Leadership by Legacy
“I've had it. I am going to quit. I am so sick of these singles. They don't commit to anything. They don't show up. They are only focused on getting married. Besides all of this, my pastor doesn't care. My church thinks singles have leprosy, and heaven forbid they ever become one. Jesus, I am so alone in leading these singles. I am so alone in ministering to them. Help! Help!”
Does this sound familiar? Do you ever just want to quit leading singles? I have been leading, teaching, or ministering to singles my entire adult life. And because I am single, I can be the first to admit we can be a big pain in the behind, but so can married people. So many people think that singles are the ones who don't commit or follow through or that we have relationship issues (of course, that is why we are not married). But I have learned over the years of being in ministry that there is only one thing different between marrieds and singles: marrieds tend to deal with most of their relational issues before coming to church.
I know because I see couples arguing in their cars as the leader of first-impression ministry at my church. Pointing fingers, yelling, even crying, etc. But as soon as they open the car doors, the smiles get turned on, and the skipping across the parking lot starts as if nothing was wrong. Their marriage, their kids, and their jobs are all perfect. Due to not having this blissful marriage, singles tend to bring ALL their problems to church. Because the church is where their family is (or should be). So, the appearance is that singles have a ton of issues. That we are unhealthy, don't commit, and are too focused on marriage (heaven forbid we want to meet our spouse at church). So as a result of this, as a singles leader, the task of ministering to them can be overwhelming. So how in the world did Jesus deal with all those disciples and their issues? How about the crowds who followed?
Well, Jesus, by example, taught his disciples and those that followed, such as Paul, many things, including staying focused on the prize of bringing people to Christ. I love that Paul once persecuted Christians only to get saved and spend the rest of his life doing the opposite. Paul took his existing experience as a leader, combined with his new walk with Christ, to reach and build the church. But like most of us as leaders, Paul also ran into aggravation—Christians who were not unified, leaders who wanted to quit, and ministries that were falling apart. Paul, a man who modeled his life after Christ, learned how to continue the fight. Paul, single like Jesus, learned the frustrations of dealing with people (single and married), trying to keep them encouraged, and trying to keep them unified. And you know what? It worked sometimes.
We start with Paul writing from Macedonia with the goal of encouraging the Corinthian churches, sharing what the churches there are doing . . .
And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will. So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little" (2 Corinthians 8:1-15).
Paul has given us a glimpse of not only how we can be encouraged in doing God's work, but also how to encourage others.
1. Keep doing the work of the Lord.
Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity (2 Corinthians 8:1-2).
Like the Macedonians, we are in a world, a country, and maybe a ministry that is not doing so well (well, in our perception). Despite what we see that isn't working, we need to focus on what is working. God is still in control. Remember the old song, "Count Your Blessings Name Them One by One." Perhaps it’s time to sit down and write out the many things your ministry is doing well. List the singles whose lives have changed. One thing I do is keep track of the e-mails, texts, and personal notes from singles who thank me for helping them. Then ever so often, I reflect, allowing the Lord to remind me of what I am doing right.
Also, please know that even when times seem tough and our ministries aren't growing the way we think they should be, this could be a time of testing by God, and God wants to make some changes. Pray and ask the Lord for direction, and be ready to do what he asks (even if it means letting go or starting over).
2. Give, not knowing where it goes.
For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints (2 Corinthians 8:3-4).
As a leader, you have to have the mindset of "giving the ministry away." You cannot teach, guide, or lead singles and not expect them to leave you at some point in time. I know, I know as soon as you get your team built, some of them get married to you or just quit. Yes, it’s very frustrating. However, this is what ministry is all about. I have had to learn just to pour out, not worrying or knowing where it all goes. Please know the process of building leaders is a daily duty. Healthy singles will get married; healthy singles will move into other roles at the church, and healthy singles will just move. You are left with healthy people who choose to stay in singles ministry, while all the other singles never seem to get healthy. So, if you are not continuously growing new leaders, the unhealthy singles take over. This type of single will drain you, break you and cause you to want to quit. One note of hope: as you build and equip leaders for whatever area of ministry God is calling them, God is doing the same somewhere else, and those singles will show up at your church. You just have to pray and have faith that God will bring them.
3. Seek God’s direction first and then others.
And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will (2 Corinthians 8:5).
