• A fruitful discipleship group includes a cross-section of women from your church – old and young, mature and infant in Christ, single and married. But managing diverse discipleship groups can be challenging. Discipleship leaders must balance the depth needed to keep older Christians growing in their faith without leaving newer believers behind. Recently, I shared with Missional… [Continue Reading]

    4 tips for managing a diverse discipleship group
  • From dusty highways to airport runways, our family will be logging some miles crossing the U.S. this summer. And you can bet that my book bag will be my number one travel accessory. So, here’s a sneak peak at three books I’ve packed in my summer travel bag: My Summer Book Bag Recapturing the Voice of… [Continue Reading]

    Summer reading list 2015…and a surprise!
  • The top trend I’ve observed in women’s ministry is women’s Bible studies are not producing disciples who can feed on the Bible for themselves – and then show others how to prepare a meal from God’s Word. In general, we are addicted to video-driven Bible studies! Today, I’m over at Missional Women challenging women to turn… [Continue Reading]

    What to do when your church is addicted to video Bible studies
  • After Sunday worship recently, I could sense a friend was upset. When I inquired, she mentioned she was miscarrying. I did what I knew to do — I hugged her. And then I hugged her again. Last week my sister texted me. “I have a friend who had a miscarriage. What can I do for… [Continue Reading]

    A must-have book for helping women who miscarry

4 tips for managing a diverse discipleship group

4 tips for managing a diverse discipleship group {Hive Resources}

A fruitful discipleship group includes a cross-section of women from your church – old and young, mature and infant in Christ, single and married.

But managing diverse discipleship groups can be challenging. Discipleship leaders must balance the depth needed to keep older Christians growing in their faith without leaving newer believers behind.

Recently, I shared with Missional Women a few ideas for keeping mature Christians engaged in Bible study without overwhelming newer believers.

Click here to find out how to manage a multi-level discipleship group.

Summer reading list 2015…and a surprise!

From dusty highways to airport runways, our family will be logging some miles crossing the U.S. this summer. And you can bet that my book bag will be my number one travel accessory.

So, here’s a sneak peak at three books I’ve packed in my summer travel bag:

My Summer Book Bag

Recapturing the Voice of God: Shaping Sermons Like Scripture by Steven W. Smith

I bought this book because I want to become a better text-driven Bible study teacher.  Although it’s written primarily for a male audience, every believer needs instruction in how to rightly divide God’s Word while being faithful to the author’s original intent in writing.

Author Steven W. Smith emphasizes that faithful Bible teachers need not “draw points out of Scripture,” but rather “show the text as it is,” especially considering the genre of a book. In this way, teachers of the Word are able to recapture the voice of God in both tone and meaning.

So far, I have already underlined and highlighted almost every paragraph in the first chapter of this technical book. Considering the lack of similar tools written by female Bible study teachers, I look forward to the day when more conservative publishers release titles such as these explicitly geared to equip women teach other women how to study the Scriptures.

Good and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character in You and Your Kids! by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller

Most moms I know struggle with anger. I’m certainly no exception. So, when a friend told me she was reading this book I ordered it on Amazon right away. As with all the Turansky and Miller books, Good and Angry, is a helpful tool for implementing wise parenting strategies to combat issues like yelling, discipline, and dishonesty.

In the book, the authors outline a five-step plan for teaching children to follow instructions and accept the word “no.”

And while Good and Angry is no substitute for the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of you and your child, it offers practical advice targeting key heart issues that plague most children (and parents).

Strangers Next Door: Immigration, Migration and Mission by J.D. Payne

Last fall, I attended a Global Think Tank on mobilizing women for missions hosted by the International Mission Board. This book was among the resources shared at the event. Written by Southern Seminary professor J.D. Payne, the book guides readers through the changing global landscape and how it impacts the Great Commission.

Our Pittsburgh church plant is situated in a region that is considered both ethnically diverse and ‘unreached’ with the gospel. So, Payne’s global research provided encouragement and a challenge to engage unreached peoples migrating to the West including students, refugees, and migrant workers.

Strangers Next Door is a book for any mission-minded woman who seriously desires to see the nations in her community come to Christ.

