Total Member Involvement:
One priority of Women's Ministries
"We Are Better Together" theme mobilizes women for making a difference in their city.
South Pacific Division (SPD)
[Australia] Since the launch of the General Conference (GC) initiative, Mission to Cities, the focus of the Department of Women’s Ministries of the Greater Sydney Conference (Sydney WM) is to effectively mobilize for ministry their church women for making a difference in their city. They want to touch lives, restore dignity, and bring hope to the many secular women living in the metropolitan city of Sydney, Australia.
Women's Ministries (WM) goals for Mission to the Cities in Sydney also fulfill the purpose of another GC initiative, Total Member Involvement. Furthermore, through their ministry, the women of Greater Sydney also demonstrate the mottos, "We Are Better Together" (of Sydney WM) and "Making a Difference" (of GC WM).
The GC strategic plan for 2015-2020 is "Reach the World: Reach Up to God, Reach In with God, and Reach Out with God." GC WM incorporates this in their own version, of "Nurture-Reach Up, Empower-Reach In, and Outreach-Reach Out," better known as Nurture. Empower. Outreach. or simply, NEO.
Women's Ministries' interpretation of the current GC strategic plan,"Reach the World," is "A Ministry for Every Woman: Touch a Heart, Reach My World." The previous five-year GC strategic plan for 2010-2015, "Tell the World," was adapted by GC WM as "A Ministry for Every Woman: Touch a Heart, Tell the World."
How do WM leaders incorporate church initiatives into the practical work and ministry of Women's Ministries?
Our sisters in Sydney are doing it. Beryl Landers, Greater Sydney Conference Women's Ministries director, describes the activities and events in her conference for us to note how they fit within church initiatives and strategic plans, and Women's Ministries mission, vision, goals, and core values.
"God is doing amazing things, opening doors, and bringing great opportunities for making a difference in Sydney," Landers begins her report. "We have seen God move in tangible ways and He answers above and beyond what we imagined. We stand in awe with hearts filled with gratitude for being able to be part of it all."
PRAYER MINISTRY and RETREAT (Nurture)
It's been an incredible blessing to be supported and surrounded by a powerful group of prayer warriors. We see a significant difference in our ministry, and the spirituality of those involved in the prayer support team has risen. Our faith is strengthened as we witness how God moves and works things out in His own way and time. Subsequently, we have now added a prayer retreat in our Women’s Ministries annual calendar for the team of prayer warriors who go away for a weekend dedicated to prayer. We believe that the place to begin in revitalizing ministry is to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all the other things will be added to us. So far, two retreats have occurred. They have been inspiring and life changing, a blessing to the participants.
HOPE STAYZ RETREAT (Outreach)
Three years ago at our annual women's conference, BREATHE, we presented the idea of a retreat for disenfranchised women and their children, for women in difficult circumstances due to domestic violence, financial problems, or depression. The response was overwhelming. The women were moved and compassionately gave 10,000 dollars in a single offering.
We partnered with our Adventist Campsite, whose new manager wanted to use the camp for more evangelistic purposes. Each year this initiative is fully funded by the women of Greater Sydney Conference. This is not a spiritual retreat, although we have morning and evening worships to which our clients are invited. The aim of the retreat, called HOPE STAYZ, is to bring hope, renew courage, and restore dignity to these broken, hurting women. Our goal is simply to love them.
We treat them for three days. We run lifestyle sessions for the mums while their children are fully catered for in their own age-appropriate kid's programs. Lifestyle sessions include, finance, parenting, and cooking. On the second day we bring in beauty services and treat the women to a massage, facial, hairstyling, and a special dinner just for mums to end the day. It is absolutely rewarding to see the transformation of hope restored in the women through their demeanor, smiles, and self-confidence.
We feel this retreat is one of the best initiatives in which we have ever been involved. In the past two years, some unexpected and happy outcomes have occurred as a result of holding the HOPE STAYZ retreat, which is now a permanent fixture on our calendar of events. Although we have never had a budget for the retreat, each year God provides and prompts the women of Greater Sydney Conference to give in abundant measure—even some of our non-church friends contribute abundantly of their time and talents.