I can't tell you how many ministries I get hired to speak and conduct training for have left consistent prayer out of their ministries. Sure, they pray in Sunday school or in small groups for individuals, but they never seem to be collectively praying for the leaders and direction of the ministry. Paul shares how important it is to give ourselves to the Lord first in their walks and then in our ministries. To ask God's guidance on how to lead our ministries, to do his will. Then to include others because of God's will. Including others means to train, grow, share, spend time, etc., to reach people for Christ. How can we know what God wants us to do in our ministry if we aren't praying?
4. Encourage each other.
So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others (2 Corinthians 8:6-8).
Wow, how important it is to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ. You know how it feels to be discouraged, to want to give up, and to want to quit. But how a simple thank you, we appreciate you; you helped me, etc., can change everything. Don't forget to let your leaders and team know their importance. As you live the example, they will learn how to do it for others (and maybe toward you).
Also, as a leader myself, it is also essential that we are careful in how we share what is going on with our ministries with our pastors/staff over us. Always share what God is doing, leaving complaints for last (and only when needed). Remember, Christ said the poor will always be with us. That is poor in money, health, emotion, etc. So, focus on what is working, what is positive.
Lastly, hold your leaders (and fellow believers) accountable. God has called you a leader, so lead and be ready to correct (in love). Our team will not know what to change or improve upon without accountability.
5. Jesus is our example for everything.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion, according to your means (2 Corinthians 8:9-11).
Jesus, single like me (and Paul), is our example for ALL things. He shows us how to lead, love, care and empower others. If we don't constantly follow him, show others how to follow him, and then live in the direction he leads us, this life means nothing (nor our ministry). So be encouraged to know Jesus has all the answers for whatever you are struggling with. Whether you need to cry out an idea or affirmation, turn to Christ.
6. Give out what you have, not what you don’t have.
For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality (2 Corinthians 8:12-13).
As leaders, we know the 80/20 rule: 20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work. Well, I love to make this percentage incorrect. I do this by spending time with my leaders and team, teaching, growing, and living the example. I don't wait for folks to come to me; I go to them. I love to network with people, putting them to work to serve the Kingdom as soon as possible. I love to help folks see what Christ sees. But in doing all this, remember, you can NOT GIVE out of what you do not have or possess. As a leader, you have to know what your gifts are. You also have to understand what you are realistically able to do. Your ministry will only grow as large as your leadership team can lead. It's better to do smaller or less ministry than trying to have this colossal ministry, killing yourself and your team in the process. Don't compare your ministry to anyone else. Just do what God has called you to do.
Also, remember you need time for yourself to rest, refocus and renew. Set boundaries for yourself and allow your leaders to see those boundaries as an example for them. Set aside time to get away (alone, with your family, and with your team). Note: Not every church is called to have a singles ministry, but all churches are called to minister to singles. Very few churches can have a divorce recovery, single parent, 20-somethings, 60-somethings, missions, monthly events, grief ministry, etc. Pray and ask God what he is leading you, your church, and your ministry to do, and then do it well.
7. Share everything.
At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little" (2 Corinthians 8:14-15).
I love to share what I have learned about singles ministry (and ministry as a whole). Just look at my Web site (TheSinglesNetwork.org) to see what I mean. I know how hard it is to lead singles. How hard it is to find resources and training. This is why it’s vital that we lead the next generation, teaching everything we know as well as sharing. We must share our knowledge, church space, and events. If we are paying to bring in a speaker or for training, invite other churches as a way to sow into them. Not every church will be able to afford a singles ministry to be able to bring someone in. Also, you can share the expense of events, traveling to a retreat or conference, books and Bible studies (DVDs), etc. There will come a time when you have much to offer and share and just the opposite. Please know we are at a critical time in our country where singles pastors are being let go faster than they are being replaced. So, the need to teach, educate, encourage and disciple is at an all-time high. We have to take the lead and train the next group of folks who are going to be leading our singles. Over half of our country is single, yet the church does not reflect this. The need to minister, to reach singles, is increasing each day. Start today by sharing all that God has given you (as well as receiving what God wants to give you).
As a single adult leader or pastor . . .
· You have been positioned to make a difference in people’s lives.
· You can encourage, inspire and affirm the direction God has given them.
As a single adult ministry . . .
· You will go through seasons that allow:
· Change (keeps ministry fresh; it’s a good thing)
· New growth in people, ideas, and direction
· Pruning (gets rid of things that aren’t working from people to ideas)
· Evaluation of where you are, where you are going, and how to get there
· Rest and renewal
As an individual . . .
· Don’t miss the journey
· What are you teaching me, God?
· Am I faithful, teachable, and available?
