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Experiencing God’s Power in Your Ministry – Recruit a support team

Key verses: Colossians 3:16-17 (NIV) “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

The lakes in Florida are beautiful, but relatively shallow as well. Over the years, they fill up with the silt and mire that wash off the shore. In time, they accumulate two to three feet of mire and decaying vegetation at the bottom. Soon that mire begins to deprive the lake, plants and fish of valuable oxygen and eventually the lakes literally die. In order to halt this process, a program has been put in place to drain the lakes periodically and expose the mire. After it is exposed, workers come in and dredge the mire – restoring the lake bottom to its original condition. The lake water can then be raised and soon the lake, its vegetation and fish are thriving again.

Our lives are much the same. We need to regularly expose and eliminate the "mire" or sin in our lives since peace is always realized in a right relationship with God. How much power we receive from Him and how much peace we experience in Him depends upon how right our relationship is with Him.

In the key verse, “admonish” literally means “to warn, instruct or correct”. Paul is talking about obedience that is guarded by accountability. As John 14:23 (NCV) states, how much we love God is measured by how much we obey God. “Jesus answered, "If people love me, they will obey my teaching.” Obedience is easier in an atmosphere of accountability – a fact that is especially true in ministry.

Dan and I learned countless life lessons while serving Flamingo Road Church but one of the most important lessons was in the area of accountability. Hardly a week passed without a distressed phone call from some pastor or pastor’s wife, asking for help in their marriage, their ministry, or their personal lives. The problems ranged from drug addictions and alcoholism, to extra-marital affairs, prodigal children, mishandling church funds or…well, you name it! Every phone call served as a reminder for Dan and the pastoral team to be diligent in their efforts to maintain a ministry of integrity. Wooden office doors were replaced with glass doors. A professional counselor was hired to handle the mounting demands and need for ongoing, personal counseling. Weekly staff meetings always included a time of holding each other accountable for time spent with children, dates with spouses as well as blunt conversations concerning potential temptations or struggles.

Strict and, some people would say “over-the-top guidelines” were put in place. For example, no pastor was ever to be alone with any woman other than his wife. Each week, staff meeting concluded with lunch at a nearby restaurant. At times, it would have been more convenient for one of the pastors to ride with one of the secretaries. It never happened. Dan took a lot of teasing about those rules but God honored them. Paul says we should correct each other, warn each other, and instruct each other. In other words, we are to make ourselves accountable to one another.

One Tuesday morning, I decided to stop by the church office to see Dan. Seated in the waiting area was a beautiful young woman, almost wearing a very short and very tight dress. She did not seem happy to see me, judging from her “drop dead” glare. Warning bells went off in my spirit, so I quietly asked the receptionist who the woman was waiting to see. “She is waiting to see Dan. Her marriage is in trouble.” When I asked why she wanted to see a pastor instead of our staff counselor, the receptionist’s eyes said it all. “I made that suggestion when she called, but she only wants to see Dan.” I don’t think so!

I headed for my husband’s office, walked in unannounced, interrupting a meeting with our executive pastor. I did not care. “Honey, I will be glad to sit in on your next appointment,” I sweetly but firmly offered. He knows me well and immediately realized that my suggestion was, in reality, a statement of intent. I went on. “Or, I can check with Terry to see if he has an opening in his counseling schedule.” Dan smiled; not fully realizing what was happening but knowing there was a good reason for my suggestions. When Terry agreed to see her, the woman quickly decided she really didn’t need an appointment after all. I rest my case.

Affairs are neither scheduled nor planned. I have never met anyone in ministry who woke up one morning and thought, “You know, I think I’ll have an affair today.” Over the years, I have personally confronted women, warned Dan about a dangerous emotional attachment I saw that he didn’t and, while teaching a series on marriage, stated from the pulpit that Dan Southerland is off limits to any woman except me. I believe the statement went something like, “Dan belongs to me. I am the only right sexual option for him and will be glad to remove anyone who differs.” If Satan can, he will destroy the marriage and ministry of a pastor, crippling a church in the process. The world is certainly not the friend of marriage, but God certainly is.

We just planted several pine trees in our front yard. I was concerned that they were not growing straight, even though we had planted them straight. One of our neighbors told me not to worry. Her words of plant life wisdom ring true for us as women in ministry, “The winter winds are coming,” she said. “The pines will grow against the wind, straightening them selves while gaining strength to survive the winter.” Obedience and accountability strengthen us for the storms of life and ministry.

A word from Mary: Wives, a personal word to you on this point: one of our privileges and responsibilities in marriage, as well as in ministry, is to be the guardian of the home and the marriage relationship. Do not underestimate the enemy. His goal is to destroy your home, your marriage, and your family and he will do it in any way he can. Dan and I hold each other accountable and invite others to do the same. Be wise! A powerful ministry is built on integrity and accountability.

Reflection point: The world is certainly not the friend of marriage, but God certainly is.