2016 – 12 women and 38 children; 50 volunteers; 2 baptisms; 1 student enrollment in SDA school. Friendships were forged and opportunity created for church members to serve; also, for other women interested in the cause. A hairdresser who is not a church member closed her busy salon to do our clients hair free of charge.
2017 – 14 women and 45 children; 54 volunteers; 2 clients return as volunteers. The retreat became a project for non-church friends to volunteer and serve alongside church members.
Four families attending the retreat are Muslim refugees from Afghanistan. They attended every worship session, participated in our prayer activities in the prayer room, and the children were part of our kids' program learning about Jesus. All four Muslim families accepted the invitation to come to our women's spiritual retreat, the annual BREATHE conference. They invited us to come to their women's group to make connections. A few months later one Muslim lady visited my local church with her husband and child; they enjoyed a family picnic with us. It is so exciting to see this special retreat, Hope Stayz, to unexpectedly become a means for connecting with Muslim women in Sydney.
UNITED NIGHT (Empower)
Early in the year, we plan a special gathering of women and young girls as a “kickoff the year” worship service. The Friday evening includes sharing our goals and vision for that year and launching our chosen project of the year. A guest speaker challenges us to greater commitment and service during the coming year. Women are invited to wear white outfits in support of the White Ribbon Campaign—a campaign against violence to women and children. United Night provides an opportunity to collect a special offering for HOPE STAYZ. This event is usually scheduled for the first Friday evening in February. It's a great night!
WEEKLY WOMEN'S WORSHIP (Nurture)
This is our newest initiative. We have opened the doors of one of the most central churches in our conference for a Weekly Women's Worship. We run a "no-frills" gathering, although we enjoy a simple morning tea refreshment, sing a few songs of praise together, listen to a woman speaker bring us the Word, and spend time together in prayer. This is proving to be a great blessing to those who have come. Our dream is to see the church filled each Wednesday morning with women and their friends, being encouraged and challenged to live lives of significance. We want the church to be a place where friends and neighbors will experience community, love, and acceptance and be given an opportunity to make a decision to accept Jesus as their Savior. We believe that marvelous things happen when God's girls gather.
LEADERSHIP BRUNCHES (Empower)
We believe everything rises and falls with leadership. We are investing heavily in our local church leaders and run three Leadership Brunches on a Sunday morning at the beginning, middle, and end of the year. We are seeing a huge increase not only in the number of leaders who attend but by women who are just interested and checking it out. These Leadership Brunches have been powerful opportunities for learning, networking, and motivating leaders. At each brunch we invite a guest speaker, someone in the field of leadership, to present a leadership workshop. After the meal we engage in the nitty gritty of the purpose of our ministry: share ideas, address issues local church leaders are experiencing, set challenges for the leaders. The buzz of energy and excitement at these breakfasts show us the activity is accomplishing its purpose.
ANNUAL WOMEN'S CONFERENCES
IMAGINE (Empower)– a day conference dedicated for young women. The four-part REAL series, a Women’s Ministries department program, is presented with great results. The young women’s conference is held concurrently with the young men’s conference sponsored by the Youth Ministries department.
BELIEVE (Nurture)– a day conference dedicated for women and the Word, where the women gather for the express purpose of getting into the Word of God and deepening their passion for studying the Word.
BREATHE (Empower)– a weekend conference dedicated as our annual women's spiritual retreat. The number of young women, ages 20 – 35 years, attending this conference has significantly increased since it was first held.
We see so much power in the gathering of God’s girls! So much can be wrought through the mobilization of an army of women, dedicated to prayer and service. Ellen G. White writes our favorite quote in her book, Evangelism:
If there were twenty women where now there is one, who would make this holy mission (one-to-one ministry) their cherished work, we should see many more converted to the truth. The refining, softening influence of Christian women is needed in the great work of preaching the truth (p. 471).
Women are definitely BETTER TOGETHER doing the work we can do. There is much to do and so much more can be done.
Contributed by Beryl Landers, WM director, Greater Sydney Conference, Australian Union Conference, South Pacific Division
Published in Mosiac newsletter, Spring 2018