I love leading singles. They are my heart, my breath, and my life. Why? Because Jesus was single like me. Jesus loves singles and is working out his plan in our lives. We are important and matter to this world. So be encouraged, leaders. Be encouraged that you are doing fantastic work for the Lord. Don't give up until the Lord tells you. Never give up. Never!
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead (Philippians 3:12-13).
How to Lead a Small Group Study by Kris Swiatocho
So how do you lead a Bible study? Here are a few ideas on how to begin, prepare and lead.
Before leading a study, pray about your overall goals:
Before the Study:
1. Find a good place to have the study if you are using this as a small group. A place with regulated temperature, good lighting, and the least amount of noise and distraction is best. It should also be a comfortable, safe place, has access to bathrooms, and provides childcare if needed. Using your church will be favored by most due to its accessibility and resources; however, it might not be the best choice for the lost or spiritually weaker Christians.
2. Provide the Bible study at the first meeting, or have participants bring their copies. You could spend the first meeting getting to know everyone and the last one as a celebration.
3. If you plan on having childcare, ensure you have the necessary insurance, facilities, and staff training. Understand that allowing children to wander in and out of the study causes a distraction; be sensitive to others who don’t have children. Also, note that if you plan on having a study off-campus and not under a church, you will become liable if something happens to that child.
4. Plan to start and end on time to respect people’s time and commitment to the study. Be sure to communicate this each week. If you want to have some mingle time, advertise folks can come early or stay late but do not allow the mingle time to infringe on the teaching time.
5. Decide ahead of time on the format of your study. How much time to teach, how much time to show a video or have an icebreaker, and how much time for discussion, whether in a large or smaller group?
6. If you don’t know your attendees well, have them complete a survey (email ahead of time) that might include how they found out about the study, their church name, marital status, hobbies, email, etc. This provides a way to contact them during the study and, afterward, for future events.
7. If your study has more than seven people, pray about breaking into groups of 4 for better and more personal discussion and prayer. Then come back at the end for final comments.
8. Ask folks ahead of time to turn off or silent their phones, use the restroom, and get a snack so that you are not interrupted during the study. Note: I think it’s best to eat afterward, so you are not distracted.
9. Be creative when teaching. Use objects, video clips, music, videos, etc., whatever might add value to the lesson.
10. Always welcome, and open and close with prayer. (As time passes, you can ask others to open and/or close in prayer.) If you have smaller groups, they can close out in prayer within those groups.
11. Provide nametags, extra pens, and Bibles as needed.
12. Have folks sit in a circle or at tables to enhance communication. Start with an icebreaker, a warm-up exercise, or another way of getting to know each person. You can purchase a huge list of icebreakers for $5 at www.TheSinglesNetwork.org.
13. Continue to market your study if it’s open, meaning there is no start or end date. If it’s a closed study, communicate this and do not allow anyone to join after week 1.
During the Study
1. Email or text folks each week to encourage and stay connected. Remind them of any homework and any expectations for the next time you meet. If you have small group leaders, encourage them to be the person who contacts their group. You can still send out an overall email.
2. Make yourself available to your attendees for questions and prayer needs throughout the week.
3. Allow everyone to share; balance your talkers with non-talkers; if you have a talker taking up too much time, simply say, that was a great thought or comment, let’s move so we can end on time, or let’s hear what Susie has to say. If we have time, we will come back to that. Ask quiet people ahead of time to read questions or scripture and anyone to share a testimony.
4. Always be thinking of training the next teacher(s) by training small group leaders to lead discussions; also allow them to facilitate from time to time. Remember, we are just not leading a study but building the next leader. Also, this person(s) could be your backup if you are absent.
5. Close by briefly discussing the week ahead. Make assignments or tell of your expectations for the next week. When they return the following week, review their assignment and/or share about their week.
Note: As the study gets closer, pray about the next study. Ask folks if they are interested in another one. Do some research, order some studies and let folks thumb through them to help make the decision. If your group is large, think about multiplying into two groups, offered at different times or days of the week.
Starting a Singles Ministry with Intentional Relationship for Singles Bible Study
Pictured: Trinity COG, Burlington, NC Singles Ministry
Recently two pastors wanted help in starting a singles ministry. I spent a considerable amount of time with both, going through the steps, reminding them about my free outlines (How to Start and Leadership 101), as well as a series of videos.