Application step: Recruit a group of women who will love you, encourage you and hold you accountable.

~ Taken from Mary’s new book, Experiencing God’s Power in Your Ministry, Harvest House Publishers ~

Women's Ministry Leaders:

Mary Southerland serves the local church as the Women’s Ministry Motivator, who supports leaders and inspires women to participate in Bible Studies, Life Groups, and volunteer ministries.

Ministry leaders identify with Mary, because she has over 15 years experience working “in the trenches” as a pastor’s wife and former women’s ministry director. She led Women in Focus at Flamingo Road Church in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, which grew in attendance from 40 to over 400 women. Her expertise helps leaders across America embrace challenges and learn how to:
Mary is available to meet with your women’s leadership team for brain-storming and planning sessions. She assists leaders through retreats, one-day, and half-day conferences.
  • Start a new women’s ministry from scratch.
  • Manage transition and growth to establish a ministry that changes lives.
  • Balance the priorities between ministry and family.
  • Develop leadership qualities, such as personal integrity, the ability to motivate, and the willingness to delegate.
  • Handle difficult people with compassion.
  • Encourage women to connect, sign-up, and serve in helping others.
Mary’s resources for leaders include her books, Experiencing God’s Power in Your Ministry, Escaping the Stress Trap, Hope in the midst of Depression and Sandpaper People.

Leadership Events:

Conference topics include:

  • Dreaming a New Dream for Your Women’s Ministry
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Woman in Ministry
  • Surviving Transition in Your Church
  • Experiencing God’s Power in Your Ministry
  • Getting Good at Being You
  • Sandpaper People: Dealing with Abrasive Personalities

To Mary, there is no greater reward than to lead women to Jesus Christ and His plan for their life. So, when your ministry needs a fresh start, contact the Women’s Ministry Motivator.

Mary Southerland spoke at our Women’s Ministry Event where she challenged, encouraged, and refreshed each woman present. Best of all, she inspired over 150 women to sign up for Bible Studies and volunteer ministries for the first time! Mary really motivated our women to get connected!

Allison Hall – Women’s Ministry Director
Westside Family Church, Shawnee, KS

I really enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with Mary today. I found it to be a great bonding experience for me as a member of the support staff. I believe her ideas and suggestions will inspire all of us to be clothed in humility and be servants with the W.I.T. attitude.
Barbara Osborne
Children's Ministries
Eastminster Presbyterian Church
Wichita, KS

Mary’s time with the women of our church was impactful. The information, joys and heartaches she shared not only touched but influenced the lives of the women attending. Women continue to talk about the relationships made and deepened during some of the activities Mary challenged us to complete. Beyond the “nuts and bolts”, Mary has a heart for women and their walk with the Lord. Her words and prayers continue to serve as an encouragement.
Gail Derreberry
Director Women’s Ministries & Strategic Initiatives
Eastminster Presbyterian Church
Wichita, KS

A word from Mary:

We are on the same team, the same journey and fighting the same fight! I know from experience that, as ministry leaders, our needs are unique as we live under unseen pressures and unspoken demands that can only be understood by others in ministry.

The demands on time and energy are sometimes overwhelming. The constant struggle to balance ministry and family priorities is just that...constant! Living in the proverbial but very real fishbowl can get really old...really fast!

And yet, the joys and rewards of following God's call is worth it all! To see a woman connect with other women who choose to encourage and walk with her is awesome! To be part of God's transforming power in a family is priceless. To lead women to Christ and His plan for their life...well, there are no words to describe it!

Still, there are times when I want to run and hide...or just quit! That is when I need a friend, someone who is available, someone who understands, someone I can trust. God is always ready to do just that, but my heart cries out for a person who will be "God with skin on" in my life. I want to be that person in your life!

Book Excerpt

Let Mary help you build a dynamic Leadership Team for your Women's Ministry!

As a Bible-study leader, women’s ministry director, pastor’s wife and mother of two, Mary Southerland’s extensive experience will help you:

  • Learn how to embrace necessary transition to establish a ministry that changes lives.
  • Develop essential leadership characteristics, such as personal integrity, the ability to motivate others, and the willingness to delegate.
Each chapter includes a study section and an in-the-trenches life story from a woman in ministry.

All this adds up to a powerful resource that will encourage you to keep running the race and to celebrate what God is doing through you in ministry.

From Tiffany Watson
Georgetown, SC

"My husband and I have only been in ministry for five months and God is doing some awesome things in our church and in our lives. I just happened to pick up your book, "Experiencing God's Power in Your Ministry", and thought it might be helpful to me. Well, all I can say is, "Keep on keeping on, sister!" You have already made an impact in my life!"

From Loraine Meltz, Women’s Ministry Director, Bakersfield, CA

Mary’s teachings are a tool I have used to help equip the women of our ministry grow in Christ and experience a life focused on spiritual maturity.