My New Summer Study

Crowned - a 5 week study on a woman's identity in Christ by Hive Resources

Looking to fill your own summer book bag? This month, I’m publishing a five-week discipleship tool for small groups. Crowned: Created for Glory, Called by His Name outlines a woman’s identity in Christ looking at five key aspects of salvation. Each lesson in the study asks two primary worldview questions: “Who am I?” and “Who is God?”

But this book is more than a simple Bible study! Crowned is the first in a series of three books following the discipleship strategy I developed for the women’s ministry for our NAMB church plant in Pittsburgh. Each book will tackle one of the three components comprising our strategy to produce fully formed replicating disciples: worldview, biblical literacy, and missional living.

Written with new believers in mind, these books will help a women’s ministry or discipleship leader train biblically-literate disciples capable of reproducing themselves.

So, be on the lookout for the release of the first component, Crowned, in the coming weeks!

What to do when your church is addicted to video Bible studies

What to do when your church is addicted to video Bible studies {Hive Resources}

The top trend I’ve observed in women’s ministry is women’s Bible studies are not producing disciples who can feed on the Bible for themselves – and then show others how to prepare a meal from God’s Word.

In general, we are addicted to video-driven Bible studies!

Today, I’m over at Missional Women challenging women to turn off the TV and get into God’s Word for themselves with four ways to supplement the spiritual health of any women’s ministry.

Click the link to find out what you should to do if your church is addicted video studies.

A must-have book for helping women who miscarry

After Sunday worship recently, I could sense a friend was upset. When I inquired, she mentioned she was miscarrying. I did what I knew to do — I hugged her. And then I hugged her again.

Last week my sister texted me. “I have a friend who had a miscarriage. What can I do for her?” Immediately, I replied: “Take her a meal!”

For those of us not acquainted with miscarriage, it can be an isolating and strange kind of grief. I know this grief personally, I’ve had three miscarriages. The first two were what doctors consider routine; the third was a particularly difficult as I was further along in my pregnancy. In both instances, women around me hugged me and loved on me by bringing me meals.

You don’t have to serve in women’s ministries very long to encounter a woman suffering from the tragedy of miscarriage. Although you would never know from the very little we speak about it or hear about it from Sunday pulpits, miscarriage is a common event. Yet, the sadness from the loss of a pregnancy is so unique that the church is often left wondering how best to minister to women walking through this circumstance.

This Mother’s Day, it’s my honor to recommend a new resource written by my friend Jessalyn Hutto.  Inheritance of Tears: Trusting the Lord of Life When Death Visits the Womb is a biblically-faithful and thoughtful account of God’s sovereignty over and through miscarriage.

Why I recommend the book:

A must-have book on miscarriage for all womens ministry leaders {Hive Resources}Packed into five little chapters, Jessalyn offers hurting women wisdom, comfort and hope while leading them to the cross of Christ, their ultimate source of comfort.

–She offers wise counsel regarding practical questions of grief. For the woman who wonders if her miscarriage is her fault or if she could have prevented it, Jessalyn draws their attention to the salve of the gospel.

–She speaks from the big picture of life, opening her book with a primer on the impact of sin on a woman’s body.

–She beautifully links God’s sovereignty to God’s goodness for women who doubt the Creator’s trustworthiness for allowing their miscarriage.

–She offers sweet prayers for hurting mothers at the close of each chapter, giving women a chance to digest the rich doctrine covered in each section.

And because she wisely guides the reader through the different levels of emotional suffering entailed in miscarriage, I would recommend that every women’s ministry leader purchase and use Inheritance of Tears as they serve women walking through this difficult circumstance. Despite hard the circumstance of miscarriage and the equally hard truths Jessalyn explicates in her book, women ministry leaders must be prepared to give biblically-informed comfort to the hurting women in their care. Inheritance of Tears is a must-have book for helping women who are suffering from the “unseen grief” of miscarriage.

Special thanks to Jessalyn for providing me a copy of Inheritance of Tears to review. For more information about the links in this post, click here.

Leading your women’s ministry in a Bible reading challenge

Challenging women to change what they crave with a reading challenge {Hive Resources}

A few weeks ago, our church completed the second of three classes in our women’s discipleship strategy. Our time together centered on how to study God’s Wordand I gave them practical and easily replicated Bible study tools they can use for both personal growth and discipling others.

I’m a firm believer that every women’s ministry event should feed into the greater discipleship strategy of its home church. So, when we concluded our weekend-long training session, I knew I needed to keep our momentum going. I also wanted to give our women some dedicated space to practice using the Bible study skills they had learned in class.

