Truth
One way to tell people the truth is to find good things and areas of growth in their lives to point out to them. Nobody gets more encouragement than he needs. Encouragement is different from making someone feel okay or trying to puff him up. Rather, it finds a way to bless through telling him the truth.
Another time to tell the truth is when people do something wrong-when they are mistaken or fall into sin. When you see someone failing in an area or misbehaving, simply take him aside (after you have prayed and considered your own life) and in simple terms, tell him the truth about what you are seeing. Remind him that you love and accept him, and that you are willing to help him through the process by praying for him, by pointing out scriptures, and by suggesting resources and books that he can purchase to help give him understanding. To tell the truth in love is to serve a person.
Honesty is increasingly rare. If you cannot be truthful, do not speak. It is better to be thought of as dull than to be known as less than truthful. Be truthful in the small things, and it will spill over to larger issues. Choose not to walk in “gray” areas. Light separates the darkness, and we are called to walk in the light. Be aware that your leadership is being scrutinized by those whom you lead. Your life as well as your words speak volumes about what is in your heart.
8 Be Loyal
Many people have never experienced loyalty from another person. In our culture, if you don’t like something, you go shopping somewhere else to find it. That attitude flows over to the church. In a small group, we have an opportunity to extend loyalty that is, to stay with people through the good and the bad times, and to stick with them when they are in crisis. Being loyal sets an example, and so teaches others to be loyal. It also gives them hope of a God who will stick with them no matter what they do, where they’ve been, or what they’ve done.
9 Offer Accountability
When offered and accepted, accountability can be a gift. Offering to hold people accountable to their goals, commitment to change, or growth in responsibility can help them stick to the purposes they feel called to.
Mutual accountability is usually easier to commit to. When accountability is one-sided or feels more like being monitored than encouraged, it is hard to follow through with. When a person knows that you, too, are being held accountable for your growth, mentoring and disciple making become more attainable.
10 Be Supportive
Sometimes all a person needs to succeed in a task or to overcome a bather in her life is a little support. Take an interest in what she is going through, what her struggles are, or where she feels she is failing, and offer your support. People also need your support when they are succeeding. To follow up an accomplishment can at times be more difficult than overcoming the original barrier.
Support can come through a kind word, a prayer, a note, a book or tape lent, or a listening ear over a cup of coffee. I have been blessed over the years as people have come into my life to encourage and assist me. My load has been lightened by those who have taken the time to lift me up when I was down, to pray for me through a difficult season, or just remind me that they were there for me.
This article “10 Ideas For Leading Your Ladies Group” written by T. H. Corrigan is excerpted from Ideas To Create A Caring Ladies’ Group written by T. H. Corrigan.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”