Both pastors returned a long sigh, realizing that to start a singles ministry takes a lot of time and patience. It requires building a team. I could tell they wanted a more straightforward way. Then both pastors asked me about our new study, Intentional Relationships for Singles. A 12-week study, designed similar to Divorce Care and Griefshare, in that it does not have to have a teacher but a facilitator. Depending on how many are in the class, you would need some small group leaders for the group discussion. But unlike those studies, we are video supported, not driven. We know that single adults want to talk. They desire to meet each other and build community.
Both pastors sighed with relief because they already offer Divorce Care and Griefshare and were familiar with what kind of facilitator and small group discussion leaders they would need. They knew of the time it would take to start and maintain.
I would also remind them that starting Intentional Relationships is one way to start a singles ministry, grow an existing one, and increase the overall growth of the church by maturity, tithes, and service. Both Pastor's smiled, knowing this was something that could be done. It was a way, a start that could eventually be a ministry--meeting the needs of single and young adults in their church.
So, as a result of this conversation, I decided to make some changes to my home page, giving leaders and pastors very specific steps on how to start, including using the Intentional study.
So, if you want to start a singles ministry, restart or grow an existing one, start with Intentional Relationships for Singles, a study helping singles get healthy in all their relationships, family, friends, work, and romance, beginning with God. A study to grow your church. A study that changes lives, one single at a time.
Note: For groups starting or wanting to grow, don't forget about "Leaders That Last" Curriculum by Kris Swiatocho. A great 6-week study/training that will take your leadership from the basics of their calling into singles ministry to building the team. Also a great additional resource is FAQ's of Singles Ministry, co-authored with Dennis Franck. Over 100 questions answered by 50 plus leaders and pastors.
About Pray for a Mate™...In my 25 years of ministering to single adults, I have found one major thing common to 99.9% of them—the desire to be married or married again. From conferences to retreats, articles and interviews, the subject continuously comes up.
I hear questions like:
“Do you think I am meant to be married?”
“Is there such a thing as ‘the one’?”
“Why hasn’t God brought me the man/woman of my dreams?”
As with all of these questions, I can only send them to the one source who knows the answers and that is Jesus Christ. But saying this doesn’t always communicate to an action or a direction.
Okay, so you go to the Lord but then what? Well, they would say they have gone to the Lord but what I found was they would gripe, cry and fuss at Him. Few were serious in their purpose when it came to praying. Few were serious when it came to listening and as a result, changing.
THE CHURCH AND SINGLENESS
For the last two decades, I and many of my fellow ministers to singles have seen the decline of the church’s efforts to minister to single adults. While the singles population is now over 52 percent in the United States, with most being never-marrieds, churches are not making the effort to the reach us. The focus more than ever seems to be on the family.
But what churches don’t understand is the family starts with two single adults. If the church would spend time reaching singles, helping them in their identity in Christ, in their personal growth and developing healthy friendships, as well as by offering Bible studies and counseling for marriage, then the greater success of our future marriages and families will be.
We can’t keep hiding behind youth programs and a pro-family focus and hope healthy marriages will just happen. The church needs to help single adults meet each other in a healthy way, directing them toward godly friendships and teaching them the principles of courtship and marriage preparation. Otherwise, they will find other ways to find a spouse, often outside the church and, possibly, with someone who isn’t a believer.
Although not all single adults will get married, many due to their own fears and issues, I do believe in marriage and I believe God still brings people together. With that in mind, I have been praying for a solution to bring singles ministry back into the church.
Singles ministry in general takes a lot of work. You have to build a team of leaders, offer training, meet regularly, plan, pray, and do. Because of the work involved and due to so many pastors being fearful that members might “hook-up,” churches have stopped having a singles ministry.
Also, we are still seeing more women than men in church. As a result, most singles ministries are started by women. Unfortunately, groups led solely by women only grow other women. The team has to include men. Without this pairing of the sexes, your ministry will often fail. In addition, we are seeing a lot of singles ministries focused on social events rather than on teaching the Word of God.
Another problem comes when leaders who don’t find a team to share the responsibilities with gets burned out, resulting in a failed ministry.
So, what do we do? How do we bring a singles ministry back into the church and have it be successful? And how can we do it if we are limited in finding men to help? What about resources and support?
SOLUTION: Pray for a Mate™
While spending time in the United Kingdom doing ministry, I came upon a wonderful lady who shared with me something amazing. She had gone to her pastor and asked about doing a singles ministry at her church. Again, due to past experiences of what singles ministries could become, he said no. She then prayed and went back and asked if she could have a “prayer group for those who wanted to be married.” (Remember, 99.9 percent of all singles want to be married—maybe not this minute but eventually). She didn’t say anything about singles or ministry, but she did use two key words that most churches care about: marriage and prayer. They agreed and even offered her the space to meet.