FREE Bible Reading Template from Hive Resources
So, this month the women in our church are embarking on a 31-Day Bible Reading Challenge of the book of Matthew.  Using the material I put together for our class, I sent out a downloadable Bible study template for the ladies. (You can download the PDF here). It is my hope that the more our ladies practice Bible study using this method, the easier it will be for them to teach this framework to someone else.

Previously, I’ve participated in similar challenges set up by groups like Hello Mornings. For a few seasons I enjoyed the rich accountability and prayer support that came from these online communities. The women in my group would encourage me to keep reading God’s Word when I got behind or challenged me to look deeper at a passage.

I’ve always wondered why more churches aren’t adapting this sort of ministry model to their women’s ministry. If women across the nation can partner up in small groups to read the Bible, then why can’t the women who go to the same church? Imagine how the increased community and Bible literacy could benefit a local church, not to mention the missional outgrowth of focused Bible study!

Like the Hello Mornings format, we are using a private Facebook page for our women’s ministry where the ladies can check-in as they read their passage. This format is also helpful for providing increased accountability and fostering greater community as the women post insights and discuss questions that arise from their studies.

We are only four days into our church’s 31 Day Reading Challenge and already the Spirit  is at work producing beautiful fruit! New disciples are learning how to find the main idea of a passage before skipping immediately to the application. Discipleship group leaders are coming alongside their disciples to answer questions and encourage them to crave God’s Word above all else.

This past week my heart has soared to see the ladies post summaries of a passage and even pictures displaying their Bibles open beside pages full of notes!

And while I know there will be discouragement over missed days that will threaten to squelch our appetites for God’s Word, there will be an entire church of women cheering each other on in this challenge.

How does your church’s women’s ministry help women cultivate an appetite for God’s Word? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!

Christine Hoover: the goodness gospel & women’s ministries

How performance based Christianity impacts womens ministries {an interview with author Christine Hoover at Hive Resources}Recently, I had a chance to pepper author and church planting wife Christine Hoover with questions about her latest book, From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel.

The book is a resounding call for Christian women to bid adieu to “performance-based Christianity” by living in light of the freedoms of the gospel and is a must-read for every woman, particularly for those in the trenches of ministry. The lessons Christine shares require believers to evaluate their understanding of the greatness of God and the way they serve him in their homes, churches, and communities.

Listen in as Christine shares about the goodness gospel and how it impacts ministries to women.

HIVE RESOURCES: Your book is very personal. The beginning is largely the story of your journey of faith and how you learned to embrace the gospel over “being good.” How many other women in the church do you think resonate with your journey?

Christine Hoover: You’re right, this book is very personal. It was written on my heart through many years of wrestling with spiritual perfectionism. For so long I attempted to be good for God according to my own ability—which is what I term the “goodness gospel”—but then He taught me about His grace and that changed everything for me.

As a pastor’s wife, I’ve found that many Christian women are deeply entangled, as I was, in the bondage of “not good enough.” They live their lives solely based upon what others are saying and the loud voices of expectation in their heads. These voices correspond closely with cultural messages of “do more, try harder” and “be the change you want to see.” They’ve infiltrated our churches and have confused the simplicity and beauty of the gospel of Jesus. I wrote this book for those women, the ones who don’t even know they are living by the goodness gospel but feel the effects of it: the comparison, competition, division, people-pleasing, isolation, self-condemnation, and guilt. There are many Christian women who feel like I did: unloved by God and certain that they’ll never be enough or do enough for Him. I wrote From Good to Grace for them.

HIVE RESOURCES: How important is understanding the “goodness gospel” in women’s ministry? Does it impact what you promote, what types of events you offer, and even what you teach the women in your church?

Christine Hoover: The culture is already telling women they need to be better and try harder; we certainly don’t need women’s ministries propagating these things in relation to the gospel. If we imply we have to be good in order for God to love and use us for His glory, we only add to the burden, guilt, and condemnation women come to the church to be freed from. So it is vitally important that we look at the foundation of our women’s ministries: is everything we do, teach, and promote based upon the true gospel, which leads to life and freedom and a deeper trust of the Lord’s work in us, or is it promoting the goodness gospel, which leads to greater condemnation?