She quickly gathered her team of friends—some married and some single—and they started meeting to pray, not sure what God would do. That small group turned into a larger one and before long they were meeting each month. From the start they only allowed women to come as they had enough men. They also created a structure that appealed mainly to serious prayer warriors.
The results were amazing. They saw lives changed, individuals found healing, some developed amazing friendships and others even got married. It’s now been over year and they are up to eighty men and eighty women. And it hit me—with a few slight changes, this could work in the U.S.
I realize not all singles would want to come to church to pray for a mate. Some might even get upset if this was the only activity their church offered singles. But if a church only has this, it’s still better than nothing. This program has the potential to lead to something. It’s certainly worth trying and making the investment. And the result? Healthier people who become healthier followers of Christ.
How to get started!
1. Go to our contact page and fill out the registration form.
3. Once we receive your registration, you will be given a password to access the other pages where you will learn how Pray for a Mate™ works including the structure and the prayer themes.
For a long list of leadership resources by Kris Swiatocho and other authors, click here.
Leaders That Last Curriculum
• Leaders that Last is 6 weeks, 6 topics Curriculum:
The first 3 weeks that are inward focus towards personal development and last 3 weeks that are outward focus towards building and unifying the team.
• Leaders that Last Curriculum includes:
A trainers guide with additional questions, icebreaker ideas, small group discussion, and weekly assignments, etc. plus participants outline.
• Leaders that Last Curriculum is a:
Microsoft word document so you can alter to fit your specific group whether young adult, single adult or single parent, divorced or widowed.
Week 1: Who You Are in Christ
Week 2: Affirming Your Calling as a Leader
Week 3: Spiritual Warfare
Week 4: Mentoring/Finding others with a Similar Calling
Week 5: Building the Team
Week 6: Caring for the Team.
Week 1: Who Am I?
Description: Everything starts and ends with a great team but a team starts with a great leader. A great leader should know who they are in Christ first in order to lead others. This leader also should have a personal, growing relationship with Christ. This lesson will focus on your identity, your personal growth in your faith, and your walk with the Lord.
Week 2: Who Ya Going to Call?
Description: Learning and affirming your calling to be a leader. Most maturing Christians are serving the Lord but often in the wrong area, this lesson will help you focus on the right area God is calling you into.
Week 3: The Devil Made Me Do It!
Description: This lesson focuses on how to recognize the enemy’s attacks on you, your team, and your ministry, and what to do when it does happen.
Week 4: Making Copies!
Description: This lesson focuses on the importance of recognizing potential leaders by starting with those who are voluntold versus volunteers.
Week 5: There’s No “I” in Team
Description: Everything falls and rises on leadership. Without a great team that is unified in the path to reach the goals God has put in place, leadership will fail. This lesson will focus on how to build a team that builds the ministry.
Week 6: Are You a Care Bear?
Description: This lesson focuses on how to keep our team, our leaders, and, ultimately, our ministry going and growing.
Kris holds a singles retreat every September up in the mountains and I’ve attended the last 4 years. The 3rd year, Sept 2018 I came for the leadership portion of the meeting and was inspired by the teaching, many years of experience working with singles, messages shared, stories from other church leaders and resources galore at the meeting and on the website. I left that weekend fired up and it sparked me to start a singles focused bible study at our church which has been running a year now and doing great... I have so many stories I could share... many new visitors/members... connecting with singles in the church that weren’t plugged in.. networking with other Christian groups and churches... things just continue to spiral... we held a singles NYE celebration a few weeks ago. The owner of The Barn Dance (non-alcoholic club) that some of us go to often came. His club was only open on sat night BUT... he was inspired by the number we had at our dance and the amazing community... he had no idea that singles have that much of a need/want to be together. SO tonight he hosted his first Christian Singles Dance Party at The Barn Dance and it was a big hit. Planning to do a monthly dance there... opening with prayer and ending with praise songs and prayer. I can’t wait to see what God has for us in 2020. Also very excited about this years Singles Retreat! Find info on thesinglesnetwork.org and come join us Thanks Kris for all you do... for your heart for God and singles.
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638 Spartanburg Hwy Ste 70-113
Hendersonville, NC 28792 • 919.434.3611 Kris@TheSinglesNetwork.org
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