An interview with Christine Hoover on how the goodness gospel impacts women in the church {Hive Resources}HIVE RESOURCES: How did the goodness gospel impact you in your church planting journey?

Actually church planting took further crutches of self-reliance out from under me. It showed me how the goodness gospel–a reliance on myself and my own abilities–continued to ingrain itself in my heart. Church planting is tough work, but it’s also been the best thing God’s done in my life, primarily because it’s taught me that I can’t bear spiritual fruit on my own. No amount of hard work or my own goodness can change someone’s heart. It’s the Holy Spirit alone. I completely dependent upon God’s grace toward me.

HIVE RESOURCES: In what ways do traditional women’s ministries feed the addiction to the goodness gospel?

Christine Hoover: Women’s ministries must cultivate a great love of, reverence for, and dedication to the Bible while also cultivating a safe environment where women can bare their heart struggles. This is a powerful combination where the Holy Spirit can work, produce fruit, and yield lasting, redemptive change. When one is cultivated without the other, we are in danger of feeding women’s addiction to the goodness gospel. Knowledge of Scripture that we’re not urged to apply will lead to puffing up and self-reliance. Hearts laid bare without the truth of Scripture applied opens the door for worldly wisdom or self-help cliches to be thrown around. We need both Scripture and honesty about our hearts so that we’re able to encourage a deep dependence on the Lord.

HIVE RESOURCES: How can women’s ministries serve women who are paralyzed by the fears of trying to earn God’s love by being good? What are the some practical ways to reverse the addiction to goodness/perfection and help women crave the gospel in our women’s ministries?

Christine Hoover: The gospel is not innate to us. It’s an announcement of good news that we must hear and proclaim to ourselves over and over again. We must let it consistently sink down deeper into every crevice of life. We get it wrong so often because what I term the goodness gospel is innate. We tend to innately believe that external behaviors can change internal realities, so self-effort has an appearance of wisdom to us. We must, as Paul says in Galatians 5:1, “stand firm in the liberty for which Christ has set us free.”

Women’s ministries can serve their women by proclaiming the gospel over and over again. We can tell it in a variety of beautiful ways, because we can apply it to every issue that women deal with: comparison, body image, shameful and secret sin, marriage, singleness, widowhood, friendship, and more. We serve our women when we don’t just pass out tips for being “better” at roles and responsibilities but when we give them gospel truths. The gospel is life. We also serve them when we don’t cater to whims but when we dig deeper into the gospel.

I think in our churches we often focus on what the gospel says about salvation, but we aren’t always talking about how the gospel applies to our sanctification. How do we grow? How does the Holy Spirit work in our daily lives? What does it mean to walk by faith? Without understanding these concepts, we naturally revert back to the goodness gospel.

how to encourage women to flee from performance based Christianity {Interview with author and church planter Christine Hoover at Hive Resources}HIVE RESOURCES: How has the goodness gospel impacted how we disciple women?

Christine Hoover: In From Good to Grace, I talk about the type of counsel we give other women. We can give women the goodness gospel (do better, try harder) or we can give them the gospel of grace, which is that God has provided not only for salvation but has given us everything we need for life and godliness. We want to disciple women in a way that pushes them to seek God’s voice, know God’s voice, and obey God’s voice. The goodness gospel, however, puts the burden for discipleship on the discipler. I have to give perfect wisdom. I have to tell them what to do. It is my responsibility to make sure they do the right thing. It’s my responsibility to discipline them and be their Holy Spirit. Ultimately, if I disciple according to the goodness gospel, I have to be good. I am not a fellow learner or a fellow sojourner in need of grace.

HIVE RESOURCES: In your book you talk about how the goodness gospel impacts the way women relate to one another. What advice would you offer a women’s ministry leader who is battling unhealthy relationships and trying to implement some of these measures?

Christine Hoover: Have conversations about it. Our church recently held a women’s retreat where we talked about these exact issues. We looked at the root beliefs of comparison, competition, and disunity among women and then we looked at what the gospel says about these things. We had very honest conversations about broken relationships in the church; in fact, I shared with one of my friends about how our friendship had deteriorated and how God had restored it. We wanted to model how we fight for unity, how the gospel gives us the power to do that, and how we confess and repent in community.

Special thanks to Baker Books and Christine Hoover for providing me with a review copy of From Good to Grace. This post contains affiliate links. To find out more, click here.